California Grill with Fireworks Review – Is It Worth It?

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So you think you’d like to eat at the California Grill? Great choice! In this post we’ll not only review the food but also the process of getting a reservation in the coveted restaurant. It is one of our favorite restaurants and on our latest trip we paired it with watching the fireworks from the viewing platform outside the restaurant. Let’s jump right in.


Yes, barring pure luck for last minute reservations or walk-ins at the exact time of cancellation you’ll need to plan your reservation months ahead of time. Luckily my wife is a master planner…for real…like black belt ninja level. Every time we’ve been to California Grill – we either got reservations way ahead of time or we used a dining reservation notification system – like this one.

How Disney Reservations Work

The basics: you can book up to 180 days in advance of your trip. But the great news is you don’t actually have to have your trip fully booked yet to take advantage of dining reservations because many of us stay off-site. Now for those of you that already know you are staying onsite you get to book 180 days before the start of your vacation. What does that mean? Well, if your vacation starts on the 1st of the month and you are staying 6 nights then once the first night of your stay is only 180 days out you get access to book all the way out through the end of your trip, effectively giving you 186 days out.

What Disney Has to Say About Reservations
Disney's Reservation FAQs

More About Planning

You’ll want to have a good idea about how your day will flow leading up to your dining reservation at the California Grill. One of our favorite strategies is to eat at California Grill on the night we arrive to Disney (not on a park day). Alternatively we pair it with a Magic Kingdom day where we can walk right out and eat — whether you go back in to the park or watch the fireworks from the viewing deck is up to you. We’ve done it both ways and one of our favorite trips to date was where we built in more rest time and ate at many sit-down restaurants while on the Deluxe Dining Plan.

Reservation Times

Brunch is the hardest to get. Period. As it’s only offered on Sundays. Get it early in the planning stage if it is important to you. From there you need to decide if you want to see the fireworks while you are eating there (not necessarily while you put food in your mouth but while at the California Grill). There are two options for those who want to see the fireworks: 1) go ahead and grab whatever time is available and come back later to see the fireworks. You simply keep your receipt (same day dining) and come back about 20 minutes before the fireworks (earlier in peak season), check in, and go out to the viewing deck. 2) Get a reservation closer to the beginning or end of the fireworks. First things first, check what time the fireworks are going to be at for Magic Kingdom. On our last trip the fireworks were scheduled for 10PM and we chose an 8:45 dinner reservation. It was awesome. The math gave us 1 hour 15 minutes to get out and grab a spot to watch the fireworks from. We easily ate dinner and dessert in 50-55 minutes and then casually went out to grab a spot.

Day or Night Reservation?

Our opinion is simple. Magic Kingdom is a bit more magical at night when it is all lit up. If you plan on only doing this once in your lifetime…go for the night time reservation.


Daytime at California Grill

Nighttime at California Grill

How early should I grab my spot on the viewing deck?

We recommend watching the crowds. From our table we kept an eye on the foot traffic to the viewing deck. If you are coming back with receipt in hand from an earlier reservation we recommend 30 minutes plus to ensure you get a good spot. If you are going to put all the effort into coming back you might as well be early! That being said 20 minutes was plenty early enough on our last visit to go out and have our choice of where to stand.

Where is the best place to watch on the viewing deck?

That’s a good question. And it leads me to say that the angle you watch the fireworks from at California Grill is less than optimal. Your view is off to the right of center by a large amount. One thing I quickly noticed our first time watching the fireworks was just how far the fireworks fire from the castle. The entire firework show, when watched from the castle courtyard (where is was designed to be viewed from) makes you feel like everything comes from nearby and it perfectly centered for your standing position. That is NOT the case when you watch from other places like the many restaurants that offer great views. But keep in mind that most are less than optimal for the splendor of the show. That being said…still awesome to experience at least once. Then you can decide if you would do it again.

Our view from our table.

Our view from the viewing deck.

Where we would choose to watch from next time. 

How many credits if you are on the dining plan?

California Grill is a signature dining restaurant and requires 2 credits per person. However we DO NOT use dining credits for 2 out of 3 of our kids. I DO NOT recommend using 2 credits for a bowl of macaroni. We have a hack for getting around this…hint…we’ve linked to it a few times. Check out our strategy here.

How much will it cost?

My best advice would be to look over the menu and decide before going in. You could spend a crazy amount or you could get out for a reasonable amount. When on the dining plan…eat like kings…when not…eat smarter.

View the Menu

California Grill Food Review

How was the food and the overall experience at California Grill? 

The overall experience at California Grill is like no other. The atmosphere is pretty magical. We’ve eaten there during the day and at night. It is great during both – although different. The food has been nearly perfect every time we have eaten there. I am a big fan of the sushi. My favorite sushi has to be the Spicy Kazan Roll (which you can control the spiciness through a sauce that isn’t directly on the roll). The New Moon Roll was good but wasn’t as much like sushi for me. The sushi can easily be a standalone dinner — in fact, when we go and aren’t on a dining plan I always do sushi as an entree.

We loved the Chef’s Cheese Board. If you are a wine lover then it is hard to go wrong with a little wine and cheese prior to your meal.

Steaks: I have had the Ribeye special once — I usually love Ribeye but the older I get the more I am looking for quality over quantity. With all the other food consumed throughout the day I have been leaning more towards the filet option (the oak-fired filet). My wife has gotten this entree and loved it — I must say it is very tender. The Jumbo Sea Scallops dish is quite tasty if you are in to scallops, which we are.

Desserts: we haven’t had a single dessert that we didn’t like yet. The kids weren’t a big fan of the yogurt dessert that comes with the kid’s entrees.

What did we eat?

Trip 1: On Deluxe Dining Plan

Adult 1 – 2 credits used


Adult 2 – 2 credits used

Kid 1 – cheese pizza – no credit used, $11.00 out of pocket

Kid 2 – no credit used, $17.00 out of pocket

Kid 3 – fell asleep – didn’t eat GLAD we SAVED the dining credit

As you can see, we could’ve used 10 credits at this one stop. But we used only 4 credits and paid $28 out of pocket so we could use our credits later on more expensive meals for adults.


Trip 2 – Dining plan not yet active. Whole meal out of pocket.

Adult 1

  • New Moon Roll
  • Conch Republic Key-Lime Wheat Ale
  • Dessert: pressed pot of coffee and creme brule

Adult 2

  • Jumbo Sea Scallops
  • Alcohol: Honig Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa
  • Dessert: Specialty Offering – Chocolate Cake with Ice Cream (had a fancier name….lol)

Kid 1

  • Macaroni
  • Kid Yogurt Dessert

Kid 2

  • Kid’s Salmon
  • Kid Sushi Dessert

Kid 3

  • Cheese Pizza
  • Ice Cream

California Grill Fireworks Review

I’m going to make this a simple approach. If you have never done it, the experience of being on top of the Contemporary Resort watching the best firework show in the world is WELL WORTH IT! Be advised the view, more specifically the angle you view from isn’t the best. However my kids loved it, my wife and I loved it and we would definitely do it again. To be completely honest we don’t love Happily Ever After nearly as much as we loved Wishes – so with that in mind we are open to watching from places other than that in park which leaves you crammed up like a can of sardines with stinky human beings that have little care about your ability to see or not…or for that matter, even if your kid could see or not.

California Grill Food

  • 5 Stars out of 5
  • Awesome Food / Love the Sushi

California Grill Fireworks Viewing

  • 4.5 Stars out of 5

Is It Worth It?



Are there better views? In our opinion, yes.

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