It doesn’t seem to matter how many times we eat at these Disney restaurants, they remain family favorites for their characters, service and food.
Keep in mind that my children are elementary age, but even when we go with three generations, we all have a great time.
Here are our top Walt Disney Character Dining Experiences:
Chef Mickey’s is a classic. Located in the original Disney World hotel, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Chef Mickey’s features the “Fab 5″: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy & Donald. Not only does the monorail run right through the Contemporary Resort, but you’ll see many pieces of classic Disney memorabilia while there, including a beautiful mural located just outside the elevator bay. You also don’t need a park ticket for this restaurant, so it’s great for days your starting or ending your vacation, or if you want to do the Disney experience without paying to go in a park!
Our favorite way to see the princesses by far! Princess Storybook Dining is located in Epcot’s World Showcase in Norway. Typically, you will be escorted in to see Belle right away for a picture (which you get to keep as part of your dining package) and then you sit down for your meal. We like to go for breakfast where you start with a continental buffet featuring some European favorites such as sliced meats and cheeses as well as fresh berries and bakery treats. Then a hot plate is served family style at your table with bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs and a delicious potato casserole (everything is all you can eat). After your food is served, you typically get to meet five princesses, depending on the day. Though Cinderella is never promised, she has made an appearance her along with her friends. Some lesser-known ladies (though of no-lesser importance) like Pocohontas, Mulan and Mary Poppins have also been know to make an appearance. If you’re looking to see the princesses on a budget, this is a much more economical choice than the castle as well.
Our original favorite, it’s hard to beat the breakfast at 1900 Park Fare. Located inside the Grand Floridian Resort, we’d go back time and time again just for the ambiance. The fact that this dining experience also happened to have our children’s favorite characters and great food didn’t hurt either 😉 With my mom being from England and my son named after her homeland (Britton), our kids grew up loving Pooh, Tigger and Mary Poppins especially – all who make an appearance here, along with Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter. The food doesn’t get much better than this at Disney World and you absolutely MUST try the Strawberry Soup!
It was hard to decide how to rank my third and fourth choices, which, as you can see happen to be at the same restaurant (just different meals!). If you return to 1900 Park Fare in the evening, you’ll be attending Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner, featuring none other than Cinderella herself, along with Prince Charming, her step-mother (Lady Tremaine) and her awkward (yet hysterical) step-sisters, Anastasia and Drizella. This isn’t your typical meet and greet. The step-sisters are very loud, boisterous and interactive. While we originally thought it might be too much for our then three year old son to handle, he eventually told us at the end of our first trip to this experience that it was his favorite meal of the entire vacation! I’ve already told you the food at Grand Floridian is fabulous and again, this is a much cheaper way to see Cinderella than the castle (and also doesn’t require a park ticket!)
Other favorites include The Garden Grill (at the Land Pavillion in Epcot) with its spinning restaurant and Mickey and friends dressed as farmers as well as a new favorite, Ohana (Polynesian Resort) where you can meet Lilo & Stitch and enjoy one of the most delicious juices we’ve ever tried!
You may be surprised that I didn’t mention Cinderella’s Royal Table…then again maybe you’re not if you’ve been following my logic! I believe everyone should eat at the castle once; it truly is magical. However the cost prohibits this frugal mom from venturing there more. When you can see the same characters at equally charming locations for a lot less money (and without having to buy a park ticket), I’d opt not to spend my money just on the castle…but that’s just me!
Here are just a few reasons we love character dining:
*You get to sit and eat (in air conditioning) while the characters come to you…as opposed to standing in line for hours on end in the Florida heat!
*You can see multiple (related) characters in one shot, instead of waiting in a lot of separate lines for individual characters
*Kids have longer to interact with the characters, instead of just a quick picture and autograph.
Granted, the best way to take advantage of Character Dining is when Disney is offering their Dining Plan for free! But if you aren’t lucky enough to visit Disney during one of those times, our other piece of advice is to schedule a late breakfast. It’s not only the cheapest meal of the day, but when you schedule one of the last sittings, you’ll stay full through lunch (think brunch) and also get more character interaction time because they’re not rushing off to visit anyone else!