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Disney's California Grill
Fine Dining For Families
Most people come to Disney World for the rides, the shows, the characters and the gorgeous resort hotels. But did you know there are also opportunities for fine dining in relaxed, family friendly settings? Disney World isn't all burgers and fries - although of course these are available too. You can experience delicious and unique dining experiences including Disney's Signature restaurants.
With the exception of Victoria & Alberts, (which does not admit children under the age of 10), all Disney dining locations welcome children of all ages and have specially designed menus for those aged 3-9. At table service restaurants the menus have puzzles and pictures to color to keep children amused during their meal and the food is very kid friendly. Disney chefs are able to cater for all sorts of allergies and special dietary requirements as well as substituting items as required.
Disney's Signature restaurants are great places to introduce your kids to formal dining without worrying that you are going to feel out of place. There is a dress code but it's not terribly strict, (jeans are fine but no cut offs, offensive t-shirts etc), and most have sufficient chatter, hustle and bustle to drown out any normal kid noise.
Unless otherwise credited all photographs have been taken by me.
A Great Place to Celebrate!
I love the California Grill! Our dining parties have included children as young as 3, tweens, teens as well as the aunties, uncles and grandparents (I won't include their ages!). We've experienced fantastic food and service and sometimes a few surprises!
The California Grill is great for celebrations. Make a note on your reservation if one of your party has a birthday, anniversary or any other special occasion and they are sure to do something special for you. We have had personalised menus, celebration desserts and our table decorated with Mickey confetti. As with all the Signature restaurants you can also order a celebration cake.
The California Grill is located at the top of the Contemporary Resort overlooking the Magic Kingdom. The first special thing you will notice is the check in - instead of walking to the restaurant podium you go to the reception desk on the 2nd Floor. A host will then take you up to the restaurant on the 15th floor in a private express elevator - very VIP! As you arrive you will immediately hear the chatter and laughter of your fellow diners - be warned this is not a quiet place, especially in the main dining room. If you would like a quieter experience ask to be seated in the wine room just off the main dining area. I particularly like this room as you are more likely to grab a window seat and although you won't get views of the Magic Kingdom from here you will be able to see the Electrical Water Pageant if it goes past during your meal.
So, what about the food? The California Grill has an on stage kitchen so you can see the chefs working their magic preparing "Californian Fusion" dishes. The menu changes regularly but one of their specialities, sushi, is always available. The kids menu has its own take on sushi with the Crisped Rice Sushi Plate as one of the dessert options - a delicious combination of rice crispie treats and gummy fish!
One of the attractions of dining at the California Grill is the fact you can view Wishes, (the Magic Kingdom's nightly fireworks), either from your table, if you are lucky enough to have a window seat, or from the restaurants viewing platform. The lights in the dining room are dimmed during the show and the music is piped in so you are able to really enjoy the fireworks. I recommend booking a table for about an hour before Wishes is scheduled (time varies depending on the time of year). You may then eat your appetiser and entree prior to the fireworks, stretch your legs with a walk to the viewing platform to watch Wishes and then return to your table for a leisurely dessert and coffee. This really does help when you have children who aren't happy to sit still for the entire meal.
This is a great video which shows the view you will get from the California Grill viewing platform. It's quite different from the view you get in the Magic Kingdom and you can see that the high fireworks are actually released outside of the park. Love the music - always brings a tear to my eye!
Some Books to Read:
With these books you can recreate some of the delicious Disney recipes and find out lots more about visiting Disney with kids. Enjoy!
California Grill to close for refurbishment in January 2013
Make sure you visit the California Grill quickly - Disney have announced that it will be closing for a major refurbishment program on 6 January 2013. The restaurant will be shut down for at least 6 months and will reopen late Summer 2013. Can't wait to see what they do but hope they don't change things too much.
Have you been to the California Grill? Why not share your experience.