Walt Disney World has officially reopened Advance Dining Reservations in Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios for reopening dates and 60 days thereafter, plus resort hotels starting today. In this post, we’ll cover the details, offer some restaurant recommendations, and more.
To quickly recap, Walt Disney World previously cancelled all existing reservations, including Advance Dining Reservations. This also included the Disney Dining Plan and Free Dining–we mention this because there’s now a “warning banner” at the top of DisneyWorld.com letting guests know the Disney Dining Plan is not back. (It’s not expected to return until 2021 at the earliest.)
Going forward, Walt Disney World will shift from a 180-day booking window to a 60-day booking window for dining and experience bookings to allow guests to make their plans closer to their visits, which will work better with the new Disney Park Pass theme park reservation system. Let’s cover what’s open for booking right now…
If you’re an on-site resort guest, you should be able to make new dining reservations for all dates of your trip up to 60 days in advance of your arrival. (Timing-wise, we don’t have any reservations that allow us to verify whether the “60+length of stay” aspect of the system is working–please let us know if do you!)
With the opening of Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park on July 11, followed by EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios on July 15, you’ll need valid park admission, a Disney Park Pass reservation for theme park entry, and a dining reservation to dine at an in-park, table-service restaurant. Dining reservations do not guarantee admission to the park.
If you’re planning to dine at a resort and you’re not staying at the hotel, you will absolutely need an ADR. At present, resort hopping via car is not allowed without an Advance Dining Reservation–you will be turned away at the security guard booth. Presumably, day guests will be able to walk over to resorts or take Disney transportation once that becomes an option, though.
As for the Advance Dining Reservation system, it worked pretty flawlessly for us…at 7 am this morning. This the ADR system went live early in the morning without prior announcement, that could be part of it.
After a few minutes waiting on the “We’re Almost in Orbit” page, we were able to search for restaurants, and go through the motions of the process. Every date we spot-checked had full availability. It’s possible others had issues, but we had none. Later in the day, don’t be surprised if the system crashes or has errors.
Nevertheless, we would not encourage you to call if the online Advance Dining Reservation system goes down. Disney “drop day” for anything results in jammed phone lines and multi-hour waits, and it’s simply not worth that right now.
This is especially true given the lack of demand. Many guests in the first couple of months will be Annual Passholders who will do quick service restaurants—or eating at home before arriving or after leaving the parks. Moreover, without the Disney Dining Plan a lot of demand will be eliminated for pricey table service restaurants as guests will balk at high menu prices.
As for recommendations, our biggest would be this List of Outdoor Dining Options at Walt Disney World. As our collective knowledge grows and evolves, it’s becoming increasingly clear that prolonged indoor exposure–as opposed to more fleeting encounters or outdoor activity–is one of the most likely scenarios of transmission.
If you want to do anything to mitigate your risk, dine outside. The unfortunate reality is that summertime in Florida is hot and humid, so it’s not the most comfortable time of year to be doing this. Nevertheless, the views are nice and we think it’s better to be safe than sorry. Your mileage may vary.
At Animal Kingdom, we’d honestly recommend sticking to counter service restaurants. It’s tough to beat Flame Tree Barbecue or Satu’li Canteen, and both have lovely outside seating areas.
If you’re dead-set on table service, maybe Tiffins/Nomad Lounge. Yak & Yeti Restaurant is another personal favorite during normal times–like the rest of Animal Kingdom, it’s a treasure trove of themed design and detail.
At Epcot, there are a few restaurants with outdoor seating on the aforementioned list–our top recommendations are those options. We’re going to stick to those, plus Katsura Grill, Taste of EPCOT Food & Wine Festival booths, and Regal Eagle’s Distinctly Patriotic Smokehouse: A Salute to All Foods, But Mostly Barbecued Meats ~ A Sam Eagle Craft Drafts & BBQ Joint.
Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we’ll be sticking to BaseLine Tap House (another gem) and Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge on the quasi-table service front. Other than that, Docking Bay 7 and Backlot Express.
We’re very eager to see how distanced dining at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant works, so that’d be a top indoor choice. On the other hand, 50’s Prime Time Café might be a bit too surreal with your “mom and dad” or “aunt and uncle” wearing masks. We’d probably skip that for now.
Beyond that, there’s not really any “destination dining” reopening at the resorts right now. Maybe Sanaa, but that’s about it.
If you’re looking for something outside of the Walt Disney World theme parks, our top recommendations would actually all be at Disney Springs. The Boathouse, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin, STK, Frontera Cocina, Paddlefish, Terralina, and a range of counter service restaurants are all good options. (We’ve had a ton of fun at Disney Springs recently.)
The big advantage that Disney Springs offers is that it’s open well past closing time of the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. As Walt Disney World’s Park Hours Will Be Dramatically Reduced for the next few months (at least), it might be smart to do a late lunch in the parks and then push dinner until after you leave the park–stretch your day out a bit longer. It also doesn’t hurt that the restaurants at Disney Springs are typically better quality and more competitively priced to their real world counterparts!
Overall, that should about cover what you need to know about Advance Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World for now. While the system is working smoothly now, we’d be more surprised if there are not problems later today. Don’t let that freak you out–even with reduced capacity and physical distancing, it seems unlikely to us that anything is going to fill up fast. Unless there’s something you absolutely must have, we’d stress patience, and simply trying later today or tomorrow if there are issues.
Will you be booking Advance Dining Reservations? Have you had any success/failure using the ADR system? Are you comfortable doing indoor dining, or will you stick to counter service and outdoor table service options? Do you have plans to visit Walt Disney World this summer or fall, or have you cancelled? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!