The Characters are an iconic part of Disney World and for many, getting to meet them has become just as important as experiencing the rides or attractions. So whether young or old, with children or without, getting those memorable shots with your childhood favourites has become an integral part of everyone's vacation. So if you want to meet a character like Mickey Mouse, what really is the easiest way to do it? Do you meet them at the many character greeting locations in the parks or during a character dining experience at a Walt Disney World restaurant? Well, to help you decide what is right for your family I have created a pros and cons list for both... A character dining experience vs. meeting the characters in the parks.
Meeting the characters during a character dining experience in select Walt Disney World restaurants:
- Most character dining experiences will include at least 3 characters, with some as many as five. This is a great opportunity to meet lots of your favourites all within one dining experience.
- You will get to meet them in an air conditioned restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere. No Florida heat!
- No queuing required, as the characters visit your table and you will be guaranteed to meet all the characters named as part of that specific experience.
- You will have plenty of opportunity for character interaction and photo taking.
- If you have young children that may be a little shy with the characters, it is a good opportunity for them to meet them in a fun setting. In our experiences the characters have always taken the time and effort to interact with very young children especially, trying to make them smile and giggle.
- Each character at the restaurant has a cast member with them, so when you have really small children they will ask if you are happy for the characters to stop by and say hello. If you are worried it may be scary for them, then the character can skip your table if that's what you prefer.
- It is a great way to get a video of your children meeting the characters. Many more memorable moments can be caught better on video than still shots.
- You get to do two things at once - meet the characters and eat!
- If meeting the characters is high on your vacation wish list then meeting them this way saves valuable theme park time.
- You could choose to do a character dining experience at a select Disney Resort hotel which means you would not require theme park admission - great if you have a scheduled non park day.
- All character dining locations accept the regular dining plan and the majority only require 1 table service credit so if you are on the regular dining plan this is an excellent use of a table service credit.
- Character dining is usually more expensive than eating at other restaurants at Disney World and reservations can be hard to get during peak season.
- The majority of character dining restaurants are buffet style which is not always a preferred dining style for some people.
- Due to the nature of the experience the restaurants can often get busy and loud. Ideal for families as they won't feel under pressure to keep their kids quiet during meal time. However this could be seen as a negative for those who prefer a more quiet, less manic dining experience.
- The characters at the restaurants will usually be the same types grouped together. For example, at Hollywood & Vine (Breakfast and Lunch) - You can meet the Disney Junior Characters but at Chef Mickey's you will meet the Fab Five - Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto. So if you want to meet a wide range of different characters, you would need to do multiple character dining experiences which could become an expensive way to eat!
- The time spent with each character will still be relatively short, although this varies greatly between restaurants and how busy it is when you visit.
Meeting the characters at their select greeting locations in the parks:
- Meeting the characters at their designated greeting location is complimentary with your regular theme park admission. No extra $ required!
- Certain character greetings will be available to select as one of your 3 Fastpass+ selections for the park you are visiting that day. Although there may be more effective uses of the Fastpass+ system and more popular rides to select, if meeting a certain character is a high priority for your family then this may be a good option for you.
- Depending on the time of day, you may be fortunate to meet certain characters with little to no wait time.
- There are certain characters at this moment in time that don't make an appearance in any character dining experience so meeting them in the parks will be your only way to see them.
- The PhotoPass photographers are present to take your family's photograph with the character and if you have purchased Memory Maker, these photos will all be included with that package.
- You could get an element of spontaneity with your theme park experience as you may get to meet characters you hadn't planned to meet. Often these interactions are the most memorable.
- You will loose valuable park time that could be used to experience many other rides or attractions.
- Some very popular characters will have long lines especially during peak season and busy times of the day.
- The character locations usually have very little shade so you will feel the full intensity of the Florida heat.
- Although children will be very excited to meet their favourite characters, if the lines are long and it is very hot, it may not be as fun for them as parents want it to be if dealing with those conditions.
- The Character greetings will run to specific schedules at specific designated locations so depending on the crowds and other factors it may not always be possible to meet everyone. This means that unless you can dedicate your entire day to meeting characters, and forgo all rides, attractions and shows, then you probably won't be able to meet them all.
So that is my Pros and Cons list for both the character dining experiences vs. meeting the characters in the parks and hopefully it will help you decide which is better for your family. So whether you decide to meet Mickey Mouse at the Town Square Theatre in Magic Kingdom or at a character dining experience at Chef Mickey's, remember one thing ... Take loads of photos!!!