Disney character dining is one of the most popular things to do at Walt Disney World. Young kids absolutely love seeing the characters, and booking a character meal is a great way to avoid the lines and have more interaction. When my kids were younger, I tried to book at least a few Disney character meals and they were always one of the highlights of our trips. Here’s everything you need to know about Disney character dining at Walt Disney World. Keep in mind that characters are always subject to change.
Disclosure: I am a past member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel. I have experienced some of these during press trips (at no/limited cost) as well as personal trips (at my expense). All thoughts are my own.
Character Dining at the Disney Parks
If you are planning to visit a Disney Park for the day, you may want to reserve a character meal. You do need valid park admission to access any of the restaurants within the park, so make sure you are planning to use a ticket that day.
It can sometimes be challenging to decide what park you’ll be in 180 days in advance (when you can book advance dining reservations), but they do book up well in advance. So you’ll want to plan ahead.
Garden Grille, Epcot
Surprisingly, this was one of our favorite character meals. Located in the Land Pavilion in Epcot, Garden Grill offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Served family style, much of the food from these meals is grown right there in the Land Pavilion. Meals are hosted by Chip n Dale and friends, and you can enjoy your meal and your character interaction as the restaurant slowly revolves around.
The food is delicious, and the restaurant is really fun. We’ve been for dinner, but I’m sure all three meals are great.
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, Epcot
Princess lovers will definitely want to have a meal at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, located in the Norway pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. This beautiful castle is a gorgeous venue, and you’ll get to see several princesses who come by and visit your table.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is served. Breakfast is more of a traditional American breakfast, while lunch and dinner include some Scandinavian favorites. This was the very first character dining experience that we had with our kids – when my children were 9 months old and 2 years old. My daughter absolutely loved it.
This is an extremely popular experience, so make sure that you book right at the 180 day point. Note that while the World Showcase generally opens later in the morning, you will be able to access the restaurant for breakfast reservations.
The Crystal Palace, the Magic Kingdom
This is another one of my family’s favorites. The beautiful Crystal Palace, located in the Magic Kingdom, offers a delicious buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here, you’ll find Winnie the Pooh and Friends. During your meal, they’ll come to the table, and have a fun parade around the restaurant that kids can join in on.
While all three meals are offered, I usually prefer the lunch. It’s a good break from the sun and the hustle and bustle of the parks. When my kids were younger, I especially appreciated the respite from walking.
You’ll find that many families try to do walk-ins here, but it’s very popular. Book as soon as possible to that 180 day point to get your preferred date and time.
Cinderella’s Royal Table, Magic Kingdom
If you have princess lovers, you’ll probably want to make a reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Located in Cinderella Castle right in the center of the Magic Kingdom, dining in this restaurant can be a dream come true.
You’ll first greet Cinderella as you head into the restaurant, and then will be seated. There, you’ll be greeted by other princesses while you dine. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is offered. This is a signature restaurant, so there is a dress code. If you are on the Disney Dining Plan, you’ll need to use two credits.
The location can’t be beat, but it’s definitely expensive. Make sure that it’s something that your kids will really want to do, before making a reservation. It’s a small restaurant, so it’s definitely something you’ll want to book early.
Tusker House, Animal Kingdom
You’ll get to see Safari Donald and his friends at this restaurant located right in Animal Kingdom. It’s a fun spot, and you can enjoy a buffet for breakfast and lunch and a family-style meal at dinner. Don’t miss the Jungle Juice – it’s absolutely delicious!
If you want to see Rivers of Light, you can also book a Rivers of Light package which includes premium seating for the show. That needs to be booked as a package at the time of making your reservation.
Personally, we’ve always enjoyed going to Tusker House for breakfast. It’s a great way to start the day, and I love some of the Animal Kingdom quick-service restaurants for lunch and dinner.
Hollywood and Vine, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
One of my fondest memories when my kids were younger is our experience at the Hollywood and Vine. This character dining experience includes favorites from Disney Junior. They’ve changed over the years as new shows become more popular. Food is served buffet style in this fun diner, and younger kids especially will love seeing their favorite characters come to life.
The Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine experience is offered for breakfast at the Hollywood and Vine. Then, during select times of the year, they also offer Minnie’s Seasonal Dine hosted by Minnie Mouse. This experience is themed based on the time of year. You can also book Minnie’s Seasonal Dine as part of the Fantasmic! VIP dinner package. If you want to see Fantasmic!, it’s a good idea to book one of these VIP dinners at one of the participating restaurants.
Disney Character Dining at the Resort Hotels
Disney character dining is also offered outside the parks, at some of the Walt Disney World resort hotels. If you don’t want to use a park ticket, or aren’t sure where you’ll be for the day, these can be a great option. Just remember that the Walt Disney World resort transportation doesn’t go from resort to resort, so you’ll want to have a plan.
Like the restaurants located within the theme parks, you will be able to make dining reservations 180 days in advance for these restaurants.
1900 Park Fare, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
There are three different dining experiences at 1900 Park Fare. Choose based upon which characters you want to see.
For breakfast, you’ll be able to enjoy a breakfast buffet hosted by Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, The Mad Hatter, Tigger, and Winnie the Pooh. For a unique experience, consider the Wonderland Tea Party. Perfect for kids aged 4-12 who will love celebrating their unbirthdays.
We’ve always loved the dinner at 1900 Park Fare. Called the Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner, this meal is attended by Cinderella, Prince Charming, the Stepmother, and the Stepsisters. It’s such a fun experience, especially because it’s one of the only places to see one of the princes. The Grand Floridian is on the monorail, so it’s easy to visit for dinner during a day at the Magic Kingdom.
Chef Mickey, Disney’s Contemporary Resort
This is one of the most popular and classic character dining experiences. Located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Chef Mickey offers an all-you-care-to-eat buffet for breakfast, brunch, and dinner.
The Contemporary is also located on the monorail loop, so it’s an easy stop if you are planning a day at the Magic Kingdom. Meals at Chef Mickey are hosted by the Fab Five – Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald Duck, and Goofy. It’s a lively experience, and one that young kids especially will love. This is another experience that is very popular so book well in advance.
‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
My son always loved Stitch, so we made sure to book this delicious breakfast several times when he was younger. Located at ‘Ohana in Disney’s Polynesian Resort, the Best Friends Breakfast with Lilo and Stitch is only offered for breakfast.
Food is served family style, and includes eggs, potatoes, sausages, and ham. It was always one of our favorite experiences. The Polynesian is on the monorail and is also near the Ticket and Transportation Center, so it would be easy to have breakfast here first and then go to either the Magic Kingdom or Epcot. If your children love Lilo and Stitch, this is a must do.
Cape May Cafe, Disney’s Beach Club
We love staying at Disney’s Beach Club during our Disney vacations, so we booked Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast at the Cape May Cafe several times when my kids were younger. Because the Beach Club is a little tucked away, I’ve found that this character meal is a bit more low key than the others. But keep in mind that it may not be easy to get to if you aren’t staying near the Beach Club.
While Cafe May Cafe is known for its delicious seafood buffet, that is only offered during dinner and doesn’t include characters.
Trattoria al Forno, Disney’s Boardwalk
The newest character meal at Walt Disney World is the Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno on the Boardwalk. This breakfast is attended by Ariel, Prince Eric, Rapunzel, and Flynn Rider.
Various breakfast entrees are offered, and you’ll get to choose your meal off the menu. Because this is a relatively new experience, I haven’t had the chance to attend yet. But if you have children who love Ariel and Rapunzel, it’s a great option.
Mickey’s Backyard BBQ at Fort Wilderness
This is one of my most unique character experiences. At Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, you’ll get to enjoy a full BBQ buffet and visits with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Chip ‘n Dale. There’s also the opportunity to book category 1 seating, which includes priority seating and early access to the characters and food. You’ll be able to use 2 dining credits from the dining plan for category 2 seating, but can’t use the dining plan for category 1 seating.
Character Dining Outside Disney World
There are also a few opportunities for character meals outside Walt Disney World. These include Ravello at the Four Seasons, Garden Grove at the Swan and Dolphin, Covington Mill at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, and the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista.
Because these experiences aren’t right at Walt Disney World, you won’t be able use the Disney Dining Plan or your MagicBand to pay for them. Contact those venues directly to get more booking and pricing information.
Best Character Dining at Walt Disney World
Everyone wants to know the best character dining at Walt Disney World. The reality is that it really depends on the ages and interests of your kids.
In general, I think one of the best experiences is at Chef Mickey. If you aren’t sure what characters your kids would prefer, that’s probably the best option. Otherwise, I’d choose the experience that has the most characters your kids love.
Our favorites are ‘Ohana, the Crystal Palace, Chef Mickey, and the Garden Grill. Those have a great combination of great food and fun character interactions.
Best Princess Dining at Walt Disney World
Everyone with princess-lovers wonders what is the best princess dining at Walt Disney World. There are several options. Akershus and Cinderella’s Royal Table are the most popular, but 1900 Park Fare and Trattoria al Forno also have princesses.
Unless your kids have a specific preference, or you have a location preference, I’d probably recommend Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. It’s a little easier to get reservations there than CRT, and it’s so much fun.
Best Preschool Disney Character Dining
We absolutely loved the Play ‘n Dine at the Hollywood and Vine when my kids were preschoolers. If your kids watch Disney Junior, they’ll probably love seeing their favorites in person.
Other great options for preschoolers are ‘Ohana, Chef Mickey, and the Crystal Palace.
What is your favorite Disney character dining experience?