California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort: A First Time Visitor's Review

Updated on April 6, 2017

View of Fireworks from Restaurant

View of Magic Kingdom fireworks from outside viewing deck
View of Magic Kingdom fireworks from outside viewing deck | Source

When planning a trip to Disney World, one of the key areas of focus is sure to be your dining experiences. Many people even plan and make their dining reservations up to 180 days in advance. Disney World is filled with unique restaurants with amenities that range from amazing views to fun with characters. You should definitely set aside some time for research about all the dining choices in order to maximize you family's fun at Disney! Finding the right restaurants for your family and scheduling meals ahead of time can also make for a much more efficient and stress-free trip! I hope my review of the California Grill will help give you some insight as you make your plans.

Why Choose California Grill?

When I began planning our Disney World vacation, a family member recommended the California Grill restaurant because it not only has great food, but is also a great place to view the fireworks show at Magic Kingdom.

The fireworks viewing option was very appealing to me, as it seemed a much more comfortable and convenient way to see the fireworks while avoiding the crowds.

A Sunset View

View of Magic Kingdom at sunset from the lounge at California Grill
View of Magic Kingdom at sunset from the lounge at California Grill | Source

To Know Before You Go

California Grill serves brunch and dinner. It is located on the 15th floor of Disney's Contemporary Resort. The food is described as offering flavors of the Pacific Coast.

I strongly suggest a reservation. This is a very popular restaurant, and I had difficulty finding a dinner reservation near the time of the fireworks. I did finally snag an 8:55 pm reservation, and we were able to check in early around 8:30 pm. You go to a desk on the 2nd floor to check in and will be directed to an elevator to be taken by an attendant up to the 15th floor. If you can arrive with time allowed to explore the unique art and decor of the Contemporary hotel, and it's gift shops! Once we took the elevator to the restaurant and arrived at the top, we sat in the lounge briefly while my husband enjoyed a drink before our table was ready. An added bonus was that the views of Magic Kingdom at sunset were spectacular!

Due to its location and design with large windows for viewing, it makes an excellent location to schedule an evening meal near a time for the nightly fireworks show at Magic Kingdom (which was at 9:30 pm when we were at Disney in May). You can watch from their lounge or go out to the decks during your meal for an amazing view of the Wishes fireworks at Magic Kingdom. The restaurant dims the lights and plays the music from the show on speakers to enhance your viewing experience.

The restaurant's website also states that if you dine before the fireworks show you can bring back your receipt to be allowed in again to view the fireworks from the lounge or decks.

After we were seated, our waiter alerted us to the timing and location to view the fireworks of Epcot and Hollywood Studios from a distance. We could even see them from our table but even better when we walked out to one of the outside viewing decks! Since it is located on the Seven Seas Lagoon, we were also able to view the Electrical Water Pageant while sitting at our table. These were unexpected bonuses we didn't even realize!

Even if the cuisine was not also excellent, the views would be worth the visit. It was a definite favorite for my family!

Joyce Farms Chicken...seriously so good!!!
Joyce Farms Chicken...seriously so good!!! | Source
Sushi!
Sushi! | Source

The Food and Prices

The food items we all ordered were all delicious! This is considered a fine or signature dining experience so the prices are more on the expensive side with dinner entrees ranging from $37-$58. If you are using the Disney Dining Plan it counts as 2 Table Service meal credits. Everything we ordered was excellent even down to the pizzas from the kid's menu. The Joyce Farms Chicken dish I had was one of the best and most flavorful entrees I have ever had!

Florida Sweet Corn Bisque
Florida Sweet Corn Bisque | Source

Have a Magical Time!

Regardless of where you dine, a trip to Disney World is wonderful and magical in and of itself. Additionally, including a visit to the California Grill in your plans can enhance your dining and viewing pleasure. We were able to enjoy an amazing meal, view multiple fireworks shows and comfortably enjoy a great unobstructed view of the most in demand fireworks presentation at Magic Kingdom!

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