by Character Diva
I have a confession to make. My name is Character Diva, and while I am obsessed with all things involving Disney characters and have been alive for a little over three decades with dozens of Disney trips under my belt, I did not experience my first character meal at ANY Disney theme park until this past September. Whew. I feel good getting that off of my chest.
Honestly, character meals at Disneyland always seemed like a waste to my family. They are time-consuming (which seemed very unproductive to my family and I, who are much more interested in riding rides or interacting with the characters around the parks than spending an hour or more eating) and they are also one of the more expensive dining options (and unlike Disney World, my home park of Disneyland does not offer a dining package, so you’re unable to take advantage of those benefits and ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck). So for these reasons, it was never a “Must Do” on my family’s “To Do” List.
It has however, always been on my Disney Bucket List, and for our last trip, I decided it was time to cross that one off. This, however, led to all kinds of other questions and decisions to be made.
First, if you going to Disneyland, you have the following options to choose from:
Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure
Disney’s PCH Grill at the Paradise Pier Hotel
Storyteller’s Café at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
We ended up choosing Storyteller’s Café, but before you make any reservations, let me walk you through my thought process and what to consider while determining which character meal is right for you.
- Location- As mentioned earlier, we don’t like to sacrifice our “park time”. Since I no longer live in California, we are only able to visit ever other year or so, and generally only for 2-3 days. There is just too much to do (even in 3 days, with little kids, you won’t get everything done) so I didn’t want to waste time that we could be crossing other “Must Do’s” off of our to do list, just to cater to my Disney Bucket List. So we compromised and chose to go on a “Non-Park Day”. This meant Ariel’s Grotto and Plaza Inn were out and we would have to choose from one of the three hotels.
- Meal Time- Figuring out what meal works best for your family is definitely something to consider… particularly because even if the restaurant are open all day or at least extended periods of time, characters do not appear at every meal. Here is a list of which meals characters will be out for:
Ariel’s Grotto- Characters greet guests during breakfast and lunch.
Disney’s PCH Grill- Characters greet guests during breakfast.
Goofy’s Kitchen- Characters greet guests during breakfast and dinner.
Plaza Inn- Characters greet guests during breakfast.
Storyteller’s Café- Characters greet guests during breakfast.
- Characters- I’m sure by now, you know of my obsession with characters. And while I definitely love meeting Mickey and Minnie, it’s the rare characters that definitely make me squeal with giddiness. Plus, I didn’t want to be spending tons of money just to see a character I could see multiple times in the parks and who we may have already interacted with.
As far as characters go, Ariel’s Grotto is where you will find Ariel and her royal princess friends, Disney’s PCH Grill is where Mickey and his friends like to hang out, Goofy’s Kitchen is where you will find Goofy and the gang (again, think the Fab Five with other characters occasionally making an appearance), Plaza Inn is where you can find Minnie and some of her friends, including Chip, Dale, Winnie the Pooh characters, and occasionally even Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother or some other random characters. Lastly, Storyteller’s Café is home to Chip and Dale and their woodland creatures, some of whom include Kenai and Koda from Brother Bear, Meeko from Pocahontas, and oddly enough, Pluto. Disney Diva Tip: Characters are subject to change without notice, and depending on how busy the location is, as well as how many characters are appearing, you may have a slightly different lineup, but it is safe to assume that whichever character the meal is named after (such as Ariel for Ariel’s Grotto or Chip and Dale for Chip ), that character will be in attendance. We were hoping to see Kenai or Koda, Meeko, and Chip and Dale at Storyteller’s Café, but we saw Kenai, Chip, Dale, and Pluto… not as many rare characters as I was hoping for since you can see Chip, Dale, and Pluto elsewhere in the parks, but it was my first time seeing Kenai, so at least I got to cross him off the list of “Characters I’ve Now Met”.
- Photographs- Going along with the characters, what’s better than a picture with one to capture that moment? While you are able to bring your own camera and take as many pictures as you’d like, all of the character meals (with the exception of Storyteller’s Café) have opportunities to pose with a character. If you have the Photopass One Week (or Photopass One Day) and your character meal falls in the time slot, you can have your photo(s) added to your account for free! As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, photographs can still be hit or miss, and I still recommend taking them with your own phone or camera, but this can be a great way to add a special touch to your dining experience at Ariel’s Grotto, Disney’s PCH Grill, Goofy’s Kitchen, and Plaza Inn.
- Price- I don’t know about you, but I take our budget very seriously. After all, the more frugal I am in some areas, the more money I have to spend in others. As I mentioned before, because Disneyland DOES NOT have a dining plan like Disney World, character meals will always be expensive and there really isn’t a way to “save money” or “get a better deal”. A disappointment, yes, but if you know ahead of time, you can at least budget for it (or discern if you even want to attempt a character meal).
So how much do you need to budget? Depending on the dynamic of your party, members in your group over the age of ten are charged the adult price, which is around $35 per person and the price for a child (between the ages of 3-9) is around $21. Again, these are all subject to change, and a couple locations are cheaper or more expensive, but it’s nice to know a rough estimate so you can plan your budget accordingly. Also, taxes and tips are not factored into these meals, so you will want to account for that as well. Disney Diva Tip: If you have a child in your group that is two years old or younger, good news! He is free and can help himself to whatever you would like. Also, because these character meals tend to mostly be a buffet style meal, it is highly recommended that you bring your appetite… no one wants to spend $20-35 a person if you’re only going to eat three bites and then “be full”.
And while all of the character meals are fairly similar as far as types of food served, depending on the location, prices due vary slightly. Not really enough to make one a deal breaker, but every little bit helps, so if none of the factors mentioned above matter to you, you may want to consider saving a couple of extra dollars and pick accordingly.
|Restaurant||Adult’s Price (10 years and over)||Child’s Price (3-9 years old)|
|Ariel’s Grotto||$42.10 (more expensive after breakfast)||$22.60 (more expensive after breakfast)|
|Disney’s PCH Grill||$35||$21|
One Final Tip: Remember, unlike Disney World, Disneyland Dining Reservations can only be made 60 days in advance. Also, you will face cancellation fees if members in your party do not show up, so make sure you update your plans with enough notice ahead of time to avoid any fees. Depending on what time of year you go and how busy the parks are, it is possible to snag a table as a walk-in or change times to something more convenient for your group (I was able to change the time, the number in our party, and the day we were attending multiple times, including a couple days before our breakfast), however, this is not guaranteed, so if you do choose to make a character meal reservation, make sure to do so as early as possible (and if you are unsure on who will attend in your party, make sure to go with a bigger number… it’s a lot easier to downsize…. Just remember to update your reservation if people are unable to attend to avoid those nasty fees.)
So these are the top five factors I consider when choosing which Disneyland Character Meal will work the best for your family. What are your recommendations? Let us know in the comments below!
Ready to book your next Disney vacation? Contact Authorized Disney Vacation Planner Patricia Payne for a free quote! Her services are FREE to you, and she can help you with all of your needs (including making your character meal reservations)! Happy planning!