Worth It or Not?: Fantasmic! Dining at River Belle Terraceby Megan Walker, contributing writer
Recently, my family and I visited the River Belle Terrace to experience their Fantasmic! Dining Package dinner. While the dining package at the River Belle Terrace is paused while the restaurant undergoes refurbishment, a similar experience runs at Café Orleans from September 5-November 16. A more expensive dining package is available at The Blue Bayou.
Arrival and Seating
When we first arrived at River Belle Terrace for our reservation, there was a bit of a line formed at the host stand. It turned out that the restaurant was not completely booked for dining packages that particular evening, so they were still accepting standby guests for the Fantasmic! package. I wouldn't bet on this being the case every night, at any of the restaurants offering this package, but you can always try. Ultimately, it's always best to make a reservation ahead of time.
We didn't have to wait too long however, and the host did ask if we had a preference of indoor or outdoor seating. We chose outdoor and got a great table right at the fence where we could watch the hustle and bustle of New Orleans Square while we ate. We had an early reservation time, so the restaurant was fairly empty, if you'd like your pick of seating, I recommend you arrive earlier rather than later.
We all found the menu at River Belle Terrace really good. There were quite a few different options, with something for everyone. The dinner includes three courses (starter, main dish, dessert) and your drink. The menu is almost exactly like the regular menu at River Belle Terrace, with a few exceptions. However, it definitely had a good variety of options, depending on your personal taste.
The first course of the meal was the starters. You could pick between either a house salad or corn chowder. My whole family ordered salads, so, in the name of science, I opted for the corn chowder—and I'm so glad I did. I'm a big fan of the corn chowder served at the Storyteller's Café at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, but this was a little different. There was a lot more corn in this serving, and the taste of this chowder was sweeter, whereas I find the Storyteller's Café chowder more (for lack of a better term) "chowder-y."
While I was happy with my choice, my family was happy with theirs, as well, and I have to admit, the house salad did look delicious. It was topped with apples, dried cranberries, and candied pecans, and looked like a very fresh and tasty starter if salads are more your preference.
This is the good stuff! The entrée menu was pretty varied, and all of the options sounded amazing.
The menu at River Belle Terrace offers a fried chicken sandwich, a pulled pork sandwich, a beef brisket sandwich, half chicken, pork spareribs, BBQ tofu, or the catch-of-the-day. Additionally, all of the entrées include the signature baked beans, and a choice of another side: coleslaw, tater tots, potato salad, or seasonal vegetables. It was honestly hard deciding as it all sounded good, but ultimately I chose the pork spareribs, and the other members of my family all chose the half chicken. My family reported that the half chicken was very good; I could definitely tell that it looked super tasty. It was important to note that the size of the chicken seemed to vary, none of them seemed too small, but one portion was definitely larger than the others.
I definitely made the right choice with the pork spareribs. These were absolutely amazing, the spice rub on the ribs was smoky and the meat just fell off the ribs; they were very tender.
Each of us ordered a different side. The vegetables were green beans with bacon, and the potato salad was a typical picnic potato salad. My family said that the potato salad was pretty bland, but the vegetables were good. I chose the tater tots as the side and these were the winner of the meal! I have a weakness for tater tots, and these were nice and crisp with a tasty seasoning on them.
Now, everyone's favorite part of the meal, especially when at Disneyland: the dessert! One fun part of some of the dining package meals is that the menu has a special "themed" dessert. The themed dessert for Fantasmic! at the River Belle Terrace is the Maleficent Dragon, a mousse dessert with a white chocolate Maleficent dragon on top. The other two desserts offered on the menu were strawberry shortcake and butterscotch pudding parfait.
No one ordered the parfait, so, unfortunately, I cannot comment on it, but both the Maleficent Dragon dessert and the strawberry shortcake were amazing. The Dragon dessert was described as having a spicy center, but the spice didn't really kick in until you got toward the end of the dessert, and even then it wasn't really that spicy. No matter the taste though, this dessert was very cool looking and definitely Instagram-worthy.
As a fan of the strawberry shortcake from the Plaza Inn, I was a little hesitant about ordering it here, but I was pleasantly surprised. While definitely not as good as Plaza Inn's shortcake, this one was good, but the shortcake was a little dry and crumbly. The strawberries were fresh and very tasty, but the cake kind of dragged it down a bit.
The line-up process ended up being a bit of a mess, but I think that this was just an "off-night" for the cast members handling the dining package line-ups. To begin with, the Fastpass you receive from your server at the restaurant indicates that the line-up process begins across from Haunted Mansion, however, they actually start the line-ups (at least this night) down by Harbour Galley, not directly across from Haunted Mansion, so there was a bit of confusion there. Once that misunderstanding was settled, things seemed to move pretty smoothly.
After the initial line-up by Harbour Galley, the group was moved up a little more until we were in front of Haunted Mansion, and this is where the second mishap happened. The line-up here waited for about 30 more minutes until it was only about 20 minutes until show time and then they let us in to where our seats would be. It turns out that some cast members had let other guests, presumably the non-dining package Fastpass holders, into the dining package section, causing the confusion and longer wait. None of this was too big of a deal, we still got incredibly good seats and the whole process ended up cutting our actual "sit down and wait for the show" time down considerably, but it was a little confusing to say the least. Hopefully as more nights go on, the cast members get more practiced at this system and it will be flawless, but for now it seems there are some growing pains.
On With the Show
The best part of this entire experience was the seats that were included with the dining package. The view could not be beat. Our spots for the show ended up being just right (if looking at the island) of dead center. Nothing was in the way and it was a clear, perfect view of the show. I honestly couldn't remember the last time I had that good of a spot for the show. A bonus to all of this is the dining package holders get to remain seated throughout the show and are not required to stand as the other sections are. You can't beat the seats you get with this package, it's by far the biggest benefit.
If you upgrade to premium 8 p.m. seating (an additional $15), you can enjoy your dinner and stay at your seat at River Belle Terrace to watch the first performance of Fantasmic! from the outside patio (where you'll be seated)
Overall, we all found the dining package to be well worth the price. We enjoyed the meal much more than we all expected to, the choices were varied and the food was very good, and the seats we got as a result were practically the best you could get. We didn't have to go out of our way for any of this, we would have had dinner regardless, and would have had to line up much earlier than we did for this had we done standby or a Fastpass; this dining package saved time, guaranteed us a decent spot to see the show, and ended up delivering a fantastic seat with minimal waiting time. While Disneyland fans who have been doing this for a long time may be cynical at the thought of having to participate in a dining package in order to see Fantasmic! when it used to be easy to walk up not long before show time and get a good seat, and I totally understand that, but unfortunately the times have changed and you have to adjust.
Ultimately, the dining package at any of the restaurants offering it is a great option, you won't be disappointed!
The price for the prix fixe meal at the River Belle Terrace (and at Café Orleans) plus a reserved viewing area voucher is $45 per adult and $25 per child (ages 3 to 9); tax and gratuity not included.