Fantasmic Dining Packages are available at several Disney restaurants, including Blue Bayou, River Belle Terrace, and Hungry Bear. In this review, we share food photos, thoughts on whether the nighttime spectacular meal is worth the money, and our overall assessment of the cuisine at River Belle Terrace.
Before we get to the Fantasmic Dining Package at River Belle Terrace, let’s start with background. This Disneyland restaurant is a 1955 opening day original, and was reportedly a favorite breakfast spot of Walt Disney. River Belle Terrace sits at the intersection of Frontierland, Adventureland, and New Orleans Square at what is probably the biggest bottleneck in Disneyland. Its inside seating area offers a “great” view of this bottleneck, while its outdoor patio offers an excellent view of the Rivers of America. Personally, I’ll take the view of the Rivers of America every time.
Because it’s an opening day original, there’s some interesting history surrounding the restaurant. Prior to New Orleans Square being added to Disneyland, the restaurant was on the New Orleans Street portion of Frontierland, which explains why the restaurant’s architecture resembles New Orleans Square more than it does Frontierland. During this time, it was known as Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House in the 1950s and early 1960s (with a slight modification to Aunt Jemima’s Kitchen through 1970). This name was given to the restaurant because it was sponsored by Quaker Oats, maker of Aunt Jemima pancakes and syrup.
However, it wasn’t just a simple sponsorship; the restaurant was reportedly a really special place during the time, with Aunt Jemima herself making appearances and a menu consisting of different types of themed pancakes. Since 1971, the location has been more or less the current incarnation, River Belle Terrace.
As far as food goes, we’ve done many meals at River Belle Terrace over the years. In fact, this review was originally scheduled to be posted over two years ago, sharing our thoughts on the full counter service breakfast and lunch menus.
A few days before the post was scheduled to go live, Disneyland announced it was going to become a table service restaurant, so I had to drop the review. Fortunately, all was not lost. I was able to salvage all the fluff–I mean history–you read above for this review.
I’m also able to recycle the ambiance section, as River Belle Terrace was so lazily “converted” to a table service restaurant. It’s still totally the same, right down to the cafeteria-style ordering line at the front of the restaurant.
If River Belle Terrace ever needed to do counter service breakfast or lunch again in a pinch, it could easily be re-converted…probably overnight.
It’s still a very charming restaurant. The exterior is vaguely reminiscent of an Antebellum manor (a lot like those at Port Orleans Riverside), and the inside feels like a well-appointed Southern kitchen.
All of the decor is relatively understated, leaning more towards classy than grandiosity. Its intimate, airy, and pleasant, but hardly the pinnacle of the themed design. Personally, I prefer sitting outside under the umbrellas overlooking the Rivers of America on a cool morning or evening, but that’s just me.
Alright, let’s move on to the dinner menu, and specifically, the 3-course Fantasmic Dinner Package…
For our dinner at River Belle Terrace, we were joined by Guy Selga from TouringPlans.com who also did the Fantasmic Dinner Package.
Sarah did not do the dining package, instead opting to order a la carte…
We’ll start with what Sarah had (which is also available on the Fantasmic Dinner Package), the Pulled Pork Sandwich.
She really liked this, and was impressed with its quality. I would hope so; this is a $20 sandwich.
Guy and I started our Fantasmic Dinner Packages with Guy ordering the Corn Chowder while I chose the House Salad.
Both of these were completely forgettable; not necessarily bad, just nothing special.
Neither of us would’ve ordered these if paying out of pocket. I think it’s worth noting that there was no biscuit service with this meal, and our entrees ordered less than 5 minutes after our appetizers.
I’ve heard this is a common occurrence, as the main goal is to churn through guests with the Fantasmic Dinner Packages (we dined here at 4 p.m., so it’s not like they were trying to be helpful by getting us out the door in time for the show).
For his entree, Guy’s had the Beef Brisket Sandwich. Calling this beef brisket is a misnomer, as it was basically a roast beef sandwich. I don’t think there’s any positive way to spin this. By itself, this deli sandwich is $20+ and as part of the Fantasmic Dinner Package, it’s the cornerstone of a $50+ meal.
Guy remarked that it was lacking in flavor, which was no surprise. He probably would’ve been better off with literally anything from French Market.
I had the Pork Spareribs, and these were actually pretty good. The meat was tender, and the spice rub provided both a nice texture and delicious flavor. The ribs were neither too fatty nor too lean, and the portion was filling.
My benchmark for River Belle Terrace is the aforementioned French Market and Plaza Inn. After all, River Belle Terrace is just a glorified counter service restaurant, even today. I’d say my entree was easily on par with either of those places. I was very satisfied with the Pork Spareribs.
Next, we both ordered the Maleficent Dragon Dessert. This was the highlight of the meal. Arguably, this whole Dinner Package is “worth it” for the photos of this you can share on social media to make your Walt Disney World-centric friends feel even more jealous that our version of Fantasmic “gets all the good stuff.” 😉
In addition to the super-cool presentation, the flavor of the dark chocolate-blackberry ganache center was unique and interesting, with a slight cinnamon spice befitting of a Maleficent dessert. I’d go as far as to say this is one of the better/cooler desserts I’ve had at Disneyland.
Currently, the Fantasmic Dinner Package at River Belle Terrace costs $45 before tax and gratuity. Whether it’s worth it is a matter of how much Fantasmic matters to you. Using tortured logic, you can rationalize this by telling yourself that you’re only paying a $5-10 premium for the Fantasmic seating.
The problem with that logic is that under no circumstances would I pay $40+ for a dinner at River Belle Terrace were I not a Disney blogger “needing” to write about it. To me, this meal was worth about $25-30, meaning the actual Fantasmic surcharge was significant.
Even though I enjoyed my entree and the dessert, it’s just not worth the money. In terms of ambiance and food quality, River Belle Terrace is on par with French Market and Plaza Inn, and I could do a comparable meal there for a little over half the cost. (As much as I enjoyed the Pork Spareribs, I still prefer Plaza Inn’s fried chicken.)
Had I ordered Guy’s “brisket” entree, I would’ve been even more disappointed–that sandwich looked about equal to Jolly Holiday’s Roast Beef and Smoked Cheddar on Hoagie Roll.
This is not to say the Fantasmic Dinner Package is not worth purchasing. It really depends upon your definition of “worth.” We noticed that the best seating for Fantasmic is all reserved for the Dinner Packages, and even the best 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.)
If you’re willing to be extorted for a centered view of Fantasmic, a dining package makes complete sense. I think paying less and doing the Hungry Bear grab and go option, or paying more and having the front and center view (plus seating cushion!) for the Blue Bayou package might be the better options.
While way overpriced (that also goes for the standard menu), Blue Bayou is a Disneyland institution, and it’s worth dining there once solely for the ambiance. If you’re a tourist visiting Disneyland wanting the whole experience, I think it’s easier to justify the Blue Bayou Fantasmic package from that perspective. The Blue Bayou dining package is expensive, but it’s a very good restaurant, and you get an excellent view of Fantasmic.
Oh, one final note on the Fantasmic dinner package at River Belle Terrace. For an additional $15 (currently), you can do the 8 p.m. seating and stay in your seat for the 9 p.m. showing of Fantasmic. On the one hand, this is a ton of money for a view of Fantasmic that is not that great. On the other hand, I guess it beats sitting on the balcony of Innoventions and playing Jenga while looking at the Observatron for an hour. (Quite literally, you’d have to pay me to get me to do that.)
As for River Belle Terrace, it is what it is. It still sort of bothers me that this was converted to table service as nothing more than a blatant cash grab for Fantasmic dinner packages, but they sell out with regularity, so what do I know? Fantasmic dinner package or not, River Belle Terrace is not one of my recommended restaurants at Disneyland. There are no doubt good options on the menu (as demonstrated by my praise for the ribs and Maleficent dessert), but overall, you can do better elsewhere.
Do you agree or disagree with our take on the Fantasmic Dinner Package at River Belle Terrace? Are you a fan of this restaurant? Any menu recommendations here? Have you done the Blue Bayou or Hungry Bear Restaurant Fantasmic Dinner Package? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!