A St. Louisan’s guide on where to eat, play, and stay at Walt Disney World

EAT

The food scene at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando is endless, but sometimes reservations are still hard to secure. Reservations open 60 days in advance and fill up fast. There are also plenty of casual dining options throughout the parks that don’t require advance planning, and you can order ahead of time on the app to skip the wait. Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival is a must if you are visiting from July 14–November 19. If you miss the festival, don’t worry: Epcot is still an epic foodie destination, with almost every type of cuisine imaginable. Les Halles, in the France location, is a popular casual dining spot for baguette-style sandwiches and pastries. La Cantina de San Angel is another quick, popular dining option, known for its tacos. Looking for an immersive Disney dining experience? The Magic Kingdom offers two splendid options: Book ahead with Be Our Guest Restaurant to dine like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. If you want to dine at Cinderella’s Royal Table, make reservations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to feast in grand royal style. One dining spot that does not take or require reservations is The Polite Pig in Disney Springs, which offers casual counter-service dining, features a bourbon bar and such innovative sides as whiskey-carmel crispy Brussels sprouts and barbecue cauliflower. The Boathouse is another nearby option that’s known for its raw bar and ambiance. And while the T-Rex restaurant is another experience that will keep the kids entertained.


PLAY

Aim to take in at least one of the fireworks or shows at any of the parks. As part of the 50th-anniversary celebrations, the shows at Epcot and Magic Kingdom were both recently revamped with state-of-the-art technology and updated accompanying music. Outside of visiting the theme parks, Disney Springs offers an expansive outdoor mall that offers live entertainment along with oversized LEGO displays, including a life-size Darth Vadar and Frozen characters. If you want a day off from Disney, Cocoa Beach is only an hour away. Kennedy Space Center is also near the beach and has many attractions to explore, including a shuttle launch experience.

As for navigating Disney World? Here are a few other pro tips:

  • Download the Disney App for park reservations, daily showtimes, a restroom map, a food guide with online ordering, ride details and wait times, and more.
  • Disney recently launched the Disney Genie service app, which helps guide visitors through their day. (If you want to skip the lines, it strongly suggests paying extra for the Disney Genie+ service, which allows you to book lightning lanes.)
  • If you’re traveling with young kids, take a break during the day and come back to the parks at night to experience the firework displays—plus the ride lines are much shorter as it gets later.
  • Many things have changed at the parks during the pandemic, including the current cancellation of character dining experiences, though you can still see your favorite characters in the park. Check here for where to find your favorite character experience.

STAY

Staying on the Disney World grounds might be more expensive, but you do get a discount on park passes, along with convenience to parks via the monorail or boats, among other special amenities such as character visits to the resorts. One of the more popular accommodations is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, a safari-themed resort, where you will have the chance to meet animals that roam the park. There is no shortage of great places to stay outside of the Disney grounds. This three-bedroom Airbnb, for example, accommodates up to six guests and includes access to shared amenities including a pool. For a more luxurious stay, the Orlando Ritz Carlton will not disappoint and offers a golf course on the grounds. And most accommodations outside of Disney World still offer free transportation options to the parks.


https://www.stlmag.com/culture/travel/a-st-louisan-s-guide-on-where-to-eat-play-and-stay-at-walt-disney-world/

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