Hungry Bear Restaurant sells the cheapest Fantasmic Dining Package, which offers reserved seating to the nighttime spectacular at Disneyland. This review features food photos, thoughts on whether the special seating section and meal are worth the money, and our overall assessment of the dinner and experience.
Fantasmic has once again returned to Disneyland after a two-plus year hiatus. This is relevant because there’s currently a ton of pent-up demand for Fantasmic, with locals eager to see it for the first time in a couple of years jockeying with tourists for views of Disneyland’s best nighttime spectacular. It’s been a busy summer season, and that’s particularly true along the Rivers of America before, during, and after the nightly showings of Fantasmic.
Our experiences trying to see the spectacular have been nothing short of chaotic, to the point that we’re now waiting to see it again until the off-season. Multiple fights have broken out, and it’s easy to see why–even trying to navigate through Frontierland and New Orleans Square can be downright nightmarish. This is not the least bit hyperbolic, and is a huge reason why you might want to buy a Fantasmic Dining Package.
Notably, the Hungry Bear Restaurant Fantasmic! On-the-Go Package is the least expensive choice at $35 per person. It’s less expensive because it’s available at the Critter Country counter service eatery rather than a table service restaurant like the other three options.
For the Hungry Bear Restaurant Fantasmic! On-the-Go Dining Package, you choose from a special down-home menu featuring barbecued pork ribs, grilled salmon salad, or a barbecued half-chicken as your entree. That’s served with bacon potato salad, seasonal vegetables, a dessert and fountain beverage.
The vegetarians out there can instead order a plant-based Impossible sloppy joe sandwich with seasonal vegetables, fresh fruit, dessert, and fountain beverage. Kids meals include barbecued ribs, mac and cheese, and a plant-based Impossible sloppy joe slider.
As Hungry Bear Restaurant is a counter service dining option, gratuity is neither included nor necessary.
Advance reservations are highly recommended for the Hungry Bear Restaurant Fantasmic! On-the-Go Dining Package and can be made on Disneyland.com or via the Disneyland app up to 60 days prior to your visit.
Reservations have become easier to score, but we still recommend booking at least a month in advance for the best range of times. Same-day reservations can be made on a limited basis and are subject to availability. (Don’t count on this working out–book the package in advance.)
Your Hungry Bear Restaurant Fantasmic! On-the-Go Dining Package reservation will include a time to pick up your food. Meal pick-up times are normally 3:00 PM to 8:30 PM, though times may vary based on the Fantasmic! schedule.
Reservations made for 3:00 PM through 6:45 PM will include a FastPass voucher for entry into the reserved viewing area for the first performance of Fantasmic! that evening. Reservations from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM will include a FastPass voucher for entry into the reserved viewing area for that night’s second show.
At Hungry Bear Restaurant, you’ll receive one reserved viewing area FastPass for each On-the-Go Package purchased. Vouchers are valid only for the designated show time on the same day as the dining experience. Packages and vouchers may not be refunded, redeemed for cash, exchanged for a different date or time, or sold.
Your voucher lists the location of your viewing area, the time you should arrive at your viewing location and the show’s performance time. Early and late arrivals will not be accommodated. Although the best seating location is for Blue Bayou, the FastPass area for Hungry Bear and River Belle Terrace flank the dead-center seating of Blue Bayou and are still really good.
If at all possible, our strong recommendation would be to book between 3:00 pm and 6:45 pm in order to receive a FastPass for the first show. This is because the first showings of all Disneyland nighttime spectaculars are significantly busier–but that’s irrelevant to you with the reserved viewing area FastPass. Those typically sell out for both showings every single night, making the reserved area equally busy for both showings.
Why this matters is because the standby seating or viewing areas for Disneyland’s other nighttime entertainment is significantly less busy for the second showings. You’ll presumably be wanting to watch Main Street Electrical Parade, World of Color, or whatever seasonal offerings are being shown in addition to Fantasmic. That’s easier if you watch the first Fantasmic via the reserved area.
Another upside of doing the first Fantasmic is watching the fireworks from your spot almost immediately thereafter. Typically, the first showing of Fantasmic will wrap up, and then Disneyland’s fireworks will be presented around 10 minutes later. The second performance of Fantasmic will occur about 30 minutes after that.
If you’re planning on watching the first Fantasmic, stay in your spot after it ends to see the fireworks–there are mist screens with projections on the water and most of the pyro is visible. You won’t have time to get a spot on Main Street after seeing Fantasmic, so don’t even bother–it’s a lost cause.
Reservations for the Hungry Bear Fantasmic Dining Package were tough to score during the busy summer season when we did this, so we didn’t have much in the way of choices. Due to that, we opted for the later showing by default.
Our time was the last pickup slot of the evening, and there was a backlog of guests all arriving around the same time with only one cash register serving everyone. Consequently, the line was really long and took forever. We’ve been back to Hungry Bear a few times since, and have not spotted this scenario play out again. Still, something to consider if you’re stuck with that last time slot of the evening.
We also had a long wait for Fantasmic itself, but that was by choice. If you want a prime spot in the front row, you’ll need to line up early–at least 30 minutes before the show, and probably more like 45 minutes. This “line” isn’t particularly organized, so it can be a bit frustrating.
Our advice would probably be to not worry about the front row, and save yourself that stress. Sitting a bit back from the front is still good, and arguably better than the second “row” of this area. If you’re in the front row, you look through the handrail along the waterfront; if you’re in the second row, it will effectively block part of your view. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being in the third or fourth rows of the seating area, as it slopes upwards away from the water. As far as the seating area goes, I think front or back is best, and back is pretty laid back as compared to front.
Alright, let’s move on to the food review for the Hungry Bear Restaurant Fantasmic! On-the-Go Dining Package…
For our entrees, Sarah ordered the chicken and I ordered the ribs.
Both were shockingly good. The chicken was juicy and flavorful, and the ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and delicious. There were a couple fatty sections, but nothing out of the ordinary.
One specific highlight was the s’mores dessert. Great texture, consistency, and flavor. My only complaint is that they were too small! Happily would’ve traded my broccoli for another section of these bad boys.
Overall, we were both pleasantly surprised by the cuisine quality given that this is an “on the go” package. We were expecting a brown paper bag of loose food (we did this ~5 years ago, and that’s more or less what it was). The cuisine is a definite step up for the new iteration of the Hungry Bear Fantasmic Dining Package.
Again, the Fantasmic Dinner Package at Hungry Bear Restaurant costs $35 for adults. A normal meal at Hungry Bear would cost around $17 to $22, but that’s not really an apples to apples comparison.
For one thing, the cuisine quality in the Hungry Bear Restaurant Fantasmic! On-the-Go Dining Package is more on par with French Market or Plaza Inn, the buffeteria tier restaurants at Disneyland. For another, the dessert is significantly smaller than the pricey options at Hungry Bear, so that value isn’t quite the same.
On balance, I’d ascribe about $20 in value to the Hungry Bear Restaurant Fantasmic! On-the-Go Dining Package, and that’s probably on the low end of the value range. (We don’t drink soda, so that had zero value to us. YMMV.)
Whether the Hungry Bear Fantasmic Dining Package is worth it is a matter of how much Fantasmic matters to you. You can rationalize this by telling yourself that you’re only paying a $10 per person for premium for the Fantasmic seating. It’s possible that understates the value of the food. Don’t let the grab and go nature of it fool you–this food is somewhere between counter service and table service quality.
To that point, there’s a huge area along the Rivers of America set aside as reserved viewing for the Fantasmic Dining Packages. Even the best standby spots for Fantasmic are now fairly far off-center or in a cramped and small standing-only section. (Read our Fantasmic Viewing & Photography Tipsfor more info.)
Even in an ideal scenario, you’d need to stake out one of those spots an hour or more in advance or get really lucky with the second showing if you do standby for Fantasmic.
Ultimately, the Hungry Bear Restaurant Fantasmic! On-the-Go Dining Package is well worth the ~$10 premium per person. Even if the food isn’t worth $20 to you for whatever reason, this package is still worth it. 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 Disneyland upcharge offering. In fact, we’d say the batting average is around .250, with the Hungry Bear Dining Package being one of our top overall picks in terms of bang for buck. (In case you’re curious, we’ve also done new reviews of the other nighttime spectacular dining packages–see our World of Color Dessert Party Review and Main Street Electrical Parade Dining Package Review for photos and commentary. Spoiler: we loved one and hated the other.)
Personally, I think paying less and doing the Hungry Bear grab & go package works out pretty well. Fantasmic has a pretty wide viewing radius, so you can barely tell you’re off-center. (All of the Fantasmic photos in this post were shot from the Hungry Bear section…do they look noticeably off-center?) Hungry Bear gets our endorsement because it’s cheapest and most convenient.
Alternatively, paying more and having the front and center view for the Blue Bayou package is another great option–our preference/top recommendation if your budget allows. Although Blue Bayou is the most expensive, that restaurant is a Disneyland institution, and the superior experience makes it worth the extra money. River Belle Terrace is pretty underwhelming, making both of its dining packages our least favorite picks.
Do you agree or disagree with our take on the Hungry Bear Restaurant Fantasmic! On-the-Go Dining Package? Are you a fan of this counter service spot? Any menu recommendations here? Have you done the Blue Bayou or River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Dinner Package? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!