We are big fans of Disney Character Dining! The experience falls in the “WOW” category for our family and while we haven’t always loved the food we go back time and time again for the overall fantastic experience.
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What is Character Dining at Disney World?
Character Dining are restaurants at Disney World Parks and Resorts that offer magical meals with a variety of most loved Disney Characters. Each of the restaurants offer different Characters (same change from meal to meal), different types of food, buffets or full service and different entertainment.
What we love about Disney Character Dining?
We love the overall excitement, anticipation, atmosphere and opportunity to see characters in different outfits and atmospheres. To dance at Character restaurants located in the parks you will need a park pass for that day as well as a park reservation for your whole party and of course dining reservations are highly recommended. We have eaten at The Crystal Palace, Be Our Guest and Hollywood & Vine which are all restaurants inside the Disney theme parks (my favorite of the three is Be Our Guest).
There are many Character Dining restaurants located at the Disney Resort hotels and from our experiences so far they have been our favorites. We love being able to have a really fun experience with characters on a non-park day and really take in the full experience of going to the restaurant, not rushing through anything, eating a nice meal and really relishing in the character experience as the highlight of that day. We have eaten at Cape May Cafe, Chef Mickey’s and Topolino’s Terrace which are all located in Disney Resort hotels and do not require a park pass in order to go to these restaurants. It is highly recommended to have a dining reservation.
Is Disney Character Dining worth the price?
The most subjective question and of course the most difficult to answer since the value and the experience will be measured differently by everyone… BUT here is my attempt to answer:
The Character Dining outside of the Disney theme parks are 100% worth the price in my opinion. Not only do they provide an immersive Disney experience but they had the best food of all of the restaurants we’ve tried so far and gave us a way to park at a Disney resort for free (with a valid dining reservation at a Disney resort). There are many fun and inexpensive things to do around the resorts without being a resort guest to take advantage of after your dining reservation.
Of the Character Dining restaurants we’ve triend inside the Disney parks so far, I would say “Be Our Guest” was worth the money while Crystal Palace and Hollywood and Vine were not worth the money if you’re rating by the food. When we went in 2020 the food was just “ok”. That said, if you want to meet Eeyor and Piglet, Crystal Palace is the place to do that! And, if you want a Character meal inside Hollywood Studios with Micky, Minnie, Donald and Goofy, Hollywood and Vine is the place to go. The experience was good at both of these restaurants, but the food wasn’t as good as the Character restaurants outside of the parks and the Character greetings / time spent with each character felt a bit more rushed (especially at Crystal Palace) than the restaurants outside of the parks where the experience and time with the characters was outstanding.
My conclusion: Character Dining restaurants outside of the parks (based on our experiences to date) are worth it and those inside the parks are worth it IF there is a character you really want to meet and a character meal is the only way to meet them. If you can swing it, I would suggest packing lunches, snacks, etc to save a bit where you can and making reservations at one Character Meal during your next visit.
Would we go to the same Character Restaurant for a second time?
At the time writing this post (March 2023) we have an upcoming Disney World trip booked and reservations for TWO Character Meals (Chef Mickey’s and Cape May Cafe) that we have already been to. So, the short answer is YES.
To my surprise given the overall grandeur of the Disney World parks, Landon (who was 4 the last time we visited), remembers his experiences at Character Dining quite well and those were top on his list to do again. Ahead of any ride, parade or attraction in the actual park! Based on his glowing reviews and memories we have reservations at Chef Mickey’s, Cape May Cafe, Tusker House and Cinderella’s Royal Table for the upcoming trip. We will likely not go to all of them, but… you never know 😉
Which Character Dining restaurant has the best food?
Of the restaurants we’ve tried so far, Topolino’s Terrace for Mickey’s Breakfast a la Art was by far our favourite food. It is a full service restaurant although the price is fixed you order from a menu and have the meal served at your table (aka not a buffet or family style like many of the others). The food was very good and the experience top notch. Reservations at Topolino’s Terrace are hard to come by but be sure to check in for last minute cancellations the night before or even early the morning you would like to go. Reservations can be cancelled up until 2 hours before the scheduled dining time so don’t lose hope!
A close second and certainly our favourite buffet was at Cape May Cafe. They made an amazing Breakfast Pizza we even attempted to re-create after returning home. At the time of our visit there was a made-to-order omelette bar and just about any breakfast food you could possibly want.
Which Characters are the most interactive?
I strongly recommend thinking about WHO you want to see before booking a Character Meal. Regardless if they are interactive or not, if there is a “Must See” Character for you be sure to prioritize that restaurant.
In our experiences all of the restaurants that featured the original gang, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisey, Goofy and Pluto were very good. The Characters tried to make everyone laugh, were entertaining and really made the experience (the whole point after all…). There are several options to see the original gang (or at least most of them) so you may consider booking based on their outfits, the time of the day, in or outside of the parks, etc.
Cinderella’s Royal table will be our first Princess Character Meal and we’re excited! Although we haven’t dined with the Princesses yet I have heard that their interactions are nothing short of amazing. The Disney World is Awesome podcast recently talked about Ben’s experience at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall with his family and they really enjoyed it! He talks about the Princesses again in the next episode as a “top attraction” based on how they interacted with his girls, played hide and seek and really made their day.
What we don’t like about Character Dining?
We are being pretty picky to think of something in this category since we truly do love Character Dining at Disney World. That said, our biggest caution to everyone going is be aware of where the Characters are. This applied particularly to buffet meals where you will be up from your table on occasion…
During your dining reservation you are guaranteed each Character will come by your table at least once, and typically not more than once. If you’re at the buffet, washroom, wherever, it is not guaranteed they will circle back to your table. To avoid being disappointed make sure the kids are go to the washroom BEFORE your meal and do your best to pay attention to where the Characters are so you don’t miss them. The Characters are good at watching for you as well, but they do have a pattern they follow in order to make sure they get to every table.
When / if you decide to give Disney Character Dining a try I’d love to hear about your experience! Tag me or send a DM on Instagram; I can’t wait to hear all the magical details and share in a small part of your experience.