By Leah Zanolla
Planning a last-minute trip and there’s no availability left at your normal character dining spots? Or maybe you just decided last-minute that you want to surprise your kids with a character meal on your vacation? Whatever the reason, if you’re looking to make a reservation for a character meal and can’t get one, we’ve got a couple of suggestions for places you may not have thought of. Consider this your Plan B for character dining.
Now, just because these are listed here as Plan B, that in no way means that they are inferior to the more popular character meals, such as Chef Mickey’s, the princess breakfast at Akershus, and Cinderella's Royal Table. The more a restaurant is talked about, the more popular it will become and eventually, available reservations become far and few between. When that happens, there are a few other places you can look into.
First up is actually one of our favorites. Crystal Palace is sort of in between a Plan A and Plan B. It is a pretty popular restaurant, but surprisingly, it is fairly easy to get a reservation there. On our last trip, my husband and I actually just walked right in with no wait. (We were walking by and the smell of bacon lured us in…) This restaurant is in a prime location at the Magic Kingdom, at the end of Main Street U.S.A. as you’re headed to Adventureland. The characters you’ll find there are Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger. We’ve always found the character interaction to be great, even when there are no children in the group. The meal is a buffet and is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast offers the standard Disney breakfast fare of pastries, eggs, meats, etc., with the exception of my favorite, the breakfast lasagna. Never heard of it? Google it. You’ll be both sick and amazed with the ingredients at the same time. So yummy. Lunch and dinner features salads, carved meats, breads, vegetables and pastas. Our favorite tip is to get the first available reservation for breakfast, which is normally before the park opens. Go in 10 minutes early and before you check in, go take your picture in front of the castle or on Main Street before the park fills up with crowds. Best time to get photos with minimal people around.
Located in Animal Kingdom, this character meal offers an extensive buffet of African foods, which may not be to everyone’s liking, but we’ve actually found there to be a good mix of “regular” dishes along with the more unique. My husband is quite picky and always comes away full and has enjoyed the selections available. Don’t pass up the dessert table – there are some really great choices: I recommend the bread pudding with vanilla sauce! Characters can be found at both “Donald’s Safari Breakfast” and lunch and include Donald, Daisy, Mickey and Goofy, all dressed in their safari outfits, which makes for a fun photo op.
This is a really unique restaurant. Located in The Land Pavilion at Epcot, Garden Grill is a circular restaurant that actually rotates above the Living with The Land boat ride. As the restaurant rotates, you will get glimpses of different scenes in the attraction. It’s a neat feature that kids will get a kick out of, especially if you go on the ride right before dinner and they can point out where they just were. Garden Grill is open for dinner only and sticks to the theme of the whole pavilion, serving fresh, sustainable food, much of which was grown in the on-site greenhouses. Characters normally in attendance at “Chip ‘n Dale’s Harvest Feast” are Farmer Mickey, Chip, Dale and Pluto. We’ve only eaten here once, but enjoyed the food and found the character interaction to be among the best we’ve ever experienced. Our son wasn’t wanting to eat his veggies and Dale actually cut up the food and fed it to him and even put on Jacob's bib. For several minutes, he tried to convince Jacob to eat his food. He wasn’t swayed, but it was such a fun magical moment. We wouldn’t hesitate to eat here again if the opportunity presented itself.
Cape May Café
Located at the Beach Club, this restaurant is a little more off the beaten path. The Beach Club is easy enough to get to, but if you’re like my family, breakfast at a resort isn’t our first thought when planning out our park days. A great way to experience this restaurant would be to get an early morning reservation, then head to Epcot or Hollywood Studios for the rest of the day. Characters are only found at breakfast, though a New England-style clambake buffet dinner is served as well. Minnie, Donald and Goofy will be making the rounds in their beach attire. The breakfast buffet is typical of most Disney breakfast buffets and offers sliced meats, eggs, fruit salads, a yogurt bar, biscuits and gravy, grits, cereals and pastries.
This restaurant can be found at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, which is connected by bridge to the BoardWalk. Since Garden Grove isn’t located at an official Disney hotel, it is often overlooked. This can work to your advantage though, especially if you’re staying at one of the Epcot-area resorts and can get to the Swan easily. Between two and four Disney characters are at dinner every night, plus breakfast on weekend mornings. Breakfast is available a la carte or buffet-style. Reviews are mixed. But, if it’s more convenient for you than some of the other locations and your kids love a character meal, it may be worth it to give it a try.
Character dining isn’t for everyone. Some people don’t love the hustle and bustle that naturally occurs at these restaurants, but if you do, go ahead and give these “Plan B” restaurants a shot. You may find that they’re a great substitute for some of the more popular restaurants on property. And chances are, your kids will enjoy themselves no matter where you go! What's your favorite Plan B character meal? Tell us below!
Today's Theme Park Hours
Epcot Future World:
Epcot World Showcase:
9:00 - 10:00
9:00 - 9:00
11:00 - 9:00
9:00 - 9:00
9:00 - 8:30
10:00 - 5:00
10:00 - 5:00