Disney World character dining is a vacation high point for some travelers. Whether you are chowing down with Chef Mickey, meeting Donald Duck at Tusker House, getting fancy at Cinderella’s Royal Table, or celebrating friendship with Pooh Bear at The Crystal Palace, Disney has numerous character dining options. Scouring blogs like Disneydining.com, TikTok and the Disney website for information about character meals will enhance your dining experience, and so will following these tips. Here is how to do Disney character dining.
Before you Book…
Review Restaurant Menus
While meeting favorite characters at the meal is important, ensuring your family enjoys the food is also the key to character dining success. Disney restaurants have plenty of kid-friendly options on the menu. However, researching menus will ensure you are not disappointed when you arrive at the restaurant of choice. Character meals offer a full menu online, so you can ensure everyone in your family is anticipating the delicious food just as much as they are anticipating the arrival of their favorite character.
If you have questions about cuisine, allergy-friendly menus, or anything else, feel free to chat with a travel planner on the Disney World website to get more information.
Is Character Dining Right for You?
Not every group will enjoy character dining the same way. If your group includes sticklers that would rather not clown around with characters and prefer to focus solely on their meal, character dining may not be the best value. My advice? Embrace your inner kid and have fun!
Pose with Mickey Mouse at Topolinos Terrace at Disneys Riviera Resort. Or have a storybook dining experience with beach-ready Minnie Mouse at Disney’s Beach Club Resorts in Cape May Café. My most memorable Disney World character experiences have been at meals like Donald’s lunch at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom.
Still, take a look at your vacation crew to decide how much fun character dining will be for you. Opting out of character dining could be the right move for some travel parties, and there is no shame in that game! Don’t forget that there are plenty of delicious dining spots that offer everything from wine and tapas to bottomless dining and fine dining at Disney World.
Consider Menus and Park Plans
Considering the needs of your travel party when securing an advance dining reservation is essential. If your kids are lite breakfast eaters, a bottomless character breakfast buffet is not the best value for your money. If your travel group gets grumpy in the evening after a long day in the Park, interacting with characters at an 8:00 pm dinner will not be fun. Adapting character dining to your Park plans or vice versa is necessary to ensure you enjoy optimal time in the Park and enjoy your chosen character dining experiences.
Don’t forget to eat appropriately on the day of your character dining experience. If you are enjoying a buffet meal, you may want to skip lunch or snacks earlier in the day. Tailor your eating to ensure you can enjoy your character dining experience to the max.
Bottomless Dining or Buffet?
Character dining is often associated with Walt Disney World buffets. While the buffets are impressive, there are plenty of pre-plated and traditional table service dining options with characters. Standard table service dining options allow Guests to order off a menu but still enjoy character interactions. Princess dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in EPCOT is a great example.
Pre-plated family-style meals can be the perfect fit for families with small children. Restaurants like Garden Grill in EPCOT or Ohana character breakfast at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort offer bottomless breakfast food with the volume of a buffet without necessitating small children to walk to a crowded buffet with a parent to serve their plate.
Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is another excellent family-style serving option for Guests looking for a meal near Magic Kingdom. If serving from a buffet is no problem for your family, 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, Cape May Café, and Disney’s Contemporary Resort buffet – Chef Mickey’s are some Walt Disney World Resort character meals to consider.
Know the Characters You Will Meet
There are a plethora of character dining experiences at Walt Disney World. Options range from meals with the classic Disney gang of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Pluto to face characters like Cinderella, Prince Charming, and Snow White. Thoroughly researching meal options will ensure you find the perfect character meal fit for your party.
Some restaurants change characters between meals, so ensure you understand what characters you will meet at your chosen meal. Nothing is sadder than watching kids melt down at 1900 Park Fare when she realizes Alice and the Mad Hatter are working the breakfast room at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort instead of Cinderella and Prince Charming, that only join Guests for dinner. Proper research will help you avoid a character conundrum.
Prep Kids for the Fun
A child’s reaction to characters could vary quite a bit depending on the age, fears, or quirks of the child. The surprise factor of looking up from a dinner plate to see a larger-than-life character beside them is too much for some children to handle. Come to the storybook dining experience with an open mind if you have little ones in your group. Young children may be afraid of characters like Mickey and Minnie but be happy to interact with face characters like Dinsey Princes and Princesses.
Other kids are so exuberant when they see their favorite Disney friends that preventing them from greeting their favorite character without a full-on tackle can be difficult. Discuss the character meal with your children before arrival at the restaurant. Explain that each character will arrive at the table to interact, sign autographs and take photos and get them excited for the unique Disney experience. Chatting with little ones about what to expect can also help reduce anxiety about this new experience.
Before Your Reservation…
Free Up Storage Space
You will want to capture all the sweet moments at your character meal, so ensure that you have your camera or camera phone with you. Empty camera storage cards and clean up cell phone camera rolls before your Disney trip. Nothing is more frustrating than frantically deleting photos to free up space on your phone while you await characters’ arrival at your table.
Have Autograph Books and Cameras Ready
If possible, have autograph books ready for characters when they arrive at your table. Consider bringing a cute Disney paperclip flag to mark the empty pages where your favorite characters can sign to reduce the need to flip through the book on the fly frantically. Having the camera, autograph books, and poses ready for the characters will make things much smoother and maximize the time you have to interact with your Disney buddies.
Designate a Group Camera
Designating a group camera is a great idea. Larger groups can waste time when several folks want to snap their copy of photos. Having a designated camera for the character meal and sharing photos later is much easier logistically. Deciding who will be in a photograph with the character first and who will be taking the photo before the arrival of the character will speed up the process as well.
Stay Until You Have Met All the Characters
Disney does a fantastic job of sharing character time equally between Guests. At buffets, it is entirely normal to miss a character in your dining room while you refill your plate. No reason to fret; characters generally make their way around the restaurant three or more times a sitting. If you have finished eating without having seen all the characters at the restaurant, feel free to relax at your table and enjoy drinks as you wait for them to drop by your table again.
We hope these Disney Park tips are helpful as you embark on the world of character dining. Whether you are chowing down in Magic Kingdom Park, Disneys Animal Kingdom, or at a Disney Resort Hotel, these tips will help you have the best character dining experience!