For my family, character meals are an absolute must! We have a very young daughter who is more interested in “seeing her friends” than most of the attractions. However, the rest of us would like to go on Splash Mountain, and Toy Story Mania. Character meals give us an opportunity to slow down for a while, eat a nice meal together, and knock of some of those characters out. In one of our trips, we spent 12 days in Disney, and enjoyed 5 different character meals. This may not be the best strategy for some families, but we find it works for us!
Here are my tips for successful character dining:
Be conscious of what foods your family will eat. Many of the character meals are labeled as “American Cuisine”, but you will find some variety. There are different choices of restaurant when it comes to the Princesses, but the place you’re going to see the most Princesses in one place is Akershus in EPCOT’s Norway Pavilion (you’ll see quite a few princesses at CRT, but you’ll pay a lot more. See below). This restaurant features some Scandinavian dishes that may not be to to the liking of some pickier palates. The solution for us was to visit Akershus for breakfast! They serve the traditional foods, like eggs, meat, etc, to your table, and you can visit the buffet line for fruits, and some of the traditional foods of Norway. In fact, breakfast is a good choice for most character meals if you’re worried about picky eaters. Breakfast foods are traditionally very similar across the different restaurants, and you can get some more specialized foods at some. Tusker House in Animal Kingdom is another example of this. It has an enormous variety of foods, including the basics, as well as some African inspired dishes. Keep your family in mind, but also know most of the buffets will feature a “kids’ section” with favorites like pizza and mac n’ cheese.
Most of the character restaurants are either a “all you care to enjoy” buffet or family-style served meal. Character meals range from $15-$35, or $35-$59 depending on meal time or time of year, for most restaurants, though Cinderella’s Royal Table (AKA: CRT) is a signature meal and is more costly. Some of the other restaurants also display different cost depending on when you will eat there (breakfast, lunch, dinner, or sometimes brunch or “afternoon tea” (IE. 1900 Park Fare). Check the sample menus on each restaurant’s page to see prices (and of course examples of the food they serve).
It’s always a good idea to make an ADR (Advance Dining Reservation) for these restaurants. You can do so as far as 180 days before the first day of your trip. This is a good thing to know if you’re looking for one of the more popular restaurants (like Chef Mickey’s). While you can book ADRs online, I find it much easier and less nerve wracking to simply call 180 days before the first day of my visit. Then I don’t have to worry about it locking me out or telling me I can’t book for later days in my trip. I can call and book my meals for my trip, and I can usually get into the most popular restaurant towards the end of my trip because not as many people are trying to book for that specific day yet. Not to mention is so much fun to hear from a real live person saying things like “how can I make your day more magical”. If you don’t get in right away, don’t panic, sometimes you can get in closer to your trip when other people cancel, and you can always risk just stopping by, but it may be a very long wait.
One last thing to note: in these days where more and more allergies seem to be popping up, we’ve always found WDW to be very accommodating. We have a wheat allergy in the family, and whenever that family member is dining with us, a manager or chef comes out to explain what she can eat, and often offer her substitutes they’ll make special for her. Don’t be afraid to ask!
Here is the current list of Character Dining options and some quick facts:
1900 Park Fare- Disney’s Grand Floridian
Breakfast- Mary Poppins, Alice, Mad Hatter, Eeyore, Tigger, Pooh
Tea- Wonderland Friends
Dinner- Cinderella, Prince Charming, Anastasia, Drizella and Lady Tremaine
Seafood, salad, pasta and beef specialities
Akershus Royal Banquet- Epcot Norway
Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Ariel, Mary Poppins
Cape May Cafe- Beach Club
Goofy, Donald, Minnie, (sometimes Pluto)
American, Sea Food Buffet
Chef Mickey’s- Contemporary Resort
Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald and Goofy
Cinderella’s Royal Table- MK (Fantasyland)
Belle, Aurora, Jasmine, Snow White, Ariel
The Crystal Palace- MK (Main Street)
Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore
The Garden Grill- Epcot (Future World)
Chip ‘n Dale, Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Slowly rotating view of “Living with the Land”
Family-style all you care to enjoy American cuisine
Garden Grove- Swan Hotel
“2 favorite Disney Characters”
Rotating buffets (See website for schedule) of Southern BBQ, Mediterranean, and Seafood
Hollywood & Vine- DHS (Echo Lake)
Breakfast/Lunch only see Disney Jr. Friends (like Handy Manny, Special Agent Oso, and June)
Mickey’s Backyard BBQ- Campsites at Fort Wilderness
Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Chip ‘n Dale
‘Ohana- Polynesian Resort
Characters appear for breakfast Only: Lilo and Stitch
Family Style American, Polynesian
Tusker House Restaurant- Animal Kingdom
Characters appear at Breakfast and Lunch only: Donald, Daisy, Mickey, Goofy
African inspired fare and American fare