Ok, so you’re going to have to eat at some point, right. If you’re looking to add some magic to your trip, and cut out some of that time waiting in line for character meet ‘n greets, you might want to check out some of Disney World’s many Character Dining experiences. At a character meal, you get to dine (usually buffet) with some of your favorite Disney characters, killing two birds with one stone. Since this trip for us includes our 5 year old son, we plan on hitting several of these. An added benefit for these is that all of the character meals inside the parks allow Advanced Dining Reservations starting at 8:00, and if you have a reservation in the 8:00 hour and the park opens at 9:00, they’ll let you into the park early and you’ll be able to get empty-ish park photos at the iconic spots before your meal. Also, if you finish early, you can head straight to get in line for your first ride of the day. We’ll be using this option where we can as well.
Full Disclosure: We didn’t do any character meals on our last trip, which means I haven’t done a WDW character meal in nearly 20 years probably, so I’m going off of what I’ve read until our trip. I’ll probably have done all of them within the next few years though.
So let’s go over some of your options:
Including Touring Plans Readers Rating (TPR, scale of 100) and Authors Rating (TPR, scale of 5), as well as AllEars reader Ratings (AER, Scale of 10)
Cinderella’s Royal Table (TPR 85, TPA 3, AER 8.1)
The crown jewel of character meals is Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella’s Castle. It’s one of the more difficult reservations to get, and thus, they’ve bumped it up to a 2 meal credit meal. It’s open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. You’ll be greeted by Cinderella and you’ll be sent upstairs to the dining room where your princes and princesses will be “introduced” and proceed to dine with a bevy of princesses (4-5, I believe) that varies by date. Children are provided wands and swords as souvenirs. (Certainly worth the hefty price tag, right? Right?).
Crystal Palace (TPR 91, TPA 3, AER 8.5)
This one is already locked in our schedule, as we want that early morning Magic Kingdom reservation, and I think if my wife had her pick of characters to meet n’ greet with, the top 2 seeds would be Mary Poppins and Eeyore. Crystal Palace is the only character meal where you can find Eeyore, so if your kids (or you, I’m an Eeyore guy myself) are fans of him or Piglet (also unique to Crystal Palace), you might want to stop in. Also, Winnie and Tigger of course. Crystal Palace is also the home of the famous Pooh’s Puffed French Toast, which happens to be on the kids’ table (wink, wink), but nobody’s judging.
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (TPR 87, TPA 2, AER 8.7)
For those who are balking at the price tag of Cinderella’s Royal Table (or couldn’t snag a reservation), Akershus is the obvious backup plan. Located in the Norway pavilion, meals at Akershus feature a different bevy of princess (although some are undoubtedly the same) and Scandinavian themed food (although mostly traditional American options). Also, since it’s in the Norway pavilion, it gives you quick access to Frozen Ever After once you finish your meal, so eat up. Nobody’s rushing you (nudge, nudge).
Garden Grill (TPR 93, TPA 2, AER 8.5)
I know I’ve done this one before, maybe on the trip before my last. The restaurant is located near Soarin’, and has a floor that rotates around scenes of Living with the Land. The meal features Chip and Dale, Mickey and Pluto in their farmer get up, and some of the food is grown fresh in the Land Pavilion. So basically, what I’m seeing here is, get a fast pass for Frozen Ever After or Soarin’ and eat at the restaurant near the other. That’s a free common sense tip for you right there.
Hollywood Studios (TPR 78, TPA 2, AER 8.5)
This is the Disney Jr character breakfast. I believe it currently features Jake, Princess Sofia, Doc McStuffins and Handy Manny. I think my son has cut all these shows out of his rotation, and the food is poorly regarded, so we’ll probably be skipping this one. That said, I do believe it’s your only option for that 8:00 hour ADR in Hollywood Studios. I don’t believe characters are present at Hollywood & Vine at supper time.
Tusker House (TPR 92, TPA 3, AER 8.8)
Tusker House is probably the most highly regarded character meal in the parks. The African themed buffet seems to have some yummy options, as well as the traditional fare, and you can hang with Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Mickey in Safari gear. Chow down and run yourself over to Pandora. Oh, also, you can get a Rivers of Light dining package for any mealtime at Tusker House (you can use dining credits for those too).
Chef Mickey’s @ Contemporary (TPR 85, TPA 2.5, AER 8.2)
While I’ve heard somewhere that the food may not even deserve to be called “food”, it is the only character meal where you can find all of the Big 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto), and I mean, they do have Mickey Waffles, and the Monorail goes right through the hotel. Gotta find the silver lining somewhere, but seriously the Big 5 is your silver lining. Oh, also, it’s crazy loud.
Best Friends Breakfast at ‘Ohana @ Polynesian (TPR 91, TPA 3, AER 8.5)
The food here is served ‘Ohana-style (‘Ohana means family you know), meaning you get a big ol’ skillet filled with bacon, eggs, sausage and fried potatoes. Oh, and everyone is your cousin, like you’re island family, or from Alabama. Also, I’m told there are delicious sticky sweet cinnamony rolls. Mickey and Pluto join Lilo and Stitch and wear Hawaiian shirts and leis (which you’ll also be given). ‘Ohana is one of the more highly regarded character meals on site, but it’s only at breakfast time.
Supercalifragilistic Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare @ Grand Floridian (TPR 91, TPA 2.5, AER 8.6)
As noted above, my wife is a fan of Ms. Mary Poppins, so this is on our short list, not sure exactly where to squeeze it, but we’ll be trying to get it in. You can catch Mary, along with Alice and the Mad Hatter, as well as Winnie and Tigger if you didn’t catch them at Crystal Palace (or even if you did). There are a few more different options on the buffet here than at some of the other character breakfasts, but you know, there are still Mickey waffles. I mean, let’s not get crazy.
Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare @ Grand Floridian (TPR 91, TPA 2.5, AER 6.9)
Another alternative to the Royal Table if your little princess has Cinderella at the top of her must see list. Guests will also meet Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine and the Stepsisters, all making their only character meal appearance. Also, this is the home of the famous Strawberry Soup.
Cape May Café @ Beach Club (TPR 91, TPA 3.5, AER 7.3)
You can catch Minnie, Donald and Goofy at this beach themed meal. Also, there’s all you can eat seafood at dinner time, so that’s got to account for something. It can be pretty difficult getting here in the morning if you’re not staying at an Epcot resort. I think we’re going to stay in the Epcot area next time around, so I think we’ll save this one for that trip.
Garden Grove @ Swan Resort (TPR 70, TPA 2, AER 9 (breakfast), AER 7.7 (Dinner))
This one doesn’t seem to be rated very well, will have to check some other sources, but they do have Prime Rib on their dinner buffet. Also, note that characters only make appearances for breakfasts on Saturday and Sunday. They’re there nightly for dinner.
So, now that we’ve gone over these, let’s talk what I’m planning for OUR trip. On the definite list, we have Crystal Palace (to catch Eeyore and get an early AM ADR at Magic Kingdom) and Tusker House (Rivers of Light Package and early morning ADR, wish my travel agent luck). We’ll probably do Cinderella’s Royal Table as a decent value use of 2 credits (We’re going with a Deluxe Dining Plan, but don’t want to have sit down meals 3 times a day). If we end up taking the niece (or maybe even my sister in law), we might tack on Akershus to get some extra princess action. I think we’re going to end up with a pick’em between ‘Ohana Best Friends Breakfast and Kona Café (TONGA TOAST!!! KONA COFFEE!!!!), and as I noted above, we’ll try to squeeze in breakfast at 1900 too, if we get a chance.
What are some of your favorite character dining experiences? Anything people need to know that I left out?