An Evening Overlooking the Magic Kingdom

This post is part of the
Disney at Night series

Something magical happens at night in Walt Disney World. Things seems to come alive in a new way and all that you’ve seen that day has whole new mystique.

One of my favorite places to be at night is in the Magic Kingdom. The Haunted Mansion is just a bit creepier, Tomorrowland glows in a sea of neon and fireworks light up the sky. And while I love being immersed in the magic, I often times prefer to watch it from afar.

Martini at the California Grill (Running at Disney for Mouse on the Mind)
No reservations required

Confession time: I am a Disney food junkie. I plan my trips around my meals and will even forgo a night in the parks to enjoy a long dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. Blasphemy, I know.

One of my favorite places to have dinner is California Grill, not only for the amazing food, but for everything else it has to offer. You will find exceptional service, 360-degree views of the Walt Disney World property and a private viewing area for the Magic Kingdom fireworks.

Reservations can be hard to come by at California Grill, and dinner can definitely set you back a few bucks. But there is a way to enjoy everything the restaurant has to offer without breaking the bank or having to get up at the crack of dawn to make a reservation 180 days prior (that’s just crazy!!). The restaurant has a wonderful bar and lounge area that you can grab a drink, a few appetizers or even a full meal. No reservations required. 

My favorite time to get there is just before sunset when there is a rainbow of colors across the sky. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to snag a table in the lounge next to the window, in which case make sure you don’t have any other plans because you will want to stay there forever. It is the perfect spot to watch the sun set over the Grand Floridian Resort and see the Magic Kingdom come alive in lights.

Sunset from the California Grill (Running at Disney for Mouse on the Mind)

Instead of ordering a full meal, my husband and I like to take our time ordering drinks, then multiple appetizers. Flatbreads are always a great starter. These change seasonally, but you can never go wrong with the four cheese.

California Grill Flatbread (Running at Disney for Mouse on the Mind)

If you like sushi, then you are definitely in for a treat. This is by far the best sushi on Walt Disney World property, and some of the best I’ve ever had anywhere! The rolls are much larger than what you would get at your local sushi place, so they are great to share. You can get very adventurous with the Dragon Roll or enjoyed a supped up of the more traditional California Roll.

California Grill Sushi (Running at Disney for Mouse on the Mind)

Oh and let’s not forget dessert…chocolate cake anyone?

California Grill chocolate cake (Running at Disney for Mouse on the Mind)

By now, it’s surely time for fireworks! The restaurant will dim the lights and pipe in the music that corresponds with the fireworks. You can also go outside on one of the two viewing decks if it’s a nice night. The music plays over the speakers out there as well.

Wishes is always nice, but my favorite fireworks to watch from here the special event shows like Happy HalloWishes because the added perimeter fireworks are incredibly impressive from this vantage point.

Wishes Fireworks (Running at Disney for Mouse on the Mind)

Electrical Water Pageant (Running at Disney for Mouse on the Mind)Finally, the evening culminates with one of the longest ongoing shows in Walt Disney World, the Electrical Water Pageant. This show still has all of the charm of the early days and continues to warm the hearts of visitors today. The parade passes by the Contemporary Resort in Bay Lake around 10:05 p.m., and you can get a great view from the back deck.

I tell you all of these wonderful things, but sadly, the restaurant is closing on January 6, 2013 for a full renovation and is planned to reopen in late summer of that year.  The décor is a bit dated so this is a welcome change.  I just hope they keep my coveted lounge area!

So time’s a wastin’…head on over to California Grill soon and have a magical evening!

Have you ever watched Wishes from a signature restaurant? Which has your favorite view?


Sarah is a Disney addict, DVC member and loves running through her Happy Place. Follow her on Running at Disney, and she’ll see you at the finish line!


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