Character meals are a staple of the Disney World experience for many families. Last week I provided a guide to all of the various restaurants where characters make appearances. Now that you’ve made your selection, I want to give some tips on how to make the best of your meal. So without further ado, here are my tips for ensuring a great time at your next character meal!
Making the best of your character meal experience starts at home with making Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs). Character meals are very popular, and their available reservations book up fast, so you’ll want to do this as early as possible. You can either call 407-WDW-DINE or logon to Disney World’s website to make your ADRs. You probably won’t need it, but always keep a record of your ADR confirmation numbers with you during your trip. You can easily store them on your phone so you won’t have to carry around any extra pieces of paper. Since these meals are so popular, there is a $10 per person “no show” fee if you do not cancel your ADR more than 24 hours in advance of your meal.
When booking your meals remember timing is everything! I don’t have kids of my own, but I spend a lot of time with my nieces and nephew, so I know when they get tired, they get cranky. That is why I scheduled breakfasts with the characters rather than waiting until later in the day when they had had enough of being in the parks. My strategy worked out really well for us with our breakfast (menu) at the Crystal Palace during our recent trip. The kids were fresh, peppy, and hungry, so they enjoyed their food and their meetings with Pooh Bear and friends. Breakfast is the cheapest meal at every restaurant too, so this will be the most affordable time to dine with your favorite characters. I also like to make breakfast ADRs so I can get into the park before opening. If your kids get up at the crack of dawn anyhow, this could be the perfect option for your family. If you’d prefer to make reservations for later in the day, perhaps schedule some time to rest or take a nap before dinner.
Many of the character meals are served buffet style. This means you will have to leave your table to pick out what you’d like to eat. Before you make a beeline for the buffet, keep and eye on the characters while they make their rounds to try to figure out their pattern. All of the characters in a given restaurant follow the same path, so if you figure it out, you should be able to time your moments away from your table as to not miss out on a character meeting opportunity. If you do miss out on one, simply let an attendant or your server know Mickey passed you by, and the cast member will be sure to bring him back over to your table.
When the characters make it to your table be sure to have your cameras ready. This will save time, and the character and her attendant will know you intend to take photos. If the character is not aware of your desire to have your picture taken, she may simply stop by to wave without lingering very long. Likewise, if you or your kids are autograph collectors, have your autograph books and a pen ready to go.
Speaking of photos, at some of these restaurants cast members will take a group photo of your party before you are seated. They will bring a package to your table to see if you would like to purchase the photos while you’re eating. The package is included at Cinderella’s Royal Table and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, but you must purchase it elsewhere. There is a new PhotoPass+ service that includes restaurant photos; if you think you will buy a lot of them, it could be a good deal for you. Also, keep in mind the photographers will also take one with your own camera, so you could potentially avoid paying for pictures all together.
All kids react differently to their favorite furry friends coming to visit. Even within the same family one kid may love hugging it out with Pooh Bear, while the next hides under the table. My nieces (especially the oldest one) took a few minutes to warm up to the idea of the characters coming to their table. They didn’t cry, but they looked very unsure about the situation. My nephew, on the other hand, who is the youngest of the kids, dove right in and grinned from ear to ear as soon as the first character walked up to him. And when Mickey came by at Tusker House, he about lost his mind with excitement. You obviously know your kids the best and can best gauge how they will react at a character meal. Don’t force them if they are reluctant, and let them approach the situation at their own paces. If you don’t think they will handle a six foot tall dog hugging them during breakfast well, just save character dining for another vacation when they are older and might be able to appreciate it more.
With all this kid friendly advice in mind, don’t be afraid to go to a character meal as a group of adults. My friends and I have done so on several occasions, and we always have a blast. If you are playful with the characters, they will reciprocate no matter your age. Since I don’t usually have kids in tow, I don’t feel some moral obligation to stand in line to meet them in the parks, so character meals are usually the only time I get to see them and pose for pictures with them with my friends. Just let your inner child out when you eat at one of these restaurants and you’ll have a great time no matter how old (or young) you are!
There you have it: my tips to make your character meal great! If you have any other tips please don’t be shy to share them in the comments!