The holiday season is one of the busiest times of year at Walt Disney World. People gather from all walks of life to give thanks together on a family vacation, or travel hundreds of miles from around the nation and the globe to celebrate together throughout December. While enjoying time at the parks is great, the act of consciously slowing down and gathering around the table for a meal together brings a sense of intimacy and closeness that is often missed during a Walt Disney World vacation. However, a meal of this sort, and one which offers traditional Thanksgiving-style dishes, can be found–if you know where to look.
7 – Sunshine Seasons
Sometimes a vacation to Walt Disney World is too short to “waste time” spending time at a sit-down restaurant. However, family tradition may dictate that one must partake in a meal typical of the late November holiday. Believe it or not, there is a quick service restaurant at Epcot’s Land pavilion that serves a Thanksgiving meal on a daily basis. Sunshine Seasons, located on the pavilion’s lower floor, offers slow-roasted pork, oak-roasted rotisserie chicken, and a rotisserie turkey club sandwich, with mashed potatoes, fried rice, black beans, and pasta salad as sides. Even kids can get in on the Thanksgiving quick service offerings, with options for macaroni and cheese and chicken drumsticks. Guests who aren’t in a rush to jump in line at Soarin’ or Living with the Land may peruse the dessert station, where they can enjoy seasonal sweets, including chocolate bundt cake and strawberry shortcake.
6 – Columbia Harbour House
While the Columbia Harbour House doesn’t serve traditional Thanksgiving-style food (it is more of a seafood restaurant, serving lobster rolls, grilled salmon, and shrimp skewers), the thematic atmosphere and story of the dining location has a distinct autumnal feel to it. Located in the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square near the entrance to Fantasyland, the Columbia Harbour House is reminiscent of a tavern or inn in a New England harbor town hundreds of years ago, complete with nautical artifacts like harpoons, artwork of ships and schooners, figureheads, and a large helm that kids and kids-at-heart can pretend to steer. Even though this restaurant represents the type of restaurant one might find in Maine or Massachusetts in the 1700s and 1800s, it also seems to allude to the boatloads of voyagers arriving on America’s shores in the early colonial period, including the Pilgrims to which the “first Thanksgiving” is attributed to.
5 – Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’
Homecomin’, located at Disney Springs, truly makes guests feel like they are ‘comin’ home.’ The menu of this restaurant, crafted by celebrity chef Art Smith, is abundant in southern, down-home cooking. Guests can gather around the table to enjoy food including biscuits, “Church Lady Deviled Eggs,” fried chicken, French green beans, slaw, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and sweet potatoes. For dessert, one can enjoy a delicious Hamilton County chocolate pecan pie. Adults who want a little something more, however, can choose the Shine Cake, a butter cake soaked in moonshine syrup. There is also a drink menu with abundant options, including more than a dozen wines and moonshines.
4 – Tutto Italia
Back in 2013, my wife and I traveled to Walt Disney World from North Carolina, where we met my parents and brother (who live in Michigan) for a long Thanksgiving weekend at the parks. Wanting to enjoy a big Thanksgiving meal but also realizing we were at Disney, we decided to plan a meal that would be unconventional for our midwestern family. Tutto Italia in Epcot’s Italy pavilion, has a menu that features a number of pasta dishes such as fettuccine and penne alla vodka. The restaurant also offers a handful of options for those, like my mother, who are not fans of pasta, including pan seared salmon, parmesan chicken, and steak. While gathering around a large table with friends and family in Tutto Italia’s dining room is a nice, intimate escape from the busy public spaces of Epcot, the excuses of the holiday make it acceptable to try out one of the several desserts offered. The restaurant’s menu lists a number of authentic options, including stuffed panna cotta, tortas, tiramisu, cannoli, gelato and sorbet.
3 – Be Our Guest Restaurant
While the Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest Restaurant, located in Fantasyland, is inspired by the 1991 animated feature, Beauty and the Beast, and serves French-style cuisine, this immersively themed restaurant is a great place to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. This restaurant, which charges guests a set fee for a multicourse meal, inviting guests to choose appetizers including French onion soup and lobster bisque; entrees such as herb-salted pork tenderloin, center-cut filet mignon, and poulet rouge chicken accompanied by mashed potatoes, corn cake and seasoned vegetables; and delicious desserts like chocolate truffles, mousse, pistachio cake,or meringue. Adult guests can choose to sip on a glass (or entire bottle) of wine to cleanse their palettes after their hearty meal. However, it is the view outside the floor-to-ceiling windows of the grand ballroom that really set the mood of the season: gentle snowfall floats out of the sky while snow-capped mountains loom off in the distance, creating the feeling that even though the temperatures outside the restaurant may be hot in the Florida sun, the cozy atmosphere of the Beast’s castle amidst the French Alps in the dead of winter further adds to the warm feeling of the holidays.
2 – 50’s Prime Time Cafe
Another great option to enjoy a memorable Thanksgiving meal is located in the Echo Lake neighborhood of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While dining at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, guests find themselves in the kitchen and dining room of a stereotypical home reminiscent of sitcoms from the 1950s. According to the story being told, the servers are guests’ cousins, aunts and uncles, while Mom is hard at work in the backstage kitchen preparing a delicious meal for the family. To add to the fun of this dining environment is the sarcasm and strictness with which the servers interact with the guests: individuals who exhibit poor manners or don’t finish a meal will experience the playful wrath of the servers. What makes this a particularly great decision for a Thanksgiving meal is not only the homey environment, but the “comfort food” menu: Aunt Liz’s Country Fried Chicken, Cousin Megan’s Meatloaf, and Mom’s Pot Roast are all accompanied by mashed potatoes and assorted warm vegetables, all leaving a warm and sleepy feeling in guests’ bellies. The meal is finished with a delicious serving of warm apple crisp with a dollop of vanilla ice cream in lieu of pie.
1 – Liberty Tree Tavern
The final restaurant on our list of suggestions, also located in Liberty Square, provides guests the opportunity to enjoy perhaps the most authentic of potential Thanksgiving meals, which is made even more complete by offering a cozy setting. Meant to invoke an inn in colonial Williamsburg during the Revolutionary Era of American history, the tavern has a number of rooms that are made up to resemble the “homes” of many of the nation’s Founding Fathers including Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, and Thomas Jefferson, giving it a distinctly cozy and homey feeling. However, it is the food offered on the all-you-care-to-enjoy menu that makes the Liberty Tree Tavern a perfect place for a Thanksgiving meal: roasted turkey breast, pot roast, mashed potatoes, seasoned vegetables, herbed stuffing, and macaroni and cheese. The best part: even if you don’t get a chance to visit during the holidays, the Liberty Tree Tavern serves this Thanksgiving-style meal year-round. And that is something to be thankful for.
Editor’s Tip: If you can’t get a reservation for Liberty Tree Tavern, try for a time at The Diamond Horseshoe in Frontierland. Not only will you get a truly American western themed restaurant, but the menu and food are the same as what is offered at Liberty Tree Tavern!
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