A long day in a hot Disney theme park can feel infinitely longer if you’re vacationing with young kids. Not every attraction, show, or restaurant caters directly to their interests. And every misstep in choosing leads to more strides for short little legs (or parents tired of pushing strollers) and an even shorter fuse for a small human with a small amount of patience.
Perhaps you’ve lived through this before, or watched it unfold near you in one of the parks. A frazzled set of parents stumble out of an attraction, where they probably misjudged the length of the wait or the duration of the experience. And now the impact of their normal schedule being thrown off is evident, because their young kids are screaming, or crying, or just totally wilted. The adults look around as they try to herd the children, and then they all drag themselves to the nearest eating spot. This is the turning point of their day. It’s an opportunity to relax and refuel and be excited about fun food and re-energized for the rest of the day. Or they accidentally end up somewhere that doesn’t have great options or environment or quality. Their kids complain about the food, they don’t eat, the whole day continues to spiral downhill.
So instead of flying blind, what about a custom-built, data-driven list to help you figure out where to drag those over-tired and hangry kids? That’s exactly what we’re pulling together today. Quick service spots where parties with young kids are significantly more likely to be satisfied compared to anyone else.
Explain the Math!
In our post-visit surveys, we collect information about satisfaction at every Walt Disney World dining location from all of you lovely TouringPlans users. One part of the survey asks survey-takers to give each spot where they dined either a Thumbs Up or a Thumbs Down. I can group and add together all of the responses for each dining location to calculate the percentage of parties that give that restaurant a “Thumbs Up”. That’s generally what we call the satisfaction at that restaurant, and it’s displayed as a percentage.
The problem with that satisfaction score is that it’s for all time. And as with all things, menus and experiences at Disney can change really rapidly. So yeah, something might’ve been highly satisfying 10 years ago. But should that really impact where I choose to take my family now? I could solve this by only pulling surveys from a specific, recent timeframe. But that has a pretty heavy negative impact on my sample size. Instead, I could introduce a weighted average. If you want to read the full explanation of the weighted average that I chose, check out the Table Service companion to this post.
We’ll summarize is by saying that old reviews still count toward the satisfaction score, but they’re not worth as much. So this new weighted satisfaction is more reflective of what’s been happening recently, without totally ignoring the past. I like that balance.
For our comparisons today, I specifically need to figure out how these satisfaction scores differ for parties with young kids, so … we have to know which parties have young kids. Thankfully, you’re also able to tell us the genders and ages of members of your party when you fill out your survey. I filtered the results to only parties that included someone under the age of 6 to get our “parties with young kids” scores. Every other survey fell into the “everyone else” bucket.
WDW Quick Service Spots to Try with Young Kids
- Catalina Eddie’s – (94% for parties with young kids, 74% for everyone else)
Location here is key – Hollywood Studios is a tough place to tour effectively with young kids. Plenty of opportunities for them to get bored while the taller folk wait in lengthy queues. One of those areas is Sunset Boulevard. But your littles can get some pizza (or maybe a power pack) from Catalina Eddie’s while the others experience Rock’n’Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror. It’s a great place to wander around and explore!
Restaurantosaurus – (95% for parties with young kids, 76% for everyone else)
There’s absolutely no question in my mind why Restaurantosaurus made this list. The food that you’ll find at this spot is typical chicken nuggets and burger fare. But kids meals come in a sand pail with a shovel. After your kids eat their lunch or dinner, you can all head over to the Boneyard and they’ve have their own tools for digging and playing, burning off all of their replenished energy!
- Beach Club Marketplace – (82% for parties with young kids, 70% for everyone else)
Food options at Beach Club Marketplace aren’t particularly overwhelming. Your kids can choose from mac and cheese (stop right there, my kids are happy), a hot dog, or the typical Mickey Check meals. The difference-makers here are that the quick service area also houses a gift shop – easy for kids to run around and find fun things while you wait for your food. And my personal opinion is what sets this location over the top for young kids are the bakery/dessert options also available. Yum!
- Casey’s Corner – (93% for parties with young kids, 89% for everyone else)
If you go to Casey’s Corner, you know what you’re going to get. Hot dogs! Thankfully, most kids are big hot dog fans. There aren’t any kids meals here, though. You’ll pay full-price for those dogs. Pro tip is to get the corn dog nuggets. Those are a fun treat! But be ye warned – a fountain drink at Casey’s will set you back $4.49. Ouch.
- Boardwalk Bakery – (97% for parties with young kids, 89% for everyone else)
Kids like sweet treats. See also, Beach Club Marketplace from above. The kids meals here are nothing fancy – just a couple of sandwiches. But who could turn down cupcakes and pastries and other dessert goodies? I promise I won’t judge you if you’re a frazzled mom that gets a giant cupcake for your breakfast. I have totally done that before.
WDW Quick Service Spots to Avoid with Young Kids
- The Mara – (77% for parties with young kids, 90% for everyone else)
Okay, okay. Sanaa was the top of the table service avoid list, and Mara tops the list here. I get the picture. This time, I’m biased against the Mara. Our one lunch there with a young kid was continuously interrupted by fire alarm testing. Ha! My ears never want to go back. The Mara is currently operating with a very scaled-back menu compared to its normal, so options for everyone are scant. But when the full menu comes back, adventurous adults will be pleased and kids with safe tastes probably won’t care for the expanded options.
Regal Eagle Smokehouse – (73% for parties with young kids, 90% for everyone else)
This is an entry that caught me by surprise. As proud St. Louisans, my young kids LOVE them some barbecue. So Regal Eagle typically finds its way into our plans. But to be fair, there are only two kids meal options – ribs and a cheeseburger. And they’re both served with coleslaw and a watermelon. Really, Disney? How many kids love coleslaw? My tip? Don’t avoid Regal Eagle, but do stick to the regular menu, split with your kids, and order them some mac and cheese and fries to go with their meat.
- Riverside Mill Food Court – (71% for parties with young kids, 84% for everyone else)
In multi-bay food courts, if your party happens to want food from multiple windows, timing is key. And timing is notoriously unreliable at Disney food courts. Riverside Mill is a location where timing tends to go wrong more often than not. So if your kids and other party members are ordering at different windows, chances are that some of them will have cold food by the time you all eat.
- Market at Ale and Compass – (68% for parties with young kids, 84% for everyone else)
Coming in with the lowest average on our list for parties with young kids is the Market at Ale and Compass, another quick service at a resort. Its location is difficult to find, and when you do find it, your options are sandwiches and … sandwiches. Seems like if you have young kids, you’re better off walking a little further to Boardwalk Bakery or Beach Club Marketplace to meet your Crescent Lake quick service needs.
- Pecos Bill – (83% for parties with young kids, 87% for everyone else)
The kids menu at Pecos Bill sticks with the theme of the Mexican adult menu. Half of the options are rice bowls, which, if your kids are like mine, aren’t particularly appealing to young kids. But on the bright side, they’re served with … applesauce and an orange? Thankfully there are also cheeseburgers and mac and cheese available. But you won’t find anything like french fries or even steamed veggies to go with them.
What Does This Mean For You?
- The quick service locations that make the list to try are sort of an eclectic mix. Some are good because of their location, others because of their sweet treats, or even how their meals are packaged. It’s not some intuitive rule, so it’s good to keep a list handy.
- Don’t roam the park aimlessly with hangry toddlers. It’s never a good idea. Be prepared with a list of spots that you know will work for your party, and then figure out which are close to you when meal time rolls around.
- Food courts with multiple bays/windows that each have different menus are hard to manage with big parties, especially if the members of your party aren’t old enough to split up and order their own food.
- Quick service locations with interesting and/or adventurous menus may be more fun for adults, but could also make it hard for picky eaters to find something that they’re willing to eat.
Were you surprised by any entries on the lists today? Do you have go-to spots that you visit with your young kids, or that you recommend to others? Let us know in the comments!