It feels like yesterday that I started the countdown to my family’s Disney World vacation. I remember checking my phone and seeing “280 Days Until Our Christmas Vacation.” I also remember seeing that number dwindle to 200, then 190. Now I’m at 183 days and preparing to make our Advanced Dining Reservations.
ADR Day can be a stressful time in planning your Disney vacation—especially during Christmas. With Christmas being such a popular time at Disney World, it’s very difficult to secure a reservation at your favorite restaurants. You have to be quick, prepared and have a plan.
I’ve covered a lot of my tips and tricks in my mini guide. If you find yourself lounging by the pool this weekend, give it a quick read. In honor of Foodie Friday and my ADR window opening, here are my 5 Must-Do restaurants for Christmas dinner.
- California Grill, The Contemporary
After Victoria & Alberts, California Grill is easily the most popular restaurant at Walt Disney World and a top pick for Christmas Dinner. Perched atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, California Grill offers breathtaking views of the Magic Kingdom Resorts, Seven Seas Lagoon and parts of the park, like Space Mountain and Cinderella Castle.
The cuisine includes American, seafood and sushi. Some dishes feature a New American twist, with stylish plating and design. Having eaten here for Christmas Eve a few years ago, I was very impressed with the food. We started with the sushi, which was among the freshest I’ve ever eaten. The steak was cooked to perfection and the restaurant offered season desserts for the holiday: a tasting of egg nog creme brûlée, a peppermint mocha cake pop and more.
Overall, the meal was timed to perfection. Our server was friendly and hospitable and made us feel like royalty. A reservation at the popular spot is difficult to come by, especially as the night draws closer to the Wishes fireworks show. If you’re lucky enough to grab a reservation in time for Wishes, you’ll be invited to step outside to view the show from the restaurant’s balcony. It’s a truly unique point of view for the fireworks. If you happen to grab an earlier reservation, hang onto your receipt. You’re welcome to return to the restaurant and view the show from the balcony later on.
2. Narcoossee’s, Grand Floridian
Perhaps my family’s favorite restaurant in all of Disney is Narcoossee’s. Located across the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Grand Floridian, Narcoossee’s offers a different view of the Magic Kingdom. The restaurant is situated over the Seven Seas Lagoon and features large, expansive windows that look out onto the lagoon—giving a gorgeous view of Magic Kingdom.
Like California Grill, Narcoossee’s is an American restaurant, specializing in steak and seafood. Guests can feast on an entire 2-pound lobster or opt for a perfectly cooked steak. The restaurant also offers delicious seafood dishes, as well as chicken and pasta offerings. Save room for dessert, though, as Narcoossee’s. Among the desserts is the (in my opinion) the best dessert at Disney: the Almond Crusted Cheesecake. The cheesecake is creamy, tart and velvety on the inside, then coated with an almond crust. It’s served with a tart cherry compote, which helps combat the sweetness a bit.
Reservations at Narcoosse’s are also hard to come by, especially during Wishes. The restaurant dims the lights and pipes in the music for Wishes, which can be viewed from the restaurants large windows and skylight, or outside from the surrounding porch.
3. Artist Point, Wilderness Lodge
Imagine dining in a quiet ski lodge, located in the Pacific Northwest. That’s exactly how it feels at Artist Point, located in the Wilderness Lodge. Whether you choose to dine at Artist Point or not, you need to make your way over to the Wilderness Lodge. The resort is among the best decorated during Christmas. The towering tree and three-story fireplace creates a welcoming setting for kicking back and relaxing—especially after a big meal.
Artist Point is one of the overlooked restaurants at Disney, but it’s also one of the best. The cuisine is rustic American, serving an array of dishes from steak and bison to salmon or chicken. The smoked portobello soup is worth the trip, alone!
It’s a quiet, dark setting that’s definitely better for older families. The ambiance lends is a bit more romantic, with dimmed lighting and dark colors. If you happen to grab a reservation during dusk, request a seat overlooking the water.
4. Crystal Palace, Chef Mickey’s or Cinderella’s Royal Table
It’s time to give breakfast some love. While all three buffets serve dinner, they’re famous for their breakfast. Crystal Palace is the one spot to dine with the five main characters: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald and Goofy. While the food is less-than-stellar, it’s an incredibly popular spot. I always recommend starting your vacation at Chef Mickey’s. It feels like one giant welcoming party for your family. Imagine dining with the characters on Christmas?
Crystal Palace is a gorgeous restaurant. It’s a character buffet with Pooh, Tigger and the rest of the gang from Hundred Acre Wood. With Magic Kingdom being such a popular spot for Christmas, it’ll be a tough reservation to come by for breakfast and dinner. Crystal Palace probably has the best food of the three restaurants. I highly recommend Pooh’s french toast—even if it is in the kids’ buffet!
Another popular spot is Cinderella’s Royal Table. A character buffet featuring the princesses, this in-demand restaurant is located in Cinderella Castle. The restaurant offers unmatched views of Magic Kingdom and unforgettable memories. Imagine surprising your little princess on Christmas morning with breakfast in a castle! The food also receives decent reviews, although the location is the main draw.
5. Liberty Tree Tavern, Magic Kingdom
I’ll end with a table service. In chatting with someone and helping them with their reservations, they were looking for a typical “holiday dinner.” They wanted a turkey with all the fixings. I’ve grown so accustomed to recommending Signature Restaurants that I overlooked Liberty Tree Tavern.
The restaurant used to be an old favorite for my family. The Thanksgiving-style meal featured all our favorite holiday foods: turkey, ham and all the fixings! It even used to include the characters dressed in period garb, but they were removed in 2009.
Overall, the meal is delicious, but it used to be better. The offerings have changed a bit, especially the mac and cheese. But it’s still a solid offerings for that token holiday meal.
So there it is—my top recommendations for Christmas Day. Best of luck to everyone booking their ADRs on Monday! It’ll be here before you know it!