Why Disney World’s Oldest Restaurants Are Still Around

These days, it seems like Disney World is constantly planning a new restaurant opening. Between recent additions like Jaleo at Disney Springs and coming attractions like the Japan pavilion’s Takumi-Tei, we seldom have long to wait for new dining options.

Takumi-Tei Concept Art ©Disney

Despite the many restaurant changes and additions over the years, Disney World has kept around several of its restaurants for decades.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons these classic Disney World restaurants are still around after all these years.

Popularity

Popularity is perhaps one of the most obvious factors for keeping a Disney World restaurant open.

California Grill

 

Favorites like ‘Ohana and California Grill are regularly filled to capacity. Most, if not all ADRs for these locations are snapped up 180 days in advance.

 

Due to immense popularity, favorites Be Our Guest Restaurant AND Le Cellier actually converted meals that used to cost one credit on the Disney Dining Plan to pricier signature experiences.

Le Cellier

Did those changes affect the popularity of these spots? While Le Cellier shows some availability 180 days out, Be Our Guest does not have ANY availability for dinner.

Be Our Guest Restaurant Reservation Availability

If a restaurant gains or maintains popularity, Disney World will, of course, want to keep it around.

On the other hand, if a restaurant loses steam and is rarely busy, Disney World will act accordingly. Tomorrowland Terrace, for instance, only operates seasonally, while other eateries, like the Odyssey in  Epcot or Bonfamille’s at Port Orleans French Quarter were shuttered when their popularity declined.

Tomorrowland Terrace

Popularity isn’t the only factor at play with Disney World restaurants, but it’s certainly an important one.

Ease of Maintenance

Sometimes, it might seem like a restaurant has run its course, but for some reason, it sticks around. Restaurants like Restaurant Marrakesh in Epcot and Maya Grill at Coronado Springs don’t typically draw large crowds, so why are they still open?

Maya Grill at Coronado Springs Resort

 

Well, it might just be easier for Disney World to keep a restaurant as is than to spend the time, money and effort to rebrand it. With so many new attractions, resort hotels, and dining locations in the pipeline, perhaps they’d simply rather spend their resources elsewhere.

Guest Nostalgia

Nostalgia certainly comes to mind during a walk down Main Street, U.S.A., but it is also a factor when it comes to Disney World restaurants.

Magic Kingdom is home to several restaurants that opened with the park in 1971. Crystal Palace, Columbia Harbour House, and Liberty Tree Tavern were all among the first Disney World restaurants and have remained guest favorites ever since.

Liberty Tree Tavern

Sure, Be Our Guest Restaurant might be a more popular choice at the moment because of its newness, but there’s something really special about bringing your own children to a restaurant that you visited as a child.

Nostalgia runs deep at Disney World, and its restaurants are no exception.

Park History

Along with the nostalgia factor, keeping some of these “old” restaurants serve to preserve Walt Disney World’s history.

The Partners statue in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom

Keeping Magic Kingdom’s original restaurants in operation actively conserves and maintains the initial creation of the park. The same can be said for opening-day attractions like The Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and Peter Pan’s Flight.

The Haunted Mansion

Disney World opened almost 48 years ago and it’s a wonderful thing that many parts of its original theme park, Magic Kingdom, have remained untouched. Now, imagine how much greater it will feel in another 50 years. Disney World may not be a museum, but it sure does represent an exciting piece of theme park history.

Columbia Harbour House

 

In keeping many of the oldest restaurants (and attractions) open, the original magic of Disney World remains alive in many ways.

What are your favorite classic Disney World restaurants? Let us know in the comments below!

Don’t forget to check out our extensive reader restaurant reviews, or leave your own ratings here!

 

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6 Replies to “Why Disney World’s Oldest Restaurants Are Still Around”

  1. nostalgia doesn’t seem to be stopping disney from removing other fan favorite rides and attractions. restaurants aren’t safe either.

  2. I first went to Disney World in 1982. I’ve always loved Trails End at Fort Wilderness. Probably because thats where we stay all the time. Liberty Tree Tavern is my second best.

  3. Most of these are only the same, in name, from their original menus. For example, LeCeller has undergone several major changes over the years. Back in the 90’s , when it was a buffet, it was rated one of the worst restaurants in EPCOT. It’s easier and cheaper to just hire new management and change the menu than to change the name. Especially since they are in a tourist location with a steady flow of first time diners, and they are not chain restaurants.

  4. I have only been coming to WDW since 1989, so my history is different 🙂
    I love 50’s Prime Time at HS
    Chef de France in Epcot
    Liberty Tree at MK
    Yak n’ Yeti at AK

  5. You hit 2 of our MK favorites – Liberty Tree is a “must do” for us and we already have an early evening (435) ADR for the night of our MVMCP. We will eat at least once or twice at Columbia Harbour House. We are drawn to the older more nostalgic restaurants. At DS we gravitate towards the original DD restaurants and avoid the higher end new ones, although we may break down and actually try D-luxe Burgers as Beaches and Cream will be closed when we are there!