kid dessertCreativecommons.org/Brendan C

Travelling with young people is a lot of fun, but finding a place to eat that they find acceptable can be a challenge. When vacationing in Orlando, try these great places that cater to the younger members of the family.

‘Ohana

As soon as you walk in to the Polynesian themed restaurant in Disney’s Polynesian Resort you know the kids will have a great time. The palm fronds and giant carved faces create a tiki-hut atmosphere that most youngsters love. Ukulele music and singing are ongoing and periodic limbo contests and coconut races engage even the most tired child. Have them burn off a little energy by trying the hula hoops before the meal comes.

The kids’ menu includes dumplings, skewers and a variety of foods that can be eaten with the fingers. Dipping sauces just add to the fun – and stickiness. Less adventurous young eaters can ask for more standard selections such as hamburgers or even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The atmosphere is loud, filled with fun and if you’re lucky, Lilo and Stitch may come by to say hello!

Café Tu Tu Tango

This isn’t kid-themed, but it is fun. The décor looks like a brightly decorated artists’ loft, complete with active painters. Local artists set up their easels and paint while dinner is going on, letting patrons watch while they create their art. More than painters love to work here; don’t be surprised if a tango breaks out on the dance floor or a magician unexpectedly finds a coin in your child’s ear.

The menu is tapas-style with many small treats meant to be shared. Plain cheese pizzas are available for those with simple tastes, or try spicy alligator bites and jalapeno macaroni & cheese to light up your dining experience. The brownie sundae should take care of any lingering displeasure in the kids.

T-REX Café

Walk into prehistoric times at this Downtown Disney Restaurant. Wooly mammoths and life-size animatronic dinosaurs will watch you dine and the giant octopus seems to be trying to get out of his tank to grab a bite of your meal. Themed rooms, each with a unique primordial landscape invite a walkthrough to discover what adventure waits around the next corner. There’s even an area for budding paleontologists to dig for fossils while they wait for their plates to arrive.

Ordinary food with a kid-friendly presentation is the key to your young person’s happiness here. Have a Gigantosaurus Burger or Dino-Shaped Chicken Nuggets along with your tower of onion rings and Saber-Tooth Salad. Mom and Dad may want to help finish off the huge fudge cake with ice cream at the end of the meal.

NBA City

Universal CityWalk has the perfect basketball-themed dining experience for the young sports fans. Decorated like the classic arenas of the late 1940s, your dinner is served among multiple screens that display the history and stories of NBA greats. The half-court near the dining area has occasional live-action games to watch, or head to the interactive section to show off your shooting skills to the kids.

Most of the entrees here are for more adult tastes, but the menu includes a selection of burgers and pizzas that many kids will be happy with. The restaurant also offers a variety of chicken wings from spicy to sweet that are best eaten with the fingers and a lot of napkins. A giant old-fashioned milk shake will go a long way towards easing the spicy bite of the hot dipping sauce that comes with the wings.

NASCAR Sports Grille

If your young family members love cars and auto racing, try out this sports bar, also on Universal CityWalk. Each table has a screen to let you watch the most recent races and the décor is rich with photos, NASCAR art and drivers’ helmets. The Tailgate Zone outside has a NASCAR vehicle for fun photos after dinner.

The cuisine is typical American with ribs, pasta and steak meals featured. More particular eaters can choose burgers and fries, or fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. Ribs and chicken tenders with dipping sauces are good for eating with your fingers and come with fries. Plenty of dessert options round out the meal.

Rainforest Café

Walk out of the city into a lush, tropical rainforest complete with special effects and animated wildlife. Even adults will be delighted with the detailed vegetation and impressive waterfall, while the kids will love the care that’s been taken to keep them entertained. An activity book featuring restaurant characters can be downloaded ahead of time or picked up at the restaurant.

The menu is full of the food that kids love: Hot dogs, burgers, grilled cheese, pizza and dippable nuggets of all sorts. Parents will appreciate the healthier side options including fresh fruit and steamed veggies. A full adult menu is available for more refined tastes. Grab an ice cream sandwich to nibble on as you head back out into the Florida sunshine.

Sweet Tomatoes

No themes here, just a comfortable, family-friendly buffet, ideal for when you want to relax and let the kids choose their own meals. Sometimes children do better when the atmosphere is familiar, and Orlando has five locations, making it easier to have a meal in a comfortable place. Some menu items may not be available in all places.

The fare is very healthy with veggie-laden soups and vegetarian pastas on the menu. The fresh baked goods make this more than an ordinary buffet and the menu changes frequently as the seasons change. Sunday morning brunch is a delightful feast of muffins, waffles and cinnamon biscuits, as well as all your regular breakfast favorites such as scrambled eggs and oatmeal.

Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbeque

It’s pretty hard to maintain a serious demeanor when eating barbeque – hands, face, clothes – everything quickly becomes covered in sweet, tasty barbeque sauce requiring a lot of finger-licking and laughter. Bubbalou’s knows this and doesn’t mind at all that you’ll need a stack of napkins, and possibly a bib to enjoy your meal.

The five-page menu is filled with chicken, pork, beef and fried tidbits, but only two salads. The sides are just as filling as the main courses. The kids’ menu offers smaller portions of the regular items in addition to grilled cheese and chicken strips. If the weather is co-operating, get your order to go and have dinner in the park.

Park Plaza Gardens

If you’re traveling with a little lady who loves glamour, the Garden Tea Room is an elegant destination for a special event. Ladies are treated like the royalty they are during this special afternoon Royal Tea. Princess dresses are always welcome. The Royal High Tea menu is made up of traditional British delights such as scones with clotted cream, delicate finger sandwiches, pastries and delicious sweet, hot teas.

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill & Griddle House

Inside the DeLeon Springs State Park, this restaurant is a delightful place to have a meal after wandering the park and swimming in the spring-fed pool. The mill that sits next to the spring was originally used to crush sugar cane. The beautiful oaks surrounding the building are believed to be about 125 years old. Your breakfast is served in the middle of history.

Yes, breakfast – all day long. A hot griddle sits in the middle of your table and you get pitchers of pancake batter along with syrups, fruits and other hotcake toppings. Bacon, sausage, eggs and French toast are optional. Salads and sandwiches are available, as are burgers and fries. The pancakes are all-you-can eat, and the prices are quite reasonable.

Dine With Disney Characters

Have a meal in a storybook when you choose one of the dining options at the Walt Disney World Resort. Some restaurants are only available within the park, but others, such as Chef Mickey’s, can be visited by anyone. Disney characters are always on hand for photos, autographs and sometimes an impromptu waltz through the dining room. Mickey’s Backyard BBQ and 1900 Park Fare also have character dining and don’t require a paid park admission to visit.

Chef Mickey’s is a buffet that offers standard fare such as roast chicken and carved beef. Mickey and his friends also attend the BBQ. There are plenty of kid favourites on the menus, but if Goofy tells you that broccoli is good, it’s possible that broccoli will be your child’s new favorite meal. 1900 Park Fare is a breakfast buffet with Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh. Reservations are strongly recommended for all character dining experiences.

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