Walt Disney World Planning – ADR’s For First Timers

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So you’ve gone ahead and booked your first WDW tripcongrats! Once your trip is about 6 months away, you’ll need to make your Advance Dining Reservations (or ADR’s in Disney-speak!) for your table service meals. But if you have no clue where to begin, fear not – as it is easier than you think! Here’s a guide to picking out your ADR’s that should help you get started

The ADR: A Quick Rundown – So ok – what exactly does ADR mean anyway? An Advanced Dining Reservation or ADR basically is a guarantee that you will have a table at a restaurant on a given night around a given time – it is NOT a reservation, it just means that you will be on the list and will get the next table that opens up after your allotted time. Disney allows you to make ADR’s 180 days before your trip, and many of them fill up quickly believe it or not! Check out more info on how ADR’s work here

When it comes to actually making your ADR’s, there are a LOT of Disney restaurants and dining experiences to choose from, so many that it can be overwhelming to try and settle on just a few! I personally like to go with the “one of everything” approach, by choosing one from each of the following categories:

Character meals – Dining with your favorite Disney characters is a must do – and there are plenty of options to choose from too! Some are buffets, some are served family style (which means everything off a pre-determined menu is brought right to your table, and you can have as many refills as you want!), and some are more of a traditional sit down meal. Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are available in all 4 parks and in many of the Disney Resorts – and the idea is the same for all of them, the characters will make their rounds (usually takes about an hour for them to cover the dining room) and pose for pictures and autographs and hugs too! If you have younger kids who love meeting characters, this is a great way to meet several in one place, and they come right to your table too! A personal favorite of mine is the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom – breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets are served daily, and Winnie The Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore are always there to interact with everyone

Buffets – There are plenty around WDW, and some are definitely worth checking out. We all know how a buffet works, its basically an all you can eat extravaganza with tons of food options, and Disney really does the buffet justice – breakfasts with freshly made waffles and pastries and omelet stations, and dinners with carved meats and make your own ice cream sundae bars – it doesn’t get much better than that! I know some people shy away from buffets as they think they are all the same – reheated food that is bland and boring – but that’s really not the case at Disney, and one favorite that proves this point is Boma – an African themed buffet at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge that serves up breakfast and dinner daily. Fresh assorted salads, hummus, pita bread, carved meats, roasted chicken, an assortment of soups, plus African specialties like bobotie (a spiced quiche like dish) really make this a winner in my book – oh and they have amazing desserts too (two words – zebra domes!) Buffet tips – arrive hungry, take your time savoring and don’t plan any fastpasses for thrill rides for a few hours after your meal!

Something “new” (cuisine wise) – WDW offers every type of cuisine out there – and you should definitely take advantage of that when making your ADR’s! Epcot’s World Showcase is an especially great place to try something new – each country offers authentic cuisine – like bratwurst and beer in Germany, pasta and wood fired pizza in Italy, Sushi in Japan, and much, much more! This is the time to branch out of your comfort zone of burgers and chicken and experience all that Disney has to offer (and if you REALLY hate what you ordered, the staff will generally be pretty good about bringing you something else so you don’t leave hungry!)

Signature Dining/Dinner Shows – Looking to celebrate a special event? Then plan a special meal! Disney has a bunch of “signature” restaurants – which basically means they are nicer and fancier than your standard character buffet, and more expensive too (they will cost you two Disney dining plan table service credits instead of one), but in many cases they are worth it. Another option that falls into this “special” category is dinner shows – a meal and entertainment all in one! I love the Luau at the Polynesian Resort, but my parents are partial to the Hoop de doo revue – a wild west themed stage show that offers plenty of laughs and buckets of fried chicken too! When it comes to celebrating, a special meal just might be the ticket – so before you right off the “signature” dining as too expensive or not for you, explore the options here and here, you’ll find seafood, Italian, steak, and more – all served in an elegant setting perfect for romance

Variety Is The Spice Of Life – Whatever you decide, I highly recommend you vary it up – don’t just eat burgers and chicken fingers the whole time you’re at WDW – try something new! After all, isn’t that the point of vacation, to live on the edge and have new experiences and memories?

Check out these links to Resort Dining and Park dining to get more information on all the great dining at WDW, and when making your ADR’s remember the tips above, and don’t panic too much about whether you’re making the right choices – because pretty much all Disney food is amazing so you will never go hungry no matter where you eat!


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Catie Hiltz is an avid Walt Disney World lover who has been vacationing there since she was tall enough to ride Space Mountain. She believes there is something for everyone at WDW-and especially writing about the benefits of vacationing there as an adult
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One thought on “Walt Disney World Planning – ADR’s For First Timers

  1. I Love Crystal Palace & agree – it’s a favorite. But I also suggest Chef Mickey at The Contemporary for a great character dining experience. Also, although it’s either expensive or takes two meals – everyone needs to try Cinderellas Table at least once. I don’t necessarily feel it’s a must every time you’d go but yes at least once. Then the German Biergarten at Epcot is a favorite of ours. And last but not least at Whispering Canyon at Wilderness Lodge is always fun – just be careful asking for ketchup.

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