Review: Cheapest Fantasmic Dining Package at Hollywood Studios

The cheapest Fantasmic Dining Package at Walt Disney World is available at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, which offers reserved seating to the reimagined nighttime spectacular at Hollywood Studios. Here’s how it works, food photos, thoughts on the view from the reserved section, our review of whether the upcharge is worth the money, and an overall assessment of the experience.

In terms of basics, Fantasmic Dining Packages are back for breakfast, lunch & dinner at DHS. These offer a pay-to-play FastPass with seating in a reserved area for the nighttime spectacular at Walt Disney World. This comes at a cost, with those booking the Fantasmic Dining Package paying a premium over what their meal would cost if paying out of pocket.

However, Fantasmic Dining Packages are currently the only way to guarantee a seat at the reimagined nighttime spectacular at DHS. There is no virtual queue or Genie+ Lightning Lane. It’s either buying a dining package or waiting in the standby line. Given that Fantasmic has been gone for nearly 3 years and there’s a ton of pent-up demand–it’s always popular with tourists, but now locals are eager to see it for the first time in a few years and longtime WDW fans also want to check out the new scenes–this is particularly relevant.

One big thing to note, and a source of confusion among Walt Disney World fans, is how to reserve the Fantasmic Dining Package. Simply making an Advance Dining Reservation for a participating restaurant is (usually) not enough. It’s possible the restaurant will allow you to convert to a Fantasmic Dining Package upon arrival, but there are no guarantees.

The best practice is making an ADR for the dedicated Fantasmic Dining Package. You’ll know you have the right thing because it’ll be listed as “Fantasmic Dining Package” in the My Disney Experience app, on disneyworld.com, and on your confirmed ADR.

Here’s what’s included in each Fantasmic! Dining Package at Walt Disney World:

  • An entrée and appetizer or dessert at select full-service restaurants or one (1) full buffet (where applicable), along with a non-alcoholic beverage
  • One voucher for guaranteed seating at Fantasmic! in a reserved area

Participating restaurants at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and dining package prices, which exclude tax and gratuity:

Adults
(ages 10 & up)
Kids
(Ages 9 & Under)
50’s Prime Time Cafe
Classic American comfort food, ’50s kitsch and a good old-fashioned family gathering take you back to a bygone era.
$51.00 $22.00
Hollywood & Vine
Celebrate breakfast with Disney Junior Stars or enjoy lunch and dinner with Minnie and friends at seasonal dining parties.
Breakfast: $54.00
Lunch & Dinner: $71.00
Breakfast: $36.00
Lunch & Dinner: $47.00
Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano
Mangia in the backlot of Disney’s Hollywood Studios at this casual but colorful Italian eatery with a California twist.
$54.00 $22.00
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant
Do dinner and a show ’50s-style at our drive-in “theater,” featuring all-American cuisine and sci-fi movie clips.
$49.00 $22.00
The Hollywood Brown Derby
Step into the Golden Age of Hollywood at this warm, wood-paneled restaurant serving contemporary American cuisine.
$73.00 $29.00

For our Fantasmic Dining Package, we booked Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. In actuality, we first booked Hollywood & Vine bright and early on the morning when Fantasmic Dining Packages first opened up (for the .0002 seconds they were actually available) in order to revisit Minnie’s Holiday Dine, but had to change that ADR due to other travel plans. I assumed I was going to have to do this meal solo as a result, and wasn’t particularly keen on doing a character dining experience by myself.

Fortunately, Captain America intervened and saved me at the last minute. By that, I mean our friend Mark Willard–who has made past appearances on the blog and is world-renowned for his appearances as Steve Rogers at MNSSHP–took Sarah’s place. Except we did Sci-Fi instead of Minnie’s Holiday Dine. But I digress.

With the pivot to Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, my plan changed to ordering the most expensive appetizer and entree in order to demonstrate how to get as much bang for buck as possible with the Fantasmic Dining Package. Then I called a last-minute audible due to unforeseen circumstances. Which is to say that my stomach demanded a burger. Suffice to say, I had no say in the matter.

And as it turns out, I can simply tell you how to get the best value for money out of the Fantasmic Dining Package at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant: order the Sci-Fi Smoked Wings and Pan-Seared Salmon Pasta. At present, that’ll total $42 as compared to the $49 for the Fantasmic Dining Package. The end result with that combo is paying $7 extra for the Fantasmic FastPass, which is the best you’re going to do. (We also both ordered Coke, but I would’ve gotten water if that wasn’t included, so I’m ascribing $0 to that. YMMV.)

Instead, Mark ordered the Spinach & Artichoke Dip and Drive-in BBQ Burger; I ordered the Fried Dill Pickles and Feature Film Burger (Signature Burger + shrimp & crab cake, pepper jack cheese, chipotle hollandaise sauce). Save for this newish Feature Film Burger, we’ve commented on all of these items in past reviews. As for the burger, it was excellent as always, but I ended up eating the seafood cake separately as I didn’t think it added anything to the burger.

If you’re looking for other cuisine recommendations, check out our full Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant Review. Since this is simply the normal menu, I’m not going to fixate on the food portion of the review. As should be clear from its inclusion on our List of the 22 Best Restaurants at Walt Disney World, we are big fans of Sci-Fi and highly recommend it. The Fantasmic element of the dining package is the much more pertinent consideration here.

To that end, we received Fantasmic FastPasses at the end of our meal with the date and performance time listed on them. I guess technically these aren’t FastPasses as that system has been retired, but this is still basically a paper FastPass by a different name.

We were also advised by our server that if we lost the paper not-FastPass, we could either receive another or entry into the dining package section with our receipt. It’s been a long, long time since we did the Fantasmic Dining Package at Walt Disney World, but this is almost verbatim what we were told earlier this year at Disneyland. In any case, we went almost immediately from Sci-Fi to the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, so losing the paper FastPass during that commute would’ve been quite the impressive feat.

Otherwise, Fantasmic Dining Packages are not a new thing, and work exactly the same as before. Seating at the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater where Fantasmic is performed begins (at least) 90 minutes prior to the first performance time. As with everyone else, dining package guests will enter on Sunset Boulevard next to Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage.

The Fantasmic Dining Package reserved seating sections are guaranteed until at least 25 minutes before the show starts. At that time, Cast Members might begin offering open seats to guests without packages. (In practice, we didn’t see this actually happen and aren’t confident it does–it’s just a ‘warning’ on the Fantasmic FastPass.)

There’s plenty of signage and Cast Members stationed to direct traffic and ensure you get to the reserved area. It’s pretty simple–just follow the directional signage, with the only one that really matters being at the seating area itself.

The Fantasmic Dining Package reserved seating areas are the Mickey and Scar sections of the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater. These are literally dead-center, with the best views of the stage. While Walt Disney World claims that great views of Fantasmic are available anywhere in the amphitheater–which is arguably true–this is the center stage perspective. Mickey Mouse and other characters appear directly in the middle of the stage quite often, making this the best view. There is literally no doubt about that.

Seats are not assigned, so you can choose any open spot in the Mickey or Scar sections.

Of the two, Mickey is the more-centered section. If you have options, I’d say aim for as close to the front as possible, and on the Scar side (rather than Pocahontas side) of the Mickey section. Personally, I like to be a few rows back to have clearance over the handrail for photos and also to be on a straight-plane with the main stage. That’s probably splitting hairs a bit too much, though. The bottom line is that anywhere in the Mickey or Scar sections is going to offer an exceptional view of Fantasmic.

Finally, the core question for most Walt Disney World planners: are the Fantasmic Dining Packages worth the money? Yes (with an asterisk). 

This is quite the change in perspective. If you asked me pre-closure whether the Fantasmic dining package was worth the out-of-pocket cost, my answer would’ve been a quick and unequivocal “no.” I would’ve simply recommended catching the second show, or hedging your bets with a FastPass+ selection if Fantasmic was really important and you didn’t want to wait or risk it.

Even my current yes comes with an asterisk, but it’s still pretty far from an unequivocal no. This is in part because Fantasmic is more popular than ever thanks to the reimagining…and for good reason. (Speaking of which, not sure whether there’s interest in a standalone review of the new Fantasmic, but if so, let me know.) It’s also in part because there will often be no easy alternatives to the dining package.

With that said, I am going to equivocate a bit here because it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. I’d say that 90% of the time, the dining package is worth the extra $7 to $15 per person. The time you’ll save waiting in the standby line plus the superior view weighed against the current lack of alternatives for guaranteeing a great view without the hassle make that a pretty easy conclusion.

The remaining 10% of the time, you may not need the dining package for a great spot with minimal effort. For example, on the night that we did the Fantasmic Dining Package, there were two performances of Fantasmic. Second showings were added for much of the holiday season and early 2023 due to elevated early-on demand for Fantasmic, which saw crushing crowds overwhelming Sunset Boulevard.

For many dates during peak seasons, those second showings are absolutely necessary. This particular night, not so much. The far left and right (Hades/Beast and Ursula/Witch) sections never filled up, and there were plenty of openings in other prime viewing areas, as well. In fact, we were able to snag spots in the Mickey section only a few rows behind our earlier reserved spot less than 15 minutes before showtime.

While this will be possible from time to time, the problem lies in accurately and consistently predicting when it will occur. (You might not have much luck guessing correctly 60+ days out.) It’s likely that Walt Disney World will get better about scheduling second showings of Fantasmic only as demand dictates, meaning low-crowd days like this would only have one showing throughout 2023.

Another possibility is that Fantasmic will receive a Lightning Lane, meaning that those who purchase the Genie+ service will be able to book reserved seating via that paid FastPass option. The problems with that are two-fold. First, it does not yet exist. Second, even once it does, that means choosing Fantasmic over another Lightning Lane in DHS, which is already a competitive park for Genie Plus.

Given that Fantasmic Dining Packages book up almost instantly when they’re released, I would not recommend rolling the dice on any of this. Sure, a second show might be added for your date that might be less crowded, or Genie+ might be a viable alternative, but there are no guarantees. And even if one of those options does pan out, it’s not without risk or downside.

Even on the night we did the second showing of Fantasmic with ease, there was an opportunity cost. We could’ve done Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or Slinky Dog Dash with wait times of 40 minutes or less. Other attractions were undoubtedly walk-ons at that point, too.

This blog spends a lot of time warning against falling victim to the FOMO machine or that mentality. There are so many upcharges that are in extremely low supply, and this scarcity results in packages selling out despite higher price points. That can be confused for popularity or quality, which is often not the case. Dessert parties, we’re looking at you!

Unlike dessert parties, the Fantasmic Dining Package is not one of those instances. For most visitors who would be doing a table service meal at Disney’s Hollywood Studios regardless, the Fantasmic Dining Package is worth the money for the superior view and time-savings.

With that said, it’s also not the end of the world if you can’t afford the dining package or get shut out. The Hollywood Hills Amphitheater seats 6,900 guests with additional standing room for about 3,000 guests. That’s a massive number, and one that’ll allow a good percentage of all guests in Disney’s Hollywood Studios to see Fantasmic.

There’s no question that the Mickey and Scar sections offer the best views of Fantasmic. However, unless you’re an obsessive photographer who is very particular about views, there are a number of sections that’ll be ‘good enough’ for you. The purpose-built venue for Fantasmic makes it much easier to see–the amphitheater and show were more or less designed so that all seats offer adequate or above views.

Ultimately, the Fantasmic! Dining Package is well worth the premium per person pricing for the majority of Walt Disney World guests, and is an objectively better use of your vacation budget for bonuses or add-ons than just about anything else. The time and headaches saved plus the comfort of the reserved area and avoiding the chaos of the standby section makes this money well spent.

That’s not true of every Walt Disney World upcharge offering, and certainly not of most other nighttime spectacular reserved viewing or dessert parties. Of course, this is subject to change. It’s likely that the ‘new nighttime spectacular smell’ will wear off Fantasmic at some point in 2023, or it’ll be added to the Genie+ service. If or when those things happen, the value-calculus could change.

For now, we’d recommend booking a Fantasmic Dining Package as soon as possible once your ADR window opens. You can always cancel closer to your travel dates if it doesn’t seem like it’ll be necessary, but you almost certainly will not be able to book a Fantasmic Dining Package to your Walt Disney World trip at the last minute.

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!

Your Thoughts

Will you be booking a Fantasmic dining package? Thoughts on doing Sci-Fi for the cheapest meal versus “upgrading” to a more expensive restaurant? Is it worth the surcharge to guarantee that you’ll have a spot in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater to see the nighttime spectacular? Have you done any of these dining packages in the past? Was it worth the money? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? 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!

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