Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Team Favorites - Character Meals

Character dining is one of the truly unique experiences offered at Walt Disney World.  Yes, lots of places offer a good breakfast but no one other than Disney lets you combine that meal with the magic of some one-on-one time with your favorite characters.

Today our team discusses our favorite character meals at Walt Disney World. 

Amy:  For breakfast, my favorites are Chef Mickey's and The Crystal Palace.  We took Tink to Chef Mickey's breakfast for her first birthday.  It was a good meal, a fun atmosphere, and I like the chef costumes for the characters.  You can't beat a ride on the monorail to start the day.  For my full review, click here. 

I worked at The Crystal Palace during College Program, so it's a sentimental favorite.  The food is really good here and the team replenishes it often.  The characters are Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet.  You'll see them lead a parade with the kids once or twice during your meal.  I love this building with all its windows, curlicued decor, and Magic Kingdom location.  I think dinner is the best meal here but come hungry because it's not cheap.  It's now $32.99 per adult for dinner.  Kids 3-9 are $15.99. 

My other dinner pick is The Garden Grill.  This restaurant is in The Land pavilion at Epcot.  It rotates very slowly so the view changes throughout your meal and sometimes you overlook scenes from "Living with the Land."  Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale are the characters you'll meet.  The Garden Grill is only open for dinner now.  The meal is served family-style with steak and turkey for the adults and chicken and mac and cheese for the kids.  Some of the produce is grown in the greenhouses at The Land pavilion.  This location is a few dollars cheaper per person than The Crystal Palace.

DisneyDadI have to admit I enjoy the character meals as much as any kid.  Over the years we have been to many different character meals and I have enjoyed them all.  Most recently we had the Breakfast Buffet at Chef Mickey's at The Contemporary.  The first time we went to Chef Mickey's it was a restaurant at Downtown Disney complete with...who else... Chef Mickey!

Of the character dining experiences WDW currently offers my two favorite are Chef Mickey's and The Crystal Palace.  Chef Mickey's is in the Grand Concourse at Disney's Contemporary Resort. Depending on where you are seated you can watch the monorail run though.  The restaurant brings Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald and Goofy to your table as you bring all you can eat from the buffet to the table.  We recently had breakfast there and the food was as good as any breakfast buffet I have been to anywhere.  All the food was fresh, the hot food was hot and the cold food was cold and it all was delicious.  My favorite for breakfast is always the Mickey Waffles and theirs were fresh and warm.  (Did I say I enjoyed this as much as the kids?)

My other favorite, The Crystal Palace, is just off Main Street, USA at the Magic Kingdom.  The restaurant looks like a Victorian conservatory complete with palm trees growing under the glass dome.  The food here is buffet style also.  (My daughter worked here in the College Program.  On one trip here only one side of the buffet was open while they were getting the second side setup.  We actually had the buffet opened for us by one of the chefs so we could be first in line.)  (Amy's note: one of my cast member friends thought this would be a special treat for my parents.  Looks like he did make some magic.  My parents are still happy about this and it was in 1997.)  Pooh and Friends come visit your table at The Crystal Palace.  The last meal I had here was breakfast and it was excellent.  It is a great way to start the day at the Magic Kingdom.

RidgeI have to say that character meals aren't really my thing at this point in my life.  As far as the characters are concerned, The Crystal Palace would have to be a favorite of mine since I am being asked to choose. T-i-double G-er has to be one of my favorite characters, right after Mickey Mouse, of course.  At The Crystal Palace we have always had good luck with having the right amount of time and getting the pictures we wanted. It also doesn't hurt anything that the food here is also really good.  But if you want to see the HC (Head Cheese) himself, you really can't beat Chef Mickey's. It was a real cavalcade of characters and only took about 45 minutes in the rotation to see them all. Here's a tip, if you are in a spot where the characters rotate off stage, because they only stay on the floor for about 15 minutes before "rotating," keep an eye out for their handlers. We were seated right at the point where our Chefs were rotating and it is easy to get overlooked because the replacement might confuse where his/her counterpart left off. If you accidentally get missed, just ask one of the handlers and they'll steer the character back your way.

It looks like our team has similar opinions again.  Other character meals we've had over the years that didn't make our favorites include 1900 Park Fare breakfast, Liberty Tree Tavern dinner (discontinued), Olivia's breakfast at Old Key West (discontinued), and Donald's Breakfastasaurus (now similar meal at Tusker House).  

Cinderella's Royal Table (formerly King Stefan's Banquet Hall) used to be a family favorite, however, the restaurant started changing in the early 2000s.  Our last visit there was in 2005.  We might go back someday if Tink insists, but in my opinion the elegance of the place is gone now that it is a character dining location.  It's also very pricey and VERY hard to get a reservation.  I realize I am in the small minority here and if you have never had a meal in the castle, then this is a treat.   

I would like to try the character breakfast at Tusker House.  Our lunch there was wonderful.  For my full review, click here.

Cape May is not on my to-do list.  We ate dinner once when we stayed at Beach Club and I wasn't impressed.  Since we usually stay at Old Key West, this restaurant would not inspire me to make the journey over there.

Akershus Banquet Hall is a must-do once Tink gets a little older.  Most of the princesses will greet you at this character meal.  The breakfast was so popular that it's now a character location all day, so if you don't want to get up early for breakfast, you can still meet Belle at lunch or dinner.  Breakfast is traditional breakfast fare while lunch and dinner feature a Norwegian menu with hot entrees and a cold salad/herring bar.  Chris and I had lunch here once and enjoyed the food. 

For me, the jury is still out on 'Ohana.  I love breakfast at Kona Cafe, but 'Ohana just seems chaotic to me.  Lilo and Stitch are here in the morning.  Maybe someday I'll brave this one.

What are your favorite places to dine with the characters?  Do you have a character meal that you just must have each trip?  Any that you don't want to repeat?  Please leave your comments below. 

(Check back because I just might scan some pics of me in the oh-so-lovely Crystal Palace costume...)


  1. My family absolutely LOVES Cinderella's Royal Table. Maybe we've been lucky, but we've always enjoyed the food and we've had such incredible interactions between the princesses and our little princess. And it's so magical eating in the castle. We've gone twice and are going again in September.

    We are trying Crystal Palace for the first time in September and are so excited! I definitely want to try breakfast at Ohana and a meal at Akershus Banquet Hall one day, too.

  2. I couldn't agree more about the Castle. The food was average when I was there in Jan 2010 and it was hard to get the table and very $$. I dont have a daughter so its not my list to eat at right now.

  3. That's sad about the castle! I ate there in maybe 2001 for lunch and it was delicious. I loved everyone referring to me (a college student at the time) as "Princess" :) Of course, we walked up that day and made a lunch reservation, so obviously business-wise they might be doing better now..

  4. We have eaten in the castle many time. My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding aniversary there. It was a wonderful place to eat. The castle in the middle of the magic! What better place to be? And if you were there at the right time, it was a wonderful place to watch the fireworks. Of course times change and the MK needed another character "experience" so I have no desire to return. Mayby some day with Tink, but not until then.

  5. I loved the food at the Castle 10 years ago, but I'm unimpressed with the menu these days. My kids and I decided not to even try for ADR's there this year. It used to be magical but it seems like now they just milk the commercial value for all it's worth. The atmosphere in dinning there though just can't be beat.

    I must admit I think that Cape May has a fabulous Breakfast but don't go for dinner unless seafood is your thing.

  6. I am interested in seeing what it is like now vs. the many, many years ago when I went, partly because I just looked at my WDW Dining app and the roast lamb chops could persuade me to give it a try, however for the price at dinner it better be really good and not just average. Also I love my screaming niece, it’s a stretch for me like everyone else’s screaming kids just yet.

  7. I love Ohana's for breakfast. The huge platter of food and the characters there are my favorite. What's not to love about Stitch Juice?

    1900 Park Fair we really enjoy and I prefer it to CRT. The step-sisters are so much fun and so silly, plus you get to see Cinderella w/Prince Charming. The interaction is better and we enjoy the variety of food.

  8. We took our 2 year old in February and did our first character dining. We skipped Chef Mickey's because of a terrible temper tantrum, but we did Liberty Tree Tavern and loved it! It's our favorite restaurant anyway, so it was great!

  9. I am sad that Liberty Tree got rid of the characters it was a fun meal to go to.

  10. Thanks for all the comments today! I love hearing about your experiences! More, more!

    I liked Liberty Tree Tavern as a character meal too. I am now thinking we need to go to 'Ohana, 1900 Park Fare dinner, and Akershus once Tink is a couple of years older. She hasn't been to Crystal Palace yet, so that's gotta happen.


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