Now that we’ve booked our trip to Walt Disney World, I have to work harder than ever to really live in the moment and not to get caught up in that giddy “I can’t wait!” anticipation of an upcoming vacation. There are less than 2 months to go before we board our Southwest jet to Florida, but that time frame is both agonizingly long (I want to see Goofy NOW!) and also painfully short (we return from our trip just a few weeks shy of the start of FALL!). Summer is my absolute favorite season of the year, and I don’t want to spend every gorgeous 90-degree day wishing that it was September, because once fall arrives I’ll just wish that it was summer again! You can see how this unnecessary cycle of longing just causes suffering, and you’d think after all these years of yoga and going to Tibet and pouring over Buddhist texts that I’d get the point, but the truth is–it’s a work in progress.

But the point of this post is not meant to be about Eastern philosophy; rather, Western gluttony. I’m talking about FOOD, and lots of it.

Breakfast at 'Ohana (Polynesian Resort)

I love pixie dust, nightly fireworks, Mickey Mouse, and a hotel with a geyser that erupts every hour on the hour, but one of the best parts of a Disney vacation is the eats, especially when you get your meals for free (thanks to the free dining plan offer we received as part of our package). Bryan and I love sitting down beforehand and mapping out which restaurants we want to try/return to/skip and how they all match up with which park we need to be on which day. For example, if we’re planning to see the Main Street Electrical Parade on Tuesday, then we best be eating dinner in the Magic Kingdom area that night!

The dining plan includes per person, per night: a snack, a counter service meal, and a sit-down restaurant meal.

Snacks include basic things like an espresso, popcorn, and soda, but also way more fun treats like:

… a chocolate-chip covered Mickey pretzel

… a famous Kringla sweet pretzel from Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in Norway

… an iconic chocolate-coated ice cream Mickey or “crisped rice” Mickey

… or a “Hey, it’s kinda healthy” chocolate-and-nut covered frozen banana.

Counter service meals at WDW are plentiful, with many food options (the same cannot be said for Disneyland, unfortunately). Some of our favorite, standby quick-service places include:

… Sunshine Seasons, located in The Land pavilion at Epcot, which has four different food stations with lots of options

Quick-service meals usually come with a choice of dessert, but many places have fruit options that you can sub. Here, I opted for the apple and Bryan stuck with the brownie.

… Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom, where for the past 4 years I have stuck with my trusty veggie burger/Fixin’s Bar combo (I love fixins!)

… Pizzafari at Animal Kingdom and Pizza Planet at Hollywood Studios. At home I don’t like eating pizza more than once a month, but at WDW I’ll eat these babies 3 times a week:

The Junkyard Combo @ Pizza Planet (includes side salad, dessert, and drink)

… and finally, the Tangierine Cafe in the Morocco pavilion, Epcot.

Chicken wrap, couscous, lentil salad, and baklava.

The best part of the dining plan are the sit-down meals, of course, especially when you’re getting the plan for free. Meals can range anywhere from $20 an entree to $50 a plate (especially when you do a buffet), and the food is almost always spectacular.

From The Wave (Contemporary Resort): Salmon in a corn and edamame salad/stew topped with cilantro chutney.

'50s Prime Time Cafe (Hollywood Studios): Pepper stuffed with whole grains and ratatouille.

Prime Time's famous giant S'mores dessert.

Tusker House (Animal Kingdom)'s dessert buffet--and that's just half of it!

Because of the free dining plan offer, reservations at the hottest restaurants are being snatched up fast, especially because Disney opens online reservations 180 days in advance of your stay. Bryan and I booked our trip with only 2.5 months to spare, so it was our priority to get our meals in order. We’ll be staying at the resort for six nights, which means we have six formal restaurant options. After much debate and menu examining, we finally narrowed down our list and made our reservations.

Isn’t the suspense killing you? (or am I the only one who gets overly excited about Disney dining?)

Four of the restaurants are repeat visits. We’ve done ’em before, we love ’em, and we keep coming back:

1. Whispering Canyon Cafe, Wilderness Lodge (our resort!). The name is ironic, because this place is loud, boisterous, zany, wacky, and loads of fun. There are horse races, ketchup wars, and servers who throw straws at you.

All-you-can-eat Canyon Skillet aftermath. It started out as smoked pork ribs, pulled pork, oven-roasted chicken, beef brisket, mashed potatoes, cowboy beans, corn on the cob, mixed greens salad with apple vinaigrette, coleslaw, and cornbread. Oh, and refillable milkshakes, if that's how you roll.

2. Boma, Animal Kingdom Lodge. A generous buffet of African and African-inspired foods. Lots of flavors and textures, way beyond the traditional theme-park food. Be prepared to lengthen the belt a bit after eating here.

A little bit of everything, including nom-nom chicken curry soup.

No one leaves Boma without a Zebra Dome from the dessert buffet.

3. Kona Cafe, Polynesian Resort (mostly for the dessert).

The Kona Cone, which includes candy toppings and cotton candy, of course!

Kilahuea Torte (a.k.a., "Heaven")

It's what's on the inside the really matters.

Dinner isn't too shabby, either. Almond-crusted chicken with mixed greens.

4. Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom. Another buffet, but this time with characters!

Pooh characters make the rounds as you eat.

Buffet overload!

Bryan loves the soft-serve bar.

Why did I ever think an apple would be a good dessert option?!

Our other two selections are new for us, but we’re looking forward to trying out:

5. Teppan Edo, in the Japan pavilion at Epcot; and
6. Yak & Yeti, Animal Kingdom.

Bryan and I never eat this much at home, but we’re able to do so in WDW because all we do all day is walk (in 90+ degree weather!). I wore a pedometer throughout our last trip, and our daily distances averaged between 8 and 10 miles. Plus, Disney food isn’t any old food–it’s fun! I watch my sugar intake at home, but it all goes out the window at Disney:

…Although I’ll admit, aside from being sad about leaving the Happiest Place on Earth, one of the hardest parts about coming home from WDW is going through some serious sugar withdrawal. And general food withdrawal, too! My stomach is always confused for the first few days after returning, wondering why I’m not eating 454879548 calories a day.

Just a little grander than my usual bowl of Kashi GoLean.

So with all that said, of course I am looking forward to going to Disney World and eating my brains out, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, now that all of our reservations are set and confirmed, the only thing I have to worry about now is enjoying the present moment, like the Jersey Devil tomato growing in our driveway:

...which tasted so divine with a dash of salt and pepper.

Time to savor the moment before it’s too late!

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