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Family-Friendly Restaurants in Orlando

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Nascar Cafe, photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.
Nascar Cafe, photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.
Being the family vacation capital of the world, naturally Orlando Florida offers countless choices for family meals. Let's start with dinner shows, which are on the pricey end of the scale but serve up live performances, acrobatics, and musical entertainment along with good eats. Budget-friendly restaurants are also covered, below.

Orlando Dinner Shows
About.com's Guide for Orlando has an overview of these fun dining experiences, which include a Pirate's Dinner Adventure and a Medieval Times.

Restaurants at Disney World
Guests in the four giant Disney World theme parks can choose from dozens of restaurants. One recommended strategy is to sample at least one of the Character Meals which -- though more expensive -- are great fun especially when kids see their very favorite characters (such as Tigger, who appear at the Crystal Palace restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.) These all-you-can-eat buffets are huge, and a late breakfast or late lunch can power a family for many hours of touring in the theme parks. Read more about eating for value and fun at Disney World.

Families can find just about any type of dining at Disney World: About.com's Guide for Theme Parks has a list of Top Restaurants that includes both "Table-Service" and "Casual" choices, and he offers some options in the lively Downtown Disney entertainment zone as well.

Also of note at Disney World: a major part of the Epcot theme park is the World Showcase area, where eleven pavilions from different countries surround a 41-acre lagoon, and each of these pavilions has restaurants that offer the nation's cuisine. Some pavilions have both a fine-dining choice and a casual eatery. See an overview of restaurants at Epcot's World Showcase.

Restaurants at Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando too offers many choices for dining, both within its two theme parks and in its CityWalk entertainment zone, and families can find character meals here as well. Universal Orlando also has three resorts located near the theme parks and these too have restaurants including high-end dining options; evening kids clubs at these resorts help parents enjoy a night out.

Fun Themed Restaurants
A great place to find fun restaurants outside the theme parks is CityWalk, the entertainment zone that connects the two theme parks at Universal Orlando. CityWalk restaurants include a huge Hard Rock Cafe filled with rock'n'roll memorabilia (and featuring truly giant desserts), NBA City for basketball fans, and a NASCAR Cafe with a game area.

Budget-Friendly Restaurants
These suggestions come courtesy of About.com's Guide for Orlando: More Ways to Save Money on Meals in Orlando:
  • Stay at a place with a kitchenette; many hotels in Orlando are all-suites properties that have kitchen facilities. Standout choices include Nickelodeon Suites Resort, which has two waterparks on-site and theming and entertainment by Nickelodeon, and Disney World's value-priced Art of Animation Resort which has cleverly designed suites.
  • Stay at a place with breakfast included, such as Embassy Suites Orlando Downtown, which is recommended by About.com's Guide for Hotels. Complimentary cooked-to-order breakfasts are a feature at Embassy Suites properties.
  • Check out Discounts at Orlando Restaurants, another resource at About.com's Orlando website.
  • Families visiting Disney World and driving their own vehicle can detour to the MacDonald's restaurant located at 1596 West Buena Vista Drive, between the Animal Kingdom theme park and Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park, and also fairly near Disney's All-Star Movies Resort.
Good to Know:

Orlando has a Restaurant Week, typically in May, that offers a chance to try out different restaurants at bargain prices, with fixed menus starting as low as $10. Meanwhile, September is Magical Dining Month, and again visitors can find multiple-course meals at a fixed price. (Participating restaurants may skew toward the fine-dining sort.)

This brief profile is meant to introduce these dining options to family vacationers; please note that the writer has not visited all these restaurants in person.

Always check destination web sites for updates!

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