Sneak Into the Kitchen at Disney World
The 9 coolest tours and events to explore Disney World's delicious side.
Disney World has way more fabulous food than you’d think, and now the theme park and its environs let visitors get close up and immersed in the food magic. Here are a few special experiences that offer an extra taste of what the Disney team has cooking.
Disney World sells massive quantities of some simple items, such as turkey legs and Dole Whip. Ever wonder how they make it happen? Sneak a peek at the production areas behind the scenes. With the Taste of the Magic Kingdom Park VIP Tour ($99), a knowledgeable guide will lead you “backstage” to the hidden kitchens where the most-popular items are prepped for sale in the park. You’ll hear about their histories from chefs and other food-and-beverage cast members, sample long-time favorites, and taste foods that are still in the testing stage.
Indulge in an evening of food and beverage at three Disney World hotels. You’ll begin the Highway in the Sky Dine Around (pictured; $170, for ages 12 and up) progressive dinner with a specialty cocktail and appetizer at The Wave … of American Flavors, a restaurant within Disney’s Contemporary Resort. From there, you’ll ride the Monorail to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort for a Polynesian-themed set of starters, then continue on to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for bubbly with artisanal cheeses and charcuterie. Select and eat an entrée at the Mediterranean dinnerhouse Citricos, then end your experience back at the Contemporary, watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks while sampling a dessert and cordial buffet on a private patio.
Disney World’s 300+ chefs love cooking new foods, and a handful of the most-skilled often participate in Delicious Disney dinners ($349 and up). For each event, the planners choose a theme, then create a multicourse feast of food and wine pairings all based around that theme — maybe something African with a Lion King shtick, or about Epcot food festivals, or certain Disney songwriters. The posh Delicious Disney events are held in the Markham’s restaurant at the private Golden Oak clubhouse.
Spend 90 minutes on a private tour for 12 max of a 46-acre savannah with 30 different species of animals and birds. Then join your fellow explorers for a curated dinner at Jiko – The Cooking Place ($209, including tax and tip), a table-service restaurant with African-influenced cuisine. You’ll share dips and appetizers, then try three entrees, and finish with tastes of several desserts. Paired South African wines are included.
Disney World’s Imagineers are creative engineers who design new park features. You can chat with one over a four-course lunch at the Old Los Angeles-esque establishment The Hollywood Brown Derby ($89), or a four-course dinner at the Mediterranean hotel restaurant Citricos ($95). Ask all the questions you want; there will be no more than 10 (lunch) or 12 (dinner) of you with the Imagineer (for ages 14 and up).
Over the course of a couple of months every fall, this festival hosts dozens of special events. Among them are wine-pairing dinners by both Disney and visiting celebrity chefs (prices vary).
After finishing a half-marathon, participants gather for a private party that involves a whole lot of food – served up at Epcot Food & Wine Festival marketplaces. ($85 for the after-race party)
Watch the nightly fireworks over Cinderella Castle aboard a ferryboat. Magic tricks, specialty drinks and plenty of sweets will entertain you; the kids might go off on an ultraviolet scavenger hunt. “Micky Vision” glasses enhance the fireworks experience.
Wannabe princesses and their families have long been fans of the princess character meals at the restaurant Cinderella’s Royal Table. Now, with the Signature Celebration, those same guests can follow up dinner by watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks from a private viewing area, then attending the After Fireworks Dessert Party. Some of the pastries are themed ($199 plus tax and tip for adults, $169 kids, plus park admission).