A little known fact in Walt Disney World is that some of the restaurants that are located in the parks will open before the parks themselves do. This means you get early access to the park. Rides aren’t open yet – but time it right, and when they do open up, you’ll have just finished your meal and will be closer to them than everyone else coming in at the front of the park!
The in-park restaurants typically start serving at 8am, whereas the parks tend to open at 9am. So get yourself an 8am reservation and you’ll be let in early. The first advantage this gives you is some fab photo opportunities – nothing like an empty park for great poses with no crowds behind you.
But the reason to get out of bed early, is the proximity to the most popular rides. You (and your fellow breakfast guests) are going to be near the front of the line because you haven’t got the whole park to walk through once they open up at 9am.
So, where can you take advantage of this little trick? The best place to do this is Be Our Guest restaurant, located in Beast’s Castle in Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom. The reason this is so good is because for breakfast (and lunch) this is a quick/counter service restaurant – but one that requires reservations. Meaning you can a) legitimately get in for an 8am reservation and b) set your own pace for eating your breakfast and getting out in enough time to get to the rides. The ride that you want to be heading to from here is probably Seven Dwarves Mine Train. It is only a few minutes walk away – the other ‘biggies’ are far enough away that you won’t make it before the rest of the park, once 9am hits. It also has the longest queue times in Magic Kingdom so that’s a win. If you’re lucky, the cast members might even open up a few minutes early. We’ve actually ridden this once before the park opened and then managed to get back to the front of the queue just as the crowds from the park opening came up behind us. Loved it!
Beast’s slashed portrait in the West Wing in Be Our Guest restaurant
It is worth noting that in the past few years, Magic Kingdom changed its opening policy. Now, you get in to Main Street and down to Cinderella Castle about an hour before the official opening time, for the Opening Show. This means that the early breakfast ‘trick’ does not work for Crystal Palace, as it is on Main Street and so you don’t get access to the rest of the park before anyone else does.
In Epcot this breakfast trick can work with is Akershus, in Norway. This is a character dining experience where you can meet the Princesses, with a buffet featuring Scandinavian food. It is also located immediately next door to the very popular Frozen ride. So, make an 8am reservation (or close to it), and finish up and get into the queue for Frozen Ever After, while the crowds are still making their way over. You should be able to get at least one ride in with limited queuing, and possibly even another with only a short wait, as the first speed-walkers get there from the entrances to the park. Obviously you only want to do this if you want to meet the Princesses and pay for a table service meal at Akershus. However if you’re desperate to ride Frozen Ever After, chances are the Princesses are also on your to do list. The only challenge with this one is that as it is table service and a character meal, you are less in control of the timings – it is a buffet so that speeds things along, but you still need to get paid up etc and get out – make sure you ask for the bill and pay early. And having paid for the meal, you don’t want to miss out on meeting any of the Princesses, just to try and jump the queue on the ride. So be aware that it doesn’t always work and you don’t want to feel that your meal is very rushed giving that you are paying quite a bit for it – but it might be worth giving it a go if you want to use your Tier 1 FastPass+ for Soarin or Test Track.
Also in Epcot, Garden Grill serves breakfast in the Land Pavilion. This is another character meal, featuring Chip, Dale, Mickey and Pluto – with Mickey in his Farmer outfit, and a rotating restaurant. The Land pavilion is also home to Soarin’ – another very popular Tier 1 Fastpass+ attraction – so an ideal spot to get to the front of the line for this ride. Be aware this one has a 40″ height requirement. The food here is served family style – all menu items are brought to your table and you request any additional items as you run out. The same caveat applies here as at Akershus – you need to make sure your server knows that you’re hoping to get out quickly – but don’t do it at the expense of meeting the characters that you’re paying to see.
In Hollywood Studios, Hollywood & Vine offers a buffet breakfast with the Disney Junior Play n Dine character meal. Here you can meet Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Vamperina and Roadster Races Goofy. This one is good for getting to the Jedi Training sign up, where being there early counts – but you probably need a little one in your party for you to enjoy the Disney Junior meal that you’re paying for! Because park guests are let onto Hollywood Boulevard before official park opening, it won’t give you any advantage in reaching Toy Story Land, Tower of Terror or Rock n Rollercoaster – in fact it is likely to slow you down.
And finally in Animal Kingdom, Tusker House, in Africa is located a short walk from Kilamanjaro Safaris. Another character buffet meal, you can meet Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Daisy in their Safari gear. The same principle applies – you may have a rushed meal, but you could jump the queue. We would recommend this one more as a last resort. The meal at lunch and dinner is fantastic, so you’re missing out by visiting at breakfast. And it also puts you at a disadvantage for the rides in Pandora. The queues for World of Avatar are ridiculous, so if you can’t get a Fastpass+ for it, we’d recommend skipping breakfast altogether, getting to the park very early and just aiming to be near the front of the queue at ‘rope drop’ when the park officially opens. Bear in mind gates open 30 minutes prior to official opening time, and crowds are let in and held at Discovery Island. You need to be near the front at that point.
Meet the characters in their Safari gear at Tusker House, near Kilimanjaro Safaris
Use with caution
But beware! This trick only works if there isn’t an Early Morning Magic event, or Morning Extra Magic Hours that day – or any other event for that matter. If the park opens at 8am, for any number of guests, then you lose the advantage that the breakfast has given you. Early Morning Magic is a paid event that gets people into the park and onto set attractions. It has a limited number of guests – we’ve personally tried the breakfast trick when one of these events was running and still had minimal wait times for Seven Dwarves Mine Train – but it definitely wasn’t as effective. So when you’re planning your meals, check the park opening times and the events planned for the day you’d like to try this.
Of all the restaurants we’ve mentioned, Be Our Guest is the one we would recommend trying this out with, without hesitation. The rest are worth doing only if a) you already want to eat there and b) you won’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t work out. You have to see those as a good meal, and a bonus if you can also make it to the rides with a short queue. But you can have fun and a good meal trying!