Empty Nesters
Childfree Dining at
Walt Disney World

The Empty Nester series was written by Barbara Rubenstein and edited by Debra Martin Koma.
All information was current at the time the article was written.

Part I - Deciding to Go
Part II - Child-free Dining
Part III - Recreation


When we think of Disney, many of us think along the lines of fast food, like a hamburger or hot dog on the run. Disney does, however, have a vast array of wonderful eateries. Planning meals and trying new places for us is an integral part of any vacation -- we love to eat!

Of course, meals are a personal preference, but I would like to tell you how we plan our meal times:

BREAKFAST: On days when we are visiting a theme park, we usually plan a light breakfast right in the park we are visiting. Even though we are not traveling with children, we do try to get an early start when visiting the parks. The early morning hours are the quietest times in the parks and we enjoy the pace that the early morning provides.

We find that because the breakfast eateries are cafeteria-style, there is virtually no wait to get your meal and we do enjoy the different themes that the park restaurants offer. Almost every park has a place to get a continental breakfast. And, if you're the sort who prefers to eat as soon as you arise, most hotels have some type of continental meal available, as well. There's even that luxury of a room service breakfast, if your resort provides room service. On days when we are planning a recreational activity, such as a trip to a spa, we enjoy a nice sit-down breakfast.

Most hotels have a place where you can get a wonderful full-course meal. Avoid the character breakfasts, though, due to lots of kids, crowds and noise. We find breakfast at the non-character venues to be a nice start to our day. We also usually do not stray far from where we are staying to have a sit-down breakfast. We want to start our day at a relaxed pace and find that most breakfast offerings are the same wherever you go.

If you'd like to try a character breakfast, though, I'd suggest going either on a day when you're visiting a spa or water park, or spending the day at the hotel pool/beach, so that you'll be able to really relax after the meal. Another great day for a character meal is the day you are leaving. We normally ask for the latest seating possible, so that most of the families are finished and the hustle-bustle has calmed down. We also only go to the character breakfasts that serve the meal at your table family-style. We like to avoid that buffet rush and much prefer having the meal brought to us. We do enjoy watching the characters work the room -- I always chuckle when they come over to our table.

LUNCH: Lunch is always fun for us. Whatever we have scheduled in the morning we always try to complete by the lunch hour, so that we can have lunch on the later side of noon. When traveling without children, we feel less in need of seeing all there is to see and spend more time enjoying each other's company.

We always make it a point of trying somewhere different for lunch. Most non-park restaurants are not crowded at the lunch hour and this gives us an opportunity to try some new places. This also gives you an excellent chance to see some of the other resorts and what they have to offer.

Most of the resorts have restaurants that fit in with their theme. Even if you eat in the resort's food court, it still is a nice change to see another hotel. After our lunch we wander around the resort to see what amenities it has to offer.

Lunch in Downtown Disney can also be really nice. The Marketplace area is virtually empty at lunchtime, which allows the chance to try some restaurants that are almost impossible to get into in the evenings, followed by some low-key shopping. I am not opposed to eating lunch in the theme parks, but at many of the sit-down restaurants in the parks you need reservations -- we don't always want to be on a tight schedule. Also at some of these restaurants the lunch menu is the same as the dinner menu and we don't want to have our biggest meal at the noon hour.

DINNER: Dinner is our favorite meal time at WDW, and when traveling without children you have a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the more adult fare Disney offers. Many popular restaurants require priority seating, and we do make them for restaurants that we want to be sure to get into. That being said, we usually do not have any trouble getting last-minute reservations for a party of two.

Since we eat a late lunch, we usually opt for a later dinner also, when the family rush is over and the restaurants are less crowded. If you want to fully experience the luxury of dining without young children, remember to tell your server that you are not in a hurry and would like to linger over your meal.

We try to base our restaurant selection not only on cuisine, but on atmosphere. Without going into the particulars of different restaurants and naming too many, I would like to suggest a few locations, not based on food, but based on adult appeal:

For a spectacular view, the California Grill in the Contemporary cannot be beat. The skyline of the Magic Kingdom is just breathtaking, and if you time it right, you may even finish off your meal with a fireworks display.

Narcoossee's, also at the Grand Floridian, is another pretty restaurant that appeals to the adult palate.

Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge offers fine dining with adults in mind.

The Yachtsman Steakhouse is just that, a fine steakhouse with tables that are nicely spaced and leave plenty of room for privacy.

For the ultimate adult meal, though, don't miss the Grand Floridian's Victoria and Albert's, the only place on Disney property where formal dress is required.

In addition to these spots, many of the restaurants in the Downtown Disney area seem to appeal to the adult crowd. We have found a mostly adult group at Portobello Yacht Club, and Fulton's Crab House, and plan a late evening stroll in Downtown Disney's West Side or Pleasure Island after the completion of our meals in that area.

When it's available, during the holidays or other special events, another great dinner option is the meal combined with the program at the America Gardens Theater. We opted for the last show of the day combined with the dinner at a country pavilion. We took the last dinner seating and found this option to be very relaxing. We strolled Epcot after the completion of the show and had a late dinner. The staff seemed more relaxed later in the evening and did not rush us at all.

Wherever you decide to eat, enjoy the different types of meals Disney offers. Make your dining experience enjoyable as you would at any fine resort: an after-dinner stroll, fireworks display and just sitting side by side is a wonderful lend to a wonderful day.

Part I - Deciding to Go
Part II - Child-free Dining
Part III - Recreation