Disney dining is one of the most popular parts of a Disney vacation. Where else can you have dinner with Disney characters while slowing moving through a Walt Disney World ride? Wait–what?
At The Land, the Epcot pavilion where you’re sure to be heading for Soarin’, there’s another, less-known but undeniably delightful hidden gem of an attraction: Living With the Land. This slow-moving boat ride takes you past ecosystem show scenes and through the domed greenhouse that has always been the centerpiece of The Land pavilion at Epcot. The American Prairie, a rustic farmhouse everyone wants to move right into, and a windswept desert are some of the ride’s most popular scenes. See them by boat first, then head upstairs to Garden Grill, and see new vantage points while you eat a delicious meal. Now that’s classic Disney dining — with a twist!
Garden Grill is Walt Disney World’s fun take on a rotating restaurant, and if you’ve never had the opportunity to eat supper on a giant turntable, what are you waiting for? The turntable doesn’t move quickly — you’re not going to get seasick while you wait for your great big platters of meat and potatoes — but the motion is definitely perceptible as you watch the scenery glide past from your table.
And since it’s gently rolling past Living With the Land’s ecosystem scenes, you’ll get awesome views of the rainforest, desert, prairie, and American farm right from your table. I never realized that the rockwork for the desert continues right up to the restaurant, giving a really immersive experience for diners. And did you know that the second-floor bedroom of the beautiful American farmhouse is furnished? If you are like me and have dreamed of exploring that farmhouse ever since you were a child, you’ll love glimpsing the interior at last.
When it comes to food, the meal is both delicious and a little on the average side. If you have any picky eaters in your group, they’ll probably be very happy with the traditional American offerings at Garden Grill. And really, even if this isn’t the most adventurous Disney Dining option, everything tastes great. What’s not to love?
A salad and some nice rolls start you off; a big platter for the family to work through comes out next. Roast turkey and roast beef, mashed potatoes and stuffing, lemony fish and roasted vegetables — I found it all delightful, even though it was definitely not the farm-to-table fare that an ecology/agriculture-based pavilion might be expected to deliver in its signature restaurant. Heck, it was probably all Stouffer’s. But it was all good, and I cheerfully ate too much.
There’s also a kid’s offering, and Calvin was presented with a large quantity of creamy macaroni-and-cheese (again, Stouffer’s consistency, which is delicious if not artisanal) and some broccoli, which he ate dutifully before consuming an impressive amount of cheesy pasta.
By the time we got to the dessert, which was a piping hot skillet of berry crumble, we were nearly too full to appreciate the vanilla bean whipped cream on top, which blew the forgettable crumble away.
But everyone knows you don’t book character dining restaurants for the innovative chef’s offerings. You are there for the characters, and Garden Grill offers Mickey Mouse, Pluto, and Chip ‘n Dale, all in fun farmer’s costumes. It seemed like every five minutes another character was showing up for a visit, and they all wanted to hang out, pose, steal food, give hugs, clown around, and generally offer the best character interactions I’ve ever seen.
After the third time hopping up for hugs, though, we were all character’d out. We waved Mickey on by as he waltzed up for a fourth visit, and he went cheerfully — I guess this happens a lot at Garden Grill, maybe because the restaurant’s simple circular lay-out lets them negotiate the entire place so easily. If you want lots of time to play with characters, Garden Grill seems to be your best bet.
Price-wise, Garden Grill is on par with most character dining experiences — about $42 for adults, $19 for children ages 3-9. Not cheap, but the price includes a non-alcoholic beverage, and this is an all-you-can-eat experience. Want more roast beef? Ask for more roast beef. Want more of everything? The server will bring you out another platter with all the choices.
There’s also a vegetarian option I’ve heard good things about, but haven’t tried… yet.
All in all? Come for the characters and the view — stay for the wholesome and abundant food. It’s not a gastronomic wonderland, Garden Grill, but it sure is a good time.
Beware of the dog.
Garden Grill has seasonal pricing, but generally you’ll find the adult price range is $37.97-$45.00, and the children’s (ages 3-9) price range is $19.10-$27.00. If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, it’s one table-service credit.