This is the fourth in my series of printed histrionics about my first ever trip to Disneyland as part of TouringPlans.com’s desire to
take over the world visit every Disney-run location in the world. I previously wrote about my general excitement, how I budgeted for the trip to California, and the random things I expect to find as a first time visitor to Disneyland. This post is all about choosing my dining in Disneyland, specifically for any meals where I may need a reservation.
I am about 2 months away from my Disneyland trip (I know because my kids have been counting down for over a month already). If I were traveling to Walt Disney World, at this point I would have all of my Advance Dining Reservations, FastPass+ attraction reservations, morning alarms set with precise wake-up times, and my pacemaker linked with Disney’s new heart rate excitement inducement program. Things are a bit different out west; there are no FastPass+ reservations (at least not yet), and dining reservations can only be made 60 days in advance.
That 60 day dining window opens for me on August 10, and being a Walt Disney World-trained super-advance-planner, I want to be ready early in the morning to grab my spots. In direct opposition to my last post, where I asked for no spoilers (and you were great about that, by the way), I need your help with this one. I know a little bit about dining in Disneyland, but not enough to make selections out of all of these amazing-sounding restaurants.
Here are the relevant stats: Family of 4 with two adults (in age only) and two young children, a girl of almost 6 and a boy of 3. We will be visiting the two Disneyland Resort parks for 5 days, and I’m expecting to eat around 4 or 5 sit-down, or table service, meals. My kids are pretty good (if I do say so myself), but they are still kids, and would still rather not sit quietly for an hour. Therefore, meals that have some sort stimulation for them are a higher priority and the super-fancy experiences like Napa Rose are out.
I’ll also take this moment to re-emphasize my family’s love of character dining. We have done almost all of the Walt Disney World character meals, often more than once (the lone exception being the Garden Grove at the Swan). As you probably expect, we would also like to try at least some of the Disneyland character dining experiences, although probably not all 5 of them due to overlapping characters.
These are not all of the options for table service dining in Disneyland, rather a handful of spots that sound interesting to me for whatever reason. If you have a favorite that is not on this list, by all means suggest it below.
Since I’ve already explained how much we enjoy these, we may as well start with them. I don’t really mention the food here because let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter. Sure, I’d love a haute cuisine experience, but that’s not happening and it’s not really what we’re paying for. So, here are the options:
Ariel’s Grotto (California Adventure) — There is a 99% chance we’ll end up doing this one because my daughter is princess-crazy. The details (other than that princesses are there) barely matter, but both breakfast and lunch are served with Ariel and a few of her royal gal pals.
Disney’s PCH Grill (Paradise Pier Hotel) — The punctuation-challenged Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey and Friends happens here with the same breakfast buffet stuff that is served everywhere. It seems like Mickey’s friends often include Minnie, Pluto, and Stitch.
Goofy’s Kitchen (Disneyland Hotel) — Breakfast and dinner are the meals here and Goofy is the main man…uh, dog? He is often joined by Minnie and Pluto.
Plaza Inn (Disneyland) — With a great location at the end of Main Street, U.S.A., this character breakfast is frequented by Disney celebrities Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Chip, and Dale.
Storyteller’s Cafe (Grand Californian Hotel) — Breakfast features Chip n Dale and “friends.” Who exactly the friends are seems to be in some doubt, but it appears as if the restaurant is usually infested with critters such as Meeko (from Pocahontas) or Terk (from Tarzan, and yes, I know a primate is not a critter).
Excluding the princess meal, Minnie and Pluto appear at 3 of the other 4, and Chip n Dale and Goofy are at 2. We probably don’t need to repeatedly meet these characters, although my children might totally disagree with me on that.
Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue — An outdoor, all-you-can-eat barbecue joint. I love barbecue and I enjoy any place that lets me eat until I burst. On the other hand, what I generally love is good barbecue (I don’t trust the theme park version) and I don’t actually enjoy the act of bursting. I’m also not sure I would even need advance reservations for Big Thunder Ranch.
Blue Bayou — The dark, iconic Cajun restaurant that sits inside Pirates of the Caribbean. As you probably expect from a Disneyland first-timer, I find this place fascinating. On top of that, my kids might get a kick out of watching the boats float by provided we can get one of those highly coveted railside tables. What I am also fascinated by is how on Earth they manage to charge $25.49 for a Monte Cristo Sandwich…and that’s at lunch! By contrast, the Big Thunder Ranch all-you-can-eat dinner is only $2.50 more and the Plaza Inn’s character breakfast buffet is $4.50 more. That better be a heck of a sandwich.
Cafe Orleans — I keep hearing that the pomme frites here are worth every penny. The Monte Cristo Sandwich here is also “only” $17.99, which still seems ridiculous, albeit less ridiculous. And no, I don’t know when I became obsessed with Monte Cristo prices either (I really tried to work a Count of Monte Cristo joke in here but it was too bad, even for me).
Carnation Cafe — I’m more interested in the history of the Carnation than the food since the place has been open for the full run of the park. That said, the food sounds pretty decent and the prices aren’t too bad.
Carthay Circle — The Carthay Circle sounds beautiful and the food sounds wonderful. My only concern, other than the slightly high prices, is that there won’t be anything of interest for the kiddos.
Wine Country Trattoria — Let me start by saying that I love all three words in the title of this restaurant. Much like Carthay Circle, it sounds very good and much like Carthay Circle, I’m not sure my kids will enjoy it.
As of this moment, I’m thinking of making some reservations for three of the character meals (maybe Ariel’s Grotto, The PCH Grill, and The Plaza) and some combination of Cafe Orleans, the Carnation Cafe, Carthay Circle, and Wine Country Trattoria. And now we’re back to the part where I need your help.
What reservations should I make? Should I be considering something else? Thanks in advance!