Did you know that it’s possible to enter the parks at Walt Disney World before they officially open for the day? A valid park ticket and dining reservation for one of seven restaurants is all you need to get into the park before regular guests. Read on to learn about the who, what, where, when, and why of these reservations.
Regardless of whether you’re staying on or off site, guests with valid theme park admission are eligible to enter the park early if they have an Advanced Dining Reservation scheduled for before the park’s official opening time. Since these are some of the hardest reservations to score, guests staying at a Disney resort have an advantage due to the extended 180 day + length of stay window for dining reservations for on-site guests. Our dining Reservation Finder can also help you snag those hard to get reservations.
Assuming you can drag yourself out of bed bright and early, start your day off right with a leisurely stroll through a nearly empty park. Enjoy breakfast at some of the best Disney restaurants, and get a head start on crowds for the day.
- Be Our Guest Restaurant ($24 adult / $14 child): Enjoy French-inspired breakfast cuisine in one of three rooms themed after Beast’s castle from Beauty and the Beast. Of the seven restaurants discussed here, this is the only one without character interactions, and one of only two that are not all-you-can-eat. Using My Disney Experience, you can pre-order your meal up to 30 days in advance to save time at the restaurant. You can see Seth’s review from last year here.
- Cinderella’s Royal Table ($58 adult / $36 child): Like Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table is fixed-price rather than buffet or family style. Cinderella welcomes you as you enter her castle, and you’ll make your way to the banquet hall where other princesses grace you with their presence as you eat.
- Crystal Palace ($27 adult / $15 child): Winnie the Pooh and friends greet you at this all-you-can-eat character buffet featuring American cuisine. Inspired by Victorian greenhouses, the restaurant is surrounded by glass windows and brimming with tropical plants.
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall ($44 adult / $27 child): Dine in a medieval castle while princesses visit your table at this all-you-can-eat buffet featuring authentic Norwegian dishes liked smoked salmon in addition to typical American breakfast fare. Some food is served family style, but there is a buffet as well.
- The Garden Grill ($32 adult / $19 child): Meet Chip ’n’ Dale and other Disney classic characters while the restaurant rotates through Epcot’s Living with the Land attraction. Breakfast is served all-you-can-eat family style which means they bring the food to your table rather than the typical buffet line. Julia reviewed this offering when it became available late last year.
- Tusker House Restaurant ($30 adult / $18 child): Featuring Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy dressed in their Safari gear, this all-you-can-eat character buffet serves up American and African inspired cuisine in the setting of an African market.
- Hollywood and Vine ($32 adult / $20 child): Disney Junior fans will enjoy seeing Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Jake and the Never Land Pirates and Handy Manny while diving into an all-you-can-eat buffet at this 1930’s inspired American diner.
Note that prices listed are for breakfast only and may vary based on the day of the week or time of year.
- Reservation Scheduling: Reservations can be set for up to an hour before the official park open. As an example, if Magic Kingdom opens at 9:00 AM, the earliest reservation you can book for Be Our Guest Restaurant is 8:00 AM. Unfortunately, this does not work on days when the park opens early to on-site resort guests for Extra Magic Hours. If the park is scheduled for a regular 9:00 AM open, but on-site resort guests have Extra Magic Hours starting at 8:00 AM, the first reservation will be for 8:00 AM when all on-site guests are already allowed into the park.
- Arrival Timing: In order to give everyone enough time to walk back to the restaurant, Cast Members typically let guests with these reservations into the park around an hour and fifteen minutes before the park’s official open time. Again, using our example, this means that if you’re already through security and the ticketing area, Cast Members will let you into the park around 7:45 AM. In my experience, the security area typically opens around 7:30 AM, so if you want to be one of the first people into the park, plan to arrive before then. Due to larger crowds, you may want to be even earlier if it’s a day and park offering Early Morning Magic (a separately ticketed event currently offered at Magic Kingdom on Sunday and Tuesday and Hollywood Studios on Monday and Wednesday).
- Travel planning: To be one of the first ones in the park, you need to leave your resort two to two and a half hours before the official open for most Disney resorts. Continuing our example, catching a bus between 6:30 and 7:00 AM will be your best bet. For whatever reason, most Disney literature and even some Cast Members still say that transportation to the parks from on-site resorts begins at one hour before the official park open (8:00 AM in our example). However, due to these early morning reservations and parties, that is no longer the case. Again, my experience is that for something like our example, buses will start running to the parks by 6:30 AM.
For starters, imagine walking into a nearly empty Magic Kingdom. As you stroll down Main Street, U.S.A. towards your dining destination, you can spread your arms out wide without hitting anyone – a far cry from the suffocating and sometimes downright stressful feeling of a typical rope drop. If you’re a photographer looking for that picture without hordes of people in it or if you’re looking for that family photo without groups of strangers in the frame, this is the perfect time to snap away.
And let’s not forget about the food. Most of these are buffets, so you can enjoy as much as you want of whatever you want. Even picky eaters should find something to their liking. Plus, you get to relax in a nice, comfortable, air conditioned restaurant while everyone else jockeys for their rope drop starting position outside of the park.
Last but not least, you get a head start! Depending on how quickly your family can eat (I may or may not be guilty of bribing the kids in our group to eat faster during one of my recent trips), you can be out of the restaurant before the throngs of rope droppers come stampeding towards you. In Magic Kingdom, this means you could ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and be on your way to Peter Pan by the time they catch up with you. At Epcot, being near the front of the line for Frozen, Soarin’, or Test Track certainly has its advantages. Sign up for Jedi Training Academy before others at Hollywood Studios, or at Animal Kingdom, be some of the first to experience Kilimanjaro Safaris. Not only do you get a lead on the first attraction, but now you’re off to your next as others are still lining up for their first.
- Step 1: Reference our Crowd Calendar and park hours to choose the morning you plan to visit. Avoid days with early entry.
- Step 2: Use My Disney Experience to reserve at 180 days + your length of stay window or keep checking for availability as your trip gets closer.
- Step 3: Review park hours occasionally to make sure that they haven’t changed for that day. If the park opens earlier, you may want to consider cancelling the reservation or checking for a different day.
- Step 4: Plan to arrive early. If you’re taking a bus, this may mean leaving two to two and a half hours before official park open.
- Step 5: At the park entrance, find the line specifically for those with early morning dining reservations.
- Step 6: The hard work pays off. Relax and enjoy!
Do you have a favorite restaurant for pre-park-open dining? Are you planning to try one of these on your next trip? Tell me your thoughts or plans in the comments below!