Welcome to the third installment of the Disney Character Dining Series, where we are covering everything you need to know. We’ve looked at what character dining options are available in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and now it’s time to learn how to get the most out of your experience.
When it comes to choosing your character dining, you want to be sure you are getting the most out of your experience. Knowing what to expect and being prepared for the occasion is the best way to ensure you enjoy the ultimate experience. Now, with a little help from some of my cast member friends, here is some of the best advice to make the most out of your Disney character dining experience at any of the Disney theme parks.
How Do You Meet Characters While Dining?
The characters attending your meal are constantly rotating throughout the restaurant and will go on a single loop; they will not dart around the restaurant, so be patient if you see them on the other side of the room; they will come and visit you. Avoid the urge to approach the characters or follow them around; they love meeting new friends and will not miss your table. The safest way to wait is to keep the aisles clear of unnecessary traffic so your Disney friends have room.
If you’ve finished eating and there is a character you haven’t visited with yet, be sure to ask your server if that character can visit your table before you go. There are also entertainment hosts and managers throughout the restaurant who you can ask; these people are usually dressed in Mickey print shirts or business attire.
If your seating is for a buffet meal, as most are, try and minimize the number of trips you make to the buffet; this will make it easier for the characters to stop at the table rather than assuming it is vacant. I’ve always found that taking turns visiting the buffet is also an excellent way to keep an eye on where characters are up to and still get everyone the food they want.
Can We Take Pictures?
Absolutely! Always try and have your camera out since you don’t know when a character will come to visit. Just like when you are visiting with characters in the parks, having your camera ready and your party organized is always beneficial. Unlike your regular dining experience, no one will think it’s impolite if you have your phone on the table. Having the camera app open and nearby saves time digging through your purse to find the camera while everyone waits in their posed picture position.
Characters will assume you don’t want a picture if they have an extended interaction with you, a conversation, an autograph, and a greeting, and you don’t ask for a photo during that time. If a character starts waving, it means they have assumed you are done with them. Don’t be offended if they start to walk away and you still haven’t asked for your picture. Many people become starstruck when seeing their favorite Disney character, so if you do want a picture, just pull out your camera, and they will know what to do.
Be sure to consider your positioning as well. Some characters are tall and can not easily see where you are. For the best photos, let the characters or a cast member guide you; if the character relocates behind the group, it will likely make for a better picture.
Can We Get Autographs at Character Dining?
All the characters at dining give autographs! Don’t be afraid to ask! There are a few essential tips to make this process easier, especially when most of the characters have three fingers or less, and some have no fingers at all, like Pooh Bear and Tigger! It’s very hard to sign hundreds of books every day with no fingers, so if in the interest of making their day a little easier, here are a few things you can do to help.
Hand the character an open book to the page you want them to sign, preferably facing them the correct way around. You can imagine it could be challenging for them to open the book themselves and find a blank page. This is a courtesy that will be appreciated and makes your interaction smoother.
When passing your character friend the pen, don’t leave it sitting inside the book as it can easily fall on the floor where they can’t pick it up. Instead, have the pen clicked on and pass it with the top side (non-writing end) towards them, separately from the book. Make sure you carry a quick-dry pen (Sharpie is the best option) to avoid smudge marks through your book. If using a Sharpie, take the lid off for them just before handing it over; or better yet, buy one of the newer Sharpie markers that you click to open. Do not have kids hold Sharpies or pens when hugging; the ink may get on Pluto’s fur, and he just had a bath!
Some characters will hold the autograph book up to their eyes, and our friends with beaks and snouts may look a little funny with the book touching their noses. They don’t need help even though little ones might have the best intentions. Resist the urge to state the obvious by saying something like, “Well, that’s probably where they see in there,” it might ruin the magic for those around you.
How Can You Move Around the Characters Without Getting in the Way?
When going to the buffet, you will most likely see a character when going to and from your table. Remember that these animal friends don’t have great vision, so if you stand behind them or to the side of them, they can’t see you. Don’t try and quickly zip around them with your food since they might trip on you, or they might hit you if they don’t see you coming.
Where Is The Best Place To Seat Children?
If your child wants to say hi to the characters, don’t sit them inside the booth as far from the aisle as possible! While it might be your natural instinct to place younger ones in the middle of the adults, the characters can’t reach or sit with your child if they are further away. Seat children on the ends of your booth so they can quickly get up and meet their friends, or, as you see characters approaching, shuffle around in advance so there isn’t a delay in your character interaction. Unless physically unable to stand up to take a picture with the characters. It makes things easier if the characters aren’t straining while trying to get to you.
How To Help Scared Children
If you know your child is afraid of characters and would prefer a distanced greeting, you can ask the restaurant for a red balloon in some locations, and the characters will know to avoid the table.
It is incredibly awkward for the characters if parents force a terrified child into photo opportunities. If things feel tense, one idea is to get in the photo as a group with the child at the opposite end of the picture so they are not too close to the character.
A great way to pre-empt this situation is to familiarize your child with the characters before you arrive so they feel comfortable and understand who they are.
Showing Excitement and Affection
We all love the characters so much, but sometimes excitement can become aggressive, so be aware of how strong you are when showing love. When giving a character a high five, don’t test your ultimate strength at that moment. Give a normal pressure high five. If there is a particular photo of a pose you would like, just ask! Never push or pull on the characters. Yes, it happens!
Big hugs are always welcome; just don’t squeeze the life out of your favorite furry friends, though we don’t recommend giving kisses to characters. Most likely, Pluto has been digging for bones in the backyard, and the chipmunks have been picking up a lot of cobwebs in their tree house, and kisses may spread a lot of germs!
No Need To Share Your Food
Your meal is probably delicious, and you might feel tempted to share the food with your favorite Disney characters, but don’t worry about it! They ate before they saw you, so they don’t need any of your food. Sometimes, they feel bad rejecting your offer, so keep the food for your family to enjoy.
When a character comes to the table, please clean your child’s hands. Minnie’s outfit was freshly dry-cleaned, and she would be so sad if it got covered in frosting.
For more tips on character interactions, read The Unspoken Etiquette of Disney Character Meet & Greets and visit our DIS Community Discussion Boards.
Another huge thank you to my Disney cast member friends who helped to make this series possible. I am so lucky to have you share your thoughts with me.
What’s Next in the Disney Planning Character Dining Series?
- Your Guide To Disneyland Character Dining
- Your Guide To Walt Disney World Character Dining
- How To Have The Best Disney Character Dining Experience (This Article)
- The Pros And Cons Of Disney’s Character Dining & How To Choose Which One – Coming Soon
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.