Several Walt Disney World restaurants are hotly in demand, with some reservations being incredibly difficult to book if you aren’t up early 180 days in advance. In this post, we’ll cover the ADRs that are the toughest to score and offer alternatives if you can’t get them.
Before we get to our list, we should probably offer some basics on Advance Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World, since our coverage on this topic to date has otherwise just been “make them.” Conventional wisdom is that you should book ADRs as early as possible, either online (via the My Disney Experience app or DisneyWorld.com) or by calling 407-WDW-DINE. I haven’t used the phone line in years; when it comes to ADRs (but probably not much else), the internet is definitely the way of the future.
Anyone can make ADRs 180 days in advance. If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World on-site resort hotel, you can book 180 + 10 days in advance. In practice, this means you can book 180 days before your arrival date and book ADRs for up to the first 10 days of your trip. For some of the restaurants on this list, that +10 is essential, as options like Be Our Guest Restaurant are often fully booked at the 180 day mark.
Most people don’t know where they want to eat 180 days in advance, and this problem is confounded by the fact that Walt Disney World almost never releases park hours and Extra Magic Hours schedules 6 months in advance. If you find yourself faced with this problem, our advice is to book ‘spare’ ADRs and cancel the ones you don’t need when Walt Disney World releases its schedules.
We should note that this is a controversial practice, and the moral authority of the internet is sure to wag its finger at you, branding you with the scarlet A(DR hoarder) if you engage in this reprehensible practice. My take is that this is a problem of Disney’s own creation, and if they have such an issue with it, there’s an easy solution: release park hours earlier.
As for other fans admonishing the practice? I envy those with lives are so uncomplicated that they’ve taken it upon themselves to fight the good fight of ADR hoarding. In any case, so long as people are canceling these reservations in advance of their trip, it’s a ‘no harm, no foul’ situation, as the table is not going unfilled. (This is probably why Disney doesn’t have an issue with ADR hoarding in the first place–it’s only an issue for people who like to bicker on the internet, where literally everything is an issue to someone.)
Despite that diatribe and the existence of this post, we’re at a point where we rarely make more than 2 ADRs in advance of each trip. In part this is because we tend to travel more at the last minute now, and in part this is because booking same-day ADRs or scoring walk-up availability is easier than ever.
For us, it’s a more pleasant experience to roll with the punches and be flexible in where we are willing to dine than determine our entire schedule months in advance and have our day be beholden to those plans. There are a lot of restaurants we really enjoy in each park, and usually a few of them have same-day options.
Your mileage may vary on that, though. If you’re a first-timer to Walt Disney World and are doing a once-in-a-lifetime trip, your circumstances are certainly different than ours. We share this simply because there are multiple perspectives on planning your dining at Walt Disney World.
The vast majority of other sites out there certain a sense of urgency about scoring the most coveted ADRs and stress the importance of planning in advance. As a Walt Disney World planning resource, it behooves websites like this one to encourage people to plan. Us telling you to sometimes ‘wing it’ might be a bit self-defeating, but it’s honest. We feel planning is essential in some circumstances, but mixing planning with spontaneity makes for a healthy and balanced approach.
Anyway, we’ve digressed from the point, so let’s cut to the chase–the tough ADRs that you will want to book as far in advance as possible, plus alternatives if those are fully booked…
Dinner remains by far the most difficult restaurant to book in all of Walt Disney World, and ‘forcing’ guests to use 2-credits from the Disney Dining Plan or pay for an expensive meal out of pocket is certainly going to discourage some guests from doing dinner. Even if it discourages 25% of the ADRs currently made, dinner at Be Our Guest will still be the toughest ADR at Walt Disney World.
The best alternative here is simply going to be breakfast or lunch at Be Our Guest Restaurant, which are arguably better options since they’re less expensive, anyway. Dinner alternatives include Skipper Canteen if you want a fun themed environment, or Akershus and Cinderella’s Royal Table if you want a dining in a royal environment experience. The latter two restaurants are also difficult to book and are pricey, so that may not be much help.
Alternatives include Liberty Tree Tavern, Boma, Garden Grill, or Kona Cafe. Each of these offer a slice of the ‘Ohana experience, but none is a direct analogue. ‘Ohana is something of a lightning in a bottle experience, and it’s impossible for other restaurants to replicate that completely. If you’re unable to get dinner, you might consider “settling” for breakfast at ‘Ohana. We think dinner has by far the best food, but breakfast has characters and a decent slate of food (by Walt Disney World breakfast standards).
Victoria & Albert’s – Chef’s Table goes very quickly, in large part because of limited supply: it’s an intimate experience with only one seating per night. The main dining room is easier since there are more tables, but it still can be a big challenge because of scarcity.
Victoria & Albert’s winning accolade after accolade probably doesn’t hurt with demand, either. This is one of the few Walt Disney World restaurants that is elite by real world standards, likely making it appealing to Four Seasons, Golden Oak, etc. guests looking for a sophisticated dining experience.
Unfortunately, there is no suitable alternative to Victoria & Albert’s; if it were eligible, it’d have a Michelin star…or three. The closest you’ll probably get is Capa or Ravello at Four Seasons Orlando or Bull & Bear at Waldorf Astoria Orlando.
Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast – Admittedly, character meals are a bit of a blind spot for us since we don’t do them a ton. Normally, unless we’re booking a pre-park opening breakfast for strategic purposes, we just take whatever time we can get for review purposes. That tends to work pretty well, although it has meant some 10 a.m. breakfasts.
Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast is an exception to this, as we’ve yet to find availability for it. (In case you were wondering why we’ve yet to review it!) In part, we suspect this is because it’s still the hot new ticket, in part we think it’s because the character selection is strong, and in part we think it’s because the restaurant has garnered some positive reviews (especially for a character breakfast).
Alternatives would be Cape May Cafe across the way, Akershus (although…see below), or 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian.
While we’re on the topic of character dining, we should note that Storybook Dining at Artist Point has been very popular in its first couple months of operation. However, it’s still too early to tell whether this will be a highly coveted ADR, or if it will settle into more modest popularity.
Alternatives include Garden Grill if you want an Epcot character fix (with better food, in my estimation) or Cinderella’s Royal Table in Magic Kingdom. Even though the latter is more expensive, we think it’s the better character meal. Plus, who can exist dining inside Cinderella Castle?!
California Grill – Thanks to a resurgence in menu quality over the last few years, plus a convenient location near Magic Kingdom, plus a pretty fly location with great fireworks views, California Grill has become one of the hottest ADRs among Signature Restaurants. This is for good reason, and we think California Grill is one of the best and most iconic choices for a sophisticated yet “Disney” date night meal.
Alternatives to California Grill would be pretty much any other Signature Restaurant. In terms of location, Citricos, Narcoosee’s, and Artist Point are logical choices. In terms of cuisine and quality, I think Jiko or Flying Fish are the best fits.
Restaurants that didn’t make the cut but that can be fairly difficult include Beaches & Cream, Via Napoli, Rose & Crown (during IllumiNations), Minnie’s Seasonal Dining (especially during Free Dining), Cinderella’s Royal Table (albeit not to the degree it once was), and special options like Dining with an Imagineer and the Fantasmic Dining Package.
A few others that have been historically difficult include Le Cellier, Crystal Palace, and Chef Mickey’s. More recently due to price increases or policy changes, I’d say these restaurants have become much easier to book. That doesn’t mean they’re downright easy, but gone are the days of these being must-book dining options 180 days out.
Which Walt Disney World restaurants do you think are the most difficult to book? Do you agree or disagree with our list? Any tough ADRs we didn’t mention? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!