Disney Character Dining : Reviews from a Real Mom

Country Dance Party at Mickey's Backyard BBQ

Disney Character Dining overwhelmed me in the beginning.  I stressed trying to pick the PERFECT character meal with my limited budget. I scoured the Internet for recommendations, asked everyone I knew had gone to Disney about their favorites, and, at the end, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. After putting several Disney trips (and Disney Character Dining experiences) under my belt, I’ve put together some advice that I wished I’d had when I made my first plans.  We have never had a bad experience, and each meal has its own special features.  Hopefully this list will help you find the one that is right for you!

  1. Akershus Royal Banquet : Get a kiss from Snow White!

    1.   We took our son here for his first Disney trip, and he won Snow White over enough to get a big red kiss on his forehead.  As we walked around Epcot the rest of the day, all the cast members greeted “Snow White’s Prince”.  You also get a free 8×10 photo with one of the princesses.  Ours have been with Belle so far.  We have seen at least 5 princesses each time (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty/Princess Aurora, Ariel, Cinderella, and Belle), and they do a little parade during the meal.  Our son has held Cinderella’s hand as her prince while they walk around the restaurant.  Each princess will come to your table for poses, autographs and pictures.  We have always scheduled the breakfast, which comes family-style and has plenty of hearty food to satisfy my husband and kids.  Eggs, bacon, bagels, fruit, etc.  You can actually schedule this meal BEFORE Epcot opens, meaning you get in the park first and can be waiting for the new Frozen ride (also in Norway).  This can save you a fast pass or let you ride it twice.  You are also across from the Anna and Elsa character experience.TRAVEL & LEISURE
      Kisses with Ariel

      Kisses with Ariel

      Hugs and Kisses with Snow White

      Hugs and Kisses with Snow White

  2. Chef Mickey’s : The Fab Five

    1. I like to schedule a meal at Chef Mickey’s to coincide with a Magic Kingdom days. Since it is in Contemporary, it’s an easy monorail ride to or from Magic Kingdom.  You can always hop over to the Epcot monorail line as well for an easy transfer.  Earlier in the year, we actually stayed in Contemporary and ended up with a room at the very end of the resort, overlooking Chef Mickey’s. I was a little worried about the noise, but it actually became my daughter’s favorite thing to do at the end of each day! We stood on the balcony and watched the characters move from table to table before going to bed each night. The room was really well insulated, and we didn’t actually hear it at all once inside.  Chef Mickey’s gives you a photo-op with a statue of Chef Mickey before your meal, and then each character from the Fab Five (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto) stops at your table for pictures and poses.  You can get autographs as well. The breakfast buffet is one of our favorites with everything from cereals, donuts, eggs, bacon, breakfast potatoes, and, of course, Mickey waffles.The
  3. The Crystal Palace : Winnie the Pooh, Eeyor, Piglet, and Tigger too!

    1. You can’t get much more convenient for a Character meal if you are visiting the Magic Kingdom. The Crystal Palace is on the left as soon as you exit Main Street.  It is a similar buffet to the other Character meals, and the residents of the 100 Acre Wood come to visit your table once each.  They also do a parade / song through the restaurant. My daughter held Eeyor’s tail the whole way with the biggest grin on her face.IMG_1987IMG_1979
  4. Mickey’s Backyard BBQ :

    1. This is currently our favorite character meal.  I scheduled it since we were staying at the Cabins at Fort Wilderness (which I also completely recommend!), and it was a quick golf cart ride away.  It lasts every bit of 1.5-2 hours, and you have more contact with the characters than any other meal we have tried so far.
    2. The premise is a country dance party, complete with full band, hosts, and characters (Cowboy Mickey, Cowgirl Minnie, Chip, Dale and Goofy). My son was obsessed with the rope trick cowboy who came out twice to show off his amazing tricks.  The hosts asked everyone in the beginning to send in anything they were celebrating, and they made sure to recognize every birthday, anniversary, and lost tooth that came their way!  By far the best part were the regular dance sessions with the characters. They went to three separate locations throughout the party ,and my daughter was able to dance directly with all the characters by the end of the dinner.  For a while, it was only her, Chip and Dale on one side and they were copying her moves.  The characters also line up on opposite sides for pictures several times so you are sure to get your photo with all of the characters. They do have a Disney photographer, so you can get the pictures with a quick touch of your magic band.
    3. The food was also amazing, with burgers, hot dogs, bbq, ribs, and chicken.  Sides and a strawberry short-cake bar rounded out the meal.  Fort Wilderness may seems far away, but it actually runs a dedicated boat from Magic Kingdom, and we never waited more than 15 minutes.  It also runs a dedicated bus from the other parks, so you don’t have to share!

      Country Dance Party at Mickey's Backyard BBQ

      Country Dance Party at Mickey’s Backyard BBQ

  5. The Garden Grill : Farm to Table…literally!

    1. The Garden Grill is a close second for character interactions and edges out the others for our favorite food.  The restaurant actually rotates inside of the Living with the Land ride in Epcot. You get a full view of the ride from inside the restaurant.  A meal usually lasts one full rotation.  The characters stop by your table, but visit much more frequently than other Disney Character Dining experiences. We have always seen each character at least twice during our meals and sometimes three or four times.  You get Farmer Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale for autographs and photos.  Most of the vegetables for your meal are grown in the Living with the Land greenhouse. Riding the ride (which never has a long wait) before your meal gives you the chance to talk about the food with your kids.
    2. The dinner is served family-style has a farmer’s salad, amazing rolls with maple butter, char-grilled beef filets, oven-roasted turkey, and a sustainable fish.  We have also had fresh cranberry sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, and stuffing. Think delicious Thanksgiving anytime of the year!  The other great thing about The Garden Grill is that I have never had an issue getting a reservation. We ate here for the first time after noticing we had some extra meals on our dining plan.  We were able to schedule a dinner at 6pm same-day.  I would definitely recommend this dinner if you want some quality Mickey or Chip & Dale time and enjoy some great food!
      Dancing with Farmer Mickey

      Dancing with Farmer Mickey

      Hangin' with Dale

      Hangin’ with Dale

  6. ‘Ohana :

    1. We stayed at Polynesian one year and had to try the ‘Ohana breakfast with Lilo and Stitch. You also get to see Mickey and Pluto in Hawaii attire.  Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, Island-style fried potatoes, pork sausage, smoked bacon and a variety of fresh fruits and breads.  Our favorite was the special Hawaiian juice drink.  This breakfast is very similar to the others in that the characters rotate through the room and stop at each table for pictures and autographs.  The dinner doesn’t have characters, but does have games and music.  The food for dinner can’t be beat, and kids can participate in traditional Polynesian songs and a coconut race.
    2. We discovered on well-hidden secret during our stay at the Polynesian hotel.  You can actually get the ‘Ohana dinner delivered to your room as room service for about half the price of the actual restaurant. The restaurant is always booked and getting a reservation last minute is very difficult.  If you didn’t get that early reservation, this is a great option.  We actually ordered 2 thinking that it was for a single person and ended up with food for 4 adults!  Each order should fully serve 2 adults and a child.POLY_OHANA_7189932132IMG_9155
  7. Tusker House : Safari Time!

    1. One of our favorite parts of Disney is the opportunity to experience different kinds of foods and cultures.  The character experience at Tusker House gives you a chance to sample African dishes from a large buffet.  You also get to meet Safari Donald, Daisy, Mickey, and Goofy who visit your table for autographs and pictures.  My husband made three trips to try everything on the buffet!  This experience is usually pretty easy to book. It is situated near the Lion King show and the Kilimanjaro Safari ride.  The character interaction is typical of most character meals, but we enjoy the food a little more since it’s not something we typically get to try at home.

      Safari Daisy

      Safari Daisy

  8. Cinderella’s Royal Table : Dine in the Castle

    1. You can’t beat Cinderella’s Castle for atmosphere during a Disney Character Dining experience.  This meal leads you into the Castle for a picture with Cinderella.  After your picture, you are led upstairs to the dining room. It is actually pretty small and intimate, which explains why reservations are so hard to get.  This is a meal you will have to book close to 6 months out.  The food options are more formal than other meals. Everyone gets an appetizer, main course, and desert. The charcuterie platter for adults was a favorite for my table. The kids enjoyed grapes and cheddar cheese cubes.  The beef tenderloin and shrimp is the favorite main course, but I also enjoyed the salmon a lot.  You see 5 princesses (Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White, Princess Aurora, and Jasmin), each announced when they enter the dining room.  The children also get a magic wand or sword
  9. Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria Al Forno
    1. We love the Princes too! This Character Breakfast allows you to enjoy a menu- based breakfast with Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, Ariel, and Prince Eric. The food has an Italian flair, which coincides with its location in Trattoria Al Forno on Disney’s Boardwalk. We thought the food was a highlight for this meal. Most Character Meals include a buffet breakfast, but this one allows you to order from a nice menu. King Triton’s Shipwreck al Forno literally threw everything into a breakfast calzone, and the Tangled Eggs took full advantage of some fresh mozzarella. One of our highlight though, came with the opening pastries served in a frying pan as a nod to our hostess, Rapunzel.
    2. The characters visit each table for pictures and signatures. We enjoyed Flynn Rider and Rapunzel as they asked our children if “they had a dream.” Prince Eric and Ariel talked about their next adventures. They also do a parade similar to other character breakfasts, ending with the Princesses dancing with their Prince.
Prince Eric

Loved meeting Prince Eric and snagging an autograph

 

Overall, we always try to do the character meal at the hotel we are staying at purely for convenience. As I said before, you can never go wrong with a Character Meal.  My top favorites would be :

  1. Mickey’s Backyard BBQ for character interaction :
    1. 1.5-2 hours of entertainment including dancing with the Characters and your own pictures with a Disney photographer
  2. The Garden Grill for food, character interaction, and availability :
    1. The characters make it to your table at least twice and most other character meals only have them visit a single time. Some of the food comes from the Living with the Land greenhouse so it’s a cool opportunity to talk with your kids about how they just saw some of the food they are about to eat.  This experience usually has availability same day which is a huge win in the character world.
  3. Akershus Royal Banquet for Princess overload and the ability to get into Epcot early:
    1. See at least 5 princesses and participate in a Royal Procession. The food is also great for both breakfast and dinner.  The proximity to popular rides, like Frozen, make this a home-run.

We haven’t made it to all experiences yet, and I’ll continue to update as we try each one. Below is a table with a summary of the characters (always subject to change slightly) and the location of each.

Restaurant / ExperienceCharactersLocation
1900 Park Fare (Breakfast)
Superfragilistic Breakfast
Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, The Mad Hatter, Tigger, Winnie the PoohGrand Floridian
1900 Park Fare (Dinner)
Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner
Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and DrisellaGrand Floridian
Akershus Royal Banquet HallAt least 5 princesses from Belle (Main) plus 4 more Princesses from Snow White, Cinderella, Pricess Aurora, Ariel, JasmineNorway Pavillion in Epcot
Bon Voyage BreakfastRapunzel, Flynn Rider, Ariel, Prince Eric. Merida sometimes appearsTrattoria Al Forno on Disney's Boardwalk
Cape May Café - Minnie's Beach Club BashMinnie, Goofy and Donald (subject to change)Beach Club Resort
Chef Mickey'sChef Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, PlutoContemporary Resort
Cinderella's Royal TableAt least 5 princesses from Cinderella (Main) plus 4 more Princesses from Snow White, Belle, Pricess Aurora, Ariel, JasmineCinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom
Crystal Palace
Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, TiggerCrystal Palace in Magic Kingdom
Disney's Perfectly Princess TeaPrincess Aurora, Rose PetalGrand Floridian
Garden GrillFarmer Mickey, Farmer Pluto, Chip, DaleGarden Grill in Epcot
Good Morning Breakfast With GoofyGoofy plus other characters from Fab 5 (subject to change)Ravello at Four Seasons Resort
Hollywood and Vine (Breakfast)
Disney Junior Play 'n Dine
Doc McStuffins, Jake, Sofia the First, Handy Manny, Vampirina (subject to change)Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood Studios
Hollywood and Vine (Dinner)
Minnie's Seasonal Dine
Minnie, Daisy, Donald, GoofyHollywood and Vine in Hollywood Studios
'Ohana (Breakfast(Lilo, Stitch, Mickey, PlutoPolynesian Village Resort
Tusker HouseSafari Donald, Daisy, Mickey and GoofyTusker House in Animal Kingdom
Wonderland Tea PartyMad Hatter, Alice1900 Park Fare at Grand Floridian
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