A progressive dinner (or supper safari) is a meal where you start at one location for part of the meal, but by the final course, you have visited several locations for various courses.
On a recent visit to Walt Disney World, my family wasn’t sure what they wanted to eat, so we skipped making dining reservations. Needless to say, by the time dinner came around, there weren’t a lot of options available. We had joked that if there is any place on the world where a progressive dinner makes sense, it is at Walt Disney World, and so we set out on a grand progressive dinner adventure dining around the monorail loop.
What’s great is that you get to sample a variety of cuisine without having to worry about dining reservations. Think of it as your own mini Food and Wine festival.
The easiest two places to start are at the Polynesian (if you are coming from the Transportation and Ticket Center) or the Contemporary (if you are starting at the Magic Kingdom), but you could select to start at the Grand Floridian if you wish. Here are our choices for where to dine and what to try.
Round 1: Appetizers.
Polynesian: Once the Kona Island Sushi Bar is back in service, there are three options for places to grab appetizers at the Polynesian. A sushi roll at Kona Island Sushi Bar would make a great appetizer option—if you like sushi! If not, another great appetizer option is the Tambu Lounge. Starting a trip with some chicken wings, pulled pork nachos, or breads and dips is a great way to begin your adventure. If the Tambu Lounge is a bit crowded, head downstairs to the newly refurbished Capt. Cook’s. Splitting a flatbread may be the way to go, or you might try something like the coconut curry meatballs.
Grand Floridian: With the emphasis on sit-down restaurants, your options are more limited, but there are still plenty to choose from. Over at Mizner’s Lounge, the cheese plate or the charcuterie work well. Down at Gasparilla Island Grill, once again, you have a selection of flatbreads to choose from. (For a change of pace, try the chorizo flatbread if you like spicy foods or the chicken Alfredo flatbread if you do not.)
Contemporary: Just a five-minute walk from the Magic Kingdom, this can be a great start for a progressive dinner after a day in the park. While there are options from the grab-and-go section from Contempo Café, including sushi and fruits and vegetables with hummus, as well as the always-present flatbreads, the best place for appetizers is at the lounge at The Wave. I’m a sucker for soft pretzel sticks and dips, but there are quite a few options for most palates.
Round 2: Main Course
Polynesian: If you started at the Contemporary, this would be your next stop. Sticking with Capt. Cook’s, the Udon Noodle Bowl is a wonderful option, but my personal favorite is the Aloha Pork Sandwich (with the to-die-for pineapple-coconut bun). Of course you could always try a flatbread as well.
Grand Floridian: If you started at the Polynesian, this would be your next stop. While the selection at Mizner’s Lounge is limited, the quality of food there is exceptional, with dishes like PEI Mussels or Veal Bolognese. Over at Gasparilla, sandwiches are your best bet (aside from the aforementioned flatbreads). The Cuban Panini and Roast Beef Sandwich with Boursin Cheese Spread provide great flavors and reasonable prices.
Contemporary: If you started at the Grand Floridian, this would be your next stop. At The Wave lounge, a great option is to split the Appetizer for Two, with crab and shrimp cakes and fish tacos. If you didn’t have a flatbread for an appetizer (or if you really, really like flatbreads), Contempo has a good assortment of flatbreads. Another good option would be one of the salads (my favorite being the Steakhouse Salad) or a sandwich (such as the Hot Smoked Turkey Sandwich, with brie and apple butter).
Round 3: Dessert
Polynesian: If you had your main course at the Contemporary, this would be your next stop. The obvious choice here is a Dole Whip. If you’re looking for something else, try the bakery counter at Capt. Cook’s.
Grand Floridian: If you had your main course at the Polynesian, this would be your next stop. For higher-end desserts, stop by Mizner’s Lounge for options like a Warm Chocolate-Banana Torte or a Tropical Fruit Crème Brulee. Your other option would be a typical bakery assortment at Gasparilla Grill.
Contemporary: If you had your main course at the Grand Floridian, this would be your next stop. As with the other locations, normal bakery fare can be found at Contempo Café, but you can also grab some chocolate from Bayview Gifts. My favorite option, however, is over at The Wave Lounge, where there are not one, but two dessert samplers, which change seasonally.
Bonus Round—After Dinner Drinks
After all that dining, it might be a good idea to find a quiet place to sit and let the food digest with an after-dinner drink. While you can go with an old standby Lapu Lapu at the Polynesian or some sort of higher-end specialty beverage at Mizner’s Lounge at the Grand Floridian, or enjoy the unique ambiance of the small sitting areas at The Wave Lounge, another fun option to see another resort is to take a boat from the Contemporary or the Magic Kingdom over to Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness for a drink at the Territory Lounge or at Crockett’s Tavern.
Of course, if you want one more dining option during your progressive dinner, you can also add places like the Magic Kingdom or Wilderness Lodge into the mix.
For our progressive dinner, we split a sushi roll at Capt. Cook’s, grabbed a calzone each at Gasparilla Grill, and had a dessert sampler at The Wave Lounge. Our total bill (not including drinks) came to approximately $23 per person – far less than what we would have paid for a three-course meal at any sit-down restaurant.
The larger investment than money is a time investment. Our progressive dinner took almost three hours, including transportation to and from Fort Wilderness. If you are pressed for time, a progressive dinner is not for you. But if you want to take some time, explore the resorts, and leisurely nosh your way around Seven Seas Lagoon, a progressive dinner can be a fun twist on dining at Walt Disney World.