We love the Disney World monorail: it’s iconic, fun, fast, and easy. Strollers slide on and off with ease, lines are always at a minimum, and for kids, it’s a ride in itself. We try to take the monorail as often as possible during a Disney trip, in order to keep stress at a minimum.
Our top Disney monorail tip: use this transportation to travel from the Magic Kingdom to Disney World monorail resort restaurants for fun or relaxing meals.
First, a quick tutorial: the Disney Resort loop connects the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian via monorail. A second monorail line connects the Magic Kingdom with the Transportation and Ticket Center: this is how you can get directly to Epcot or connect to other parks and resorts via bus. The resort loop is what we’re focusing on today, and it goes in a single direction: from the Magic Kingdom, it stops at the Contemporary, then the Poly and the Grand Floridian, in that order. Therefore, if you’re at the Grand Floridian, the Magic Kingdom will be the very first stop (3-5 minute ride, tops).
Our dining pick in each Disney World monorail resort:
A classic dining experience in the Contemporary, Chef Mickey is our pick for the first dining you do in the World. Why? It hits all the buttons: you ride the monorail directly into the building, you see Mickey and his gang almost immediately, and you eat a buffet meal (read: no waiting). I know the Contemporary gets some grief, but I like the wide, bright atrium where Chef Mickey is located, and appreciate the very classic Disney feel of this restaurant. Use the dining plan to book this character meal (or experience sticker shock when you get the bill), and enjoy this experience just before entering the Magic Kingdom for the first time of your trip. Need to see the menu?
Where to go to chill: Find some quiet in the convention section of the hotel. Even if there’s an event going on, which is almost always, the hallways outside the meeting spaces are usually peaceful.
Aloha! Welcome to the Polynesian. We think O’hana gets all the attention (and certainly deserves its fair share), but Kona Cafe is often overlooked, and has many of the same menu items in a more relaxed, quiet atmosphere. For a break from the parks, this is what you need! Have the Tonga Toast at breakfast, or go all out at lunch or dinner, making use of the sushi bar and wonderful seafood entrees. Kona Cafe is listed as casual dining (for use with the Disney Dining Plan), and adult plates range from $15-$29. View the menu here.
Where to go to chill: Head through the lush gardens to the Polynesian beach, of course. If you’re lucky, you’ll snag a hammock or swing chair. No, you don’t have to be a resort guest to use these!
1900 Park Fare:
For our money, 1900 Park Fare is where to go for that special character meal outside the parks, especially if you’ve already seen Mickey and Co. 1900 Park Fare is home to the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast, the Wonderland Tea Party, and Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner. What does this mean? Reservations are crucial (up to 180 days in advance). Use the dining plan to book these expensive meals.
However, if character dining is not on your wish list, take a ride to the Grand Floridian (or take the boat…you’ll see the dock right across from the monorail station), and head to the quiet, crowd-free Grand Floridian Cafe instead. We loved the breakfast here, and had empty tables on either side of us, even during Spring Break.
Where to go to chill: Head outside, past the Gasparilla Grill (quick service restaurant) to find a chair overlooking the marina. Kids can watch the boats come and go and (maybe) you can catch a few minutes with your eyes half-closed.
Ok, this Wilderness Lodge restaurant is not on the monorail loop, but it’s within park distance without getting in a car or bus. Here’s how: from the Magic Kingdom, take the ferry to Fort Wilderness and the lodge.
Unlike Grand Floridian Cafe or Kona Cafe, Whispering Canyon is NOT the restaurant to retreat to when you’re on stimulation overload from the parks. Instead, hit up this restaurant before your park day, like we recommended with Chef Mickey. We like to come here for a fun lunch after a restful morning, and take the boat straight to the Magic Kingdom afterward. It’s large, loud, and usually crowded, and the wait staff love to play practical jokes, tease, and sing. Expect to be entertained, not relaxed. Here’s your menu!
Where to go to chill: After or before your meal, head either to the grand lobby to sit in a rocking chair by the fireplace, or walk out back to the pool area, where kids will enjoy seeing the ‘creek’ that flows from the indoors to the outdoors.
Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to make good use of Disney transportation! The Disney monorail resort restaurants provide extra Disney magic (and a chance to catch your breath), and you don’t need to be a guest at one to stop by, enjoy the ambiance, and relax!