Navigating Character Dining at Disney World

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Making heads or tails of all of the character dining options at Disney World can be daunting, so I wanted to take this week’s post to give our readers a guide to those experiences. Here you will be able to get a handle on which characters appear at what restaurants and some other basic information about each establishment. Hopefully it will help you and your family decide where you may want to eat and interact with your favorite furry friends on your next trip!

Before we begin our tour of the character dining restaurants, let’s go over some basics of character meals at Disney World. These are very popular with guests of all ages, so reservations are a must. When guests book these experiences, they must provide a credit card number to put a hold on their reservations. You may cancel your reservation at any time up to 24 hours in advance without having your card charged. If your party does not show up for its Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR), you will be charged a “no show fee” of $10 per person.

Please note that character appearances are always subject to change and are never guaranteed.

Magic Kingdom

Cinderella’s Royal Table - Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served as prix fixe meals inside Cinderella Castle. Cinderella and her princess friends (who may include Belle, Aurora, and Snow White) appear during the meal. This is one of the hottest tickets in town, so if your little prince or princess wants to dine in this royal setting, be sure to make an ADR 180 days in advance.

The Crystal Palace - Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served buffet style. Characters who appear here include Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and Eeyore. You may want to book breakfast here early in the morning to gain access to the park before regular guests. This way you can have a yummy meal, meet Pooh Bear, and take your family’s picture in front of the castle without 1,000 people in the background. I’ve only had breakfast here, but it was a great time!

Epcot

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall - Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served family-style here in the Norway Pavilion. There is also a buffet at lunch and dinner featuring Norwegian favorites.  Cindrella, Ariel, Belle, Aurora, and Snow White are all regulars here at Akershus, and they can’t wait to meet their royal subjects. A special perk at this restaurant is that a professional group photo is included for every four guests in your party.

The Garden Grill - This restaurant only serves a dinner hosted by Chip and Dale and their friends, including Mickey and Pluto in their farmer outfits. The restaurant is within the Land Pavilion, and it slowly rotates to allow guests to have a view of the Living with the Land attraction while they eat their family style dinner.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Hollywood & Vine - A character buffet is served for breakfast and lunch. Disney Junior characters are here to greet guests and pose for pictures. Handy Manny, Special Agent Oso, Jake the Neverland Pirate, and June from the Little Einsteins series are all among the kid favorites who appear here. A dinner buffet is also served, but it does not feature character interaction. This experience caters more to the younger crowd since Disney Junior characters are highlighted.

Animal Kingdom

Tusker House - Characters have appeared at breakfast here for a while, but they have more recently been added at lunch, too! Donald, Daisy, Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy appear in their safari outfits as if they are ready to hop aboard the trucks for a two week journey at the nearby Kilimanjaro Safaris. The African-inspired menu is served buffet-style, but there are plenty of more traditional options for those folks who may not be as adventurous. Tusker House also serves dinner, but without characters.

Resorts

Cape May Cafe - With its location at the Beach Club Resort, you can be sure that this seaside eatery will feature characters in their beach-going best. The breakfast buffet features everyone’s favorite furry friends, but dinner does not, so be sure to book breakfast if you are looking to take some great photos with the likes of Minnie, Goofy, and Donald. This has been one of my favorite character breakfasts I’ve attended!

Chef Mickey’s - Breakfast and dinner are served year round, and lunch is sometimes added during busy seasons. This restaurant always seems to be busy, and its location at the Contemporary Resort makes it easy to get to via the monorail. Mickey, Donald Duck, Goofy, Minnie, and Pluto all greet guests as they munch on their buffet goodies. This is another extremely popular location, so be sure to make your ADRs well in advance.

Mickey’s Backyard Barbeque - This party is held on Thursdays and Saturdays from March through December, but be aware that it can be canceled for bad weather. Here, guests can enjoy a buffet full of summertime grill favorites while dancing, playing games, and meeting characters. Since it is held at the Fort Wilderness Campground, the easiest way to get there is to take the boat from the Magic Kingdom. A little escape from the parks for an outdoor picnic with characters sounds like a great time!

1900 Park Fare - Located at the Grand Floridian, this eatery serves breakfast with Mary Poppins, Alice, the Mad Hatter, and other “Wonderland Friends.” Alice and company return in the afternoon for a “Wonderland Tea Party,” where guests get to hear stories, play games, and decorate their own cupcakes! For dinner, Cinderella takes over greeting guests along with Prince Charming, the Fairy Godmother, Lady Tremaine, and the wicked step sisters. Meals here are served buffet style, and there is sure to be something on the menu to please every palate.

‘Ohana - This fan favorite, located at the Polynesian, is a hit for breakfast! The meal is served family-style and features appearances by Lilo, Stitch, Mickey, and Pluto. Characters only appear at breakfast at this eatery. I have found the characters to be especially playful at ‘Ohana. Guests may also participate in games and have their family portraits taken with their leis.

Garden Grove – This restaurant may be a bit off the beaten path with its location at the Swan. Characters are featured on Saturday and Sunday mornings for breakfast, as well as at dinner each night.  The dinner buffet is themed according to different days of the week, so you will want to double check what will be served before you make a reservation.  We should note the Dining Plan is not accepted at the Garden Grove. You may run into the likes of Goofy, Pluto, Rafiki, and Timon here.

The Garden View Tea Room – During lunch hours kids can meet their favorite princesses during the My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party. The Tea Room at the Grand Floridian hosts guests with a prix fixe menu where girls are encouraged to dress like their favorite princess to meet their host called Miss Rose Petal, along with Princess Aurora of Sleeping Beauty fame.  Girls will also receive a doll and other goodies as a keepsake for participating in the afternoon tea (boys get a Duffy and Pirate Mickey hat). This experience comes with a hefty price tag of about $250 for one child and an adult companion. There is an additional charge for each added child or adult.

There you have it: a basic guide to all of the character dining locations on Disney World property. Please let me know if you have any questions or tell me all about your favorite places to dine with characters in the comments!

Next week I’ll continue my discussion of character meals with tips to ensure a great experience at one of the character meals!

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Posted on April 18, 2012

18 Responses to “Navigating Character Dining at Disney World”

  • by Andrew Drummond on April 18, 2012, at 10:49 am EDT

    Are you sure about Akershus being family style? When I was there in September it was prix fixe (though includes the salad/cheese/bread buffet.

    • I have never eaten there, but according to Disney’s website it is family style service with the addition of the buffet at lunch and dinner. This are always subject to change though. Thanks for the comment!

    • by Scarlett Litton on April 18, 2012, at 11:25 am EDT

      I’ve only been there for breakfast…but our food was all served family style.

      • by David Davies on April 18, 2012, at 12:16 pm EDT

        For breakfast, the “Plate of Eggs, Potato Casserole and Sausage” is brought to the table for all to share. For lunch and dinner guests need to choose their entrees and desserts (which accompany the “Taste of Norway” cold buffet).

        Although I have not tried, I have heard that you may be able to order multiple entrees like on a cruise.

        • For lunch, there was a buffet for appetizers, you choose your main from the menu and then dessert is served family style, with the selections all on one platter and you can ask for more. How is that for including every style of service in one meal!!

  • by Mark Randolph on April 18, 2012, at 11:22 am EDT

    We have experienced Chef Mickey’s, Garden Grill, and Crystal Palace and will hit Garden Grill and Chef Mickey’s again plus Tusker House for breakfast on our next trip. Chef Mickey’s and Garden Grill was awesome the food was great and the charecter experience was well run and very relaxed. Crystal Palace on the other hand was like a zoo and very cramped. I found it tough to go to the buffet due to the tightness of the tables and the charecter experience was rushed and not well planned. the food was good but everything else pushed us away.

    • That’s too bad about Crystal Palace. I went with my family in February and had a really great time. We went fairly early and it wasn’t terribly crowded so I’m sure that had a lot to do with how it went for us. I’ve always had fun at Chef Mickey’s too but I haven’t been to any of the other meals you discussed. I did do Tusker House lunch on that same trip and liked it though. Thanks for the comment!

      • We went to The Crystal Palace for lunch in January. It was packed, with people waiting outside for tables but we loved our experience. The buffet was wonderful for our family of four with our very different palates, including a pescaterian (vegetarian who also eats fish), confirmed carnivoire, a kindof picky six year old and me who likes “good food”, i.e., falvourful, well-prepared and fresh! The character interaction was great. We saw all four in the hour and a bit we were there, with time in between to go up to the buffet. We felt very relaxed and had good interaction with each. I also felt the price was better than some character meals and felt we got our money’s worth in food, atmosphere and entertainment. Considering the lack of nice dining options in Magic Kingdom (the worst of the four parks by far, in my opinion) I will definitely be making it a stop on every trip from now on!

  • I was at 1900 park fair for dinner and fairy godmother wasnt there… Is that new? I know she was
    At the castle meals.

    • She was listed as appearing at 1900 Park Fair in a few places when I was doing my research, but things can always change. I have not had a meal there so I can’t speak from personal experience. Thanks for the comment!

  • We always hit Donald’s Safari Breakfast at Tusker House. My husband dreams about the bread pudding between trips. It’s a great spot to eat early before Animal Kingdom opens. It’s super close to the Safari ride, so we like to roll out with full tummies and onto one of the first Safaris of the day!

  • While we enjoy the food at Tusker House for breakfast, we’ve found the character experience to be very, very rushed – we’ve decided that the character experience at Chef Mickey’s is a better value for us.

  • Thanks for this blog! We were just trying to decide where to book our character breakfast this year…wanting to try something new! Just booked Cape May and super excited.

  • I was just wondering, we have or first family trip to Disney world this august. And have reservations at the crystal palace as well as cinderella’s royal table. Two separate days both breakfasts and both before the park opens. What I need to know is how long the meals take to finish. Not that I want to rush threw them just that I need to know for the plan of attack after.

  • I would also like to know how much time to budget for character meals.
    Thanks!

    • If you’re going to a buffet I’d say an hour should be enough time provided you don’t wait long to be seated. It may even take you less time, but with feeding the kids and doing the pictures and all I’d say an hour to be on the safe side. Thanks for the comments Jamie and Dee!

  • Thanks for the list! Two years ago we took the kids to Cape May Cafe for breakfast and to the Garden Grille for dinner. We loved both of them! Last month we went to Crystal Palace an hour before MK opened, what a magical experience being on an empty Main Street! After breakfast we went straight to Fantasy Land and did everything with no wait at all, it was the best! I would definitely recommend booking the breakfasts an hour before park open as well. :) Next trip I hope to do the Donald Safari breakfast in Animal Kingdom, and also Ohana because it sounds so fun! I hope my kids don’t mind now that they’re getting older, but mommy needs her special character meals too, lol ;)

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