Any Disney expert will tell you secret to fewer lines is to get to the parks at opening. Did you know you can use early entry dining to get in even earlier? Learn how to use early entry dining at Disney World to minimize crowds and maximize fun.
“Disney World is so crowded!” is a complaint I often hear from mouse house haters. It is true that lines can get outrageously long and combine with the Florida heat to extinguish the Disney magic.
However, all is not lost. With early entry dining at Disney World you can get a jump start on the hordes and enjoy a character experience to boot. Let’s go through some early entry dining tips and tricks, then break down the options at each park.
What is Early Entry Dining?
Simply put, early entry dining is a meal that takes place before the parks open. At this time all of the early entry dining options are character meals with the exception of Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom. The first seating at the early entry restaurants is 8 a.m., which can be up to an hour before the park opens.
Early Entry Dining Tips and Tricks
- Book early. Disney opens up dining reservations 180 days in advance. Resort guests can book dining for the length of their hotel stay at day 180, so in effect hot reservations can be gone even by day 180. You want the first slot for breakfast, 8 a.m., to get the most out of early entry dining.
- Consider transportation. While Disney resort transportation from the hotels is an option, I would highly recommend using Uber or a Minnie Van to make sure you get to the park on time.
- Arrive at 7:30 for an 8 a.m. reservation. Each park has a designated gate for early entry. You’ll give your name to the Disney rep and be admitted into the park for your character meal. I might even try for 7:15, but it’s guaranteed you’ll get in at 7:30. Bonus: you can get some amazing photos in an empty park on the way to your meal.
- Consider extra magic and extended hours. The entire point of using early entry dining is to beat general admission guests. The magic of early entry is muted if other guests can enter at the same time. Be sure to keep an eye on Disney’s calendar of hours as Disney will adjust opening times based on crowd level expectations. You can cancel your reservation up to 24 hours beforehand if Disney makes early entry dining moot.
Epcot Early Entry Dining
Akershus Royal Banquet, Norway, World Showcase
Akershus is the hot ticket breakfast at Epcot and is known for hosting the more obscure princesses, such as Mulan or Jasmine. Surprisingly, Anna and Elsa are not on the docket, although their meeting place is right next door. The meal gets good reviews, especially if you are a fan of smoked salmon. I like the description of “IKEA cafe cuisine.” Service is buffet style, which admittedly is not my favorite.
Akershus is a great choice if you could not secure a FastPass+ to the Frozen ride as you will get a jump start on the standby line in front of Akershus.
Garden Grill, The Land Pavillion, Future World
Garden Grill is probably my favorite character meal at Disney World, but flies under the radar. It will be a lot easier reservation to get than Akershus and is a great choice for those wanting to stand-by for Soarin’ Round the World.
I like Garden Grill for a number of reasons. First, the restaurant rotates around the Living with the Land attraction so between character visits there is lots to see. Second, service is family style, which I vastly prefer to buffets, especially with young children. You still get as much breakfast as you like, but waiters bring it to you. If you like the service at ‘Ohana, you will like Garden Grill. I think the food- traditional breakfast favorites- is fresher than buffet service as well.
Most important, though, is the character interaction. Chip, Dale, and rotating members of the “big five” are adorable in farmer’s costumes. Because of the restaurant-in-the-round setup, when the characters visit you, they are visiting only you. Pluto even tried to steal my daughter’s muffin, which is perhaps more personal attention than she expected.
Play N’Dine, Hollywood and Vine, Hollywood Studios
Hollywood and Vine has the unique distinction of being the only Disney Junior character meal. If you have a Doc McStuffins or Jake and the Neverland Pirates fan, Hollywood and Vine is where you want to be. The Disney Junior characters only visit at breakfast, so if you are planning a visit, you might as well try to get in early.
Hollywood and Vine is not known for the food: this is a character breakfast that is all about the kids. That said, Mickey Waffles are in abundance and you won’t leave hungry. The restaurant is also near Toy Story Land if you want to try your luck in the Slinky Dog Dash stand-by line.
Tusker House, Animal Kingdom
Tusker House is universally popular, both for the cuisine and the characters. Donald Duck hosts the meal and is present everyday with Mickey, Daisy, and Goofy. I’d call the cuisine at Tusker House “Boma light”. The breakfast will satisfy any picker eater, but also features African specialties such as beef bobotie, which is similar to a quiche.
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Tusker House is located right near the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction, so it is a great idea to knock out that ride early on stand-by. Doing so you can save your FastPass+ opportunities for Pandora
The Magic Kingdom has three options for early entry dining. SheBuysTravel has a complete guide to Magic Kingdom early entry meals.
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