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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

5 best meal deals at Disney

You can't expect us not to take advantage of having a local Momma as a member of the Disney Moms Panel. Soon after we broke the news that Suzannah DiMarzio, who lives in Wesley Chapel, had made it, we started picking her brain and asking her to share some tips with us here at Whoa, Momma.

Here's the first of what we hope is a series of getting Suzannah to spill the goods on the Mouse:

Suzannahmug I may be a member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, but my husband and I still think of that episode on The Simpsons when Homer asks a vendor at Disney World for a churro and is told, "That'll be $14" (D'oh!). Disney churros are really under $4, but the overall reputation stands. With the economy still struggling, if your family is spending its precious time and money hanging out with the Mouse, you want the most bang for your buck. You'll be happy to know there are more options than trying to split a gigantic turkey leg among a family of four (or the seagulls -- whoever gets it first).

Cosmic Rays Starlight Cafe. Located in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, this popular spot is really three quick service restaurants in one. There's an area where you can order chicken items, one to order burgers and one for sandwiches. In the chicken section, you can get a half a rotisserie chicken, served with mashed potatoes and vegetables for $9.49, and for a few dollars more, you can get barbecued ribs added to that combo. It's more than enough to share. Because of its popularity, you may have to wait a while to place your order and find a table, so try to dine at off times, before noon or after 1. Or grab your food and head outside.

Toy Story Pizza Planet. This little gem is over in the back of Disney's Hollywood Studios, near the Muppet*Vision 3-D movie. Here you can find individual pizzas starting at around $6, with combo meals available that include salads and kids meals for ages 3-9 that include a cheese pizza, side item and drink for $4.99. The one caveat here is that the tables are surrounded by a ton of video games, crane toys and other activities that your little ones will beg to play. To avoid this, steer them to an outdoor table where they can people watch instead.

Sunshine Seasons. This food court area is found downstairs inside The Land pavilion in Epcot and offers a variety of unique options for families. There are sections featuring Asian and grilled items, soups and salads, sandwiches, and grab and go items so everyone can find something they like. The Asian and grilled choices all come with two sides and are in the $10 range and are good to share.

Buffets. Don't be afraid to splurge on a buffet dining experience. There are many all-you-care-to-eat spots in the parks and resorts, some offering service to your table, while others are buffets with or without characters. These are especially good values if you have kids that like to eat. In my family I have a son who would choose to exist solely on pizza and chicken fingers and a daughter who is willing to try (and usually like) anything new, so it evens out. If you have picky eaters, you aren't going to get the best value by spending $14.95 on your child eating one plate of mac and cheese. One of the best I've found is the  Whispering Canyon Cafe in Disney's Wilderness Lodge, which has an all-you-can-eat skillet breakfast at $7.49 for a child ag 3-9 and $14.99 per adult. For added fun, be sure to ask for ketchup while you're there. You may or may not thank me later. You don't have to stay at the Lodge to eat there; you can take a boat from the Magic Kingdom to the launch at the Wilderness Lodge or take a bus from any park to the lodge.

Meal planning: One of the best ways to save money is by simple planning. Eat breakfast at home or at a cheaper off-site location. Make lunch your main meal at the park because entrees are similar to those on the dinner menu, but prices are much lower. And if you have small kids, notice what people have on their plates and see if it's enough for two kids to share. Many of them have generous portions. And remember, unlike some parks, Disney does allow you to bring in your own food. So, if you want to pack a picnic for the day, you can do that. But if you are planning to stay more than one day, you probably will want to find an affordable dining option at the park.

The most important thing to realize is that spending the day in Walt Disney World is not like heading to a local chain restaurant, where everyone orders their own item and the kids each get something off the children's menu. You can pick and choose what works for your family and order accordingly. So don't stress and don't be afraid to think outside the combo meal.

-- Suzannah DiMarzio

Follow Suzannah on Twitter @zannaland or her blog.

Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma

[Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 11:06am]


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