By Diva Viva
In my opinion, every trip to Walt Disney World should include at least one Character Dining Meal. Character Dinning takes place at multiple restaurants throughout the parks and hotels. Each meal includes visits to your table from different Disney Characters for photos and up-close and personal visits with your family. It is the easiest way to see Characters for photos and autographs, and unlike Character Meet and Greets, you don’t have to wait in line. In fact, while you wait for the characters to get to your table, you are eating your meal, making great use of vacation time by multi-tasking! What could be better?
Tip 1 – Choose your Character Dining based on the Characters you want to see.
Each restaurant has a different set of characters, so your decision should be based on which Characters are the most important ones for you and your family to see. Are you huge Winnie the Pooh fans? Then you want to go to Crystal Palace. Do you have a little Princess who would love to meet Cinderella and her friends? Then you want to go to Cinderella’s Royal Table or Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. Is Mickey a must for your family? Chef Mickey’s may be your best bet. Before you book your reservations, make sure the Characters are the ones you want to see. Also, be aware that there could be slight changes to the Characters who appear. Cinderella’s Royal Table usually has princesses during breakfast and lunch and the Fairy Godmother and some of Cinderella’s mice friends for dinner. My husband, who doesn’t speak English, enjoys seeing non-speaking Characters more than speaking ones and really didn’t need to meet the princesses, so we booked an evening meal to watch Wishes from the castle windows and visit with the mice, but there was a change that night and the princesses were on duty. They were lovely and we got a few nice pictures, but they weren’t what we expected. Unless the character is the main named character for the restaurant, be flexible with your expectations of who you will or won’t see.
- 1900 Park Fare(Grand Floridian Resort) – Supercalifragilistic Breakfast – Mary Poppins and friend and Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner – Cinderella, Prince Charming and friends
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall – American Breakfast, Norwegian Buffet (Epcot – Norway) – Princesses
- Cape May Café (Beach Club Resort) – Goofy and friends at breakfast
- Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary Resort) – Mickey and friends
- Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom) – Cinderella and friends
- The Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom) – Winnie the Pooh and friends
- The Garden Grill (Epcot) – Chip and Dale and friends at dinner
- Garden Grove (Swan Hotel) – Disney Friends at dinner and Saturday and Sunday breakfast
- ‘Ohana (Polynesian Resort) – Stitch and Friends at breakfast
- Hollywood and Vine (Hollywood Studios) – Disney Junior Friends
- Tusker House Restaurant (Animal Kingdom) – Donald and Friends
Also some events have Characters:
- My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party at The Garden View Tea Room (Grand Floridian Resort) – Princesses
- Mickey’s Backyard BBQ (Fort Wilderness Campground) – Mickey and friends
- Wonderland Tea Party at 1900 Park Fare (Grand Floridian Resort) – Alice and friends
Also – Belle and Beast make frequent visits to Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom, and you can see them in a special room of the castle as you leave your meal through the exit.
Tip 2 – Your meal is a Character Meet and Greet
Bring your camera! Bring your autograph book! Be ready to meet your favorite characters and get awesome up-close and personal time with them. One of my favorite memories of Disney is going to the Cape May Café as a little kid with my brother wearing a Donald Duck hat. Chip came over for our photo and called to Dale from across the restaurant to join him as they knocked the hat off my brother’s head and stomped on it on the floor, shaking their heads in disgust at my brother for donning a hat celebrating their enemy. It was a fabulous Character interaction that I have never forgotten! Take advantage of this special time with your whole family and the characters. Our best Character photos always come from these meals (just be careful to keep your food off your shirt and check your teeth for spinach before smiling wide!)
Tip 3 – Don’t expect phenomenal food
Yes, Disney has good food, and some really amazing food at some of their restaurants (especially the signature restaurants) but you don’t book a reservation for a Character Meal for the food. Most of the restaurants serve buffet or pre-set family style meals. The food selections are varied, so everyone in your group, from small children to seniors, will be able to find something he or she likes. Also, most are all-you-can-eat, meaning that you will fill up and probably be able to skip a meal during the day saving you more time and money. However, the selection is not gourmet. You are paying for the special interaction with the characters, not spectacular menus. In some of the restaurants, you are also paying for the location. At The Garden Grill, you are in a rotation room that looks over The Land gardens and greenhouse. At Cinderella’s Royal Table, you are eating in Cinderella’s Castle with views of Fantasy Land. You pay extra for these locations and for the Characters to come to your table to spend special time with you and your family. Do not expect to eat the most wonderful meal of your vacation. If you are more interested in the menu than in the Characters, don’t book a Character Meal.
- Buffet – 1900 Park Fare, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (lunch and dinner), Cape May, Chef Mickey’s, Crystal Palace, Garden Grove, Hollywood and Vine, and Tusker House
- Family Style Platters – The Garden Grill (Farm-Fresh food), ‘Ohana, and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (breakfast)
- Full Table Service – Cinderella’s Royal Table
Tip 4 – Make Reservations
Though you may be able to walk up and get a table at some Character Meals, especially during the off-season, don’t let your family get their hopes up to find out that the Character Meal of your choice is all booked up. You can easily plan your day at the parks around a meal if you have a pre-set time reservation. Also, some locations, like Cinderella’s Royal Table, are in high-demand all year long and require making a reservation as early as possible (180 days ahead). For more tips on Dining Reservations check out Tips for Dining Reservations.
Some restaurants come with the added bonus of starting breakfast reservations before the parks open. With an early morning reservation, you will be let into the park before it opens, allowing you some special crowd-free time in the park while you make your way to the restaurant. Then when you finish your meal, you are already in the park early, ready to get to the best attractions early before the lines become long. This trick works in the Animal Kingdom at Tusker House, in the Epcot World Showcase at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, in the Magic Kingdom at Cinderella’s Royal Table and the Crystal Palace, and in Hollywood Studios at Hollywood and Vine. This is the perfect opportunity to take a crowd-free picture in front of your favorite Disney locations, like Cinderella’s Castle.
Enjoy your Character Meal!
~ Diva Viva