Restaurant Rating: Garden Grill for the Highly Sensitive kids
The Garden Grill Restaurant is a character meal inside The Land Pavilion at Epcot, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We last went in January 2020 and got to meet Mickey (in his adorable farmer outfit), Chip, Dale, and Pluto.
The restaurant rotates, albeit very slowly, and you will get to see some of the scenes from the Living with the Land ride down below.
Usually, character meals are loud and chaotic, and could result in sensory overload for highly sensitive kids. Garden Grill is different! Let me break it down for you.
Noise Level – ⅗
No, this is not your quiet date night kind of place. You’ll definitely hear other groups around you excited to see characters. But it is not insanely loud, especially given it is a character meal! An open kitchen and open floor plan seating usually means a high noise level, but the way Garden Grill is set up helps to lessen the sound.
There are two “tiers” of seating–the outer ring on the lower tier, which are booths, and then the inner ring on the upper tier, which are tables. We sat in the booths, and it really felt like our own little private dining area. You can’t see the people sitting in the booths next to you (unless you’re like J who likes to stand up and peek over at fellow diners), or even on the upper tier, since there is a half wall that divides those two levels.
Darkness – ⅕
Garden Grill is a brightly lit restaurant with plenty of pot lights, as well as charming lamps attached to the half wall between the upper and lower tiered seating.
It does feel a little “darker” when you pass through some of the scenes of Living with the Land, particularly the desert one. But it really isn’t so bad. Give your kids a heads up (remember, these kiddos often hate surprises!) and let them know that their surroundings may look a little different or a little darker at some points. We rode Living with the Land right before dinner, so I think the familiarity helped with the kids not being fearful during the meal.
Crowded/Close Proximity to Others – ⅕
Compared to other character dining, Garden Grill is a smaller restaurant so it doesn’t get that crowded feeling like you might at 1900 Park Fare or Crystal Palace.
The seating layout, as explained above, also helps to feel like you have your own dining space. If you are sitting in the booths, you really can’t see any other diners so there is much less visual stimulation in that regard.
I highly recommend asking for a booth if you prefer a little tucked away space to eat your meal! And because the meal is served family-style at your table instead of getting up to a buffet, it really lowers the “chaotic” vibe compared to many other restaurants where you see diners, servers, characters constantly coming and going to the tables.
“Scare” Factor – ⅕
So the only possible “scary” things might be: the characters (if your kids freak out about non-face characters, this would not be the place for you!) and the “dark” scenes from Living with the Land. But honestly, Mickey, Chip n Dale, and Pluto are so much fun! Because the restaurant is so small, they came around multiple times. And the “dark” scenes are really not so bad at all–and you’ll eventually move on to another scene. The scare factor is super low here.
Food Familiarity – ⅕
We know unfamiliar food smells and textures can throw highly sensitive kids off. My kids are generally not very picky, but it always helps to have those kid-friendly staples that you KNOW they are going to eat no matter what.
A huge plate of mac n cheese and fries was part of the family style meal, which is always a huge hit for my kids. Other food items that the kids enjoyed were: mashed potatoes, stuffing, and turkey. All very “safe” and familiar choices.
Disney is also great at accommodating different families’ needs, so don’t be shy and ask your server what they can do for you!
TOTAL – 7/25
How do we understand the rating? A lower score means less sensory overload, while a higher score means a greater likelihood of being overwhelmed and overstimulated. Based on my experience, I would HIGHLY recommend The Garden Grill Restaurant at Epcot for highly sensitive kids. It is one of the best choices for a more low-key character meal.
Have you been to The Garden Grill Restaurant at Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park? What was your experience? Click the image below to join in with the discussion about dining at Garden Grill with your highly sensitive kids, as part of my private Facebook group!