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Dealing with the ‘Atmospheric’ Pressure

Pretty much ALL of Walt Disney World is some type of atmosphere – the kind we love to immerse ourselves in to forget the world around us.  I wanted to touch upon the atmosphere specifically found in certain Disney Dining areas – what we have experienced and what we feel was worth the cost of admission, sort of speak.  Pull up a chair, put your napkin on your lap, and let’s dig in!

Hmmm, which one to start it off with… I would have to go with Cinderella’s Castle.  Who wouldn’t want to dine in the Castle of all Castles?  We have eaten here several times, and I can tell you that the cost of the meal does justify the atmosphere.  Nowhere else on WDW property can you hang out with the Fairy Godmother in the foyer and then walk the spiral staircase to the dining room located above.  We always request a table by the window, as nothing is more magical than eating while looking over Fantasy Land.  I do want to add though, that we did it for both girls for their first trips, and that was enough.  Here, you are paying for the atmosphere more than the food.  The food quality, for the breakfasts we have eaten here, was just ok.   Your Princes and Princesses will be more wrapped up in the characters walking around then their food, so be prepared, at most dining character places, they won’t wind up eating enough to justify the cost.

Chef Mickey’s is another great place for atmosphere. Why we love it so much is because you get to dine in the belly of the Contemporary Resort, while watching the occasional monorail pass by.  I would highly recommend eating dinner here, as it is a large buffet that you can eat as much as you want…and that’s always a wonderful thing after a long park day.  Not only is the food great, but the characters come out with song and dance and really get the families fired up – this is a hopping place! If you like excitement, book it for you next trip – it is worth the money.

We finally got to Ohana’s a few years ago for our Anniversary trip.  We booked the character breakfast, and I would have to say that the atmosphere of the “Polynesian Resort” is what makes for the REAL feel of this place.  I didn’t feel the restaurant itself was anything “spectacular”,  so here is where the food really has to make up for the cost to justify it. Again, the breakfast is about the same as the others, so I would have to say take a trip to the “Poly” and enjoy the free atmosphere in the lobby and among the grounds.

Our baby girl was turning 16 during one trip, so we surprised her with a birthday dinner at Boma’s located in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I will tell you now, I loved WHAT we were there for, and the food was delicious, but the atmosphere left me wanting my money back.  The restaurant itself was nice, but I wouldn’t recommend eating there for the atmosphere alone.  It was one of our most expensive meals of the trip, and I don’t think I can justify the cost.

So, there is this place called “The Grand Floridian”, I am sure you have heard of this place.  You know, the small, quaint, white Victorian Resort? I know, I am pulling your leg, but this place is just TOO much for words! I feel like I can’t breathe here unless I make six figures!  Anyways, we dined at their character dinner at 1900 Park Fare. Atmosphere… carousel horses on the walls, and big spacious windows – beautiful!   The food was delicious and the characters interacted so great with us, that Minnie herself cut our Belle’s waffles at the table.  Check it out, it’s worth the money!

I want to touch upon some of the more over looked areas of dining that are some of our absolute favorites.  Have you been to THE LAND pavilion? Well, this place is like a small mall in itself.   We love to peruse the food court called “Sunshine Seasons”, grab our food, and find the most comfy corner booth to eat at.  We have spent many an hour here, eating Chinese, and people watching. The atmosphere here is mainly the high ceiling, decorated with its hot air balloons, and the knowledge that our favorite ride “Soarin” is just feet away.

Another fun counter service area that is great for some fun entertainment, relaxation, and one of the coolest views in the Magic Kingdom is “Cosmic Rays.” This little gem is found in Tomorrowland, and we never miss a chance to eat here on our Disney vacations. Why you ask? Simple.  First off, they have a variety of stations to choose your food from, along with an amazing fixings bar!  “Cosmic Ray” can be found singing at certain times in the main area, but if live music isn’t you thing, take your food out to the balcony and enjoy being in the shadow of the Castle.

Now, I want to give an honorable mention to the places we haven’t dined yet. Sci-Fi, Brown Derby, Mama Melrose’s, Crystal Palace, Tony’s Town Square, 50’s Prime Time Café, and many others. Make to leave a comment – let’s hear what you feel about the atmosphere YOU have experienced.

~ Ellie


  1. Greetings! This is my first comment here, but I’ve feverishly caught up on your posts. Congrats on making the move that I am certain many of us dream about (including my wife and me, who have followed an eerily familiar path to absolute Disney obsession).

    Anyhoo, back to topic. I must agree with your assertions here, but I’d like to point out a great establishment we found last trip and will be hitting every visit from now on.

    Liberty Tree Tavern offers a fantastic dinner meal — all you can eat “Thanksgiving-ish” foods (Turkey, sliced beef, ham, mashed potatoes, veggies, and apple crisp and vanilla bean ice cream for dessert). We all left absolutely miserably contented, ready for Wishes and bed.

    It’s a bit pricey at nearly $30 a person, but the quality (and quantity) of the food more than make up for the cost.

    The setting is colonial America and nice, but it’s definitely about the food here and less the atmosphere. It’s one of those places we truly regret not having found sooner!

    Thanks for a fantastic resource for escaping the “real world” to ponder and dream about WDW!

    – John


  2. Really enjoying your blog. Working to catch up from the very beginning.

    My wife and I ate at the rotating Garden Grill in Epcot’s Future World. Food was good, characters enjoyable and since I’m a fan of the Living with the Land attraction, I was delighted with the atmosphere of the different scenes from the ride as the restaurant rotates.

    Also very much enjoyed the atmosphere of Cinderella’s Royal Table, though we each just had a smoothie (in a souvenir glass) to keep the cost down.

    We too ate at Boma. The price was high, but the buffet breakfast was some of the best we’ve ever had at WDW. Delicious.


  3. Another wonderful blog!

    I definitely have to agree with the choice of Chef Mickey’s, although we’ve only gone for the Character Breakfast and it is a high energy meal. The blue napkins waving, the children dancing and marching. What’s not to love?

    We did the Character Dinner at 1900 Park Fare, Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner, and it is also well worth the cost. The food is great, but even better are the evil stepsisters. Anastasia and Drizella are downright hilarious and easily the most entertaining “character meal” characters we’ve ever encountered.

    What can I add about Cosmic Ray’s, but to say that if you love Alf (and I do) you’ll love Sonny Eclipse.

    I’d also throw in a shout out for the Riverside Mill at POR. Great counter service food and you sit and watch the inner working of a southern mill grinding overhead.

    And the kids all love the Crystal Palace; they love Pooh. The only downside here is that you need to plan to stay awhile if you want to visit all the characters as it can take close to 90 minutes for all the characters to circulate.



  4. Just started reading your blog and am insanely jealous about your moving plans. I’m looking forward to following the journey!

    I adore the atmosphere of the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. It is my favorite restaurant on property because of it. The food is only so-so though they have great milkshakes, but something about sitting in a car, watching B-movie trailers never fails to give me a thrill. If you enjoy atmosphere you need to eat here!


  5. We recently ate at Sci-Fi dinner and really loved it. I don’t think Mama Melrose is worth the price. Another great restaurant for atmosphere is the Brown Derby – I feel so special when I walk in there. 🙂


  6. Just a bit more about Boma. I, too, enjoyed the food, and I agree about the atmosphere. We went during the free dining fiasco. Actually, I shouldn’t say that – it might be unfair. Part of the solution belongs to WDW – they could do something to dampen the noise. The other part belongs to clueless parents. The restaurant was chaotic. Kids out of their chairs, in the aisles, loud, loud, loud.

    I should add that we weren’t expecting a quiet candle lit dinner. We were there with our three kids expecting a nice and new dining experience in proportion to the amount we were paying as we were not on the FREE DDP.

    As I’ve wondered on other blogs, does free dining cause families to undervalue their dining experience, allowing their children to treat the restaurant like Pooh’s Playful Spot?


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