Planning your character dining at Disney doesn't need to be mind-boggling, but I completely understand why it can seem confusing. If you aren't sure which restaurant serves what, which characters are where, which parks the restaurants are in and how on earth you choose between them all then this blog will help make it clear. Disney World character dining is an amazing experience and the perfect opportunity to meet characters that you might struggle to find in the parks, or if you do it'll likely mean a long wait, time that you could be spending on rides or watching parades.
Find out -
Where the restaurants are (park/hotel)
Which characters you'll see
What food is served
How much money/dining credits it costs
It is recommended that you book your character dining in advance, 180 days in advance if you are staying on-site. This is especially important if you want to book Cinderella's Royal Table or if you have your heart set on meeting a particular character. Plus, booking in advance is great fun, booking day is something we look forward to it and we always make a big fuss, gathering everyone around the table with our list, it's another exciting stage of the vacation planning.
This complete guide to Disney World Character Dining will make the process a whole lot easier so you can make the best decision for you and your family.
In the parks
Future World, Epcot
This Disney World character dining experience is distinctly retro so is popular with Disney World regulars but not so popular with first-timers so it's not as difficult to book as some of the other. It's one of my favourites though and I highly recommend it. Situated in the Land Pavillion in Epcot, in the same building as Living with the land, Soarin' and The Circle of Life, it's Disney's only rotating restaurant! Yes, rotating! Garden Grill is on the top floor of the Land Pavillion and looks over the Living with the land ride. The restaurant (very) slowly rotates so the scenery changes while you eat, through a rainforest, the famous farmhouse and a desert. The rotation takes 1 hour giving you ample time to eat without the scenery repeating. It is split into two levels, the upper level has traditional tables and the lower lever has comfy booths facing the changing views so if you can, ask for a table here.
You can experience character dining at breakfast, lunch and dinner here and you'll meet Mickey, Pluto and Chip 'n' Dale. The interaction is fantastic, Chip 'n' Dale are their usually cheeky selves and you will likely see the characters more than once as you eat. Mickey wears his farmer outfit and the restaurant has a country, comfortable, family feel.
Breakfast is served on a skillet, family-style, meaning the food is altogether on the skillet and you help yourself. It's also eat-as-much-as-you-care so you can feel free to ask for more of anything. Breakfast includes fruit, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, Mickey waffles and the all-so-amazing Chip's Sticky Bun, a gooey, sticky and utterly scrumptious tear-and-share.
You can enjoy Chip 'n' Dale's Harvest Feast at lunch and dinner, including slow-braised turkey, pot roast, carved pork, mashed potato, mac 'n'cheese , fries and delicious veg, most of which is grown in the Land Pavillion and can be seen if you ride the ride.
1 Meal credit
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
Norway Pavillion, Epcot
For a taste of something different and an easier way to meet some princesses than Cinderella's Royal Table, Akershus is ideal. Set in a medieval castle in the Norway Pavillion, in Epcot, it serves a nice mix of American food and Norwegian food for breakfast. For lunch and dinner the menu is focused more on Norwegian food and there are characters at each of the meal times. As you enter the castle there is a photo opportunity with one of the princesses before you even get seated, ours was Belle. You'll meet the other four - Snow White, Aurora, Ariel and Cinderella, while you eat. Breakfast consists of a buffet with bread, pastries, fruit, cheese, hams and cereals. You will also be served a skillet, family-style, with sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs and potatoes, this is eat-as-much-as-you-care so you can ask for more if you want it. The same princesses are there during lunch and dinner. Your meal begins with a "Taste of Norway', with Scandinavian fish, cheeses and meats along with salad and fruit. The main course is ordered from the a la carte menu where you can choose, among other things, Swedish meatballs, a Viking mixed grill or herb-roasted chicken. Dessert is a delicious selection of Norwegian treats. Children can choose from their own 'pick and mix' menu and there is a good selection including pizza, meatballs and mac 'n' cheese, with rice, potatoes, corn, veg or fruit salad. The princesses are adorable and chatty and the kids can go for a walk with them around the restaurant too.
1 meal credit
In the Africa section of Animal Kingdom, near the Festival of the Lion King, is Tusker House. This safari themed restaurant is an alternative way to experience character dining at Disney because they all are all in their very cute safari outfits! Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy look adorable in their khaki clothes. This is a large restaurant but brilliantly themed so it never feels too busy. The buffet is slightly African themed but there are definitely options if that isn't your thing. Beautifully spiced curries, chutneys and stews make an amazing change from the usual theme park food. It's laid out like a market place with some buffet stations and some stations with chefs, preparing meats and fish. The kids have their own special buffet section with food such as mac 'n' cheese, nuggets, fries, veg and meats and cheeses. The desserts are in the section right in the middle and they are amazing!
You check in at the outdoor counter and are given a buzzer which will go off when your table is ready. This is a lovely option for Disney World character dining, the restaurant has such a lovely atmosphere and the servers are always chatty and friendly.
1 meal credit
Hollywood and Vine
If the kids are fans of Playhouse Disney then they will love Hollywood and Vine's breakfast buffet, they not only get to enjoy a buffet filled with pancakes, Mickey waffles, pastries and omelettes they will also get to meet Nancy Clancy, Doc McStuffins, Vampirini and Roadstar Racer Goofy. Lunch and dinner give a glamourous Minnie Mouse the chance to host her seasonal dinner party where she is joined by Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy. The food is traditionally American with the usual meats, salads, breads, soup and desserts. This sleek Art Deco restaurant doesn't have the biggest selection of food but you will most definitely find enough of what you like.
1 meal credit
Located in Disney's Magic Kingdom, this beautiful restaurant is light, airy and bright with huge windows and plants and a glass ceiling, like a greenhouse! If you go for breakfast you can get into the park early and get some amazing shots of the castle before the crowds arrive. This is one of my favourite places to experience character dining experiences in Walt Disney World, firstly because the food is such good quality and second because I get to meet some of my favourite characters - Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore. There isn't a huge variety of food on offer but it is utterly delicious and it includes pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit, cereals, meats like bacon, sausages and salami, scrambled eggs and an omelette station and some speciality French toast with cinnamon. Lunch and dinner include seasonal fish such as salmon and shrimp, veg, a meat carving station, fresh breads, salads, soups, rotisserie chicken and beautiful desserts. The character interactions here fantastic, they are interactive, animated and very funny.
1 meal credit
Cinderella's Royal Table
This is commonly known as the best character dining at Disney World and I agree, to a certain extent. If the kids love princesses and it's their dream to eat inside the castle and have the whole princess experience then this is perfect. Imagine the faces of the kids when they find out they can dine with the princesses in the castle at Magic Kingdom? It is on the pricey side though so be prepared, it's also two dining credits so if they are happy to meet them elsewhere you should also consider Akershus at Epcot. It's a situation where you are definitely paying for the setting and the experience. There is a lot of hanging around, firstly to check in, then to wait for the photo spot, then to have your name called to be seated. We had quite a late dining time so it may be easier if you book a time slot before the park opens, you then also get those amazing shots down an almost empty Main Street. Character dining takes place at breakfast, lunch and dinner and the princesses are Belle, Aurora, Ariel, Snow White and Cinderella.
Once you check in you wait in the lobby of the castle for your photo with the first princess, then once your name is called you are taken up the stairs to the main dining room which is beautifully decorated with suits of armour, shields, magnificent chandeliers and pretty, colourful stained glass windows. If you are lucky enough to get a seat by the windows you'll get an excellent view over Fantasyland. The food is chosen off the a la carte menu and there is a pretty good selection so you'll likely find something you like. I have found the food to be a hit or miss, some dishes have been amazing and some not so good. The dishes are always beautifully presented but the portions are on the small side. The experience is magical for the kids though so that's all that matters eh? Breakfast includes a starter of pastries followed by a choice of (among other things) a traditional breakfast of sausages and bacon, a healthier option of oatmeal and a wholemeal bagel with avocado or caramel and apple stuffed french toast. Lunch and dinner include a starter of either soup, salad or a nice meat and cheese platter followed by a choice of dishes such as braised pork, fish of the day, pan-seared chicken or vegetable couscous. The clock strikes Twelve is a pretty amazing dessert too.
2 meal credits
So that is all the character dining at Disney but did you know you can meet the characters if you dine in restaurants in some of the Disney hotels? There are many reasons why this is just a brilliant idea. One, you get to have a nosy around a Disney hotel you might not otherwise get to see, two, the restaurants are usually quieter than in the parks, three, you don't even need a park ticket and four, you get three hours free parking if you have a reservation! I happen to think the food is often better too and the experience is just as special.
Polynesian Village Resort
Love everything about this restaurant, and hotel. Themed so that you feel like you are in the South Pacific, it’s a tropical oasis. From the exotic plants and wooden tiki statues to hula dancers and fire-eaters, this hotel is amazing. It's also on the monorail so it's super easy to reach. I highly recommend taking a relaxed walk around the resort, there is a lot of green space, beautifully placed seating areas, palm trees and a white sand beach. Character dining takes place in Ohana, up the stairs from the main lobby, at breakfast, where you can meet Lilo, Stitch, Mickey and Pluto in their Hawaii outfits. The food is served family style on a skillet. The meal begins with a delicious warm tear and share sticky bread, a fresh fruit platter and a glass of the famous Pog juice. Next, a huge skillet is brought to the table and you can help yourself to scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, ham, biscuits, potatoes and Mickey waffles. Breakfast is always my favourite meal of the day and I really enjoy our meals here. The portions are large and you can ask for more of anything you want. Meeting Stitch is always a joy, he is so cheeky, he even picked his nose once and flicked it in our pog juice! The kids get to have a walk around the restaurant with the characters and will be given maracas to shake as they go.
Storybook dining at Artist Point
The newest character dining at Disney replaces the signature dining at Artist Point and is an absolutely amazing Disney World character dining experience. The creator's aim was to make the meal more of a storytelling journey, rather than just another character meal and I think it was pretty successful. The room has been transformed into an enchanted forest with trees, leaves and lanterns. Character dining takes place at dinner only (4pm-9pm) and you'll get to meet Snow White, Grumpy, Dopey and the Evil Queen (just don't call her that!). Although you can find Snow White in several areas of the parks it's an excellent chance to see two of the dwarfs which are rare characters and getting to meet the evil queen is also exciting as she is never really in the parks unless it's a special event.
I loved the whole storytelling experience, from the leather-bound menu and the inventive names of the dishes, to the dancing and interactions, it's a memorable evening. The menu is slightly confusing, it's a set selection of dishes for appetisers and desserts and you can choose your entre, there is a selection of around 6-8 dishes, including 2 veggie options. The appetisers and desserts are brought to the table on a twisted branch with large leaves which the dishes sit on. I'm not sure yet if the dishes change seasonally but when we visited the appetisers included a spicy Winter Bisque, a Hunters Pie and a Wicked Shrimp Cocktail. the desserts were a Miners Treasure (like a green cupcake), a Fairytale Gooseberry Pie and a sparkly Poisoned Apple. As a fantastic finale, the servers will bring you the 'Hunter's gift for the Queen', a wooden chest filled with smoke, maple candied popcorn and red chocolate hearts.
The lighting through the evening changes, as you enter the room is bright and it slowly darkens as the night goes on - very clever. There is very little chance of being bored as the night is filled with songs, dances and brilliant interactions.
1 meal credit
Cape May Cafe
Beach Club Resort
Minnie's Beach Bash Breakfast takes place in Cape May Cafe in the fantastic Beach Club Resort. I love the theming of this restaurant. Colourful deckchairs and beach umbrellas adorn the walls and sandcastles can be found dotted around. The New England beach style is carried on in the characters' brightly coloured outfits. The character dining experience, with Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy, is for breakfast only and is served buffet style so you can help yourself to as much as you like. There is a good selection of food to choose from, including fresh fruit, salad, cereals, pastries, bagels, Mickey waffles, sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs and an omelette station. Donald will get the kids up for a dance around the restaurant and the characters are chatty and bubbly.
1 meal credit
Trattoria Al Forno
Another stunning hotel and another of my favourites, the location is amazing with pretty, white-washed and pastel coloured buildings lining the waterfront. Trattoria al Forno is an Italian Eatery with beautiful views across the water and a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. The Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast is the perfect opportunity to meet some rare characters with Prince Eric and Flynn Ryder appearing, alongside Ariel and Rapunzel. The meal begins with a generous dish of warm pastries and a fresh fruit salad and you can then choose your main course. Options include the King Tatton's Shipwreck al Forno, a calzone of scrambled egg, veg, bacon, sausages and gravy, Tangled Eggs, a Tower of pancakes and a Royale Breakfast. The kids can follow Ariel, dancing around the restaurant and you can join in a giant sing-a-long. Don't forget to pop into the delicious Boardwalk Bakery as you leave.
1 meal credit
1900 Park Fare
A firm favourite of many Disney fans, The Grand Floridian has two very different character dining experiences. For breakfast, you can meet 5 of my favourite characters, so it's another experience I love, even though I prefer the Boardwalk and Beach Club hotels. You meet Mary Poppins, Mad Hatter, Winnie the Pooh, Alice and Tigger while enjoying a buffet of fresh fruit, yoghurts, eggs, corned beef hash, sausages, bacon, Eggs Benedict, salmon, a carving station and the famous Strawberry Soup. It's not the most exciting meal or experience, but if you love the characters it's an ideal way to meet them.
Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner takes place in the evening. After having your photo taken in front of the painted mural which features the castle you are seated in the beautiful dining room which reminds me of a vintage fairground with carousel horses and a grand organ which plays sparodically high up on the wall. Cinderella, Prince Charming, the ugly sisters and step-mother all make an appearance. The ugly sisters have a wicked sense of humour and make a hilarious character meet and it's great to meet characters you won't usually find in the parks. Dinner is served buffet style and includes a wonderful, classy selection of salad, meats and seafood followed by some creative desserts.
1 meal credit
To choose the best character dining experience for you and your family I'd recommend you find out where your favourite characters appear, decide if it's feasible to visit that particular restaurant and if it's possible book as early as possible, 180
days in advance if you are staying on Disney property. Work out in advance how to get to and from the restaurant so you don't have to worry on the day. I also recommend having a quick think about what you want to say to the characters before you arrive, especially the face characters (like the princesses, without a head mask), it saves any awkward pauses. Asking them about their friends, favourite food, costumes and enemies usually works fine. You can find menus to each of the dining experiences here.
Do you have a favourite dining experience?