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Friday, March 16, 2018

Disney Character Dining – A Few Top Picks


by: guide4wdw - Caitlin

Caitlin's stepping in today to share some of our favorite Character Dining offerings across Walt Disney World, but before you read today's post be sure to check out all the hard work she puts into running our Instagram page! We'd be happy to have you following along with us!   

Dining at Disney is always top notch, but a character meal brings in great food along with family friendly entertainment. Character dining appeals to all ages and comes in a wide variety of options. That being said, it can be a challenge to determine which meal you should book for your trip. These meals can come with a hefty price tag due to their two-for-one experience. I’m here to offer up some of my favorite character meals along with a few that you may want to pass on.

Chef Mickey’s

Up first is a character meal featuring the OG Disney crew. At this location, you will be graced by Mickey himself, along with Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto. Chef Mickey’s is housed at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, one of my favorite resorts on property. This dining location is a great excuse to visit and is typically a welcomed break from the busyness or heat of the parks. Another detail to note is that the Contemporary is on the monorail loop, making it extremely accessible from Magic Kingdom.

Now, let’s talk about the food. Chef Mickey’s offers breakfast, brunch, and dinner. The restaurant is buffet style at all three times of the day. The menu is very American in cuisine variety; there is nothing too wild that might scare away a picky eater. Breakfast is my personal favorite, and it happens to be the least expensive meal as well. Honorable mentions include Mickey waffles, donut holes, and tater tots. Don’t worry, there are also several healthier options, if that’s your thing. Brunch is a similar menu with a few savory items added including baked salmon, BBQ ribs, and chicken nuggets for the kiddos (or kids at heart). Dinner is the priciest option, topping out at $60 per adult. That being said, there are several specialty menu items. Seafood, a carving station, and a sundae bar are a few of the highlights.

The food at this location is wonderful, and everyone loves a hug from Mickey Mouse. But, what makes this character meal truly special? Chef Mickey’s has a fantastic atmosphere. You can watch the monorail as it runs through the middle of the resort. The restaurant has an open air feel as it sits directly in the Contemporary’s lobby. One of my favorite parts of the experience is the music. Periodically, the characters dance (in their cute chef outfits) to the “Mickey Mouse March” where the guests are encouraged to wave their napkins above their heads and join the celebration. I can guarantee the song will be stuck in your head all day, in a good kind of way!

Crystal Palace Disney World Character Dining

Crystal Palace

Next, let’s travel to Magic Kingdom for my pick for best character meal inside the parks. This dining location is nestled right off of Main Street U.S.A. and is really quite beautiful to look at. The ornate, white exterior is one of my earliest Disney memories. There’s a beautiful front porch with direct views of the castle. This restaurant houses some of my very favorite characters – everyone’s friends from the Hundred Acre Woods. You will get hugs and love from Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger.

Crystal Palace is one of my favorite buffets on all of property. Reservations can be made for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I am partial to the breakfast and lunch buffet options. My personal favorite is the large grill located in the middle of the buffet. A chef will remain stationed there to create made-to-order breakfast items. My dad is extremely fond of creating the biggest omelet possible, and I’ve heard that if you ask nicely, you might get a chocolate chip pancake (or 3). Other items to note are the Mickey waffles, extremely fresh fruit (seriously, some of the best on property), and breakfast meats. At lunch, I look forward to giant chicken nuggets, baked salmon, and peel-n-eat shrimp. As mentioned above, our family doesn’t typically visit for dinner, but you can find similar options as those offered at lunch. Keep in mind, dinner at Disney always comes with a substantially higher price tag.
You probably noticed that I have some emotional attachments to Crystal Palace, and here’s why.

This restaurant always comes with a special memory. You can read about one of my favorite Disney cast member experiences of all time in Our Top 3 Buffets at Walt Disney World post which wasn't entirely limited to strictly "buffets" by the typical definition of the word. The servers at this dining location are some of the best. We’ve heard the most wonderful stories from their many years of Disney experience. Recently, I celebrated my birthday at Crystal Palace. All cast members are special, but the ones here seem to strive for that extra bit of magic. Having visited this place an extensive amount of times, I will say that the character interactions at Crystal Palace are top notch. They spend a long time at each table and are very interactive, especially considering they're not “face” characters.

This Disney dining location is one of the best, and I highly recommend trying it out. Pro tip: if you’re an early riser (or like me, can be one if you’re at Disney), schedule breakfast before the park opens. There’s no better way to get a special Disney experience than bypassing the lines and strolling down Main Street solo (assuming you don't want to stay late and check out A One of A Kind Disney Experience: Shutting Down the Magic Kingdom!)

Disney World Character Dining

Be Our Guest

I’m sure you were wondering when I was going to throw in some princesses. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about them. However, you may be surprised by my choice. Most people recommend Cinderella’s Royal Table, but that’s not my first pick. We will talk about that in more detail a little later. Be Our Guest is located in the New Fantasyland area of Magic Kingdom. From the exterior, it looks to be a bridge and merely a façade of the Beast’s castle. But, inside is arguably one of the most beautiful places on all of property. This dining location transports you directly to the world of Beauty and the Beast. I don’t say this often, but you cannot pass up the opportunity to visit this dining location. The thought and detail that went into creating this restaurant is phenomenal.

Upon entering, you’ll be greeted by a hallway of suits of armor. Then, the true magic hits as the restaurant opens up to the Grand Ballroom. It is quite literally a replica of where Belle danced in her yellow gown, complete with soft snow falling outside the windows. I’m still not sure how they do that. To the left of the ballroom, you’ll find the West Wing. And yes, the enchanted rose is housed there as well. From time to time, lightening will strike and a petal will fall. On the other side of the ballroom is a third room with a larger than life replica of Belle and Beast dancing to the subtle tune of music box-esque music flowing in the background. I highly recommend wandering around the castle, regardless of the room you end up dining in.

I should mention that I have only visited the castle for lunch, which is not a character meal. However, lunch offers lighter food at a friendlier price. Try the grey stuff – it really is quite delicious. Lunch is considered quick service, but reservations for are strongly recommended due to the high interest level of this location. All of that being said, if you want to meet Belle and Beast or you’re interested in the French cuisine, dinner is a fantastic option. Currently, dinner is a traditional sit down meal where you can order off of a given menu. Beginning in late July, an enhanced dinner experience will be offered. This will be a 3 course meal at $55 for adults and $35 for children. Your meal will begin with an appetizer, followed by a main course, and finished with dessert. This meal is for a more adventurous eater with menu items such as escargot and charred octopus. Desserts and children’s menu items have not been listed on Disney’s website, but should be available soon. If using the dining plan, the meal will take 2 table service credits with the upcoming menu change.

Cinderellas Castel at Night

What You Should Pass On

We don’t like to be negative around here, but we do feel it is our job to keep you informed. There are a few character meals we suggest skipping, especially if you have the opportunity to visit one of the other locations mentioned above.

Our first meal to pass on is Hollywood & Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This dining location is known for its Fantasmic! Dinner Package which guarantees you a spot for the show along with your meal. Although this is a nice perk, we recommend arriving early for the show and skipping the restaurant entirely. Recently, there have been some sub-par reviews of the food here, and we all know Disney has too many excellent dining locations to be eating somewhere that you won’t thoroughly enjoy or get your money’s worth. For a few of our other top suggestions, be sure to look at our Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018.

The next meal to skip may be a little controversial. I am recommending passing over Cinderella’s Royal Table. Now, I completely understand if you have a little princess who is DYING to eat at the castle. If that is your case, go for it. But, if you’re a frequent Disney goer, or simply happy to view the castle from the outside, I do suggest you pass on this one. There’s a few specific reasons for this. One is the ultimately challenging task of snatching up a reservation. Cinderella doesn’t have much room up there, and the dining location is quite small. This also puts a damper on the whole occasion, in my opinion. When I think of the castle, I envision a beautiful, expansive space, and this is simply not the case. If you want to be in shock and awe, I whole-heartedly suggest Be Our Guest over this location. It is also worth noting that I have never been thoroughly impressed by the food here, especially for the pretty penny you’ll have to pay to be dining with royalty.

Tips and Tricks

Disney is getting increasingly more popular, and this can make it challenging to get the dining reservations you really want. You can read our best tips on how to snatch the most popular locations in our How to Secure Popular Reservations At Walt Disney World Nearly Every Time! post. However, my best tip is to be flexible; don’t lock yourself into a specific location or time. All of the restaurants I’ve shared are excellent choices, and I can guarantee you’ll love them as much as I do! We have some great friends who can help you plan your dining or your entire trip! Destinations to Travel are our travel agents that we know and love. You can submit a quote request by using the form below and take a look at why we recommend them in our Disney Travel Agents - Who Do I Recommend? overview.

Let us know your favorite character meals by leaving a comment below or tweeting us! We love to hear from you! Don’t forget to follow us on social media and SHARE this article if you enjoyed it! We love and appreciate all of our readers. -Caitlin

Your Thoughts
As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are! 

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Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way.

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