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10 Tips and Secrets for Walt Disney World’s Character Dining

Character meals can be a lot of fun. You’ll be able to enjoy delicious food in a restaurant with a unique theme. Best of all, you’ll have a chance for some one on one time with popular Disney characters. Bring your camera, because you’ll want to take lots of pictures. There is usually a PhotoPass photographer on hand but you don’t want to risk missing a shot. Character meals are extremely popular so book early, many of the meals will fill up long before the date in question. You don’t want to miss out on what could be the most memorable part of your vacation. Here are some character dining tips.

10) Book for Shy Children

If your child is not too sure about getting up close to a dog who is taller than Dad, a character meal might be a good place to start the introductions. You will be able to slowly familiarize your child with the characters in a setting that does not involve waiting in a long line or being hungry. The characters at the meals will be able to pay more attention to your child, and pick up on his or her mood. A character meal is a great way to show your children the fun of getting pictures with characters at Walt Disney World.

9) Not Just for Kids

Just because you don’t have any little ones with you on your vacation does not mean that you are too old for a character meal. Walt Disney World brings out the child in anyone, and character meals are fun for all ages. Who doesn’t love extra time with Mickey or another picture with a princess? If you decide not to book a character meal because you don’t have children with you, you’ll be missing out on a lot of fun.

8) Check Table Service Credits

If you buy the Disney Dining Plan (not the Quick Service version) a character meal can be a real bargain. Most meals cost one table service credit. There are a few, though, that will take two table service credits. Cinderella’s Royal Table is a good example, that will equal two meals. Special event character meals and dinner shows also often will require two table service credits. Remember as well that meals in the resorts that aren’t owned by Disney will not accept the Disney Dining Plan. Check to see how many credits the meal in question will require, just to be on the safe side.

7) Don’t Promise Specific Characters

Sometimes it’s possible to have an idea of one or two characters who will appear at a meal. It’s a pretty safe bet that Lilo and Stitch will be at Best Friends Breakfast featuring Lilo & Stitch and that Donald will show up at the Safari Donald Duck meals. That said, the other characters can and sometimes do change from time to time. Walt Disney World does not promise that specific characters will join guests at a meal, so don’t make that promise to your children. Instead, let them be surprised. That way, they won’t be disappointed.

6) Look for a Substitute

Walt Disney World accepts dining reservations 180 days in advance, and some of the popular character experiences will fill up that quickly. Not everyone wants to plan meals six months out, and it’s common to not be able to get the desired reservation. If you’re looking for princesses, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is a great alternative to Cinderella’s Royal Table. If you want to meet classic characters but Chef Mickey’s is full, try Cape May Cafe instead. If you later are able to score the desired first choice, don’t forget to cancel the other reservation. If you don’t cancel, your credit card will be charged.

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5) Check the Resorts

The character meals in the parks put you in the middle of the fast paced action. If you’d prefer to sit back and really enjoy your meal, you might want to look at the resorts instead. There are some great meals with popular characters at some of the resorts, and the reservations are sometimes easier to obtain than in the parks. Plan a character meal on an off day, then explore the resort when you’re done.

4) Start Your Trip

Walt Disney World tickets are expensive, do you really want to spend only part of a day in the parks? If you don’t arrive early, consider booking a character meal or a dinner show at a resort hotel for dinner the evening you arrive. You’ll start off your vacation with a bang, and you’ll still get a good night’s sleep. You won’t use a day on your ticket, and it will get your whole family excited about hitting the parks the next day.

3) End Your Trip

If you’re flying out in the afternoon, or if you’re driving and don’t plan to hit the road too early when leaving Walt Disney World, make a reservation for a character breakfast the morning that you leave. Book the meal at a resort hotel so you won’t have to enter the parks one last time. Your family will still be sad about leaving, but they’ll literally enjoy one last taste of the Disney magic.

2) Make an Early Park Reservation

Have you ever wondered what the Magic Kingdom looks like before it opens? You can find out by booking an early character meal. All four parks have character meals that serve breakfast, allowing you to get a glimpse of the streets when they’re not crowded with guests. The parks are beautiful when they’re empty, so take your time while walking to the restaurant. Once you’re finished, you’ll be able to get in line for a favorite ride before the park gets crowded.

1) Bring Your Appetite!

Many of the character meals are either buffets or served all-you-can-eat family style. There is plenty of food, so arrive hungry. There are so many delicious choices that you might want to nibble on a little bit of everything. Remember to time your FastPass+ reservations accordingly. It’s probably not a good idea to immediately hit Space Mountain if you just indulged a bit too much on carved meats and ice cream at The Crystal Palace.

About PaulaK

I grew up in Western Massachusetts. When I was nine my family went to Disneyland and I was hooked. I grew up, attended New England College in Henniker, NH and eventually moved to Virginia. I worked as a disc jockey, married and became a full time mom when our daughter was born. Fast forward several years. In 2010 we moved to Central Florida and my Disney obsession grew. I now work as a freelance writer and spend my spare time in the parks. Under the name Paula Brown I penned the novels Dream Wanderers and The Coffee Cruiser. I also am a co-author of Dining at Walt Disney World: The Definitive Guide. I'm obsessed with Star Wars, so this is a good time to live in Central Florida. I've been a vegetarian for well over a decade, a choice that my daughter eventually made as well. While my husband still hasn't joined us fully he has given up most meats except for seafood. I was relieved to find that vegetarian dining is not difficult at Walt Disney World.