Best Restaurant: Rainforest Cafe
Rainforest Cafe is one of a few non-disney restaurants available for your dining pleasure at WDW. While some of you may be thinking, “We have a Rainforest Cafe back home, why would I go there at Disney?” Well then you’d be missing out on a fun, entertaining, and very kid-approved dining adventure. Plus, you can relive some of those special Disney memories you made at Disney’s Rainforest Cafe long after your trip ends at your local restaurant—add a little bit of Disney Magic to keep you going between trips to WDW.
ABOUT THE RESTAURANT
Rainforest Cafe is part of a chain of restaurants that were started in 1994 at the Mall of America. Since then they have expanded to twenty-two restaurants, with locations in the United States, Canada, London, Tokyo, Paris, and Dubai. The restaurant is jungle themed, with lush and intricate decorations, animatronics, animal figurines, plant life, water features, and more. The restaurant is divided into different sections, each with its own theming. The restaurants also include a signature bar area under a mushroom cap, featuring custom bar stools by artist Glenn Carter, sculpted to look like the legs of various jungle animals.
Visiting the restaurant is like stepping into a jungle or rainforest. There is lush vegetation and deeply intricate decor and theming. Guests can enjoy enormous fish tanks with real tropical fish, water features like fountains and rain curtains, and detailed animatronics that bring the jungle theme to life. Be on the lookout for animatronics like elephants, gorillas, tigers, crocodiles, and more. Each location has a unique design with different animatronics and decor so that every trip is a new adventure.
The Disney Springs location is unique in its design being housed inside a volcano, which periodically “erupts” throughout the day—with special effects both inside and outside of the restaurant. Guests can also enjoy the “Lava Lounge” located on the exterior of the restaurant. This waterfront lounge offers tropical drinks in fun souvenir cups.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Rainforest Cafe has two locations on Walt Disney World Resort property. One is at Disney Springs, which is housed inside of a volcano, and the second can be found just outside the entrance to the Animal Kingdom park. You do not need theme park tickets to visit either location. While an ADR is not required, it is recommended as both locations are popular and do fill up. If you’d like to get a table faster, you can join the “Select” Club (a points reward club from Landry Inc.—the parent company of Rainforest Cafe), which has, among other benefits, the perk of “priority seating.” You can read more about Landry Select on the WDW Discount Club Blog.
Both locations accept some DDPS (Disney Dining Plans), and should only require one credit per person. Rainforest Cafe does not participate in the Tables in Wonderland program. The Animal Kingdom location is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the Disney Springs locations is only open for lunch and dinner. You’ll find the same menu at both locations.
The menu is a wide mix of pasta, salads, burgers, chicken, and fish—all served up with an exotic flair and puny names. There is a kids menu for guests ages 9 and under, with kid-approved favorites like chicken nuggets (dino shaped), pizza, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, etc. But Rainforest Cafe is a great place to try and expand the tastes of a picky eater. Most of the dishes on the regular menu are familiar enough, with a few little tweaks and additions. Plus, with everyone so wrapped up in the decor, theming, and experience of the restaurant itself, this is a perfect place to start blazing your own culinary trail. Fan favorites include the Sparkling Volcano dessert. A volcano is made out of three wedge-shaped brownies, with vanilla ice cream between them, and whipped topping on top, drizzled with both chocolate and caramel sauce; this one is definitely big enough to share—and perfect to be topped with a candle for someone’s birthday! The Lava Mud is also a very popular kids menu dessert item. Similar to childhood favorite “worms in dirt,” this dessert has gummy worms in chocolate pudding, with cookie crumbles for the dirt.
● The restaurant employs a mix of live and animatronic animals to create the jungle atmosphere. ● At the Disney Springs location, they will occasionally do a tropical bird show (with real birds) outside of the entrance to entertain guests. ● The Animal Kingdom location is open early, so you can have breakfast before the park opens. ● Unlike other WDW restaurants, the Rainforest Cafe is not actually inside of the Animal Kingdom park; though you can have an early breakfast there, it unfortunately will not get you early access into the park itself.
While it’s not a Disney-created experience, I think that the Rainforest Cafe is a natural fit for WDW. A trip to the restaurant isn’t just about the food—it’s an experience. The lush and elaborate decor really helps transport guests away and into a whole new world. The animatronics are reminiscent of the much beloved Jungle Cruise, and just like all good Disney rides, the restaurant even has a gift shop. While it’s not fine dining, the menu is varied and sure to offer something that will appeal to everyone in your group. Rainforest Cafe is a fun and energetic experience for the whole family!