My grandmother loved Winnie the Pooh so much that the family took to calling her that. First, Winnie the Pooh. Later, just Pooh.
When I was 5, they took me to Disney World for the first time.
Fast forward a few decades, and I’ve started taking my own kids to Disney. One year, we were able to take Nanny with us. My Papaw was there in spirit.
When the characters from The Hundred Acre Wood came around, I watched the decades peel back away from Nanny. That girl who’d fallen in love with all those stories was there with me, really for the first time.
When Pooh came to the table, she told him about her nickname. Later, he came back with a little present for Nanny, a hug and a picture. I will remember the smile on her face for the rest of my life.
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Is Disney currently doing character dining?
Yep. It’s not all the way back to 2019 levels, but there is character dining all over the place.
I hear some people scoff at Disney adults or character dining or the larger Disney experience. They say it’s overpriced or just features a kid in a suit.
It’s not for everybody, I get that. But every now and then, it’ll grant you experiences like the one I had with my Nanny when she met Winnie the Pooh.
How do I get a Disney character dining reservation?
You can do it online or through the My Disney Experience app.
Guests with a valid Disney Resort Hotel reservation may make reservations for the entire length of stay up to 60 days in advance of your arrival.
All other guests can make reservations up to 60 days in advance of the requested reservation.
Are Disney character meals worth the money?
Just the meal? Probably not. Pricing can vary but will range from about $35 to $80 per adult depending on the time of day and location.
Menu items range from breakfast buffet-type stuff to fine dining options.
I will say the most expensive meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table was the best and came the closest to being worth it, even if you don’t factor in the character experience.
I was especially impressed with the waitstaff. Some of them were the most professional I’ve ever been around. It was like an actual fine-dining experience.
Is the price worth the whole experience, including meeting the characters and the meal? Yes. In our experience, it almost always has been worth it.
Do you have to be inside a theme park to have a character dining experience?
No. Guests do not have to enter the parks to eat with Mickey, Minnie, and many others in some cases.
For example, there are several Disney Resort Hotels that offer restaurants with character dining experiences.
What are the best places to have a character dining experience?
Some preferences will be involved. Do you prefer to dine with classic characters or princesses? Is your kid crazy for Stitch or the Hundred Acre Wood pals like Piglet and Eeyore?
Your preferences will dictate – to some degree – your best choices for Disney character dining.
Also, remember that pricing and menu options mentioned here are subject to change. With that in mind, here’s my list of best character dining options:
12. Cape May Cafe
Located in Disney’s Beach Club Resort, this New England-inspired venue for buffet meals offers a character breakfast – Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast. To me, it doesn’t particularly stand out from others. Lunch and dinner do not feature characters.
It’s a basic Disney breakfast and the characters include the classics like Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy and Goofy in their beach garb.
Unless you’re a completest and want pictures with the crew in their beach clothes, I don’t know why you’d go out of your way for this one.
11. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
This EPCOT restaurant in the Norway Pavilion is the only time I’ve been disappointed in a character dining experience.
The character interactions were fine, but we didn’t love the Norwegian-inspired fare.
Currently, Akershus offers family-style platters. For breakfast, enjoy pastries, scrambled eggs, potato casserole and Norwegian waffles.
Lunch and dinner highlights include field greens salad with lingonberry vinaigrette, traditional kjØttkake – Norwegian meatballs – and grilled salmon.
This castle remains hosted by Belle but it should be Anna and Elsa at this point. The Disney princesses you might meet include Jasmine, Snow White, Aurora, Pocahontas, Mulan, Cinderella, Ariel, Alice or Mary Poppins.
10. Be Our Guest
This one gets dinged because it’s not technically a character dining experience. While the Beast does roam through the dining room of his castle, it’s not officially considered character dining.
Plus, it’s just him. Maybe at some point, they will bring Belle over from Akershus and allow her to join the Beast while giving Anna and Elsa their rightful place in Norway.
9. Garden Grill Restaurant
This restaurant located in World Nature at EPCOT offers family-style dining that revolves around vibrant views from Living with the Land.
For breakfast, enjoy cinnamon breakfast bread, scrambled eggs, cheesy potato casserole, Mickey-shaped waffles and more.
Lunch and dinner highlights include a smorgasbord of savory, allergy-friendly starters and entrees including a harvest-inspired garden salad, grilled beef with chimichurri and all-natural sliced turkey with gravy.
Many of the veggies are grown at Disney’s Living with the Land. It’s Chip ‘N’ Dale’s Harvest feast but they are joined by Mickey Mouse and Pluto.
8. Hollywood & Vine
This Disney Hollywood Studios restaurant offers two different experiences. In the morning, it’s Disney Junior Play n’ Dine – breakfast with popular Disney Junior characters like Vampirina, Fancy Nancy and Doc McStuffins.
Breakfast features assorted pastries and an omelet station. Classic entrees such as biscuits and gravy, Mickey-shaped waffles and eggs benedict are also available.
Or, you can try a signature specialty like salmon and bagel casserole, plant-based frittata and brioche French toast with bananas foster sauce.
For lunch and dinner, it’s Minnie’s Seasonal Dining with Minnie Mouse and friends in outfits appropriate for the season. The lunch and dinner buffet offers an array of salads and delicious chilled starters.
Entrees include roasted mushroom farro risotto, macaroni and cheese with shrimp and bacon, as well as protein selections featuring oven-roasted chicken, herb-crusted tenderloin steak, salmon and crispy pork belly.
7. Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera
This restaurant in Disney’s Riviera Resort only offers characters with breakfast – Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy – but the dining experience stands out.
Breakfast begins with fresh pastries and bread. Your choice of entrées includes Quiche Gruyère with house-made pancetta, sour cream waffle, smoked salmon, two eggs any style and more.
The wood-fired Butchers Steak is a favorite with polenta, Pomodoraccio tomatoes, roasted onions, wild mushroom conserva and watercress.
6. Story Book Dining at Artist Point with Snow White
Located in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, it’s cool that this restaurant offers characters you might not see in any other place in the park. Sure Snow White’s all over the place, but the dwarfs, Dopey and Grumpy? You can see them in parades, but it’s rare to get to meet them.
Guests also get to pose for a photo with the Evil Queen.
You begin the storybook-themed dining experience with shared appetizers including Hunter’s Terrine, Wild Mushroom Bisque and Wicked Shrimp Cocktail.
Guests choose an entrée from a prix fixe menu. For example, they can feast on the Royal Prime Rib Roast, Brother’s Grimm Herbed Chicken, Magic Mirror’s Slow-braised Pork Shank, Beef Stroganoff or Bashful’s Butter Poached Sustainable Fish.
Or enjoy the vegetarian option, A Stroll Through Nature. It features asparagus, leeks, arugula and gnocchi.
Children can choose from a selection of kid-friendly items, including the Royal Prime Rib Roast or Princess Pasta. They also offer grilled chicken.
You get three desserts, including the “Poison” Apple, a dark chocolate-apple mousse, the Fairy Tale Gooseberry Tart and Miner’s Treasures.
5. The Crystal Palace
This restaurant features Winnie and the Hundred Acre Wood crew with buffet-style dining.
“But John, you wrote so much about how you loved this place.” I do. We do. But that’s my family, not yours.
Therefore, if I remove sentimental attachments, I’ve got to put Crystal Palace here. Which – by the way – is not a bad spot. After a traditional breakfast buffet, Crystal Palace – a testament to Victorian splendor – offers lunch and dinner.
Choose from mouth-watering favorites like roasted carved meats, freshly prepared pasta, delicious salads and beyond.
Ohana offers another breakfast-only character experience at Ohana inside Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort as selections include scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, Stitch and Mickey waffles, ham with pineapple, a variety of fresh fruits and assorted bread.
Lilo and Stich join in the fun. The kids loved Stitch who is allowed in character to be a little naughty and add some chaos to the situation. Mickey and Pluto also frequently join.
Ask for the POG juice – passion fruit, orange and guava – it’s the best breakfast drink ever.
3. Chef Mickey’s
Located in Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Chef Mickey’s is perfect for a popover from the Magic Kingdom or before or after your visit to the park.
Buffet-style breakfast highlights include smoked bacon, a carving station featuring smoked ham and beef brisket and Mickey waffles.
Guests also enjoy buttermilk biscuits and gravy, warm bread pudding and vegetable frittata.
Dinner options include New York Strip, Roasted Pork Pernil, Orange Chicken, baked macaroni and cheese, vegetable stir fry noodles and couscous.
Characters include the big five: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto.
2. Tusker House Restaurant
Located in Africa in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I think the Tusker House has the best food I’ve had in a character dining experience. I don’t really know much about African cuisine – or African-inspired cuisine – but this was delicious.
For breakfast, munch on Safari Bread, Mickey and Simba waffles, Durban Chicken and Egg Curry with Jasmine Rice.
Lunch and dinner offerings include Moroccan-Spiced Beef, Berbere-Marinated Pork, Spit-Roasted Herb Chicken and Cape Malay Green Curry Shrimp.
I also liked meeting Donald, Mickey, Minnie and Goofy in their safari outfits.
1. Cinderella’s Royal Table
This iconic location is in the Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. Honestly, we could stop right there. This dining experience is inside Cinderella’s Castle.
I mentioned the excellent service earlier. Well, the food is quite good as well.
Breakfast options include bubbly cocktails, flaky pastries and avocado toast as well as Caramel Apple-Stuffed French Toast or Beef Tenderloin and Egg.
Also available are nonalcoholic drinks like orange juice, lemonade, Twinings of London tea and freshly brewed Joffrey’s coffee.
For lunch and dinner, your feast with assorted cured meats and cheeses. Soon after, it’s on to a main course with choices for adults ranging from roasted chicken breast and tenderloin of beef to the chef’s fish of the day with dessert to follow.
Characters include a variety of princesses such as host Cinderella as well as Ariel, Aurora, Snow White and Jasmine.
Honorable Mention: 1900 Park Fare
This experience is not currently available.
If and when it returns, it offers a Supercalifragilistic Breakfast which brings Disney friends for a fabulously festive, all-you-care-to-enjoy breakfast buffet. “Popp in” for custom-made omelets, fluffy mini pancakes, Mickey waffles, carved ham and more.
Guests may meet such Disney characters as Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, The Mad Hatter, Tigger and Winnie the Pooh
At Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner, guests enjoy an enchanting buffet dinner as the honored Guest of Cinderella and Prince Charming. The Princess’s storybook friends join in the festivities as you have a ball dining on seafood, salad, pasta and beef specialties.
The culinary selections are representative of several “kingdoms” from around the globe and include such kid-friendly fare as chicken, cheese pizza and macaroni and cheese.
Additionally, the Wonderland Tea Party also currently has not returned to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.
Where can you find unusual characters?
The Trattoria al Forno restaurant in Disney’s Boardwalk used to host the Bon Voyage Breakfast featuring Ariel and Prince Eric and Flynn Rider and Rapunzel. But that has not returned.
Also, Cinderella’s wicked stepmother and sisters – Lady Tremaine and Anastasia and Drizella were known to show up at 1900 Park Fare with Cinderella and Prince Charming.
Overall, I would think it would make sense for Disney to add more characters. For example, I would think Hollywood Studios would be ripe for Toy Story and Star Wars character dining – but you’ve got to think Disney understands the demand better than we do.
How much do you tip at Disney character dining?
If you are a party of six or more, a gratuity of 18% is automatically added to your bill. Otherwise, tip as you normally would do.
A good rule of thumb is 15% to 25%.
Can you tip other cast members?
No. But be sure to get their name and hometown. You can go on the My Disney Experience app and give the cast members compliments.
You can also give cast compliments at the front of the park.
Are all the meals buffet-style?
No. Several offer a kind of prix-fixe menu that allows diners to choose from a handful of appetizers, a main course and a dessert.
Many of the buffet-style restaurants switched to family style post-2019, but the changes are being phased out and are subject to change.
What are your best tips for character dining?
Consider going early. Character breakfasts are cheaper than lunch or dinner and at some places, you can eat before the park opens and still be ready for rope drop.
And also, identify the characters your kids most want to meet and factor in park availability. It’s not terribly hard to meet Mickey Walt Disney World. Maybe you want to lock in a character dining experience to make sure you get your guy, but he’s going to be available.
Other dining experiences might offer more rare characters like Mary Poppins or Alice in Wonderland or one of the princesses. But be aware, specific characters are not guaranteed.
Be sure to get reservations. It is possible to get a seat in some of these places without a reservation – in theory. But I wouldn’t count on it. I think Crystal Palace gets the most walk-up traffic of any of the Disney World character dining restaurants and I’ve heard of some massive wait times.
Remember if you have dining reservations for an in-park restaurant, you must also have a theme park ticket.
Finally, consider going on a travel day. You can get started on your Disney vacation with a great meal to cap the long drive into Orlando. Or do what we do. We planned on splitting up the drive home, so we were in no hurry to leave.
After checking out of the Caribbean Beach, we drove over for a surprise character breakfast with Mickey and friends at Disney’s Polynesian Resort’s Ohana.
It lessened the blow of having to say goodbye to Disney and was a great way to end our trip with hugs from the Mouse himself.
Does your family have a favorite Disney character breakfast? Let us know in the comments!