15 people, where would you eat?
We have 3 2-bedroom villas at Beach Club in October and I am in charge of booking dinners for each night. We have 15 people, and part of the "complication" is that we'll be at F&W quite a bit.
My experiences in the past has been limited to just my wife and me, along with different stages of our growing family, 3 girls (7, 4 & 8 months). We eat out every night. We eat breakfast every morning in the room, and plan to do this except for one character breakfast at Cape May.
My question is, while we have spots we like we never look from the perspective of a large group. So, what are the "must-do's" for a large group? A few things to consider:
1) We have 10 adults and 5 kids, and have TIW, so plan to split the check by using the TIW on the 10 adult meals.
2) Cost isn't a huge factor.
3) 2 of the children on the trip will be 5 years old, and this will be their first trip. One boy/one girl. They are already really excited and we have been asked to include on character meal outside of breakfast at Cape May. We've done Akershus with our girls for lunch a number of times, but I'm not sure that works for a group of 15? We are not overly familiar with any of the other character meals so suggestions would be great.
4) I would love to hear from people who have handled planning for large groups, and would love feedback on what you would do differently (or not!).
5) This past November we had an impromptu, early lunch at Yak n Yeti. Even though it was 11:30, and I was not hungry and not feeling great (up most of the night with the baby), I thoroughly enjoyed the meal. When we were there it wasn't crowded, and I'm not a big fan of lunch reservations, would we need one there? It was only 1/3rd full when we left and on a weekday in October I'm not sure it'd be much busier? Part of my issue is that I don't want to overplan, and I feel like lunch ADR's can lead to overplanning...are they only open for lunch?
Most of our stays have been at the Beach Club so we are quite familiar with that area, but are aware that dynamics change with a large group. For instance, we enjoy Teppan Edo, but I know that wouldn't work. I also have to factor in F&W.
Any thoughts/suggestions are appreciated. We will have 8 nights, and are leaning towards one night at the Cape May buffet (probably the last night) in addition to a character breakfast, so I basically have 7 nights to plan. Thanks!
I think O'Hana breakfast or dinner would be a good choice for your size family. I would try to reserve right on that 180 mark because of the party size. You may need to call because of the party size. They take TIW and have fun activities for the kids during mealtime. The food is pretty good, sometimes it's really good and sometimes ok. It's served "family" styled
I have a review posted on my review website if you'd like to take a look, we were an "extra small" party (LOL :lmao:) but, still gives you an idea of how dinner is served. They also have kid's items as well.
Another place that comes to mind that can accommodate larger parties but is a little upscale is Il Mulino at the Swan. But, it may be a longer dining experience with not too much for the kids to do. They do have side rooms in which they can accommodate larger party sizes. Food is very good here. I also have a review there as well. They also accept TIW.
I have done 3 large group vacations at WDW for our family. We have had anywhere from 11 to 17 people. We usually stay at BCV since that is my home resort.
The first one was a disaster. Why? Because I planned all meals, activities and touring together, as a group. It just doesn't work. So my first and most important piece of advice is to not plan to be together all of the time.
The next two vacations went much more smoothly. This is how I did them:
We did the first meal as a group. Both vacations we did Tusker House character breakfast on our first morning. This is my favorite character meal because the food is good and varied. Plus we get the photo with Donald all as a big group.
Our last night together I book Hoop de Doo for everyone. It works great for large groups and all ages enjoy it. Again, you get another group photo so you have bookend photos as an entire group-the beginning with Donald at Tusker and the last night at Hoop de Doo.
We did the last meal as a group. Both vacations it was Cape May breakfast. I like it because it's right at the resort, it's relaxing and easy to have conversation along with good character interaction before everyone heads to the airport.
Through the rest of the vacation, there were sometimes dinners booked togther but nothing during the day. That way it was not required that everyone be at the same place at the same time. I set up a meeting time every morning in the BCV lobby. It was the same time every morning. Those who wanted to tour in a larger group could chat and discuss it; those who wanted to sleep in just skipped the meeting. Everyone has cell phones so it's easy to check in later.
I scheduled every adult couple in the party an evening to themselves; a date night. Their kids were absorbed in with the aother families for the 2 hours of their date dinner. Every couple picked their own date night restaurants and everyone loved being able to do it. It wasn't required and not every couple wanted to do it but it was offered and some took advantage of it.
We also had one night that was adults only; the kids went to the Sandcastle Club at BC. We always choose bluezoo for that dinner because it's not child friendly and we enjoy that meal a lot. The youngest child in our group has been 3 so this worked for us. I realize that if you have an 11 month old you won't be able to use kids' clubs. The kids loved this more than anything else. In fact, after that night, they wanted to go to the kids club every night.
We do not set touring plans together. We have found that two children can have vastly different ideas of what is fun to do. On our last one, we had one child who only wanted to meet characters. Another wanted to do rides. Touring together would not have worked. So by not planning things that mandate being together works better in my opinion.
We went during food & wine last time so my husband and I rented a cabana at Typhoon Lagoon one day and took all of the kids while the other adults went and enjoyed the day at F&W. They all said they had a great time at F&W but I think my husband and I had more fun with the kids at the waterpark. :thumbsup2
A dinner was booked every night for those who didn't have individual plans. Most restaurants can seat large groups together. Some days, this was our only time together as a group and it was fun getting to talk about what we each did that day.
Oh, and on our last one we did go to MNSSHP together. We had a blast. October is not a slow time; I would not count on in-park walk ins for lunch at TS places. We only ever do 1 TS a day with the exception of the 2 character breakfasts I mentioned above. We found staying flexible during the day was much easier on everyone.
I'm not a fan of buffets, but Boma worked out really well for our party of 18. It just makes it so easy when you don't have all those people ordering and food coming out at different times, etc. If the adults want to chat a bit first, they can, and the kids can go up and start eating.
For something more upscale, my husband and I once shared the wine room at California Grill with a large party. They seemed to be having a great time (even though it was a little loud for us. lol.) I don't know if you could request the room specifically.
I don't know if you are looking for a place in Epcot since you may be stuffing yourself at F&W everytime you are there, but Biergarten would be fun with a big group. You could get 2 8 person tables right next to each other (you wouldn't be able to all sit at one) and enjoy the band and the kids could get out on the dance floor. DD loved it there when she was 5 (and 3, and 4 and 6), and our friends' sons love it too.
Via Napoli has a large table centered on the pizza ovens that seats large groups. That would be a fun meal, and the food is delicious.
We had a Grand Gathering of 15 last August. My parents were celebrating their 50th Anniversary with their 3 kids and their families. We decided the best approach was two large meals - one at the beginning of the trip and one at the end. Each family could then do their own meal planning to what suited them. In addition, Grandma&Grandma booked one meal with each individual family to spread their attention.
My large group meals were booked outside parks, so families could go where they wanted during the day. We had Chef Mickey's for dinner to start. Although, food is always hit or miss there, it was amazing for the large group. They placed everyone in two side by side large circle tables. Allergies were accommodated, and as we were "celebrating" it was the perfect atmosphere. I ordered a cake ahead of time and the service was amazing for my family. Also, we were able to get the group photo before the meal of all 15 together.
The last large group seating was at Whispering Canyon. It was a dud (and I had eaten there before). They wanted to do 3 small tables not close by -- for the first seating of the night! Eventually, worked to two tables but couldn't communicate between. Everyone had to have the skillet, and server didn't bother with antics, and it was SLOW.
Some hints -- try to book the first seating of the night (5:00-ish) to have better chance of seatings. Any meal over 6 people is a large group and you are charged 18 percent automatically.
My "grandparent" meal of 6 was at Akersus, and again was quite nice. That time I picked the last breakfast seating for more quiet and lots of princess time. Again, having the photo made a nice souvenir for groups. We got two packages included because of the size of our party.
EDIT: wanted to add we were staying at the Beach Club. One fun thing Grandpa did was take all the grandkids alone to Beaches&Cream to share the Kitchen Sink. Makes for a special trip memory -- and not something you would do unless you had a bigger group ... or really large appetite! ;)
We have a group of 12 going next week. We have adrs at -
Tusker House (breakfast)
Dad/Grandpa is paying for the sit down meals, so we tried for some that would be in the more reasonable range. One day we don't have an adr, but we may stop in guest services and see if we can get into one of the resort restaurants. Probably Kona if possible.
We have 13 going - first day at Biergarten for either lunch or dinner (we have both reserved at this moment but will cancel one or the other as planning gets closer).
Middle of the week at SciFi for dinner (never been there before and it's okay to be separated), and then BOG for dinner the last night to close the gathering out.
I thought that was ample and we want to maximize the fun and minimize the anxiety of managing so many people.
We've been to the Prime Time Cafe but it was about ten years ago and the food sucked, so that's why we're thinking SciFi.
Any other suggestions for maximizing the dining as entertainment factor? The kids we have could care less about character dining but the WOW is important.
I wanted Biergarten but was overruled unfortunately. :confused3
Thank you all for the great feedback. Funny enough, my sister is coming for the first time since the late 80's!, and she last stayed at the Poly, so she vaguely remembers it and wants to go back--so Ohana's is going to be a must.
We will be at least attempting to eat most of our meals together. We're all siblings who get along very well, have traveled together quite a bit and our kids are all virtually the same ages. We DO have plans to split up for some nights out after dinner.
I do need to look more into the babysitting services, like the Sandcastle Club.
To the poster who recommends Via Napoli, that is definitely on the list. I stopped in just to take a peak and think it'd be perfect to go and split a bunch of pizzas. Biergarten is another spot we've never tried, so I have lots to consider!
I am thinking about leaving one night open to just eat our way around F&W!
One trip we had a few meals together as a large group. The overwhelming favorite after the fact was the ESPN club on the Boardwalk. We were 16 and two tables right next to each other. The tables were near the kids recliners/comfy chair which the kids enjoyed. Not everyone was a sports fan but I think everyone enjoyed the laid back atmosphere. I don't think they take reservations but we showed up early and had no problem.
Crystal Palace was popular too but none of them had ever done a character meal before.
Two bits of advice:
1) many restaurants make you call to reserve ADRs when your party is large, number varies by restaurant.
2) plaza is doable but only has small tables, go off peak time or will wait long time for seating
Boma and 'Ohana were the places that first came to mind when I read your post. We love Via Napoli also.
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