At Disney’s Animal Kingdom you can see lots of different animals, but there is still only one place where those animals hug you back (and no, it is not the tigers…trust me). At Donald’s Dining Safari at Tusker House you get to interact with some large, walking wildlife while dining, and I am here to give you my impressions of this wild character meal.
Tusker House is located in the African area of Animal Kingdom, and, as with everything in Africa and Asia, the building that houses the restaurant is exquisitely themed. You walk up to a worn building that is in need of some touch up work, and heading inside leads you into an African marketplace setting with multiple dining rooms branched off of the main buffet area. Inside the dining rooms are maps of Africa with information about growing regions and exports that this geek found pretty interesting.
My two complaints about the atmosphere are not unique to the Tusker House. For one, the waiting area for checking in is outdoors, and you may be aware of this, but Florida can be hot. I don’t particularly like being really hot and sweaty as I’m waiting for a meal. I will say that Tusker House’s waiting area is covered and has chairs, so that puts it a step above some others.
My second complaint is the noise, which is almost always a problem at character meals. For some reason cramming large amounts of children into an echo-heavy space and introducing popular characters makes sound levels higher. I guess it is just a phenomenon that science has yet to explain.
Much like the princess meals, Tusker House has a host. Unlike the princess meals, this host is a giant duck. Donald greets each family for a picture just before being seated, and and that is all you will see of the famous fowl. Also, unlike the princess meals, the picture taken with Donald is not included in the price but is (naturally) available for purchase.
Once inside you will be visited by three ghosts…oops, wrong story, I mean three characters: Goofy, Daisy Duck, and Mickey Mouse. Not only are these immensely popular characters, but this represents the only place that you are able to eat with Daisy. That was actually the main reason that my family decided to try Tusker House the first time: my daughter wanted to meet Daisy (and I don’t like character lines). The characters came around very often I felt, even though there were only three of them. There were actually points where I wanted a break to eat and couldn’t keep Goofy out of my face (that was a weird sentence).
All of the characters are geared up to go on safari with their khaki vests and hats. As far as costuming goes, these are far from the worst (Hi again, Cape May!), but they are not my favorite, either. I think the costumes are lost on most kids, and Goofy looks more like a boy scout than anything else. Of course this is all digging for criticism as I would never avoid a character meal based on costuming.
I have eaten at Tusker House twice, once for breakfast and once for lunch. Overall, I really like the food, although the breakfast fare (see the full menu here) leans more toward the standards (as does everyplace on Disney property). For breakfast there are a few interesting items such as frittatas (both veggie and ham and cheese), spiced corned beef hash, beef quiches, and carved honey-glazed ham. I also always feel like even the regular breakfast foods are a little fresher here, but that’s probably just me making stuff up again.
Lunch could not be more different from the other character buffets (full menu) with hummus, a few kinds of couscous, spiced tofu, curried chicken, carved meats, and lots of veggies and other sides. The food is not for everyone, I’m sure, but I really appreciate any effort on Disney property to put out something unique and at least semi-authentic. Any meal where I don’t have to waste energy choking down chicken nuggets and fries makes me a happy tourist.
As an omnivore, I am not always the best resource on things such as vegetarianism, veganism, lactose intolerance, and Celiac’s disease, but Tusker House lunch seems like a pretty good place for all of those. I personally witnessed a Cast Member giving two tours to guests pointing out things that they could and could not eat (one was lactose intolerant, one had Celiac’s), and there seemed to be quite a few options.
Odds, Ends, and Details
Character meals are offered at Tusker House for breakfast and lunch with the same lineup of characters at both. Breakfast will set you back $24.99 (plus tax) for adults and $13.99 (plus tax) for those between the ages of 3 and 9. Lunch is priced at exactly $1 more for each, which seems odd to me, but Disney doesn’t let me set the prices (and they laugh at me when I ask to). As I mentioned above, the picture you take with Donald is not included in the price, but photographers are willing to take a picture with your camera, so have it ready.
I am a huge fan of Tusker House, and I would go as far as to say that it is my favorite of the character meals I have done. It has popular characters, good food, and an interesting atmosphere, as well as a central, in-park location that allows for maximized touring. Tusker House is also not a particularly hard reservation to get, at least not compared to the other character meals. I would recommend breakfast to everyone and lunch to everyone who likes to eat a little adventurously.
I’ll see you there!
Other Volumes in my Character Meals series: