When Must Haves are Can’t Haves – Disney Dining Alternatives

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It’s here – your day that is exactly 180 days away from your Walt Disney World vacation, when you can get up at the crack of dawn and make the dining reservations you’ve been planning for since your last Walt Disney World vacation.  But your alarm doesn’t go off, and you’re dreaming of a Club Level room at the Yacht Club – who wants to wake up from that?  You over sleep, and your best laid dining plans crash and burn.  What’s a Disney vacation diner to do?

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Believe it or not, there are restaurant options at Walt Disney World.  I know when people talk to me about making dining plans, they all have the same restaurants on their list – Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, ‘Ohana, Chef Mickey’s, and Le Cellier.  Not being able to get these restaurants can really ruin a vacation for some people.  Let’s see if we can save the day by recommending some alternative dining options.

1 – Can’t get dinner at Be Our Guest?  Grab lunch.  There are no reservations necessary for lunch at the Beast’s Castle, and if you don’t mind going early or late for lunch, you may not even have a very long wait.  The best thing about lunch here is that it feels very table service, even at lunch.  You’ll order as you go in, sit down, and the restaurant does the rest.  Lunch options also include some very “sit down” dining food.  Go for the French onion soup and braised pork, and you’ll feel very much like you’re at a table service meal.

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2 – No room at Cinderella’s Royal Table?  Happens all the time.  This has always been one of the most coveted reservations to secure, so weigh your reasons for wanting to eat there.  Is it the castle experience? Do lunch at Be Our Guest in Beast’s Castle.  Is it meeting Cinderella?  You may also find her at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian for dinner, and she may also appear at breakfast, lunch and dinner at Restaurant Akershus in EPCOT.  Want early entry to the Magic Kingdom?  Try Crystal Palace.  Is it the food?  Nah, it’s never really about the food here, but hopefully, one of the other options will satisfy your reasons for wanting to dine there.

3 – Le Cellier is Le Sold Out.  You’re obviously looking for a great steak dinner.  If you want to stay in EPCOT, try Monsieur Paul, where you’ll get an amazing beef tenderloin.  Jiko has my most favorite filet mignon anywhere, followed closely by the California Grill.  For a great selection of steaks, hit up the Yachtsman Steakhouse.

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4 – ‘Ohana means family, and if you don’t book early, your family may be waving to your cousins from outside this wildly popular restaurant.  I can almost always get a breakfast reservation here – even at the last minute.  I know, you want the all you can eat grill.  Keep calling – up to the day you leave.  And if that fails, turn up at the podium as soon as the restaurant opens for dinner.  They may be able to squeeze you in.

5 – Chef Mickey’s – I hate to say it, but I got nothing.  You can see each of the characters that appear there at other restaurants, and there are other buffets.  But there’s just something about Chef Mickey’s that you can’t get anywhere else.  You’d better set a backup alarm so you can snag this one!

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Last Minute Disney World Trip for Valentine’s Day? What’s a Procrastinator to Do?

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You’ve just realized you have a long weekend over Valentine’s weekend because of the President’s Day holiday, so you’ve decided to take your Sweetheart to Walt Disney World.

What are you, crazy?

No, I didn’t mean that.  You’d be crazy NOT to jump at that last minute trip to the House of Mouse!  But what the heck are you going to do, with no dining reservations, no FastPasses, and no chance to choose the romantic color red for your Magic Bands?  Well, let’s just see what we can do to make this trip not only happen, but happen with many wonderful, romantic memories to boot!

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Let’s start with dining reservations.  I’m going to break this to you gently.  You are not getting into Cinderella’s Royal Table.  And there are probably a few other options not available to you at this late planning stage, but fear not.  You’ll be glad to know that a quick search today, just 9 days in advance, shows dinner reservations available at many Walt Disney World resort restaurants, both inside and outside of the theme parks.  You may not get prime time for V-Day dining, but if you don’t mind eating before six or after 8, options include my favorite Artist Point, the way under talked about Turf Club at Saratoga Springs, Sanaa, Jiko, Paradiso 37, Bongo’s Cuban Cafe, or numerous options at EPCOT.  That romantic dinner can be something intimate and quiet, like Artist Point; or you can opt for fun and rambunctious, like Raglan Road.

And while this may not be the romantic dinner you had in mind, there is all sorts of magical moments dining for lunch at Be Our Guest.  You don’t need reservations to eat there at lunch time, and you can sit in the West Wing with the enchanted rose, or check out the room with the giant music box.  Great memories to be made if you are willing to wait in line a little bit.

FastPass+ encourages you to book your ride times in advance, but you may not have time to do that.  Thankfully, you’ll find locations at each theme park where you can choose your FastPass+ options after you arrive at the park.  I’ve seen pretty good availability last minute so far on rides and attractions, so if you want to steal a smooch with your Sweetie as you kick his butt on Toy Story Midway Mania, you may still find a FastPass+ available.

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How about those plain grey Magic Bands you’ll be stuck with, since you didn’t customize them in advance?  Gotcha covered.  You’ll find virtually every resort and gift shop now stocks a supply of Magic Band covers and Magic Bandits, which are little pins you can stick in the holes on your Magic Bands to make them more personal.  You can choose from solid colors, patterns, favorite characters – any combination of accessories to make the bands ones you love.

There are rooms available, plenty of park passes to hit up the places where you’ll find the most magic, and if you decide to wait until the moment strikes to pick up the perfect gift for your Valentine, you’ll find everything from delicious smelling bath products, watches, jewelry, clothing, accessories, or the gift that keeps on giving – annual passes!

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So pack those bags, book those flights, and get your hiney down there with your honey.  A Valentine’s Day full of love, romance, and magic – what could possibly be better?