So, how do you plan Disney World character dining for your gang? First, you need to know which restaurants offer the option. They can be found at all of the theme parks and a few select hotels. On the pages that follow, you'll find a rundown of which eateries feature characters and at what meals.
Once you determine which restaurant(s) you want to visit, you'll need to make reservations. I can't emphasize this enough. Reservations are recommended for all Disney World restaurants that accept them, but the character meals are especially popular and availability can be difficult. I've got a page that offers info about making advance Disney World dining reservations.
What about the Food?None of the eateries with characters made the list of Disney World's best restaurants. That doesn't mean that they aren't good, just that they aren't among the finest of the resort's many places to dine. Really, the food is somewhat beside the point; it's more of an excuse to take a photo with Donald Duck, get a hug from Minnie Mouse, or goof around with Goofy.
With the exception of Cinderella's Royal Table, all of the meals are either buffets or served family style (or a combination of both). That's probably by design, since things can get complicated when waitstaff taking individual orders and delivering food interrupt the flow of visits from the characters (or vice-versa). Buffets are great for fidgety kids who can hardly wait to meet Mickey, let alone wait for their meals. Also, guests can time their visits to the buffet stations so that they don't miss the main event.
There are plenty of culinary options geared to kids at the participating restaurants. For the most part, the food is fairly generic. A few of the more interesting standouts include lunch at Tusker House, which offers some exotic African-inspired dishes, dinner at Garden Grove, which features barbecue and Mediterranean fare on select evenings, and lunch or dinner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, which offers some Norwegian cuisine.
Tips and Things to Know
- It probably goes without saying, but for crying out loud, don't forget to bring your camera to capture some keepsake moments. If your kids (or you?) are into it, make sure they bring their autograph books as well.
- Let the characters come to you. They do a great job of making sure they spend some quality time with every table of guests, but they aren't too keen about unsupervised kids who run after them as they make their rounds. Be patient. They will visit you and your kids.
- Some of the meals include group activities, such as dancing conga-line style around the dining room with the characters. This can make for a noisy dining experience.
- Not all restaurants offer characters at every meal. Also, some of the seatings are available certain days of the week and/or times of the year. Make sure to check Disney World's official dining info for the most up-to-date schedules.
- Consider booking an early or late meal, since they tend to be less crowded, and you could get more attention from the characters.
- Sometimes, Disney has a limited-time offer that includes free meals with park tickets and hotel packages. The restaurants offered typically include those that offer characters. Learn more about Disney World free dining
- Are you looking for more ways to cozy up to Mickey Mouse? Check out my video about meeting the Disney characters.