Character dining is one of the more expensive ways to eat at Walt Disney World but I think it can be worthwhile, so hear me out as to why.
Obviously if you’re not a person who’s amped to meet characters, then this post probably isn’t for you, but if you have small kids who like to meet characters, then I would highly recommend booking a character meal. There are so many Character Greeting locations in the parks, but unfortunately you either need to use a FastPass+ or wait in, a usually, long line. Here’s where character dining becomes key. It is one of the ways to experience quality character interactions without waiting in a line.
Anytime that we’ve done Character Dining, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much time the characters spend at the table. It really adds a personal touch and makes for a lot of very cool memories. That being said, unless you’re gung ho about a specific menu for a particular meal, I think it’s more advantageous to book a breakfast reservation to get the best bang for your buck. Most of the Character Dining experiences for breakfast are buffets, so if you book a reservation later in the morning, you can choose from either breakfast foods or lunch, so you can really knock two meals out at once and make it a worthwhile experience. I also love that kids under 3 eat free, so you’re going to be able to grab them a plate too. Another option is to book a Character Breakfast in a park, before the park opens. You might be wondering why. Well, if you do this, you’ll be able to get into the park before it opens and I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing quite like walking through an empty park. If you time it correctly, you’ll be able to eat and then hit the rides before lines start to build up!
Now, I’m going to highlight some of my favorite Character Dining experiences!
In-Park Character Dining
The Crystal Palace- Magic Kingdom
We booked a breakfast at Magic Kingdom for the first time on our last trip at The Crystal Palace. I thought the girls would enjoy checking out the Hundred-Acre Wood, while I was excited to try the puffy french toast thing that I kept seeing pictures of. (It did not disappoint in that category.) Overall, the food here is standard. There’s nothing that wows you, but it gets the job done. The inside of The Crystal Palace is so gorgeous, bright and open, it’s really a beautiful place to eat. Characters that make the rounds here are Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger.
What I was most impressed with was the character interactions. We actually had to leave before meeting Tigger and Piglet because 8 month-olds get fidgety and troublesome around nap time, but we did get to meet Pooh and Eeyore and they were amazing! They each took time with both kids individually and it just felt really special. Pooh spent so much time getting Margot to warm up to him, which I didn’t expect because she’s so little.
During most of the Character Meals we’ve been to, they have a parade every so often where all of the kids are invited to dance around and follow the characters. This is so much fun and the kids really get into it!
Overall, I think The Crystal Palace is a great place to start your day at Magic Kingdom.
Tusker House Restaurant- Animal Kingdom
Now this place- SO GOOD. The spread here is amazing. So much delicious food, definitely one of my favorite buffets. We were here for breakfast, but I’m willing to bet dinner isn’t bad either! Safari Mickey, Daisy,
Donald and Goofy meet during this meal and their costumes are on point. Make sure you bring your autograph books because they are ready to sign!
Overall, I loved the vibe here and anywhere that serves me POG juice to start a meal. Do you know what POG juice is? Passionfruit, Orange and Guava juices all mixed together. I can’t even deal with how delicious it is. They serve it at most breakfast dining locations. We’ve had it at ‘Ohana and also at Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Just try it. You won’t regret it.
The fact that I was here with a 12 week-old makes me want to get another reservation so that I can actually fully experience it again without the dense newborn fog.
Garden Grill Restaurant- EPCOT
Not going to lie, it’s been a hot minute since we ate at the Garden Grill. Located in The Land building, it’s a rotating restaurant, so you rotate around and see some of the scenes from Living with the Land which, is one of my favorite rides. Don’t hate.
You can meet Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale. I’d have to do some digging, but Chip and Dale aren’t your average Character Greeting, so this is a good one if you have Chip and Dale fans. The meal is served family style here for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so once you’re seated, you’re seated.
Honestly, this isn’t a high priority reservation for me. It was cool and I’d only go for breakfast, but it was just okay. The lunch and dinner menu is definitely something you want to take a peek at before you book. It’s not for everyone. I know I wouldn’t eat anywhere near the value of the meal.
Hollywood & Vine- Hollywood Studios
This is one location that I would pay to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner because they’re all great…and different!
Breakfast at Hollywood & Vine is generally the Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine and they’ve been switching up the characters that meet, but currently it’s Vampirina, Fancy Nancy, Doc McStuffins and Roadster Racer Goofy. That is a LINE-UP if I’ve ever seen one. Any other Disney Junior fans in the house? Just me? K cool bye.
But honestly, this is a great way for the little ones to meet some of their favorites and again, standard breakfast fare but totally worth it for the extended interactions. And also interactions in that beautiful air conditioning versus baking in the sun where they meet in Animation Courtyard.
The atmosphere changes over for lunch and dinner where it becomes Minnie’s Seasonal Dining. This varies by season and the character outfits change as well. You’ll meet some variation of Minnie Mickey, Goofy, Donald and Daisy depending on which season you’re dining. We’ve been for Minnie’s Holiday ‘n Dine and it’s amazing! We met Minnie, Mickey and Daisy in their holiday best and Santa Goofy!
I actually think the dinner spread is pretty good all things considered. I’ve always found plenty of interesting, tasty choices and they also have a kid’s buffet section with that delicious Disney World mac and cheese and chicken fingers. Come on- who doesn’t love that.
Just a little story of some Disney magic we encountered while we were dining here: Meryl had just turned 2 and she really enjoyed meeting the characters, but was getting a little fidgety. The waitress saw it happening and she brought over a paper wreath with a sheet of stickers to decorate it into a Christmas wreath. Normally they just give you one, well Meryl was LOVING it. What 2-year-old doesn’t love stickers? The waitress noticed this as well and as we were leaving, she brought me over a stack of wreaths and stickers for Meryl to take home! So sweet!!
Character Dining-Outside of the Park
Cape May Café- Beach Club
We haven’t eaten here in a few years, but I still remember this as one of our favorite breakfast buffets. Also, the characters are in their beach wear and that’s so fun. We actually have a reservation for this in February so I’m excited to see how it’s changed.
I love the vibe and atmosphere of the Beach Club. The smell when you walk into the lobby is SO GOOD. I mean it, just take a stroll through next time you’re in the area.
I like eating in this area because of it’s proximity to the parks. If you have an early reservation and aren’t staying at Yacht Club, Beach Club or Boardwalk then you may need to take an Uber/Lyft/Minnie Van over to your reservation. But if you have a later reservation then head to EPCOT and if you exit through the International Gateway, you’re right there. Pretty soon with the Skyliner opening, that’s going to open up a completely new way to get to the area as well, which will make it easier to plan!
I love that when you finish eating, you can either walk back over to EPCOT or you can hop on a Friendship Boat over to Hollywood Studios. So. Many. Options.
Trattoria al Forno Breakfast- Boardwalk
Staying in this area, I have to mention one other Character Dining experience. This one is a bit different though! Instead of meeting animated characters, you’re meeting some princesses and only for breakfast at the Bon Voyage Character Breakfast. The food here is really good with an Italian spin. You get to choose one of the entrees and then they bring over fresh fruit and a frying pan of pastries. A frying pan? Why?
Because you’re going to meet Rapunzel! And Flynn Rider, Ariel and Prince Eric! If you ask me, I feel like this is a dream Character Greeting. You can’t meet princes anywhere, so this is really a treat.
Again- this is a really great location if you have an early reservation and then you can hit the parks for opening since you are so close to EPCOT’s International Gateway entrance and a short boat ride from Hollywood Studios.
Chef Mickey’s- Contemporary Resort
Another Character Dining spot, another breakfast review. I’ve heard mixed things about dinner, so in my mind, too expensive to chance it. But breakfast was great! I really enjoyed the spread here. The highlight for me was the make-your-own Mickey waffle station. Complete with a picture spot!
I love the atmosphere at the Contemporary and being able to walk over to Magic Kingdom or hop on a monorail to EPCOT after your reservation is key. What I’m saying here is try to plan a Magic Kingdom or EPCOT day if you’re planning on Chef Mickey’s.
I loved the character interactions here. We met Chef Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, and Goofy. They all spent so much time making our visit special.
Overall, even though Character Dining is going to cost you more than a normal sit-down meal, I argue that the opportunity to meet Characters in this setting is what seals the deal. Sometimes after waiting in a long line in the parks to meet someone, your kid (read:my kid) gets shy, the interaction is minimal and ultimately, it wasn’t everything you hoped it would be.
In the dining setting, I have found that my daughters are less nervous and much more apt to feel comfortable and have fun interacting with their favorite pals. The other great thing is that depending on how busy it is, you may see a character twice so if your child is too nervous the first time around, maybe they’ll be warmed up to the idea after they’ve seen the process.
Ultimately, these meals are fun and just make your vacation more memorable. I hope you consider making a reservation and trying it out on your next trip!
I know I’ve only highlighted a few of the many Character Dining options available. So that lends me to ask the question…
What’s your favorite Character Dining experience at Walt Disney World? Where should we try next?