*DIS Contributors review meals, resort stays, and entertainment that they have paid for during their own vacations. They only utilize discounts and offers if they are available to the general public, such as annual passholder discounts, Tables in Wonderland, or DVC membership discounts. They receive no additional compensation for dining experiences or events, so that they may give their honest opinions about price and value.
This is a review of six different character meals done over an eight night, nine day vacation at Walt Disney World during August 2019. For the full seven days we were there, our party of six, including myself, my wife, our six and one year old daughters, and our four year old son, along with my mother, braved a collection of buffets to see as many characters as we could. These reviews were done with the Disney Dining Plan, and the only out of pocket expenses were the tips.
The scores given in these reviews will be in context of each other, and not comparing them to other restaurants on property. The scores are out of 10, and anything less than a 5 will signal that there was a negative experience.
So, why so many character meals? First, it's a fantastic way to maximize the value of the Disney Dining Plan. Second, it gets you and your family out of the heat and into some air conditioning. Third, after seeing all the different characters at the meals, you don't need to wait in line to see them in the parks. When you're shepherding around three small kids, these meals are great at keeping them occupied at the table while allowing you to relax for a bit before getting back to touring the park.
Tusker House Restaurant
Location: Disney's Animal Kingdom
Characters: Mickey, Daisy, Goofy, and Donald
Cost: $59.99 per adult, $34.99 per child
Total Cost: $249.95 | Disney Dining Plan Cost per day: $282.43
The Location and Theming
Tusker House Restaurant is located right on the edge of Africa as you enter the land. You have to walk through the Dawa Bar to get to the restaurant's outdoor waiting area where the cast members take down your name. Once your table is ready, you'll be led to the main entrance, which is behind the building facing the path towards Festival of the Lion King. The location of the restaurant is mostly hidden from site, and is not particularly in an interesting spot in the park.
Inside the restaurant, the building is partitioned off into several different rooms much like Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, with the buffet in the central room of the restaurant. The different rooms give a better sense of intimacy, so you don't feel like you're in a giant money-making cafeteria. Much like everything else in Animal Kingdom, the theming of the restaurant is well done. It is full of humorous decorations and hidden jokes and is based off of Donald's African Safari. The theming is carried throughout the building, making you feel like you're ready to go back out into the wild to see more lions.
Score: 7 / 10
Out of all the buffet-only character meals, this one probably offers some of the best food on property. It offers a combination of Indian and African flavors from spicy to sweet with offerings ranging from fruit chutney to curry dishes. You, of course, have a wide selection of seasoned chicken and fish dishes along with the standard children's staples of chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese.
The different flavors and quality of dishes presented here make it unique throughout the Walt Disney World property. If I were given a list of options from the The Crystal Palace, Chef Mickey's Buffet or Hollywood and Vine, I may not be able to tell them apart. The second you begin to read off the menu at Tusker House, you know where you are. If you are to choose one buffet-style character meal on property, I would probably have to almost assuredly recommend Tusker House.
Of course, dessert is offered, and there are typical options of different cakes that you may see in other restaurants. While I was there, there was a coffee cake offering that was delicious and that I hadn't seen anywhere else.
Score: 8 / 10
Like every other character meal on property, the characters are always fantastic giving all of their time to the kids at the table. It's hard to score any of the hard working cast members on their "performance." The characters at this location weren't rushed and spent plenty of time at each table. The only thing keeping this score from a 9 is mostly that you can't see the characters when they leave your room, unlike some of the other buffets.
Score 8 / 10
Most buffet services only allow for a warm greeting and making sure plates are cleared and drinks are full. Our server was attentive and kept us happy throughout the meal. At no point during the meal did we feel rushed to leave, and, in fact, the server made us feel we were welcome to stay until we had seen all of the characters. The kids had missed Donald, so we had to wait a little bit longer.
Score 7 / 10
Value for Your Money
We dined using the Disney Dining Plan and used only one table service credit for dinner. The combination of the high quality of food, restaurant layout, and the characters gives this a high value for your money. If you're going to be spending time doing one character meal at this price point, the choices come down to Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot or Tusker House. Tusker House offers a different selection of dishes that you may not see anywhere else on property. For that reason alone, I have to give Tusker House a pretty high score for value for money regardless if it's cash out of pocket or a single table service credit on the dining plan.
Score 8 / 10
My overall experience was excellent. At this point in my trip, I had already visited Akershus Royal Banquet Hall and Cinderella's Royal Table, which are two of the better in-park character dining experiences, and Tusker House really stacks up. I was pleased with the selection of food that was offered. Disney's Animal Kingdom probably has a collection of some of the better quick service and table service options on property, and that is certainly extended to this character meal.
You start off the meal waiting outside in a shaded area with plenty of seating and adult beverage options from a nearby bar. You walk inside and enter a really well-themed restaurant and sit in smaller rooms while you wait for your meal to start. The service was quick, prompt, and made the whole experience truly enjoyable. The Tusker House is definitely on my list for repeat visits.
7 / 10 The Location and Theming
8 / 10 The Food
8 / 10 The Characters
7 / 10 Service
8 / 10 Value for Your Money
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