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character meals

Too Many Character Meals

I plan a lot of Disney vacations. While you think you may go to Disney a lot, and do a lot of planning, I plan over 500 Walt Disney World vacations a year. I see every possible scenario you can imagine, everything from people on a tight budget to unlimited budgets, adults traveling by themselves to large groups of 50+ family members, you can’t imagine a scenario I haven’t seen. I am usually pretty flexible on requests, but there is one thing that clients insist on that I do not agree: character meals. While I am not against character meals, I do them with my family all the time even though my kids are teenagers now, I do have a problem with too many character meals.

Why I am not a fan of Walt Disney World character meals

  • Character Meals take a lot of time. The standard character rotation at most character meals is 60 – 90 minutes, meaning that if you want to see all of the characters, you have to wait at your table for 60 – 90 minutes. Most of the time that means wasted time just sitting around in order to Eeyore and Piglet.
  • Buffets. Just about every character meal at Walt Disney World is a buffet. For the most part, the food offerings at buffets are sub-par, you typically get much better food at non-character meal restaurants. If I can avoid a buffet, whether at Walt Disney World or at home, I do.

I have quite a few clients that insist on booking one or two character meals each day of their trip. I can’t imagine anything that will ruin your Disney vacation faster. Almost universally, every client that insists on doing that, does not do it on their next Disney vacation. They realize that after one or two character meals, their kids just don’t like it. Both adults and kids burn out pretty quickly on character meals. Meal time is a great time to take a break from all the over stimulation of the theme parks, but by adding characters to every meal, you never get that mental break.

My suggestions on Walt Disney World character meals

  • Make 1 or 2 character meals during your stay. If you don’t have little kids, you can skip them all together, but I do still think they are worth doing. Even though your teenage daughter will throw a fit at the mention of dining with princesses, deep down they still love it, and will have a blast, though you may never know it the expression on their face.
  • Spread your reservations out. Do one character meal early in your trip, maybe the first day as a start to your vacation. If you are doing a second, try to schedule it at the end of your trip, as a farewell to Disney meal.
  • Make your reservations for a late breakfast or early lunch time, that will give you a few hours in the parks to get things done, and you won’t feel rushed to eat and get back to the parks. That will also cover both breakfast and lunch for you in one stop.
  • Everyone loves Cinderella’s Royal Table, but consider doing Royal Akershush Banquet Hall Storybook Dining instead. It is half the price (when on the Disney Dining Plan), you still get to see all the princesses and I think the food is quite a bit better. You can meet Cinderella at dinner at 1900 Park Fare. Hollywood and Vine is doing some awesome seasonal themed dinners, and offers Star Wars themed meals during some months.
  • Don’t follow the sheep. While everyone loves Chef Mickey’s and Cinderella’s Royal Table, there are other character meals that offer better food and are more interesting.
  • Please note, Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom IS NOT a character meal. While Beast is there at dinner time, he only hangs out in a little alcove, and does not go table to table. If you didn’t know he was there you probably wouldn’t even notice him.
  • Make reservations at restaurants you wouldn’t normally do at home. Walt Disney World, and especially Epcot, offer some very watered down version of restaurant that you may not visit when at home. Not many people have a Moroccan restaurant near their home, but Epcot has 2 (3 including Tangierine Cafe, the quick-service restaurant). Just about every restaurant at Walt Disney World is kid friendly, it is Disney after all, the place is crawling with kids. I have taken kids as young as 5 to California Grill, Flying Fish and other nice restaurants. They expect kids on a daily basis, and know how to deal with them. Expose your kids to nice places or different cuisines at Disney, it is the perfect place to do so, and makes it much easier do to so at home as they have already had an easy experience at Disney.

Do you do character meals on your Disney vacation?

best epcot character meal

Best Walt Disney World Character Meal in Epcot

Everyone loves a character meal at Disney. Even if you have teens, you know deep down they love it when a princess comes over to your table, regardless of the look on their face. A Disney World character meal can be one of the memories you are your kids may think back on for years. In Epcot, while there are more restaurants than at any other Disney theme park, there is a real lack of character meals, with only 2 offerings!

So you are fully aware of the character meal options in Epcot, here are they are:

  • The Garden Grill Restaurant (Land Pavilion) – Breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Chip ‘n Dale’s Harvest Feast features your best chipmunk friends Chip and Dale, along with their friends farmer Mickey and Pluto.
  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Norway Pavilion) – Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Princess Storybook Dining features your favorite Disney princesses, including Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Princess Aurora, Ariel and Mary Poppins, though most likely not all of those princesses will be in attendance, they have busy schedules after all.
  • Cape May Cafe (Beach Club) – Breakfast only. I am including this on the list for you since the Beach Club is a short walk or boat ride away from the International Gateway in Epcot, so while not in Epcot, it is an option for most families visiting the park. Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast features Minnie and friends, including Mickey of course, as well as Goofy and others. A great way to see your favorite Disney characters in their beach attire.

Well, there you go! So many options, but which one is the best?

The Dis/dom choice for best Disney World Character Meal in Epcot?

princess storybook dining epcot

This one really isn’t close. While I really like the uniqueness of the Garden Grill, which rotates and gives you a view of Living with the Lane (my favorite Epcot ride), I think the Princess Storybook Dining in Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is a much better option for most people, including families with boys.

  1. Princesses come to your table! What could be better than having Snow White or Cinderella come to your table to talk to you? You get plenty of photo opportunities with all the princesses.
  2. Castle Akershus is beautiful inside, just a fantastic building, a great place to eat your meal.
  3. While Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom is wonderful, if you happen to be on the Disney dining plan, it is also 2 table service credits per person, while the Princess Storybook Dining meals are only 1 per person, so basically half the price! Why pay twice as much to see Cinderella?
  4. New foods! Remember, this is the Norway pavilion, so you get a little bit of Norway with each meal. For lunch and dinner, the entrees are Norway themed. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to get stuck with a plate of pickled herring (unless you really want that), but you do get to choose Traditional Kjøttkake and Svinekotelett. Don’t worry, the princesses speak Norwegian and can translate for you. If you are a little afraid of trying new foods, stick with breakfast, you still get a little Norwegian starter, but the rest of the food is pretty traditional American fare.
  5. It is right next to the new Frozen ride, Frozen Ever After. While neither of the Frozen princesses appear at Princess Storybook Dining (yet), they are both just a short walk away. Please note, the Frozen Ever After attraction has not yet opened, but should open sometime in May, 2016.

What is your favorite Disney World character meal in Epcot?

Disney World Character Meal

Best Walt Disney World Character Meal outside the Theme Parks

If you have little kids, or even bigger kids, you have to do at least one character meal while at Walt Disney World. There isn’t anything quite like a child’s face as their favorite Disney Movie or TV character walks up to your table. While everyone knows about Cinderella’s Royal Table and Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom, there are quite a few really good character meals outside the parks. That means that you do not need a park pass to dine at any of these places.

Just so you are aware of the character meal options outside the parks, here are they are:

  • Cape May Cafe (Beach Club) – Breakfast only, featuring Goofy, Minnie and Donald Duck
  • Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary) – Breakfast and Dinner only, though lunch is offered from time to time during really busy seasons. Features Chef Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, Pluto and Donald, though Donald usually hangs out near the check-in area for photos.
  • ‘Ohana (Polynesian Village) – Breakfast only, featuring Mickey, Pluto and Lilo and Stitch.
  • 1900 Park Fare (Grand Floridian) – The Supercalifragilistic Breakfast features Mary Poppins, Alice and the Matter Hatter, plus a random character or two that are always a surprise. The Cinderella Happily Ever After Dinner features Cinderella and Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, Drizella, and the Fairy Godmother.
  • Garden Grove (Walt Disney World Swan) – Weekend only breakfast features Goofy and Pluto, while nightly dinner features Goofy and Pluto, and sometimes Chip and Dale too. Please Note: If you are on one of the Disney Dining plans, they are not accepted at Garden Grove.

Well, there you go! So many options, but which one is the best?

The Dis/dom choice for best Disney World Character Meal outside of the Theme Parks?

ohana

While Chef Mickey’s is the default character breakfast for many who visit Walt Disney World, I think ‘Ohana is a much better choice for your family. It is the best combination of food and characters outside of the Disney theme parks.

  • Great food options: A giant breakfast platter is brought to your table full of scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, sausage, bacon, fruit and sweet bread. I dream about that sweat bread. It is all you can eat, but you never need to leave your table, they just keep bring more. Plus, Mickey Waffles! Not Mickey waffles that have been sitting on a buffet for hours, but freshly made waffles. You also get all the fresh juice and/or coffee you want, and the juice is to die for.
  • Unique characters: While all the other dining option include the standard Disney characters, at ‘Ohana you get Lilo and Stitch, two hard to find characters, but here, they come to your table!

What is your favorite Disney World character meal outside of the parks?