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Disneyland Resort Dining Options
There are several different dining options at the Disneyland Resort. For variety, I like my visits to the Park to be a mix of these through the days of my trip.
Table service is at a more leisurely pace. Cafe Orleans, Wine Country Trattoria, Storyteller’s Cafe and Carnation Cafe are some of the places where you can sit and be served by wait staff. Advance Dining Reservations (ADR) is suggested but very rarely necessary for most of these full-service restaurants. There are several full-service dining locations that you should always book ADR (keep reading!)
Quick service is where you will order at a counter and be given your food, then choose your seating area. Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill, French Market Restaurant and the Golden Horseshoe are all examples of quick service dining areas.
Nibble on the go? There are plenty of places to grab a snack. The Bengal Barbecue, Corn Dog Castle, Cozy Cone Motel and many of the snack carts that serve fresh fruits & cold drinks are examples of quick snack spots.
Character Dining – You’ll be able to eat while being greeted at your table by your favorite characters! We love this because we enjoy a delicious meal and are still able to get autographs & photos with characters as they come to your table. Keep reading about whether you should book ADR for character meals.
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Which Restaurants Accept ADR and Which Do Not?
In a nutshell, you can book ADR for most full service locations and all character dining experiences.
When you’re ready to book your reservations, head to the Disneyland website or the Disneyland app. Here you are able to not only view restaurant details and individual menus, you can also book ADR with the click of a button and entry of a credit card number to hold the Disneyland dining reservation.
A simple search of your preferred date and time (along with the size of your group) will reveal available slots for each restaurant around that time. If no ADR are available at that date or approximate time, the restaurant will show up under the section “no availability”.
When Do You Need Reservations for Disneyland Restaurants?
As a frequent Disneyland vacationer, I only book reservations for table service in advance for weekends or very busy times of the year (like summer or holidays). There are a FEW exceptions!
- Blue Bayou Restaurant is one exception, as this restaurant doesn’t often have walk-up availability. So if you have your heart set on dining inside the Pirates of the Caribbean, making an ADR is best.
- Another exception is character dining, namely Goofy’s Kitchen and Disney Princess Adventures Breakfast. If character dining is a MUST, then you should definitely book ADR for all Character Dining.
Advantages of ADR –
- Plans made ahead of time so there are no concerns about when or where you’ll eat while in the Park.
- Guaranteed seating at popular restaurants without fear of being turned away.
- No worries about long waits for a table; Yes, you may still have a short wait even with an ADR but it shouldn’t be terribly long.
- The ability to let Cast members know upfront when booking ADR over the phone if anyone in your family has a food allergy or special dietary request
You Can Eat at Disneyland Without Reservations
You do not need reservations for any quick-service dining location. So you can fly by the seat of your pants, reservation-free if you wish, knowing you can eat at any of these great locations. And in many cases you may even be able to dine full-service by walking up.
Advantages of Walk-Up Dining –
- No need to plan in advance where you’ll be eating, you can decide on a whim.
- More flexibility.
- Counter service restaurants (that don’t accept ADR) are often less expensive than table service & Character Dining (that do accept ADR)
- Faster service at counter service & snack carts when compared to lengthy table service & Character Dining meals
“But I have to eat waterside at Blue Bayou!!”
If you simply must eat at a particular table service restaurant during your trip, booking the ADR is a must. Walk-up dining is very rarely available at popular locations like Blue Bayou Restaurant, Carthay Circle or Goofy’s Kitchen. You might get lucky (especially if you are a small party of 2) but these are locations you should certainly get ADR for ahead of your vacation.
Tips for Walk-up Dining with Minimal Wait
Eat at “Off-times”
- Lunch between 11 and noon and dinner between 5 – 6 pm is your usual? Well, those are probably the most popular times for everyone else in the Park too.
- Try dining 60 to 90 minutes before or after these times for better luck with walk-up dining. Choose snacks wisely so you can stave off the hungry beast until restaurant seating is better available.
Use the mobile ordering via the Disneyland parks app to save yourself a TON of time standing in line for quick service food! You’ll be able to schedule dining while waiting in line to truly maximize your day. Simply choose a restaurant, scroll the menu and add to your cart. Check out with a credit card (stored in the app).
When you arrive at the destination, click the button in the app that notes you’re there and ready for have your order prepared. Each of the mobile ordering locations will have a designated pick-up window just for mobile orders. When the app alerts you that your food is ready, you’ll simply show the order number to the Cast Member and they’ll hand over your food.
A few things to know is that not all quick service locations offer mobile ordering. Also you’re unable to pay with a Disney gift card or cash, only credit cards are accepted.
- Maximize your time at counter or quick service dining by having one adult take all the orders and another adult grab condiments and find a table.
- Enlist the help of one of your older children (or a willing Cast Member) to help you carry trays of drinks & food back to the table. So much better than everyone standing in line together and then wandering around searching for an open table.
Eat and Walk
- If you’d rather optimize your Park time and simply eat while in queue or while walking between attractions, consider purchasing food that can easily be eaten while walking.
- Note that some queues will not allow food once you enter the building (but eating in outside lines is okay). There are always trash cans placed through the lines to discard trash.
Try Downtown Disney District
- Hop aboard the Monorail and get your bites in Downtown Disney instead of inside the Park. There are a variety of tastes available to satisfy everyone in your group. Full-service restaurants include Tortilla Jo’s, Catal Restaurant, La Brea Bakery Cafe, Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria, Rainforest Cafe, ESPN Zone and Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen.
- Just want something fast? Earl of Sandwich offers excellent sandwiches (naturally).
- Several of the full-service restaurants also have windows for quick serve meals. Grab a slice of pizza or a salad at Napolini. Jazz Kitchen Express offers popcorn shrimp, jambalaya and other New Orleans-style favorites. Yummy Mexican food from Taqueria at Tortilla Jo’s is served quickly alongside aquas frescas & beer. La Brea Bakery Express is a great place to fill up for brunch.
- The Disneyland Resort pool areas offer food, though some locations may be seasonal. I’ve yet to see The Sand Bar at Paradise Pier open, despite having visited on a weekend in late spring so check with the front desk first.
- The Craftsman Bar & Grill at Disney’s Grand Californian offers hearty dishes like breakfast burritos, chicken nachos and veggie burgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We’ve enjoyed Tangaroa Terrace on our visits to the Disneyland Hotel pool (also open for three meals), including shrimp tacos and flatbread. You don’t have to be a Resort guest to enjoy the hotel restaurants!
Leave The Resort
- Yes, there are local restaurants within walking distance of the Disneyland front gates that you could dine at instead of eating in the Park. Denny’s, Mimi’s and McDonald’s line Harbor Blvd and if you have the energy for a 10-15 minute walk, these are definitely an option (though they are probably just as busy as the restaurants in the Park since they are frequented by hotel guests as well). But you might save a few dollars eating off-site.