In Central Florida, there’s no shortage of waterfront restaurants that serve up delicious food with a side of picturesque scenery and wildlife. Now that the brutal summer heat is behind us, it’s an ideal time to sit outside and enjoy the cooler temperatures.
By Chris Karel
Best Waterfront Dining for Kids In Orlando:
The Boathouse (Disney Springs)
The Boathouse certainly lives up to its name: The indoor seating at this Disney Springs restaurant is arranged around a classic speedboat that doubles as a booth, while the outdoor dining area overlooks a collection of restored antique boats. After your meal, hop on an Amphicar (that’s a car that doubles as a boat) from the dock outside the restaurant for a 20-minute cruise.
Rocco’s Tacos (Dr. Phillips)
Stepping into Rocco’s Tacos is like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Do you drink in the glory of Little Sand Lake? Or do you let yourself be entranced by the colorful Día de los Muertos -inspired artwork sprinkled around the dining room? Our suggestion: Choose the lake for lunch and décor for dinner. Either way, the kids will love watching the server prepare the guacamole tableside, and you’ll dig the margaritas.
Relax Grill (Lake Eola)
Just a few steps off the promenade at Lake Eola, Relax Grill is a great place to people-watch while you and the kids enjoy homemade hummus and virgin strawberry daiquiris. The restaurant serves American and Mediterranean cuisine for lunch and dinner, with an affordable kids’ menu. You can even bring your pooch since Relax Grill’s patio is pet-friendly. Its casual atmosphere makes it the perfect place to chill after taking a spin in one of Lake Eola’s famous swan boats or strolling the Sunday farmer’s market.
Splashes Bistro (Lake Nona)
As Nona Adventure Park’s on-site snack bar, Splashes Bistro is a no-brainer after a day of conquering the aquatic obstacle course. But the restaurant’s delicious gourmet pizzas, burgers, and salads make it worth a visit even if you’re skipping the park. There’s also an extensive selection of wine and beer, so go at sunset to soak up the views or sip chardonnay while trying not to laugh at other people’s kids wiping out on the cable wakeboard course.
The Waterfront (Orlando)
Just south of Orlando’s hip SoDo district, The Waterfront sits on the shores of Lake Jennie Jewell like a treasure chest waiting for you to discover the riches inside. The beach-inspired restaurant serves firecracker chicken sliders and ahi tuna nachos that are to die for, as well as kids’ favorites like burgers and chicken tenders. Whatever you choose for your main course, just make sure you leave room for The Waterfront’s famous red velvet donuts.
Paddlefish (Disney Springs)
Like “hamster pants” and “frisbee whiskers,” “floating restaurant” is one of those phrases that’s guaranteed to grab a kid’s attention. Paddlefish is the latest family-friendly restaurant to set up shop on the three-deck riverboat that’s been a fixture of the Walt Disney World resort since 1977. It’s also the only eatery in Disney Springs that offers diners a rooftop, 350-degree waterfront view. Children get a kids’ menu featuring all the old standbys and a pack of Wikki Stix to keep them occupied.
Wekiva Island (Longwood)
As you canoe from Wekiva Springs State Park down the Wekiva River, Wekiva Island emerges like an oasis in the desert, ready to soothe both your “over it” children and your hankering for a cold beer. In lieu of a sit-down, full-service restaurant, the sprawling property offers food and drinks through the Without a Paddle Café. Grub and grog in hand, you and the kiddies can sit on the boardwalk along the river or pull up a chair next to the fire pit or sand volleyball court. For an extra fee, you can even decamp to a private waterfront cabana. And don’t worry, landlubbers – Wekiva Island is also accessible by car.