Do you prefer quick service or full service dining on a theme park visit?

April 20, 2018, 12:04 PM · If you're spending a full day at Disney or some other theme park, you've probably got to eat at some point. But what?

Do you go for the (relative) speed and convenience of a quick-service meal, or for the break and (usually) more immersive experience of table service? Or do you go for ultimate speed and skip restaurants in favor of noshing at food carts all day?

Of course, this decision in practice comes down to the specific options in the park. I don't know of anyone who sticks only to quick service or table service or carts during all their theme park visits. If you did, you'd be missing on some great experiences, whether it be Universal's Leaky Cauldron, Disney's Tiffins, or whatever wild concoctions parks are serving at their latest food and wine festival.

Universal's Leaky Cauldron

So let's talk about your general philosophy, instead. What category of food service do you find yourself gravitating toward on your theme park trips? And why is that? (Let's consider character meals under the table service option here.)

Since I visit so many parks solo, I tend toward quick service restaurants, since table service feels like overkill to me when I'm eating alone. Perhaps to balance that, I almost always book table service places when I'm visiting with others. What's your habit with theme park dining?

Replies (15)

April 20, 2018 at 12:10 PM ·

I do all three with the family on a visit.

However, I will always plan out one good themed restaurant per day that I visit. That usually means table service, but sometimes a high quality quick service will make the cut (ex: Be Our Guest).

April 20, 2018 at 12:21 PM ·

My husband and I love taking a break in the full service restaurants... We sometimes plan trips around where we'll eat :-). Finnegans, Confisco, Mythos, Lombards, Leaky... they're all in the rotation on our trips to USO.

April 20, 2018 at 1:22 PM ·

We tend to try whatever is new along with a mix of our favorite table and counter service restaurants from previous trips. If I'm going to have a counter service meal, I typically want to have it during the dinner hours, but availability and costs (lunch at some CS restaurants can be a much better value) may force my hand. My rule of thumb when traveling is to try to have at least one really nice sit down meal at a restaurant we've never experienced, and seek out one new quick serve establishment (or at least a new menu item) that we've never had before. We almost always go to WDW during the EPCOT F&W Festival, so that in itself presents dozens of new dishes to try that usually encompasses an entire day of adventurous eating.

April 20, 2018 at 1:17 PM ·

Quick service or food carts within the parks. I seldom to never do table service at the Disneyland resort because A. Downtown Disney is so close and I really enjoy taking a relaxing break from the parks. B. There are not that many options at Disneyland (a little better at DCA). C. It's hard to get in when I want to. I don't plan my trip around where to eat. That said I like Carthay Circle and the Wine Country Trattoria best and will defiantly check out the new Lamplight Lounge.

April 20, 2018 at 2:09 PM ·

When I did my Florida trip last year, I ended up doing mostly table service restaurants. However, that was an anomaly, and largely due to it being a special trip to destination theme parks full of unique offerings. For most theme park visits (both local and non-local), I stick to quick service in order to save both time and money. The exception is if I'm visiting a park with a particularly noteworthy table service restaurant, or if I've visiting a local park with people who don't visit often and would like to do a full service meal. As for food carts...those are only if I want to grab a snack between meals.

April 20, 2018 at 5:48 PM ·

I went to an Orlando City game last year and the guy in front of me bought a beer (one of those sporting venue bottle can things) from the vendor for $10. Then the guy came around again and he bought ANOTHER ONE. I wanted to smack the guy and say do you even realize you just spent $20 on two cans of Bud Light.

Basically what i'm saying is I rarely ever eat at either QSR or TSR in parks or any entertainment venue. Maybe once every few years I will buy something at a park (and I spend a lot of time at parks). Every time you buy something you are basically saying its worth the price to you...and yea...the prices for food at these parks is just not worth it to me. It smells good but not so much when you look at your bank account when you get home.

And these companies just flat out take advantage of it now. When I was a kid i'd go to Disneyland with my friends and spend $4 for lunch...that same dish cost like $10 now, and i'm not that old. Clearly they're very successful and god bless them for making money but still that's just gouging and not worth it...i'd honestly rather eat across the street.

April 20, 2018 at 6:09 PM ·

Most of the time we eat at quick service restaurants. We do go to a nice restaurant at least once per trip. We dont do buffets anymore. As much as i like character dinners, we just cant eat that much and if i pay that much i am tempted to eat too much and feel miserable for the rest of the day.

April 20, 2018 at 8:21 PM ·

For me one thing that distinguishes a good theme park from a great one is it's table service restaurants, if any. It's a great respite from a pleasant, but tiring all day theme park visit. Tokyo's SS Columbia, Carthay Circle, and the classic Blue Bayou set the standards imo and most don't even come close.
You go to a theme park to escape the outside world and you go to the table service restaurant to escape the theme park lol.

April 20, 2018 at 9:10 PM ·

It really depends on the park and vacation. Universal tends to close early and has the Unlimited Express Pass, so table service can really cut into the rides. If it is closing at seven, I do not want to take up the time. If it is a lengthy WDW vacation where you have to plan everything around the crowds, then a table service can be a nice break in the crowds, and WDW tends to stay open later allowing the lines to die down (somewhat). Disneyland still has the old FP system, so table service can cut into the rides, but it is kind of a hybrid between UO and WDW, so it depends on the length of stay. I will say WDW has some amazing table service restaurants. It is hard to go to DL and not get a Monte Cristo sandwich, though.

April 20, 2018 at 9:46 PM ·

We have never (really!) done a table service meal in any themepark ever. We find it a waste of time to sit for s couple of hours and eat /wait for food. Even when the kids were small.

To be able to get some rest, we hardly ever do a themepark visit on 2 consequitive days. This gives is enough time to rest.

April 20, 2018 at 10:44 PM ·

If it's a one-day trip, I'll opt for quick service. If I have an annual pass or visiting for a couple of days, then I'll spring for at least one table service meal.

April 21, 2018 at 5:28 AM ·

It's so depending on my mood. I love 'm all but I will never book in advance because I like to be free on my vacation.

April 21, 2018 at 4:51 PM ·

If I'm with my family, we'll have a sit-down now and then but we mostly go for fast service as on the move so much and thus faster. But a good sit-down at a nice place (we love Mexico and Canada at Epcot) can be a nice break.

April 23, 2018 at 2:39 PM ·

We usually do quick service to maximize ride time, but may do a table service if there's a special occasion--birthday dinner at BOG or needing to try the Leaky Cauldron. We stopped getting the DDP when our older son turned 10, as the price wasn't worth it for us, and the rules of free dining changed.

April 23, 2018 at 3:41 PM ·

I enjoy and usually try for table service. But getting in is very difficult so I usually settle for fast.

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