At its core, a Disney theme park is the ultimate expression of family. The memories that you make during a Disney vacation can and often do last a lifetime. Parents treasure those memories of their children visiting the Happiest Place on Earth for the first time.
As families, one of the things that we learn to do from a young age is eat together. These meals have a subtle impact on our lives, as they’re how we first learn to communicate in a social setting. At Walt Disney World, several of the most intimate settings honor that tradition of family members breaking bread together. Here are my choices for best family restaurants at Walt Disney World, along with a caveat. This list is mine, but anywhere at the parks where you smile happily as you reminisce about shared experiences with your loved ones counts, too. That is the beauty of Disney.
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
Family meals have traditional elements such as cornbread and chicken and old-fashioned dessert. They also have a timeless aspect in that you remember the general structure of them for the rest of your life. No restaurant at Walt Disney World fits this description better than Hoo-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, the show whose menu has changed precisely once in 40 years. It also is the same show that it was during the 1970s, which means that parents can and have passed down the viewing experience with their children, who have now done the same with their children.
The word literally translates as family, and it’s an integral part of the inclusive nature of Hawaiian culture, a society wherein people refer to complete strangers as “cousin”. The Walt Disney World restaurant that uses that name serves ridiculous portions of grilled meats, creating the vibe of an island cookout. While that’s not the traditional family meal on the mainland, it certainly has callbacks to many family BBQs, only with better flavors. ‘Ohana is where the family you were born into and the family you chose join together for a delicious meal.
Beaches & Cream
Some of the staples of family meals aren’t based in fact inasmuch as stereotypes. No, the malt shops of the 1950s didn’t seem like Big Al’s on Happy Days. The American Graffiti version of the concept became the perception, though. And it’s delightful that Disney has created a real-life iteration of that perception, a restaurant that’s oddly intimate by Disney standards. Here, you can order a burger and fries and then wash the meal down with a root beer float, the idyllic perception of this sort of dinner. Plus, an entire family can take on the challenge of eating an entire Kitchen Sink, one of the best bonding experiences at Walt Disney World.
50’s Prime Time Café
Out of all the various eateries on the Disney campus, the one that emphasizes family the most does so in a weirdly passive/aggressive way. 50’s Prime Time Café names entrees after family members, and it has cast members pretend like they’re your judgmental, pushy relatives. They tell you what to do and acerbically critique your behavior, none of which seems very Disney-esque in nature. The incongruity is that it somehow feels like one of the most detailed themes of any Disney dining experience. You honestly believe that you’re at an awkward family dinner, being told all the things that you do wrong. Eating here certainly isn’t for everyone, as it may remind people of the worst parts of home, but I happen to love the familial tone that the servers take with guests.