Looking for a Walt Disney World restaurant with outdoor seating, a waterfront view, or al fresco ambiance? In this post, we’ll share the best dining options for eating outside in Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, with tips for what you can expect from the experience. (Updated November 13, 2020.)
There’s something serene about enjoying the Sunshine State’s outdoor ambiance, pairing fresh air with fresh food for a fantastic experience. This is especially true with a view, whether it be of Cinderella Castle, Expedition Everest, World Showcase Lagoon, or some other large lake at Walt Disney World.
Of course, this is only the case when it’s not sweltering outside, as Florida’s heat and humidity can make dining outside a non-starter for much of the year. From May through September (and sometimes beyond), dining outdoors may not exactly be the aforementioned pleasant experiences…
With all of that said, right now there’s another consideration: it’s safer to dine al fresco. Per public health experts, being outdoors dramatically lowers the risk of transmission (corroborated by this study where only two cases out of over 7,000 could be traced to outdoor activity).
Research also shows that contaminated surfaces and fleeting interactions are low-risk (meaning constantly-moving queues and shops are probably okay), whereas sustained person-to-person interactions, crowded events, and poorly ventilated areas are higher risk.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out “We Need To Talk About Ventilation.” Of particular import is the super-spreader-event triad’s three Vs: venue, ventilation, and vocalization. As that also points out, in one database of over 1,200 super-spreader events, just one incident is classified as outdoor transmission.
Based upon all of that, we’re only comfortable dining outdoors and would strongly recommend anyone reading this likewise avoid indoor dining (especially with cases spiking as we head into Thanksgiving and Christmas). It’s the single best way to mitigate risk if you’re visiting Walt Disney World right now; even with physical distancing, indoor restaurants and bars are the highest-risk scenario you’ll encounter.
We originally put this list together in July, based upon the limited number of restaurants that would be operating at Walt Disney World upon reopening. In the months since, we’ve dined exclusively outside–including in summer and early fall when the weather was hot and unpleasant. Recently, several additional locations have opened and the weather has improved significantly.
Accordingly, here are our picks for the best outdoor and waterfront dining at Walt Disney World as of November 2020…
Animal Kingdom: Nomad Lounge/Tiffins – As of right now, both Nomad Lounge and Tiffins will be reopening at Animal Kingdom. Only one–Nomad Lounge–offers outdoor seating. We’ve had hit or miss results ordering from the Tiffins menu while at Nomad Lounge, but even if you can’t, the small plate options at Nomad Lounge are pretty solid.
Failing that, pretty much every counter service restaurant at Animal Kingdom offers outdoor seating. Our obvious choice here is Flame Tree BBQ, which offers a waterfront view of Expedition Everest. Satu’li Canteen is another option, but the outdoor seating area here gets crowded.
Hollywood Studios: BaseLine Tap House – There are no table service options at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but this is the closest. This lounge is a great pick for drinks and light bites–I’m an especially big fan of the Coffee-rubbed Rib-Eye Beef Puff.
On the counter service front, there are a variety of options. We like Backlot Express for the huge outdoor seating area, but the menu leaves something to be desire. Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo has significantly better food, but that outdoor seating area is small and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is popular. (Note that the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge originally made this list–and would be a great spot for their Famous Cobb Salad & Grapefruit Cake–but they are currently only doing the drink menu. We’ll update if that changes.)
EPCOT: Spice Road Table – Our best dining experience since Walt Disney World reopened has been at Spice Road Table. The breeze off World Showcase Lagoon, the waterfront and promenade views, and the exceptional menu all make it a winner. (Read our most recent review.)
Our “honorable mention” for the #1 slot at EPCOT is Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria in the Italy pavilion. When the park first reopened, Via Napoli was not using its outdoor seating area. It is now…sometimes. That’s dependent upon staffing, which usually means that it’s open during the day (especially on weekends) but they usually stop seating outdoors by around 6 pm. That makes booking an ADR here a gamble, but you can always cancel and go elsewhere if they won’t seat you outside.
EPCOT: Rose & Crown Pub – Another solid option at EPCOT with World Showcase Lagoon view tables is Rose & Crown Pub’s patio. We’re including this because it’s more crowd-pleasing comfort food, and one of the more relaxed spots in all of Walt Disney World.
Solid counter service options at Epcot with outdoor seating include Katsura Grill and Regal Eagle Smokehouse. The former is serene, secluded, and small. The latter is much busier…but also bigger.
Magic Kingdom: ??? – Pick your poison. If you want table service dining, your only option is Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. In our Review of Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, we called it “fine dining for dogs” and put it in the bottom 10 dining options at Walt Disney World. However, we have dined here since reopening and had a much better experience–and downright redeeming–experience.
Any counter service restaurant is a potential alternative, as you can Mobile Order, take your food, and go. Of these,
Pinocchio Village Haus is probably the least-bad option because of its outdoor seating area and straightforward menu choices. We prefer both Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe and Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, but neither are offering their toppings bars.
In a perfect world, Magic Kingdom would offer outdoor seating at the Plaza Restaurant or open the seasonal Tomorrowland Terrace. The whole reopening process remains fluid, so perhaps that’ll happen at some point down the road.
Regardless, you can always grab food elsewhere and walk over to Tomorrowland Terrace. It’s a long trek from some locations, but the seating area is covered and it’s a million-dollar view!
The Boathouse – The best overall outdoor dining experience at Walt Disney World is unquestionably at the Boathouse, which is located at Disney Springs. There’s an array of covered patio seating, plus the Dockside Bar on a pier surrounded by boats, nautical decor, and amphicars.
We detailed a recent meal at the Boathouse in Our Reopening Experience at Disney Springs. (Note that Disney Springs is much busier now.) Regardless of your budget or tastes, the Boathouse is great. Suffice to say, we highly recommend doing dinner at the Boathouse after the parks close!
Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ – Another crowd-pleaser is Homecomin’, which has a newly-expanded outdoor seating area thanks to its “Shine Bar + Social” patio bar.
We’re huge fans of brunch here, Chef Art’s signature fried chicken, and the legendary Shine Cake. You really can’t go wrong with much of anything on the menu, though. Inventive and ambitious comfort foods that never disappoint!
STK – After giving it some guff the first couple of years it was open, we’ve come to love STK, dining here for their lunch and happy hour specials with frequency of late. In fact, STK is the Disney Springs restaurant at which we’ve dined most in the last two years.
We’ve dined at STK once since Disney Springs reopened, returning for their best-value lunch in all of Walt Disney World. STK doesn’t have a huge outdoor seating area, but it’s not very popular (especially in the summer) so scoring a table shouldn’t be a problem.
Geyser Point Bar & Grill – Located along the waterfront at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, this is both a counter and table service restaurant.
We recommend sitting down for the full menu, which includes a glorious Bison Cheeseburger with Garlic Aïoli and Marionberry Barbecue Sauce. Here’s our post-reopening review of Geyser Point.
Three Bridges Bar & Grill – Located at Coronado Springs Resort, this one is very similar to Geyser Point above in that both are hidden gems and neither accept Advance Dining Reservations. (The former is at least partially because of the latter.)
We highly recommend the Three Bridges Signature Burger, Harissa Lamb Chops, and the Warm Churros are a must-order for dessert. You really can’t go wrong here.
BONUS: Ravello – Located at Four Seasons Orlando, which is tucked away on Walt Disney World property near Golden Oak and Fort Wilderness Campground is Ravello. This is a modern Italian restaurant and, while good, is something most guests won’t (and shouldn’t) normally seek out.
However, it’s home to the only character meal at Walt Disney World right now that has outdoor seating. Read our Good Morning with Goofy & Pals Modified Character Meal Review for details, including whether it’s worth the high price tag.
BONUS: Mobile Order To-Go – This feature is accessible via the My Disney Experience app, and allows you to order to-go meals from select table service restaurants. That means you can take your food and eat it wherever–outdoor counter service seating areas, on your hotel room balcony, etc.
Mobile Order To-Go is thus far available at the following locations:
- Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village
- Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- The Wave…of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Olivia’s Cafe at Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Read our Sanaa Reopening Review: Two Magnificent Meals for our experience with the service there. As the title suggests, it went well.
WILD CARD: Chef Mickey’s – This location is technically indoors, but located in the open-air Grand Canyon Concourse of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and immediately below two large openings in the building through which the monorails glide (and along with them, breezes of fresh air). It’s definitely not as well-ventilated as the truly outdoor restaurants, but it’s much better than entirely indoor ones.
For now, that’s the extent of our list. It’s worth noting that there are a range of good options at Disney Springs not listed here, including but not limited to Frontera Cocina, Paddlefish, Terralina–even Blaze Pizza and D-Luxe Burger. Almost anywhere you go there has some degree of outdoor seating. In the parks and at the resorts it’s a different story, so plan accordingly!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Will you try to dine outdoors on your next visit to Walt Disney World, or would you rather just stick to the comfort of air-conditioned indoor seating areas? Wish more WDW restaurants would offer outdoor seating? Any other recommendations that didn’t make our list? Will you be attempting to visit Walt Disney World this holiday season, or are you waiting until 2021 when things (presumably) start getting back to normal? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? 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!