Solo Disney World, Part Six: Dining Alone

by Gray Cargill on October 28, 2008

This is part six of my series on traveling solo to Walt Disney World. In part five, I reviewed lodging options for the solo traveler. In part six, I’ll cover what it’s like to dine alone at Disney.  (Don’t worry, it’s painless!)

Chefs de France

Chefs de France

Dining Alone at Disney

In part Two of this series, I noted that the key to successful solo dining anywhere is distraction, distraction, distraction.  Luckily, Disney World offers plenty of distractions.  And when it doesn’t, you have the strategies to do so yourself.  To recap, that would be:  a journal to write in, a book or magazine to read, a seat at a bar or counter where you can talk to the bartender and other diners, or a seat by the window where you can people-watch.  Or just relax with a nice adult cocktail.  Whatever works for you.

Counter service is basically fast food and presents the simplest option.  It’s hot, it’s quick, you can scarf it down there or take it back to your room.  You can order room service, but be forewarned that some resorts have a very limited selection (pizza, basically).  Or you could bring your own food to store in your room fridge.  There’s nothing wrong with doing those things (especially if you’re looking to save money), but it would be a shame for you to go to Disney World and not indulge in at least some of the wonderful table service restaurants they have.

I asked my panel of solo travel experts where they prefer to dine when at Disney World.  Betsy from WDWForGrownUps.com had a great answer:  “I like dinner shows and the like, or restaurants with great views: Ohana, Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, Crystal Palace, Teppan Edo, California Grill, Chefs de France.”

Mo' Rockin

Listen to Mo’ Rockin while dining at Tangierine Cafe in Epcot

Dinner shows are a perfect distraction from the fact that you are dining alone.  Nobody, not even you, will be paying attention to the fact that you’re alone, because you’ll all be too busy watching the show.  Dinner shows at Disney World include The Spirit of Aloha Show at the Polynesian Resort’s Luau Cove, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ at the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, and Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue at Fort Wilderness’s Pioneer Hall.  In addition, the House of Blues in Downtown Disney offers a gospel brunch on Sunday mornings.

What other restaurants offer entertainment?

  • Ohana’s cast members engage guests in dinner games and entertainment; so do the cast members at Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge and ’50s Prime Time Cafe in Hollywood Studios (where you will become a member of the family).
  • At the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Hollywood Studios, you can dine in a ’50s car while watching old sci fi movies on a big screen.
  • At the Rainforest Cafe (in Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney) you can entertain yourself by simply looking around you at a jungle teeming with animatronic animals.
  • Raglan Road and Bongos Cuban Cafe in Downtown Disney both have live music at night.
  • The Restaurant Marrakesh in Epcot offers belly dancers.
Coral Reef Restaurant

Enjoy the aquarium view at Coral Reef Restaurant

If you would like to have a great view (other than belly dancers) while dining, there are many options for you.  I found Le Chefs de France to be a wonderful place for people-watching.  Just get a two-top table by the window.  The Coral Reef Restaurant in Epcot’s Living Seas Pavilion allows you to dine “under the sea” with a view of an aquarium containing 85 species of tropical fish and a living coral reef.  Several restaurants offer views of Disney’s fireworks shows, such as California Grill at the Contemporary Resort, Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian Resort, Ohana, the Rose and Crown in Epcot, and Tony’s Town Square Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.

If you like to watch your food being prepared, try dining at Teppan Edo, where the chef cooks right at your table.  Or dine at the counter of one of these restaurants offering exhibition kitchens:

  • California Grill
  • Kimonos Sushi Bar at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort
  • Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • The Flying Fish Cafe at Disney’s Boardwalk
  • Todd English’s Bluezoo at the WDW Dolphin Resort
  • Wolfgang Puck in Downtown Disney

While all of the above restaurants offer unique dining experiences for the solo traveler, believe me when I say, I haven’t even scratched the surface of what is available at Disney World. As Fran from Pittsburgh says, “One thing I’ve found about traveling solo at Disney at the table service restaurants is that the servers go out of their way to make you feel comfortable.”

I couldn’t agree more.  I dined by myself at tables in both Le Chefs de France and Mama Melrose’s, and I was treated exceptionally well by the waitstaff in both restaurants.  I wanted for nothing and was treated like a VIP.  (And the food was fabulous, too!)

So when you are in the World, don’t be afraid to sample the many restaurants available to you just because you’re alone.  You can have a wonderful experience no matter what your taste is.  Bon appetit!

Next up:  Activities for the Solo at Disney World.

DFB GuidePlanning a trip to Walt Disney World? The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining e-book can save you time and money while providing you with all the information and tools you need to make the most of your dining experience at “The World”. Read my review of the book here. Click here to download your copy today!

SoloFriendly December 17, 2009 at 11:45 am

Brad, I am super embarrassed that I didn't notice this comment until now. I have no idea how I missed it, but I apologize for not replying sooner. You are absolutely correct that much of the stigma is in our own heads. We spend way too much time worrying about what other people are thinking about us when we're dining alone, when the truth is, they're probably not thinking about us at all. And once you get used to dining alone, it seems perfectly normal. Because it IS perfectly normal.

SoloFriendly December 17, 2009 at 4:45 am

Brad, I am super embarrassed that I didn't notice this comment until now. I have no idea how I missed it, but I apologize for not replying sooner. You are absolutely correct that much of the stigma is in our own heads. We spend way too much time worrying about what other people are thinking about us when we're dining alone, when the truth is, they're probably not thinking about us at all. And once you get used to dining alone, it seems perfectly normal. Because it IS perfectly normal.

Brad October 28, 2008 at 11:22 am

It’s funny. A long time ago when I found myself single for the first time as an adult (broke up with my college gf), I remember thinking that things like going to eat or going to the movies by yourself was “weird.” I was also working for myself at the time and living a very solitary life so eventually I started going to places by myself.

At first I’d make sure to go at ‘off hours’ and always had a notepad and a book with me. I’d also go to the same places repeatedly so I knew the waiters.

At one point after years of this I remember a friend coming to town and asking me if I wanted to go to a movie with him. After accepting his novel invitation, I can distinctly remember thinking how weird it was that I KNEW someone else in the theater.

I think that largely the ‘stigma of dining alone’ is all in the traveler’s head. Ditch that baggage and you’ll find all kinds of options open to you.

Brad October 28, 2008 at 4:22 pm

It’s funny. A long time ago when I found myself single for the first time as an adult (broke up with my college gf), I remember thinking that things like going to eat or going to the movies by yourself was “weird.” I was also working for myself at the time and living a very solitary life so eventually I started going to places by myself.

At first I’d make sure to go at ‘off hours’ and always had a notepad and a book with me. I’d also go to the same places repeatedly so I knew the waiters.

At one point after years of this I remember a friend coming to town and asking me if I wanted to go to a movie with him. After accepting his novel invitation, I can distinctly remember thinking how weird it was that I KNEW someone else in the theater.

I think that largely the ‘stigma of dining alone’ is all in the traveler’s head. Ditch that baggage and you’ll find all kinds of options open to you.

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