Disney Dining on a whim: Eating without ADRs

During my year of being a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder I found myself planning less and less for our trips, and I often either never made advanced dining reservations or would cancel them a couple days prior to leave room in our schedule to do whatever we wanted. I’m writing to let you know, although I highly recommend making your ADRs prior to your trip, it’s not the end of the world if you leave some meals open! Here are a few of my experiences dining on a whim.

On my first trip to WDW with my husband in January 2014, getting a reservation at Be Our Guest was unheard of! (Yes, they are slowly becoming more available) I was dying to try it but alas we couldn’t find one before we left on our trip. The night my husband proposed to me we were in our hotel room at POP Century Resort, and since I was so ecstatic I took to My Disney Experience to find a great restaurant where we could celebrate the next night. To my surprise I found a 4pm reservation for dinner at Be Our Guest! It goes to show even though people may cancel or change their reservations weeks or months ahead of time, many people will cancel within the 24 hour period before their dining time (so they don’t get charged for canceling) and that is a prime time to sweep in and pick it up for yourself!
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BOG menu
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BOG chandelier

We went back in January 2015 and made zero reservations since we were meeting up with friends and had no solid itinerary. The night before we were heading back home we were wanting a nice dinner to cap off the trip. It was about 7pm as I was perusing MDE on my phone and I saw a place called Portobello’s in Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs) with several open reservations. We ended up just taking the bus from the hotel to DTD and showing up at Portobello and found two seats immediately at the bar without having to wait to be seated. Low and behold this ended up being one of my top 5 meals in WDW! The two bartenders were super-friendly and entertaining and the food hit the spot perfectly! I had never even HEARD of this restaurant and now I am so glad we took the chance on it! (Try the triple chocolate cake and ask for raspberry syrup on top!)

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The last time I dined on a whim we were in Magic Kingdom one night during Memorial Day weekend, so no reservations were open at any restaurant in the park. I decided to look at the restaurants in the monorail loop and found a reservation for a half hour later at The Wave at the Contemporary Resort, yet another restaurant I had not heard of. We booked the ADR, hopped on the monorail, and got there within 10 minutes. Just like our previous experience, our waiter Joe was friendly and gave amazing suggestions on our meals, and I had found another restaurant to put in my top 5! The service and food were beyond superb and I cannot say enough great things about that swordfish.
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It just goes to show you, you don’t NEED to have a rigid schedule for your whole vacation. In fact, dining on a whim in Disney will allow you, or maybe even push you, to try unfamiliar or underrated restaurants where you may find your favorite meal!

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