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 20, 2023.)
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.
Eating outdoors is not only a pleasant experience at Walt Disney World during the winter months, but it’s also a way of mitigating risk. As discussed in our Tips to Avoid Getting Sick at Walt Disney World, we try to dine outside as much as possible this time of year. In fact, it’s our #1 piece of advice and the best way to reduce the chances of catching a respiratory virus.
The U.S. flu season is already underway, and the CDC has posted new flu data showing very high activity last week in the South, including Florida. This should hardly come as a surprise, as respiratory illnesses are seasonal and are often fueled by family gatherings and congregating indoors. So when you break bread over Thanksgiving dinner, a meal might not be the only thing you’re sharing!
Based upon all of that, many visitors to Walt Disney World might consider dining outdoors as a way to get fresh air and reduce the chances of a respiratory illness ruining their trip. It’s the single best way to mitigate risk of airborne transmission if you’re visiting Walt Disney World during the winter months when these viruses are more likely to spread.
We originally put this list together based upon the limited number of restaurants that would be operating at Walt Disney World upon reopening. In the years since, we’ve done many outdoor meals–including in summer and fall when the weather was hot and unpleasant.
Recently, more restaurants have reopened at Walt Disney World and readers have asked for an updated list of recommendations. There’s really not much to speak of–Disney’s outdoor dining roster is fairly underwhelming, and mostly unchanged in the last several months. With that said, we have tweaked our advice and added more Table Service To-Go options, which have expanded of late.
Accordingly, here are our picks for the best outdoor and waterfront dining at Walt Disney World as of Christmas 2023…
Animal Kingdom: Nomad Lounge/Tiffins – Both of those spots on the path towards Pandora – World of Avatar are open 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.
EPCOT: Spice Road Table – One of our best dining experiences at Walt Disney World in the last year 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 available 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.
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.
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.
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 after it debuted, 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 recently, 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.
Bar Riva – Located along the promenade at Disney’s Riviera Resort, this is an excellent option if you want to escape the crowds and chaos of Disney’s Hollywood Studios or EPCOT, as it’s only a short Skyliner flight away from both.
Don’t let “bar” in the name fool you, either. Bar Riva is yet another family-friendly lounge at Walt Disney World, similar in style to several of the bar & grill entries below. While we wouldn’t recommend sitting with children at the actual bar, there are plenty of tables both under cover (it’s an open-air restaurant, so ventilation is not a concern) and completely outside. We’re huge fans of Bar Riva–it’s a great place for a refreshing and healthy-ish meal!
Banana Cabana – A short walk (~5 minutes) from Disney’s Riviera Resort is Banana Cabana at Caribbean Beach Resort. The setup here is almost identical–a covered open air pool bar that’s actually family friendly.
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 AÃ¯oli and Marionberry Barbecue Sauce.
The food is excellent, but the serene and secluded atmosphere on the shore of Bay Lake takes this to the next level, and makes it feel like you’re actually in the wilderness at Walt Disney World. (We’ve seen armadillo in the brush here–twice.) That is, until the Electrical Water Pageant floats on by–complete with its 50th Anniversary finale! 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.
BONUS: Mobile Order Table Service 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 Table Service 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
Steakhouse 71 at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Olivia’s Cafe at Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Three Bridges Bar & Grill at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Geyser Point Bar & Grill at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Ale & Compass Restaurant at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
We’ve had a number of great experiences with Table Service To-Go at Walt Disney World and highly recommend it!
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!
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 2023 or beyond? 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!