Character Dining at Walt Disney World is one of the best ways to get the most memorable pictures and a full autograph book. Dining with the Disney Characters doesn’t mean that they literally sit down at the table with you and eat, (kinda tough in some of those costumes!) but that they come out during your meal to greet you and have their picture taken and generally entertain you. It is also never guaranteed that a certain character will be in attendance, Cinderella at Cinderella’s Royal Table is a high probability, but don’t have your heart set on seeing Jasmine too, she may not show.
There are a couple of factors that will determine where you want to do your character meal. Do you prefer the variety of buffets or would you rather have your food served to you? Breakfasts seem to be more popular, which sometimes means more crowded, but you may have little ones that would just be too tired at the end of the day. And of course, who do you want to see? As much as I would love the opportunity to eat in the castle or the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, I sympathize with my 9 year old son who “does NOT want to eat with any Princess!”
Since we have only done one character meal, I did quite a bit of research on the selection of meals offered and their reviews. Like I mentioned, breakfast seems to be the most popular, mostly for the wide variety of foods and general atmosphere. Lunch seems to be the second choice and the least crowded. Dinner, ranking as high in atmosphere, ranks lowest in food quality. Many did not seem to think that the food served was worth the higher dinner price. But you’re not paying for just a meal, but a magical experience.
The epitome in Character Dining is at Magic Kingdom. Cinderella’s Royal Table (also called Fairytale Dining), located on the 2nd floor of the castle (yes, THE castle!), offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with a fixed price, set menu. With the Fairy Godmother as Hostess, Cinderella and sometimes Belle, Jasmine and Snow White are also in attendance. With the dining plan option, this is the only Character meal that requires two table service meal credits per person.
Also at Magic Kingdom is the Character meal at the Crystal Palace. The buffet breakfast here rates high in every category but they also serve lunch and dinner. This will be my next choice for character dining because it features some of my favorites: Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet.
Epcot also has two Character dining options. At the Garden Grill in Future World you can join “Farmer” Mickey, Pluto and of course Chip and Dale at Chip and Dale’s Harvest Feast. This family-style meal is offered for dinner only, but is highly recommended for both its quality and unique food offerings. Back in the World Showcase is Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway. In a setting almost as beautiful as Cinderella’s castle you may meet Belle, Jasmine, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Mary Poppins, Mulan and if you’re really lucky, Ariel. Breakfast consists of American favorites served family style. Lunch and dinner are a cold buffet of Norwegian salads, meats and cheeses and hot entrees served a la carte.
For the younger Disney enthusiast, Hollywood Studios has Playhouse Disney’s Play and Dine at Hollywood and Vine. Breakfast and Lunch buffets are accompanied by assorted characters from JoJo’s Circus, Little Einsteins and Handy Manny.
Animal Kingdom is home to the one Character meal we have done. Twice. It’s that good. Donald’s Safari Breakfast at the Tusker House has Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy dressed in their appropriate Safari gear. The buffet is excellent, a mix of traditional favorites and some African inspired dishes. (My favorite? Warm banana-cinnamon bread pudding with vanilla sauce. Sometimes served as dessert at Boma too. Yummm!)
There are also Character dining experiences at some of the resorts. The Yacht and Beach Club has a breakfast buffet at the Cape May Café with Goofy, Minnie and Donald in beach attire. This breakfast seems to be the least overwhelming and chaotic and rates high for overall atmosphere. The Polynesian has the family style (of course) Best Friends Breakfast at ‘Ohana with Lilo and Stitch. Sometimes even Mickey and Pluto show up to this one. The family style (large plate of food brought to the table for all to share) is a popular choice with no worries about missing a character because you are up at the buffet. The Grand Floridian has two character meals, a Supercalifragilistic Breakfast buffet with Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland and The Mad Hatter. The buffet style dinner is Cinderella’s Gala Feast where you can dine with Cinderella, Lady Tremaine, the step sisters and Prince Charming. In reading reviews it seems that table visits and character activities can get pretty entertaining with this bunch! Finally Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary is well known and popular, which can equal busy and, with the open area, noisy. Both the breakfast and dinner buffets have Mickey and Goofy in Chef attire and occasionally Pluto, Minnie, and Donald.
All character meals have some sort of guest interaction. Not only do they come to your table for pictures and autographs, but parades seem to be common. At the Tusker House kids and characters marched around to African music and each got to play a native instrument. There are also meals where you are entertained by singing and dancing and they highly recommend audience participation. Age of children (or not having any children!) did not seem to be a factor in the enjoyment of any of these meals. Character meals don’t really cost any more than the other sit-down restaurants in the World, but due to their popularity, be sure to make advance reservations.