Disney is probably most famous for its characters above everything else. We color them, dream about them, hang their pictures on our walls, write them letters, make them little trinkets and then visit them in the happiest place on earth. Then what? Wait in line to see them, take a picture and get an autograph? That may be necessary for many characters but others can be much more accessible. How? Well, how about having a relaxing meal and letting them come to you? It’s not as crazy or hard as it sounds. Check out where you can find some of my favorite character meals.
Enjoy lunch or dinner at the only restaurant on property where you can mix and mingle with the gang from the Hundred Acre Wood. This has always been one of my family’s favorite places to eat in the Magic Kingdom because of the Mediterranean Chicken and the Sugar Cookies! Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet wind their way through the tables. If you’re lucky, you may even get a visit twice by the same character. Schedule your lunch close to the “Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade” and the characters leave for a while to march in the parade but you are welcome to stay and enjoy the food and view (if you have a window seat, you can see the parade pass by) until the characters make their reappearance.
If you’re looking for a meal with Donald Duck, our favorite establishment is the Tusker House in Animal Kingdom. Joined by Daisy, Mickey and Goofy, this breakfast buffet is definitely a great way to start the day. Donald greets you outside to have his picture taken then you’re whisked into another continent. The walls in this restaurant display African translations to common words, the characters are dressed in safari gear and they even have a little parade with the kids. The best part about this breakfast is the opportunity to get into the park early. My family always eats during the earliest sitting so that we are stuffed and outside enjoying the African entertainers before rope drop. Since the restaurant is practically next to Kilimanjaro Safari, we are often in the first row of the first vehicle. What a marvelous way to start your Animal Kingdom adventure.
My brother, Austin, can’t get enough of Chip and Dale’s antics. Of course, that means we look for them everywhere. Even at mealtime. Although we’ve enjoyed dancing with them at the Mickey’s Backyard Barbeque, our favorite meal with the famed duo is in Epcot at Garden Grill. Why? Well, you don’t have to share them with anyone other than the people at your table. Along with Mickey and Pluto, this revolving restaurant seems to be very small (by Disney standards) giving the furry friends plenty of time to socialize during your meal. In fact, during our last dinner, Mickey stopped by our table three times – enough so that I could ask him why he had never proposed to Minnie!
Cinderella’s Royal Table
Every little girl dreams of being a princess and I was no exception. Disney has two options available for dining with the royal ladies: Askershus in Epcot and Cinderella’s Royal Table in Magic Kingdom. Both are wonderful opportunities and there are often more princesses to be greeted in Askershus but I will always prefer dining in Cinderella Castle. I suppose it makes no sense if you’re looking for “the most signatures” but who doesn’t envision the castle at the end of Main Street when you think of Walt Disney World? Start your day with the beautiful Cinderella posing for pictures before you move up the stairway to your dining table where you can look into the park while eating. Just like Tusker House, we usually eat at the first seating so that we are already in the park for rope drop. Honestly, it’s not my favorite food on property but are we really asking our parents to pay for quality? Of course not! In Disney, it’s all about the experience!
No, I didn’t forget that everyone has to eat with the mouse. After all, no Disney vacation would be complete without a special Mickey Mouse encounter. True, he can be found at many character meals – even some that I’ve already mentioned – but my all-time favorite Mickey Mouse character meal is at Chef Mickey’s. Why? Because every day is a party at Chef Mickey’s! Grab your napkin and twirl it in the air, dance and join the congo line. It’s all just another day at this Contemporary resort venue. Dressed in chef’s coats and hats, this buffet is definitely worth leaving the parks for.
These are my five favorite character meals but there are many more to choose from. Looking for Mary Poppins, try 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian resort. The girls will love it (and the boys will pretend to be bored). If Playhouse Disney is your speed, try to get reservations at Hollywood & Vine when you visit Hollywood Studios. Your little ones will go berserk (and your older kids will pretend to be bored). Interested in a restaurant that lures the children away from the table for part of the meal? Then dine with Lilo & Stitch at O’hana in the Polynesian resort. Kids are rolling coconuts and hula hooping while adults relax and enjoy the food. There are plenty of options to fit every character interest. My family has had the great fortune to try most of them but we seem to return to our favorites trip after trip.
What is your favorite character dining experience? Do you love it for the food or the character encounter? I would love to hear your stories in the comments below.
See ya REAL soon!
Quote of the Week: “Alice… do you know that something is wrong with your face?” ~ The Mad Hatter, Mad T Party’s Halloween set.
Makena is a 15 year old high school student who spends much of her free time researching Disney. She enjoys sharing Disney facts and even plans Walt Disney World vacations (including searches for secrets and Hidden Mickeys) for friends and family. You can follow Makena on twitter @Makattack98 or on Facebook (Makena Wolcott). Makena began blogging for WDW Radio in December 2011.