This can be especially true at Walt Disney World.  Disney has a huge array of restaurants serving everything from fried chicken strips to gourmet French cuisine to gluten free cupcakes.  Unfortunately, many of these restaurants require reservations made months in advance.  What options do you have if you don’t have reservations?

Places Where You Need Reservations

First, let’s take a look at some of the locations that are almost always fully booked months in advance, except in the slowest of times.  For these places, you can try to get reservations at the last minute, but if you didn’t plan ahead, you shouldn’t plan to stand-by – unless you have plenty of time to kill.

These include most Disney character dining locations (like Cinderella’s Royal Table inside Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom and Chef Mickey’s in Disney’s Contemporary Resort), Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion in Epcot, and most dinner shows (like Hoop Dee Doo Revue in Fort Wilderness Resort).

Other often-booked locations are the California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort (where you can see the Magic Kingdom fireworks if you time your dinner right), and the exquisitely gourmet and truly expensive Victoria and Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian.

Great Alternatives Where You Don’t Need Reservations

The good news is that, with so many dining establishments, Disney has some hidden gems that are more off the beaten path, and you can often visit these Disney World dining locations without a reservation.  Many of these locations offer more exotic fare – so if you are willing to be just a little adventurous, you might just skip a long wait and experience some new and delicious food.

Restaurant Marrakesh

Located it the Morocco Pavilion in Epcot, this restaurants offers African Mediterranean food.  What can you expect?  Plenty of very interesting dishes, including couscous with lamb shank, lemon chicken, roast lamb with rice, and a vegetarian dish.  Desserts include bastilla pastry with ice cream or fruit salad.  The interior of the restaurant will transport you to a time and place thousands of miles away, and perhaps surprisingly also provides belly dancers.  Really!  Of course, this is Disney, so everything is fully family friendly.

You can often get into Restaurant Marrakesh without a reservation.

You can often get into Restaurant Marrakesh without a reservation.

This gem of a restaurant is located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village – which is a Disney Vacation Club property that is located next door to the original Animal Kingdom Lodge, Jambo House.  The restaurant features views of the African savanna with all its animals, and serves food inspired by the tastes of Africa and India.  Enjoy favorites like beef short ribs with rice, pork chop with ginger and pickled lime sauce, or shrimp with green curry sauce.  The unique deserts include cardamom-butter cake and egg-free chocolate cake.

Rainforest Café at the Animal Kingdom

Many people have heard wonderful things about the Rainforest Café – with its animatronic animals, simulated thunderstorms (don’t worry, nobody gets wet), and solid American food offerings.  There are actually two Rainforest Café restaurants on Disney property.  One is located at Disney Springs and it is often crowded.  However, many folks don’t realize that there is a second location at the entrance to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  The interesting thing is that there are two entrances to this restaurant – one from inside the Animal Kingdom theme park and one from outside the park.  So you don’t even need a Disney admission ticket to get in.

The second location of the Rainforest Cafe at Disney's Animal Kingdom offers a chance to dine without a reservation.

The second location of the Rainforest Cafe at Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers a chance to dine without a reservation.

Contempo Café at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

If you are spending the day at Epcot or the Magic Kingdom and you need a break from the theme park crowds, consider a monorail ride to Disney’s Contemporary Resort.  Inside the Grand Canyon Concourse you will find the Contempo Café, a quick service location that serves cheese, pepperoni, and marinated beef flatbreads, salads, and hot sandwiches including turkey and honey lime chicken.  There is also a decent bakery case.  Plus you to enjoy the monorails as they glide by overhead.

No Guarantee – But A Good Chance

During the busiest times of the year, like around Thanksgiving, between Christmas and New Years, and in the summer time, even these less-popular but still-great restaurants may very busy.  It is always best to get Advanced Dining Reservations (ARDs in Disney-speak) whenever you can.  Reservations open up six months in advance, and you can get reservations on the Disney dining web site or by calling the Disney dining reservation center at 407-WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463.

But for those times when you just can’t get reservations – either because you didn’t have enough lead time or plans changed, the restaurants listed above are great options.