A long day at a hot Disney theme park can feel infinitely longer if you’re on vacation with young children. Not all attractions, shows or restaurants cater directly to your interests. And every wrong step in choosing leads to more advances for small legs (or parents tired of pushing strollers) and an even shorter fuse for a small human with little patience.
You may have experienced it before or seen it unfold near you in one of the parks. A bewildered group of parents escape an attraction, where they probably misjudged the length of the wait or the length of the experience. And now, the impact of dropping out of their normal schedule is obvious, because their young children scream or cry or are just withered. The adults look around as they try to lick the children, and then they all crawl to the nearest food place. This is the turning point of your day. It’s an opportunity to relax, refuel and get excited about the fun food and give it energy back for the rest of the day. Or they accidentally end up in a place that has no good options, neither environment nor quality. Her children complain about the food, they don’t eat, she keeps spiraling down all day.
So, instead of flying blind, what about a data-based list based on size to help you figure out where to drag those tired, angry kids? This is exactly what we are gathering today. Fast service places where parties with young children are much more likely to be satisfied compared to anyone else.
Explain the math!
In our post-visit surveys, we collect information on the satisfaction of all your lovely TouringPlans users on all Walt Disney World restaurants. Part of the survey asks respondents to indicate at each place where they dined a Thumbs Up or a Thumbs Down. I can group and add all the answers from each dining place to calculate the percentage of parties that give this restaurant a “thumbs up”. Overall, this is what we call satisfaction in this restaurant and it is shown in percentage.
The problem with this satisfaction score is that it is for this all the time. And, as with everything, menus and experiences at Disney can change very quickly. Well yes, ten years ago something could have been very satisfying. But should that really impact where I choose to take my family now? It could be solved only by surveys of a specific and recent time period. But this has a pretty strong negative impact on the size of my sample. Instead, you could enter a weighted average. If you would like to read the full explanation of the weighted average I have chosen, please see the Table Service companion in this post.
In short, we say that old reviews still take into account the satisfaction score, but they are not worth as much. Therefore, this new weighted satisfaction more closely reflects what is happening recently, without completely ignoring the past. I like that balance.
For our current comparisons, I need to specify how these satisfaction scores differ for parts with young children, so … we need to know which parts have small children. Fortunately, you can also tell us the gender and age of your party members when you complete the survey. I filtered the results only to parties that included someone under the age of 6 to get our results from “parties with young children.” All other polls fell into the “everyone’s” repository.
WDW fast service sites to try with young children
- By Catherine Eddie – (94% for parties with young children, 74% for the rest)
Location here is key: Hollywood studios are a difficult place to tour effectively with young children. Lots of opportunities to get bored while the taller ones wait for long queues. One such area is Sunset Boulevard. But your little ones can get some pizza (or maybe a power pack) from Catherine Eddie, while the others experience Rock’n’Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror. It is a great place to stroll and explore.
Restaurantosaurus – (95% for parties with young children, 76% for the rest)
I have no doubt why Restaurantosaurus has made this list. The food you will find at this place is typical of chicken and burger food. But the children’s meals come in a sand bucket with a shovel. After your kids have lunch or dinner, you can all go to the Boneyard and have their own tools for digging and playing, burning all their resting energy.
- Beach Club Marketplace – (82% for parties with young children, 70% for the rest)
The dining options at the Beach Club Marketplace aren’t particularly overwhelming. Your kids can choose between mac and cheese (stop here, my kids are happy), a hot dog or the typical Mickey Check meals. Here they differ that the fast service area also houses a gift shop; children can easily run around and find fun things while you wait for your food. And my personal opinion is what defines this location above young children, as there are bakery / dessert options available as well. Yum!
- Casey’s corner – (93% for parties with young children, 89% for the rest)
If you go to Casey’s Corner, you already know what you will get. Frankfurt sausages! Fortunately, most kids are big fans of hot dogs. Here, however, there are no children’s meals. You will pay the full price for these dogs. Professional advice is to get corn dog seeds. They are a fun treat! But be warned: a drink at Casey’s Fountain will get you back $ 4.49. Wow.
- Boardwalk Bakery – (97% for parties with young children, 89% for the rest)
Kids love sweet treats. See also Beach Club Marketplace from above. The children’s meals here are nothing fancy, just a couple of sandwiches. But who could refuse cakes and pastries and other desserts? I promise I won’t judge you if you’re a bewildered mom getting a giant cupcake for breakfast. I’ve done it totally before.
WDW fast service sites to avoid with young children
- La Mara – (77% for parties with young children, 90% for the rest)
Okay okay. Sanaa was at the top of the list to avoid table service and Mara tops the list here. I have the picture. This time I am biased against Mara. Our only lunch there with a small child was continually interrupted by fire alarm tests. Ha! My ears never want to go back. Currently, the Mara works with a very small menu compared to the normal one, so the options for everyone are scarce. But when the full menu returns, adventurous adults will be delighted and children with safe tastes will probably not worry about the expanded options.
Regal Eagle Smokehouse – (73% for parties with young children, 90% for the rest)
This is an entry that surprised me. As proud of St. Louisans, my kids love some barbecue. Therefore, Regal Eagle usually finds its way into our plans. But to be fair, there are only two food options for kids: ribs and a cheeseburger. And both are served with cabbage and watermelon salad. Really, Disney? How many kids love the cabbage salad? My advice? Don’t avoid Eagle Gift, though do follow the usual menu, share it with your kids and order them some mac, cheese and chips to accompany their meat.
- Riverside Mill Food Court – (71% for parties with young children, 84% for the rest)
On multi-bay feeding tracks, if your party wants to eat from multiple windows, timing is key. And the timing is remarkably unreliable on Disney’s food courts. Riverside Mill is a place where synchronization tends to fail more often. Therefore, if your children and other party members place orders in different windows, it is likely that some of them will have cold food when you eat them all.
- Market in Ale and Compass – (68% for parties with young children, 84% for the rest)
The Market at Ale and Compass, another fast service in a resort, comes in with the lowest average on our list for parties with young children. Its location is hard to find and when you find it, your options are sandwiches and … sandwiches. Looks like if you have young children, it’s best to walk a little further to Boardwalk Bakery or Beach Club Marketplace to meet your fast service needs in Crescent Lake.
- Pecos Bill – (83% for parties with young children, 87% for the rest)
Pecos Bill’s children’s menu adheres to the theme of the Mexican adult menu. Half of the options are rice bowls which, if your kids are like mine, aren’t particularly appealing to young kids. But for their part, are they served with … apple and orange compote? Fortunately, there are also cheese and mac and cheese burgers available. But you won’t find anything like french fries or even steamed vegetables to go with them.
What does this mean for you?
- The quick service locations that make the list to try are a kind of eclectic mix. Some are good for their location, others for their sweet delights, or even for the way meals are packaged. It’s not an intuitive rule, so it’s good to have a list on hand.
- Do not walk aimlessly in the park with hungry young children. It’s never a good idea. Get ready with a list of spaces you know will work for your party, and then find out which ones are next to you when mealtime circulates.
- Food courts with multiple bays and windows that have different menus are hard to manage with big parties, especially if your group members aren’t old enough to split up and order their own food.
- Fast service locations with interesting and / or adventurous menus can be more fun for adults, but they can also make it difficult for demanding diners to find something they are willing to eat.
Were you surprised by any entries on the lists today? Do you have places to visit your young children or that you recommend to other people? Let us know in the comments.