When Must Haves are Can’t Haves – Disney Dining Alternatives

It’s here – your day that is exactly 180 days away from your Walt Disney World vacation, when you can get up at the crack of dawn and make the dining reservations you’ve been planning for since your last Walt Disney World vacation.  But your alarm doesn’t go off, and you’re dreaming of a Club Level room at the Yacht Club – who wants to wake up from that?  You over sleep, and your best laid dining plans crash and burn.  What’s a Disney vacation diner to do?

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Believe it or not, there are restaurant options at Walt Disney World.  I know when people talk to me about making dining plans, they all have the same restaurants on their list – Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, ‘Ohana, Chef Mickey’s, and Le Cellier.  Not being able to get these restaurants can really ruin a vacation for some people.  Let’s see if we can save the day by recommending some alternative dining options.

1 – Can’t get dinner at Be Our Guest?  Grab lunch.  There are no reservations necessary for lunch at the Beast’s Castle, and if you don’t mind going early or late for lunch, you may not even have a very long wait.  The best thing about lunch here is that it feels very table service, even at lunch.  You’ll order as you go in, sit down, and the restaurant does the rest.  Lunch options also include some very “sit down” dining food.  Go for the French onion soup and braised pork, and you’ll feel very much like you’re at a table service meal.

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2 – No room at Cinderella’s Royal Table?  Happens all the time.  This has always been one of the most coveted reservations to secure, so weigh your reasons for wanting to eat there.  Is it the castle experience? Do lunch at Be Our Guest in Beast’s Castle.  Is it meeting Cinderella?  You may also find her at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian for dinner, and she may also appear at breakfast, lunch and dinner at Restaurant Akershus in EPCOT.  Want early entry to the Magic Kingdom?  Try Crystal Palace.  Is it the food?  Nah, it’s never really about the food here, but hopefully, one of the other options will satisfy your reasons for wanting to dine there.

3 – Le Cellier is Le Sold Out.  You’re obviously looking for a great steak dinner.  If you want to stay in EPCOT, try Monsieur Paul, where you’ll get an amazing beef tenderloin.  Jiko has my most favorite filet mignon anywhere, followed closely by the California Grill.  For a great selection of steaks, hit up the Yachtsman Steakhouse.

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4 – ‘Ohana means family, and if you don’t book early, your family may be waving to your cousins from outside this wildly popular restaurant.  I can almost always get a breakfast reservation here – even at the last minute.  I know, you want the all you can eat grill.  Keep calling – up to the day you leave.  And if that fails, turn up at the podium as soon as the restaurant opens for dinner.  They may be able to squeeze you in.

5 – Chef Mickey’s – I hate to say it, but I got nothing.  You can see each of the characters that appear there at other restaurants, and there are other buffets.  But there’s just something about Chef Mickey’s that you can’t get anywhere else.  You’d better set a backup alarm so you can snag this one!

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An American Kid In London (or Paris or Rome or Dublin…)

Face it, it’s going to be a pricey vacation to take the family to Europe.  When we told family we were taking our then 3, 6, and 16 year olds on a European tour our family assumed our kids would never remember, we got looks that ranged from “bless their hearts” to “where did I put that straight jacket I always knew she’d need?”  And really, with so many theme parks and destinations in the United States, why take your kids so far from the welcoming hands of their grandparents when they’ve tested your last nerve?  Here’s why.

1 – They LOVE kids in many European cities.  Population is on the decline throughout Italy, for example, and they don’t see as many kids as you might think.  We knew we made the right choice to visit Rome for the first time with our then 9 year old Brighid when she sneezed in the taxi on the way to the hotel, and our cab driver pulled off the highway, got out of the car, and rummaged around in his trunk until he found tissues, a blanket, and vitamin C lozenges “per il bambina!”  Kids were welcomed throughout Europe, and they always got an amazing amount of attention.

Europe with Kids

2 – You might be from there.  If you’re like many Americans, your family may have emigrated to this country from a European country.  No matter how recently your family crossed the pond, your kids can’t get a real feel for where they come from unless you take them there.  Besides, they might enjoy meeting someone who looks like their grandfather.

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3 – They will learn about other cultures.  Even taking your children to places where people speak the same language, there is much to learn by visiting Europe.  They will see things older than their own country, and learn that history goes back way further than we do.  Show them some of the pomp and circumstance they’d never find here – like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.  See the Pope. Visit museums.

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4 – They will learn to appreciate other cultures.  We have the global community at our fingertips, thanks to the internet.  But to immerse your kids in the culture of another country gives them an understanding of people you can’t get playing Minecraft with a kid from the Bronx.  I am so grateful for the experiences my girls had in Europe, and love it when they remember how people did things differently from the way we do them.  I mostly love it when they want to have afternoon tea.  There is never really a bad time for scones.

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5- They might learn something about you.  Why are you in love with a simple lunch of fresh crusty bread, incredible cheese, and perfect grapes?  Why do you cry when you stand at the Pieta?  What’s the big deal about the Beatles?  Giving them the experiences that made you who you are might give them a glimpse they wouldn’t have normally had.

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6 – By the time you get home, they’ll know better than to wash their hands in a bidet.  ‘Nuff said.

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