Fantasmic Dining Package Review
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.
If you want to learn more about the history of the location and see photos of it as Aunt Jemima’s, I highly recommend checking out Daveland’s page on Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House. It’s really fascinating.
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 Tips for 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.
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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!
The new menu at River Belle Terrace is greatly improved. I had the fish of the day, which was halibut. The entree comes with two sauces, peach beurre blanc and romanesco puree. This was one of the best fish meals I have ever had (and we live in Maine). I’ve tried to recreate the sauces, but theirs were much better than mine. My wife had the macaroni and cheese, which included beef brisket. She loved hers too. The corn chowder was wonderful (I think much improved over previous versions). Overall the experience was excellent and well-worth the cost. The reviewers should revisit River Belle Terrace for a new improved review.
I really enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich from River Belle Terrace. Is there a place at Disney World that has a similar pulled pork sandwich? Thanks!
As someone else mentioned above, we also did this in 2015 and the options were steak, chicken, and I believe a pasta as the vegetarian option. We enjoyed our meal, and I didn’t hear any complaints from the rest of the party… but my view of the day is slightly biased as we got engaged that morning and the staff gave us wine glasses and tickets for the show for the next night since it ended up being rained out 🙂 But this new review is just one more point for Blue Bayou on our next trip…
I was considering the upgraded option mostly to keep from having to sit on the ground for an hour even before the show, but how IS that view? Also might be nice if you can stay at your seat to watch the fireworks right after Fantasmic, but am wondering if you have any input on that view as well? Thank you!!!
We did the Blue Bayou Paint the Night dining package last year because Fantasmic wasn’t running and we wanted to eat there anyway. We loved it and would do in a heartbeat for Fantasmic the next time we have a chance.
Thanks for the review! We had booked a River Belle Terrace package but were second-guessing it. This review helped us decide to go with Blue Bayou instead–I know the food is hit-or-miss, but since it’s our first Disneyland trip, we decided to go with a dining package for the better seating and figured we’d enjoy the Blue Bayou atmosphere more. We’re excited to see how this Fantasmic compares to Disney World’s version!
My wife and I did the Fantasmic dinner package at River Bell Terrace back in 2015 for the original version of the show and it seemed like the dinner options were more substantial back than. I think I got a steak and my wife some sort of chicken dish. Both were served with some sort of potato and veggie. I believe the cost was around the same as well. The food was fine, not spectacular but not bad, and we felt it was well worth it.
We may be in the minority here but we actually really love many of the upcharge options. I guess we are part of the problem, but we gladly pay a little extra for a dinner package or a dessert party to avoid having to camp out hours in advance to get premium spots for night time shows. The night time spectaculars are one of our favorite aspects of the parks and it takes so much stress out of finding a decent spot for them. Some of them offer decent value as well (in WDW anyway). Both the Fantasmic package at The Brown Derby and the ROL package at Tiffins offer great value of what you get when compared to regular menu prices.
River Belle Terrace was always on my parents’ “never” list. (Along with the adjacent Golden Horseshoe) In all my years of going to DL growing up we never ate there. If we ate in that area it was generally at French Market or we went all the way to Hungry Bear. Our Table Service go-to’s were Carnation Cafe and the Tahitian Terrace. (RIP, I have so many memories of watching the hula dancers and fire spinners at the show, even if the food was mediocre at best)
It sounds like my parents were and still are mostly right.
Hmm, on both coasts it seems that if they give the best seats to the dinner packages, more people are convinced to pay for the packages to guarantee a decent seat. This in turn leads to even more of the decent seating being given to dinner packages, which leads to even more people feeling the need to buy it. (Or perhaps I just put on my cynical hat today.)
No, it definitely has a self-fulfilling prophecy sorta vibe to it. As do too many Disney upcharge offerings, unfortunately. FOMO and all that…
The summer may be hit, but the bricker’s takes are blazing! ON FIRE!
Having done the Hungry Bear dining package, I’d say it’s not worth $30 and would not recommend it. The food was OK at best, and unless you’re one of the first few people in the section, your view is heavily obstructed. The viewing section is right at the raft dock, so you have signage and props for Tom Sawyer Island, light poles, and trees blocking your view of the stage. I did Fastpass for a later show and the view for that was a lot better than what I had with the Hungry Bear dining package.
I wonder if the Hungry Bear area got larger since you did it, as last night it was part of the area you’re describing, but also a lot of unobstructed area just to the left of the Blue Bayou seating area. This was also the reserved seating area that had (by far) the most people in it.
Still plenty of space for everyone, but it makes me wonder whether they’ve started selling more of the Hungry Bear packages, and increased the size of the seating area, as well.
My dining package was for the 17th (9 pm show on the night of Fantasmic’s official return), and there were a lot of people complaining about the view. So, maybe Disney listened and made some changes.
I really wanted to enjoy this experience since it was my first time doing a dining package. It was also the last day of my trip, and I had not seen any of the preview shows the nights before. It really felt like a big slap in the face when a whole section of Fastpasses had better views than we did. Maybe I expected too much.
Thanks for this, Tom. We have been debating between BB and RBT dinner packages. When I phoned in, a CM told me that RBT and BB seating for Fantasmic is shared. From your review, it sounds like this is not the case. Is seating for the RBT futher back? Were you able to sit, or did you have to stand? Thanks!
When we went a couple nights ago the viewing area was the same for both restaurants, and we were required to sit for the show.
Last night, there were separate areas for Blue Bayou and River Belle Terrace, with the latter being slightly off-center. I’ll keep an eye on social media to see whether this changes.
I agree with your review whole heartedly. We just did the dinner package there a couple nights ago, and I doubt we will ever go back. I can justify the one time to get the viewing for Fantasmic, but we will be going to the Blue Bayou if we feel the “need” to do it again. I just wish your review had come out 3 days ago and I could have been spared the flavorless Beef “brisket” sandwich and gone with the ribs instead. I did enjoy the strawberry shortcake desert. But they didn’t even have options for the kids meal dessert they just brought out a small serving of their butterscotch pudding, which from my experience is not the most kid-friendly desert option. A single scoop of vanilla ice cream would have been a better choice.
Thanks for the review….I was considering the fantasmic package since I haven’t dined at River Belle Terrace since it converted over to Table Service. We still might try it as we recently did the Blue Bayou Electrical Parade package and the dessert is so cute. River Belle was one of my favorites when it was counter service due to the excellent toppings bar so it saddens me that this is what replaced it.
Counter service at River Belle Terrace was solid. My unpublished review for that was quite solid (although I did say the breakfast was overrated).