It is no secret that making dining plans for an entire Walt Disney World vacation can be a difficult and time consuming task. This task becomes even harder during the busy holiday seasons when Advance Dining Reservations can completely fill up months ahead of time. While we can not stress enough how important the planning process is for dining, touring, etc. (otherwise what would we be doing running a website like this?) we also must admit that there are times when it is enjoyable, and even a relief, to visit Walt Disney World with no plans and to simply “play it by ear.” So even though we can’t really recommend visiting Walt Disney World at the holidays with no planning, we can tell you that if you decide to go this route, you will not be completely out of luck for eating a quality holiday meal. Here are three suggestions for how you might approach the situation (yes, this is a planning guide for a trip with no planning…sometimes we can’t help ourselves.)
As of the morning before Thanksgiving 2015, a quick MyDisneyExperience search of all restaurants at Walt Disney World for an afternoon reservation on Thanksgiving for a family of four yielded plenty of results including restaurants in all four theme parks, Disney Springs and plenty of resorts throughout property, many of which offer special holiday menus. So even with only one day of planning, it is possible to get an ADR for a holiday meal. It should also be noted that Disney is well aware that the vast majority of its guests on Thanksgiving day will be looking for a meal that at least in some way contains turkey, dressing, etc. and some restaurants that normally wouldn’t serve this kind of cuisine add it to the menu for the holiday including Magic Kingdom’s Tony’s Town Square Restaurant and Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Sanaa. Similarly, ham is among the most common standard menu items on buffets and can easily be found on menus throughout property for Christmas and Easter meals. The point being that you may not even need to sacrifice your traditional holiday menu items by booking a last minute ADR at wherever is available.
Eat Counter Service
Do you know what kind of Walt Disney World holiday meal can be enjoyed with only a few minutes notice? The kind served at a counter service location! Moreover, a non-scientific study of my taste-buds (shown on the right) revealed that those ubiquitous Walt Disney World smoked turkey legs are even more delicious when enjoyed as a holiday meal. (Let’s be honest, you make sure to eat the drumstick from your Thanksgiving turkey every year just to pretend you at at Walt Disney World anyway.) Drumsticks are available at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. Many counter service locations (especially resort food courts) also offer other holiday inspired menu items.
Cook It Yourself
I’m not suggesting roasting a twenty pound turkey in your resort hotel room – although I suppose this is completely possible and no doubt happens at Vacation Club properties and Ft. Wilderness – but it is not unfeasible to be able to put together some semblance of a holiday meal in your room. If you order groceries to be delivered to your room at the beginning of a trip, you can get lunch meat turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potato or corn chips, and a pre-made apple or pumpkin pie to make a quick holiday-style meal. If your room has a microwave (for instance, the Art of Animation‘s family suites) you can even heat up things like jarred gravy, microwavable mashed potatoes, or even frozen “TV dinner” style turkey dinners. If a private family meal is what suits you for the holiday (or you’re on a tight budget!) this could be a familiarly festive, if unglamorous, way to go. And since you can enjoy this meal at 11:00 AM or 11:00 PM or any time before, after, or in between, there is virtually no planning required (aside from actually making sure you have the required food items on hand.)
Of course you could also go the extra mile and do what statistician Steve Bloom and his family did for Thanksgiving in 2014.
If you’ve already made the decision to spend a holiday at Walt Disney World, then you’ve already agreed to sacrifice some element of “traditional” holiday meal. Regardless of this, you will be enjoying a meal at “The Most Magical Place on Earth” so you can rest assured that it will be a festive, memorable, and probably delicious one…even if you don’t decide where you are having it until the last minute.