Amazing Character Dining Experiences: Parks vs. Resorts
Where I live, going out to a restaurant is always the same protocol: tell the host the number in your party, wait for a table, peruse the menu, place your order, and eat when your server brings the food. From 5-star restaurants to 24 hour diners, they’re all the same when it comes to style of service, and it can feel pretty mundane. Rarely do we get the chance for a non-traditional restaurant meal, let alone one with some extra character. Unless we are visiting Walt Disney World Resort with their amazing character dining experiences!
Character dining is unique to Disney, and each character dining experience itself is exclusive and unique in its own way, and knowing the differences is the first step in choosing the right one for your family. Is your son/daughter a huge princess fan? Does your girlfriend love Mickey Mouse? Is your preschooler obsessed with Winnie the Pooh? And the biggest question of all…should I choose a character meal inside the parks or at one of the resorts?
I know from experience how easy it is to choose a character meal only to show up and have it be something completely different than what I expected. Just go online and choose the one that has the most availability, right?
That’s how I used to do it before I became a Disney expert (kidding), and it took me two ‘this isn’t what I thought’ moments before I realized I should probably do some research on the differences. Since then, I’ve got many years and character meals under my belt, and I’ve learned a LOT, especially when it comes to parks vs. resorts. With that said, I’m happy to share everything I’ve learned right here with you on MickeyBlog.com!
You’ve traveled from far and wide to meet your favorite Disney Princesses, and after the long journey you and your party are more than prepared to dine with royalty. So only one question remains: which princess dining experience is right for you? From experience, breakfast is the best time to schedule a princess breakfast for two reasons: it is the meal period that’s easiest to make a reservation for, and the food is always best.
I’m mainly talking about the only restaurant that lets you into Cinderella’s castle, Cinderella’s Royal Table, aka the nearly impossible Princess dining reservation to snag. The menu offerings are the best of any meal period here, and I would always choose breakfast because if I’m paying that much for a meal, I want the food to be good! The princesses rotate, but when I dined, I met Ariel, Aurora, Snow White, and Jasmine.
If you don’t want to waste valuable park time at a restaurant, want to meet some different princesses (and princes), or can’t get a reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table, the resort hotels equivalent Bon Voyage breakfast at Trattoria al Forno is a great alternative! Like Cinderella’s Royal Table, the meals are a prefixed price, but are much, much tastier!
The Tangled Eggs and Royale Breakfast are what I’ve ordered on my past two visits, and both were generously portioned and had much more flavor than anything I’ve eaten at Cinderella’s. The eggs were fluffy and not overcooked, and the array of breakfast pastries presented before the meal was super fresh and made for a great appetizer! Characters here include Ariel and Eric and Rapunzel and Flynn, so it’s not as princess-heavy, but you’ll still get your dose of royals!
MICKEY AND FRIENDS
It’s possible that I’m Mickey’s biggest fan, and since I’m overly-attentive to every experience that features him, I’ve got the low down on which character dining experiences are best if you’re hoping to spend time with the mouse! Let’s start in the parks again, but this time our destination is Garden Grill in Epcot!
Reservations aren’t horribly difficult to make here (still book 180 days in advance though!) and the slowly-rotating restaurant ensures that when a character isn’t visiting your table, you’ll still have plenty to take in as you eat! The breakfast here is really tasty for a character dining experience – don’t get me started on that family-style, sticky cinnamon roll skillet- and the characters really took their time making their way around. I got the most time with Mickey here than anywhere else!
If you don’t want to spend any of your park time in a restaurant, you can share a meal period with Mickey and his friends at the resorts! My recommendation is Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Unlike Garden Grill, the food is served buffet-style. I like that I’m able to go up and fill my plate with whatever I want, as many times as I want, but keep in mind that going for seconds means you’ll have to leave your table.
Let me just say that one runs the risk of missing their favorite character’s visit to their table by getting up…trust me, it’s happened to the best of us. Although I wasn’t thrilled that I missed Goofy at my table, I was thrilled with the classic character lineup like Mickey, Donald, and Goofy!
There really is a character dining experience for everyone, including the youngest and tiniest of Disney fans! If your preschooler loves Disney characters, a character meal would top the charts as far as vacations go! To help break up long, nap-less days in the park and avoid meltdowns, taking breaks is non negotiable, and a character dining experience is the perfect reprieve for weary kids!
The Crystal Palace is the best in-park dining option for young guests, as characters from Winnie the Pooh circle about the huge, glass-ceiling restaurant while you dine. The food is served all you can eat buffet-style, so come hungry! The food is just okay, but the characters are the draw! If there is a downside to dining here, it’s the restaurants’ size, meaning the characters have lots of ground to cover and don’t spend tons of time at each table.
What is it about Stitch that makes young children get so excited? It doesn’t matter how old the movie gets, each generation seems to love the crazy blue alien more than the last, which might explain O’Hana’s popularity!
Maybe it has nothing to do with Stitch at all…maybe it’s the pineapple breakfast bread they serve that keeps guests flocking to the daily character breakfasts. Either way, this is a fantastic place to meet characters and fill up on a good breakfast.
Its location at the Polynesian Village Resort makes for easy access to Magic Kingdom once you’re finished eating and meeting with characters like Lilo, Stitch, Mickey, and Pluto! That’s a lot of information to process, but if you had to choose right now, what would be your choice? Let us know in the comments below!
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Special thanks to Maria Salerno for writing this article: Hiya pal! I am a NYC-based writer thrilled to a part of your Disney vacation planning! I’m a WDW Annual Passholder, so you can find me in the parks regularly throughout the year. In addition to being a Disney Parks loving girl, I’m also a Disney toy and merchandise collector, a runDisney enthusiast, and Disney music and movie aficionado. You can follow me on Instagram: NYCtoAP and find me on YouTube: NYCtoAP. Thanks for reading, hope to see ya real soon!