In our Walt Disney World character series, we have talked about The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s the Animal Kingdom. These are four really great places to meet the characters you grew up with. The issue is you have to travel between them, wait in multiple lines and plan your day around their appearance times. Any experienced Walt Disney World traveler knows there’s a way around this, but it’s going to cost you for the convenience. Today we are discussing character dining in the parks. Our next installment will cover the resort character dining experiences.
If you have never done a character meal, then I’ll give you the basics of how they work. The meals are held in the parks, official Walt Disney World resorts and even some unofficial ones too. Some are breakfasts, some lunch or dinner, and some include an entire evening of events. Most guests will experience the breakfasts. All are not cheap, but many guests will argue they are worth the price. Characters will come visit with your family at your table while you eat. That’s the fantastic part and the big thing you are paying for. All will take pictures and most will sign autographs. With few exceptions, the food is usually decent at best. Some would say it’s bad, but I don’t subscribe to that theory. It’s just standard buffet food. Some meals you will have to walk up to a buffet to serve yourself and some are served at your table. Also the prices of the meals change and depend on the time of day you visit. Always speak to your Disney contact for prices during your visit.
Before we get into specifics it should be noted that Disney likes to change up characters from day to day. There will always be a certain “guaranteed” character, but the rest can change. That’s why Disney will say “Cinderella and Pals” or “Lilo and Stitch, along with friends”. I’m going to mention the most common characters to greet you, but if there is a certain “friend” you are excited to meet, I’d call and make sure that character didn’t have plans somewhere else that day.
1. Cinderella’s Royal Table - "Fairytale Dining"
Location: The Magic Kingdom
We’ll start with this one because it used to be the granddaddy of all Walt Disney World’s dining reservations. It was practically impossible to get and would make or break some family vacations. To be honest, my family thought it was expensive for what you got. It's amazing to be in the castle but we thought it was over-hyped. There are numerous people who will disagree with me on this.
Young guests are encouraged to dress up for the occasion in their best Disney outfits. This is, after all, a royal affair. Cinderella and other “classic Disney Princesses” will be there to greet you and your family. Dad can also rock his best Aurora dress if he wants too. I love seeing things like that.
There are three meal options: breakfast, lunch and dinner. All have different prices. For breakfast, guests will have a meal of plated American favorites like French toast, pastries, quiche, and steak and eggs. It's pretty standard but delicious. Lunch includes items like cheeses, short ribs, catch of the day and turkey pot pie for kids. Finish the meal with seasonal sorbets. Guests are considered part of the royal family for dinner with delicious items like steak and shrimp, and bone-in pork loin.
Located at the end of Main Street, U.S.A in Cinderella’s castle, this is a unique and fun activity. It’s just expensive. Really, really expensive.
2. Be Our Guest
Location: The Magic Kingdom
Want to meet Beauty and the Beast’s Beast? Of course, you do. He’s huge, furry and he won Belle's heart. I was hesitant to put this one in because it’s not one of Disney’s official character dining locations. He does not go to every table like the typical style. You get to meet him after you are done eating. He also only meets during the dinner time slot, so keep that in mind. For dinner, you are looking at options like pan-seared salmon.
This is a great option these days because the character will be fresh in everyone's mind from the live action film.
3. The Crystal Palace - "A Buffet with Character"
Location: The Magic Kingdom
This all-you-can-eat restaurant is a favorite of many guests. Located right at the end of Main Street, you'll find your Hundred Acre Wood friends: Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, and Piglet. If you are a Winnie-The-Pooh fan then this is the place for you.This place is bright and spacious. The characters move surprisingly quickly around the restaurant but you never feel rushed with them. I recommend really paying attention to how the characters are moving. They move in an unusual pattern here. It's easy to miss a character. If you do, just bring it to a cast members attention and they will always see what they can do.
For breakfast, you will enjoy foods like french toast, eggs, and bacon. It's not one of the best food wise, but the location makes up for it. Having breakfast in the Magic Kingdom is always amazing. Also, this location is bright and airy. You don't feel crammed in a small space. For lunch and dinner, you will be treated to chicken, and mashed potatoes, classic American dishes your family will know and already love. That can be really helpful if your children are picky eaters. If you might be hesitant to bring them somewhere with more adventurous dishes, this place is very safe.
4. Tusker House
Location: Disney's Animal Kingdom
Does your family love a safari theme? If yes, this is the place. It's located in the Africa section of Disney's Animal Kingdom and is filled with the African flavor.
For breakfast, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, and Mickey will sign autographs as you enjoy your Mickey Mouse waffles, quiche, eggs, and fruit. For lunch, there is spit-roasted chicken and roasted pork. This family style dinner buffet is one guests tend to forget about but it's worth the visit. I can't say that enough. Guests tend to over look it, but it's worth the try.
5. Hollywood & Vine - "Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine"
Location: Disney's Hollywood Studios
If you ask five different people about this place, you will probably get five very different reviews. It may not be the culinary winner of the group but this Disney Hollywood Studio restaurant is the only place you can eat with Disney Junior favorites like Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Jake and the Never Land Pirates and Handy Manny. They all make appearances to take pictures with your family. If you have preschool aged children then this is 100% worth a visit.
The breakfast buffet includes Mickey Waffles, yogurt, fruit and delicious scrambled eggs. The lunch buffet is deli meats, salads, and pasta. If there are only adults in your party, this might not be the best option. If you have little kids, this one is perfect.
6. Minnie's Seasonal Dining
Location: Disney's Hollywood Studios
Photo (c) Disney
Also at Hollywood and Dine are different events hosted by Minnie Mouse. The theme changes with the season but basically Minnie Mouse is hosting parties where you, your family and your money are invited. Her other guests include Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy. These events include "Minnie's Silver Screen Dine," "Minnie's Springtime Dine, " "Minnie's Summertime Dine," "Minnie's Halloween Dine" and "Minnie's Holiday Dine".
There is also a Fantasmic! Dinner package available with this dinner that includes entry into the VIP section to watch the spectacular Fantasmic show.
7. The Garden Grill
Guests who frequent the Disney Character meals, might be surprised to hear this is my favorite one in the parks. Located in the Land Pavilion in Epcot's Future World, this restaurant has an old-school feel. The neatest part is that this family style dining restaurant actually spins. Well, the seating area does. So that means you will continually get a different view you wait for Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale to come visit your table. You'll see scenes from the Living with the Land boat ride like the rainforest, farmhouse, thunderstorm, sandstorm and prairie. Don't worry though, it moves extremely slow. I was there with my mother who has extreme dizziness issues and she was just fine. You barely notice it and all of a sudden you have a new view.
This restaurant offers a breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every time I have gone it has been practically empty and we had plenty of time with the characters. Disney boasts "farm fresh" foods for breakfast like scrambled eggs and seasonal fruits. For lunch and dinner, you'll get to try some "savory and allergy friendly" starters and entrees. That includes farmers salad, beef filets with a red wine demi-glace, roasted turkey and sustainable fish of the day with buttermilk mashed potatoes. It's pretty fun.
It does make me laugh though about all the words they throw in like "fresh", "farm to table" and "sustainable" into the descriptions. I know it's because of the theme of the area but it makes other restaurants sounds like they get their foods from the expired rack of the grocery store. I know they don't but that's what it always makes me think about.
8. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
Ok, if you have a little girl or boy who is obsessed with princesses then this is the big one. This is the one you can not miss. You can get a table at the last moment at many of the character breakfasts, but not this one. You need to make a reservation for this character dining experience. I can not stress that enough. Here your family will attend a royal banquet with Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Princess Aurora, Ariel and Mary Poppins. The inner child in me just got excited thinking about it. Luckily they offer a breakfast, lunch, and dinner so they can fit as many guests in as they possibly can in.
For the breakfast, you are going to get a traditional American breakfast like eggs, bacon, sausage and potato casserole. For lunch and dinner, the menu changes to a Norwegian-inspired fare. Which makes sense because this character meal is located in the Norway pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase. Just look for the incredibly long line while walking by and you will find it. Your family will get to try the finest Scandinavian seafood, imported cheese, and Lingonberry cheesecake. The food is tasty but I think we all know what the star of the show is here: the princesses. Don't worry if your children aren't into eating pan-seared salmon or the Norwegian meatball dish. They also serve pizza and pasta for the little ones too.
Always remember to keep your eyes open for special events in the parks that involve meeting characters. For example, Club Villain dining events in Disney's Hollywood Studios have Maleficent, Queen of Hearts, Evil Queen and Cruella De Vil. This events comes and goes depending on guest demand. So always be checking this site for more information.
Our next installment of the character meet-and-greet series will deal with character meals outside the parks. It was just way too much for one post. Now go out and dine with your favorite Disney Characters and tell them I said hi.
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