We've traveled to Disney World in parties of all sizes, ranging from just us as a couple to our most recent trip, which was a group of 14 people! This trip was with my husband's side of the family. There were 8 adults and 6 children (ages 6 and under!). As the coordinator for our trip, I needed to figure out the best way for us to get "family time" while also allowing everyone to do their own thing and go their own pace. Our solution? Family meals!
We planned one meal per day that we would share together. The rest of the time was spent touring as individual families, which worked GREAT! There was one day that we shared lunch AND dinner, but every other day we met up for one meal together. We loved catching up over a meal about what we had been up to that day!
In figuring out which restaurants would be best for us, I looked for varied food options (to please every palate) and either fun atmosphere or other benefit for our group. Here were our selections:
This was an easy choice: buffet, laid-back atmosphere, and CHARACTERS! The food was really good (with lots of different options) and we got to interact with characters as an entire family of 14 - which would be difficult in the parks!
50s Prime Time Cafe (Hollywood Studios)
This was our one lunch all together, and it was so fun! Of course the atmosphere at 50s Prime Time is always fun (with servers fussing at you to eat your veggies and telling you to mind your manners!), but with our group it was even funnier. Our server gave us the challenge of listing 20 Disney animated movies that have one-word titles (it's harder than you'd think!). We all enjoyed brainstorming together, and my brother-in-law and I bonded over our love for an old fashioned Cherry Coke. :)
Hollywood Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios)
To be honest, I only chose this for our group because we wanted the Fantasmic Dinner Package (which includes dinner and reserved seating for a showing of Fantasmic). Normally we wouldn't choose such a nice restaurant for a large group with young children (it's just a nicer atmosphere and a more sophisticated menu), but this ended up being a great meal! The prix fixe menu was a good value and the kids enjoyed their included ice cream dessert! It was definitely worth the reserved seating at Fantasmic, which is always crowded!
Via Napoli (Epcot)
We ate here for lunch and it was delightful! The pizzas are huge and feed LOTS of people, so we just ordered 2 pizzas and went to town! We were also seated in an area that had lots of windows and felt very private, so that was nice to have our own "space."
This is probably my favorite restaurant at Disney World right now! This was our own family's second time to eat here, but it was the first time for our other family members. Food is served family style, which is really easy and convenient - no ordering necessary! They just start bringing the food, which is wonderful for antsy kids (and adults!). So delicious and fun for families - especially when the kids can join a little parade around the restaurant!
Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom)
Another buffet with CHARACTERS! I prefer Chef Mickey's as far as the food goes, but Crystal Palace still offers variety and kid-friendly items. Crystal Palace is the most "hectic"-feeling to me, but we were seated at the back of the restaurant (by the windows), which was the perfect area! We weren't near the buffet and there weren't a ton of people walking by our table (which I've experienced before). Overall, this is family-friendly and was a good fit for what we needed - lots of options and the opportunity to hang out with Winnie the Pooh and friends!
Disney does a great job in providing family-friendly restaurants and experiences. Do be aware that sometimes your party will have to be split up if there's a large amount of people. We only had this happen at Chef Mickey's and Crystal Palace, but our tables were right next to each other. If you have a large family gathering at Disney World, I definitely recommend aiming for one shared meal a day. It's a great balance and allows you the family time you want while giving freedom the rest of the time!