The Disney World Restaurants Every First-Time Visitor Should Experience

First-Timer Restaurants Feature Chef Mickey's
Credit: Disney

Even if you’ve never been to Walt Disney World Resort, you’re probably well aware of the fact that there is a fairly versatile dining scene here boasting a broad range of options. Some establishments are so widely renowned to the public that everyone going on a vacation to Disney World longs to pursue them above all others.

Even so, the fact remains that there are just some restaurants that work better for those visiting Disney World for the first time, while others should probably be reserved for a future trip. Here are the top 12 recommended restaurants that every first-time visitor to Disney World should prioritize having meals at.

Related: Disney World Restaurants That Every First-Time Visitor Must Try

12. Chef Mickey’s

This one should be at the top of the list of any first-timer seeking out immersive interactive character experiences specifically. What’s more, it comes presented as a plentiful all-you-can-eat buffet laden with so many options. Located onsite at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, conveniently close to Magic Kingdom Park, no less, Chef Mickey’s is one of those select dining venues featuring some of Disney’s most iconic classic characters.

You will find Mickey Mouse in attendance, of course, along with Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. Donning their best chef’s attire, each familiar favorite makes individual stops at every table in the restaurant, allowing for one-on-one Meet and Greets, autograph signing, and photo ops.

Chef Mickey's

Credit: Disney

11. Beaches & Cream Soda Shop

Another resort-based favorite that’s perfect for first-time visitors to Walt Disney World is this casual table-service establishment over at Disney’s Beach Club.

Giving off a nostalgic, vintage vibe that’s most reminiscent of those beachside malt shops from the 1960s, this place exceeds in introducing vacationing newbies to the elaborate theming Disney dining designations tend to embrace without overwhelming folks by laying it on too thick the way a place like 1950s Prime Time Diner is inclined to do. Furthermore, you essentially get to enjoy all your familiar favorites in the way of casual American food traditions, such as hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, French fries, milkshakes, and more.

Ice cream is also a pretty big deal here, and it’s at Beaches & Cream, where you will find many of Disney World’s most famous ice cream sundae specialties. And yes, this is where that one and only Kitchen Sink Sundae of great acclaim gets served up!

Kids Dining at Beaches and Cream

Credit: Disney

10. ’Ohana

The perfect family-style feast awaits you and your family at this renowned restaurant with a name that rightfully translates to “family” in Hawaiian.

Found onsite at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, ’Ohana is a beloved favorite among seasoned diners. It also provides the perfect opportunity for first-timers to experience the impressive way that Disney does up bountiful feasting via unique house-specialty Island-fusion cuisine culminations not frequently found elsewhere.

’Ohana is open daily for breakfast and dinner, with both options offering their own interactive in-house engagements for attending diners to enjoy. Those seeking out character dining specifically take note that breakfast here comes as the “Best Friends Breakfast featuring Lilo & Stitch” and as you’d expect, both these Characters, along with Mickey and Pluto, are on location at this time.

Ohana at Disney's Polynesian

Credit: Disney

Related: Add a Meal at Ohana to Your Vacation Dining Bucket List

9. Coral Reef Restaurant

Whether you once saw this restaurant featured in a favorite 90s sitcom back in the day, or you’ve come across pictures or video clips elsewhere at some point, you cannot deny that this standout establishment in EPCOT provides a unique one-of-a-kind underwater dining experience to write home about.

Therefore, it goes without saying that dining here is a recommended riparian rite of passage for so many first-time visitors to Disney World. Again, you literally get to dine below the waves of EPCOT’s impressive aquarium, with large windows that let you peer out at the vibrant coral reef, offering a unique vantage point like no other. Not only will you see myriad marine creatures swimming by, but you may even luck out and witness the occasional scuba diver during your meal.

In getting back to the meal at hand, it’s worth noting that this venue is great even for those who do not have seafood-specific tastes. The menu features several land-lover traditions like chicken, steak, and even those that appeal to special diets.

Coral Reef Restaurant Interior

Credit: Disney

Related: What We Love Best About Disney’s Coral Reef Restaurant

8. Garden Grill Restaurant

Here is another EPCOT staple for the books, especially if you’re looking for even more opportunities for all-you-can-eat character meals. It’s Garden Grill Restaurant, onsite of the Land Pavilion, with its fresh, family-style featured Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Harvest Feast.

As you would expect by the name, those well-known mischievous chipmunks, Chip and Dale, are two of the Characters you can count on seeing during your meal. Farmer Mickey Mouse and his faithful Pal Pluto are also attending.

Garden Grill is an excellent first-timer recommendation for several reasons. First and foremost is the lavish feast you get to enjoy, comprised of in-house grown greens among several other savory selections in the way of featured entrées. Then there’s the convenient location and its proximity to so many stellar attractions, including Soarin’ right downstairs.

On that note, there’s also the unique fact that Garden Grill is situated above the Living with the Land attraction and even rotates gently as you dine. So, as you’re eating, you get to experience changing scenery and a new form of eye-candy entertainment of sorts.

Family Dining at Garden Grill

Credit: Disney

7. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant

Whether you’re personally old enough to remember those old vintage drive-in movie theaters or not, this Hollywood Studios establishment is a mutually enjoyable experience for all first-timers of any age. Its elaborate motif offers one of the best introductions to Disney’s Disney-themed dining.

From the faux starry night sky to the massive screens playing campy sci-fi movie trailers on a loop, and even those tables and chairs made to resemble parked cars (with working headlights), it all pairs wonderfully in the overall presentation.

As far as the food goes, they offer a fairly versatile menu, including well-loved American classics and several novel features alike. They are especially good at offering options for allergies and special diets too.

Sci-Fi Dine-In

Credit: Disney

6. Yak & Yeti Restaurant

There’s no shortage of excellent dining options over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. But for its fun theming, profuse pan-Asian menu features, and overall practicality Yak & Yeti is the perfect place for a Disney World newcomer.

The motif here carries over from that of one of the Park’s most favored longtime attractions—Expedition Everest. Yet it succeeds in not laying the theme on too thick or overtly. Not only does its subtleness work well in not overwhelming diners, but the enticing menu of well-loved Asian accompaniments is familiar enough to enjoy without causing hesitation or mealtime anxiety.

Some other venues in this Park particularly tend to overdo the exotic eats, creating a love-or-hate division that does not mutually embrace all diners.

Lastly, Yak & Yeti has a convenient location in Asia and reasonable pricing.

Yak & Yeti

Credit: Disney

Related: This Is the Most Underrated Restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom

5. Jungle Skipper Canteen

Meals at Disney World are meant to be enjoyed, and what can be more enjoyable than making your experience into a true laughing matter? That’s why the Jungle Skipper Canteen, based in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom Park, is such an awesome suggestion. It especially pairs well as a follow-up after riding the one and only Jungle Cruise attraction for which it was inspired.

The fun puns in the variously named menu items, along with the wait staff’s humorous antics and the restaurant’s overall thematic décor, all reflect a very Disney-like experience for first-timers. But the incredible food isn’t anything to joke about because it’s quite delicious, actually.

Blending fusion exotic accompaniments with familiar favorites make for a most contested culinary culmination sure to hook new fans into returning for more.

Family Dining at Jungle Skipper

Credit: Disney

4. Liberty Tree Tavern

Here’s another highly recommended table-service suggestion gracing the scene of Magic Kingdom Park. As you probably already figured out by its name, this one can be found within Liberty Square. In keeping with the old colonial theme so authentically, dining here is nothing short of a feeling of transcendence back in time.

From the surrounding décor to the traditional garb of the waitstaff, everything here gets high marks in presentation. But it’s undoubtedly the phenomenal all-you-car-to-enjoy feast bounty that solidifies the experience, marking this as one all first-time visitors should pursue.

Feast at Liberty Tree Tavern

Credit: Disney

Related: Why You Should Plan a Meal At Liberty Tree Tavern

3. Be Our Guest Restaurant

Any first-timer would rightfully want to “be [a] guest” at this stellar establishment, which also happens to be located within Magic Kingdom Park. Themed after that classic “tale as old as time” Beauty and the Beast (1991), dining here is a one-of-a-kind experience straight out of an enchanted fairytale.

For starters, you’ll be delving into traditional French-inspired cuisine picks, available at a prix fixe. But the distinguishable setting really sets the mood, with three different dining rooms all boasting their own elaborate in-house special effects. And if you’re observant enough, you may catch a glimpse of the Beast himself roaming about.

Interior of Be Our Guest

Credit: Disney

2. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

This is an absolute must-do for Disney Princess fans venturing through EPCOT. Based within the Norway Pavilion of the World Showcase, the family-style presentation here is nothing short of a fairytale come true for the attending diners. Y

ou not only feel like you are in an authentic castle-like dining hall, but you also get to enjoy visits from some of Disney’s favorite Princesses. While appearances are subject to changes on a rolling basis, those fan favorites you can almost always count on include Snow White, Aurora, Ariel, Jasmine, and Belle.

You can sometimes see Mulan, Mary Poppins, and even Cinderella on rarer occasions.

The myriad menu fixings here include traditional American staples alongside traditional Norwegian specialties as well. This creates the perfect opportunity to boldly try out new tastes while having familiar favorites to back you up.

Belle and Child at Akershus

Credit: Disney

1. Cinderella’s Royal Table

This may very well be the ultimate mealtime experience that every first-timer has to try out at least once. It is, after all, an opportunity to dine on location in the famed Cinderella Castle. What can top that? How about the fact that you get to interact with attending Disney Princesses in yet another character meal engagement?

Cinderella is on the main level to greet Guests, while other royals make their rounds directly within the dining room. These include Snow White, Ariel, Jasmine, and Aurora. As always, appearances at a given time may be subject to changes, so take note.

The castle setting feels regal and authentic in every way imaginable, making your mealtime refined and esoteric. Additionally, the menu fixings feature primarily familiar American favorites alongside signature selections with a twist, giving you plenty of possibilities, whether dining here for breakfast or any other time of the day.

Interior of Cinderella's Royal Table

Credit: Disney

Depending on what you and your group go for specifically, there are many other dining options at Disney World that you may be longing to try out for your first visit.

So, be sure to research which restaurant options may be of particular interest beforehand, and book dining reservations well in advance to ensure you will get the magical mealtime options you seek most of all.

Which of these restaurants is your top recommendation for first-time visitors? Let us know in the comments!

About Laura

Laura Catherine aka “LC” is a writer who resides in Maryland with her family and several pets. She visits Walt Disney World whenever she can. Additionally, she is a published author of three novels, a children’s book, and has a passion for gardening.