You’re off to Disney World and there’s so much to do! So many parks, so many restaurants, so many rides and so little time! In between, you’ve got to try and see all of your favorite characters, which people will line up for hours for! One way to make sure you see your favorite characters and maximize your time is to have a character meal – and there are so many to choose from! Don’t fret though – you’ll find character meals in every park and at many of the major resorts, conveniently located just outside the parks, so it’s easy to fit one in!
Although they’re more expensive than grabbing something quick from a food court, having a Disney character meal is a quintessential Disney experience that you’re guaranteed to enjoy! You’ll see up to 5 characters, who will come to your table and personally greet every guest. You can take a photo and get an autograph, in the air-conditioning, while sitting down! This can save you hours of standing in line and risking a melt-down or an unexpected bathroom trip just before you get to the front. You’re going to eat anyway, so you might as well dine with some of Disney’s finest!
Of the character dining experiences, character breakfasts are often the most convenient, as you can start the day off with a hug from one of your Disney favorites and then hit the closest park right after. They’re also often less expensive than lunch and dinner, but you still see the same characters. And listen up! Disney veterans know that a well-timed character breakfast is an important part of the science of Disney vacation planning… Have you ever wondered how, when Anna and Elsa first began appearing at Epcot, it was possible that there was already a 3 hour line when you had specifically arrived well before park opening, positioned yourself at the front of the line at rope-drop and then sprinted across the park thinking “I look ridiculous, but I’m doing this for my kids!”? Well those savvy travelers had simply booked pancakes with the princesses at Akershus before the park opened my friends! At Disney, the early bird gets the worm, the photo, the autograph and the princess and then heads straight to the ride they couldn’t get a Fastpass+ for! A character breakfast booked before the parks open can be the most important meal of the day!
There are a lot of character dining experiences, featuring a lot of different characters, all of which are enjoyable. Here are 10 of the best – but make a reservation because everyone else wants to enjoy them too!
10. Cape May Café:
Minnie hosts a beach bash breakfast here at Disney’s Beach Club Resort on the Boardwalk, along with some of her closest friends like Donald and Goofy. Characters appear in their beach-wear at breakfast only. Breakfast includes traditional items, along with chorizo scrambled eggs and creamy cheesy grits, as well as the all-important Mickey waffle. This is one of the least expensive character meals and is a great way to start the day before a day at Epcot or Hollywood Studios, both of which are just a quick walk or ferry ride away.
9. Mickey’s Backyard BBQ:
Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue is a slightly different type of character meal. Mickey and friends host a knee-slapping, toe-tapping country hoedown in an open-air pavilion at the Fort Wilderness Campsites. You can get there by boat from Magic Kingdom, or by bus from any of the other parks. Food is served buffet-style and includes traditional barbecue items like ribs, chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob and mac and cheese. Guests dine at long picnic tables while listening to a country band. Mickey and friends circulate amongst the crowd and lead guests in line-dancing periodically. This meal isn’t necessarily available everyday and it does require advance reservations with pre-payment. While it’s a really fun experience, only book it on a day that you can guarantee that you can get there, as you will be charged if you don’t show up.
8. Disney Junior Play ‘N Dine at Hollywood and Vine:
If you’ve got little ones, this is a must-do! Here, you can join the legendary Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates and Handy Manny for breakfast or lunch at this Hollywood Studios restaurant. Traditional American food is served buffet-style and is excellent! The characters will come to your table, but kids can also join Doc and friends in a dance party and parade. This one is definitely geared toward the younger set!
7. Tusker House:
Tusker House at Animal Kingdom Park is a great place to get out of the heat and the crowds and spend some time with Mickey and friends, who are all sporting their safari gear. Meals are served buffet-style and feature a mixture of traditional North American items, alongside delicious African-inspired cuisine. It’s a delicious way to try something a little different, while you still have all of the regular comfort foods for your smaller, harder-to-please companions. Tusker House is less expensive than the ever-popular Chef Mickey’s and you’re more likely to find a table here than at other Mickey meals if you don’t have a reservation.
If you’re a fan of Daisy, you’ll be happy to find her here too! For some reason, she doesn’t appear at many of the character meals. I have always wondered whether she just couldn’t tolerate Donald’s manners at mealtimes…
6. Akershus Princess Storybook Dining:
Her Majesty the Queen is holding a feast in honor of Disney’s favorite princesses at the medieval castle at Epcot’s Norwegian pavilion! Guests visit with 5 characters, which include some of the best-known Disney princesses and Mary Poppins. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served family style, which is a nice alternative to the more common character dining buffet. Breakfast includes traditional American items, while lunch and dinner feature both traditional American and Norwegian items, along with the “Taste of Norway” smorgasbord buffet of Norwegian smoked meats, fish and cheeses. The children’s menu features the all-important mac and cheese, pizza and chicken items, along with a choice of Mickey Check meals. Akershus is a great alternative if you are not able to book a reservation at Cinderella’s Castle, although reservations are still recommended in high season.
5. Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner:
Guests can attend Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian, as guests of Cinderella and Prince Charming. Other characters like the Stepsisters or the Fairy Godmother may be present. This is a very elegant setting and the food is excellent. Food is served buffet-style and is meant to represent a number of different “kingdoms” around the world. This is the only character meal that features a prince, so it can be a great opportunity for families with little princes as well as princesses.
4. Crystal Palace:
Pooh Bear and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood host breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Crystal Palace, located on Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom. This is a delightful meal, served in a beautiful Victorian setting. Meals are served buffet-style, but a server will take your drink order. Traditional American-style food is served and the characters will come to your table. The food is very good and the location cannot be beat! It is a great place to have lunch on a hot day and get out of the heat, or start the day early before park opening. While you will naturally find a lot of small children here, do not think that the Crystal Palace is just for the preschool set! I once witnessed a marriage proposal here (she said yes!), so it is very much for adults too!
3. Best Friends Breakfast with Lilo and Stitch:
Stitch is a favorite of many Disney fans and this is your one chance to join him for a delightful family-style breakfast at O’Hana at the Polynesian! You’ll meet Lilo, Stitch, Mickey and Pluto here while dining on a Hawaiian-inspired breakfast of eggs, sausages, fruit, Mickey waffles and Hawaiian breads and juices. Although Lilo’s been working on Stitch for quite some time, his manners aren’t always quite as refined as some of the other characters and if you’re lucky, he might just get into some mischief while you’re there! Stitch once stole my daughter’s Stitch backpack and led her on a chase through the restaurant with his handler, which has given her a lifetime memory!
The location is also wonderful as you gaze straight across Seven Seas Lagoon to Cinderella’s Castle and take in the fragrance of tropical flowers. It’s a quick monorail trip to either Magic Kingdom or Epcot from here so it is a great way to start your day at the park! Do make a reservation 180 days out for this one, as it fills up fast!
2. Chef Mickey’s:
This is one of the must-do character dining meals for most Disney guests and it’s extremely popular, so make your reservation 180 days out! Chef Mickey’s is located in the Contemporary Hotel and is an easy monorail stop on your way to or from a day at Magic Kingdom or Epcot. Here you’ll find Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto, who are supposed to be the restaurant’s chefs for this experience. They periodically leave the kitchen to greet diners at their tables and a big party breaks out! The restaurant sits in the center of the hotel and guests can watch the monorail pass through, which is quite fascinating! It’s a lot of fun for people of all ages!
Food is served buffet-style and there’s a great selection of traditional American-style items. Don’t be shy about visiting the kids buffet area either! All the “big kids” are doing it! That’s where you’ll find the Mickey waffles at breakfast and Mickey’s mac and cheese at dinner.
It’s definitely one of the more expensive character dining meals, but you’ll take home a family photo and you’ll find some pricier items on the buffet for your money, including smoked salmon and trout at breakfast, and sushi and lobster mac and cheese at dinner.
1. Fairytale Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table:
Although Disney World is full of wonderful character meals, Disney World’s most recognizable symbol is Cinderella’s Castle, so what could be better than actually dining in the castle, with a glorious view of Magic Kingdom, as the guest of Cinderella herself? Your party will meet Cinderella first in the Grand Hall of the castle and have a photograph taken before ascending the spiral staircase to the royal banquet hall. Here you will enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner while four other princesses greet you at your table. The setting is quite magical and the food is quite a bit fancier than other character meals, although it is quite pricey. There is also a magical “wishing ceremony” and princesses take home a wand and wishing star as a souvenir of this magical experience. You will most definitely need to make a reservation 180 days out!
Disney World has a wide variety of character dining experiences, featuring a range of characters, types of food and price-ranges. No matter which one you choose, you are certain to enjoy good quality food and fabulous company!
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