Ask a Disney Question: Character Dining at WDW
Larissa writes: “My friend and I are planning our families’ first trip to Disney next year, and I’m doing lots of research to try and help make a cheaper, smoother trip for us all. We want to do as many character dinners as possible to make our kids happy (they will be 5,4,2,and 1).”
Larissa: Thanks for your question and for reading the site. I think you’re smart to plan early, particularly now that you can make your advanced dining reservations (ADRs) 180-days in advance. There are about fifteen character dining experiences at Disney World, but I’m just going to concentrate on the top five:
- Chef Mickeys. Located in the Contemporary Resort, this buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner with Mickey and friends is known for good character interaction. It’s very popular so make your ADRs 180-days out. I hear Anytime is a good time for Chef Mickey’s
- 1900 Park Fare. Located in the Grand Floridian, 1900 Park Fare serves a Supercalifragilistic breakfast with Mary Poppins and characters from Alice in Wonderland, but the real draw is Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner with Cinderella herself, Prince Charming, Madame Tremaine and the evil stepsisters. The food is a step above what you’ll find at CRT and the stepsisters camp it up every night and steal the show.
- Cinderella’s Royal table (CRT). The most difficult reservation to get in Disney World, you’re eating here to meet Cinderella in her castle, not for the food, which gets mixed reviews. The fixed-price menu changes frequently but often features grilled salmon, a version of shepherd’s pie, and all the usual kid favorites. An adult breakfast at CRT is $31.99; dinner is a $57.19 and includes a photo with Cinderella. If you’re on the dining plan, you’ll pay two table service credits. Check out a review for CRT here on the Disney Food Blog, from someone you might recognize.
- Princess Storybook dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. Located in the Norway pavilion at Epcot, this ADR is easier to get than CRT but features Cinderella herself as well as several other princesses. At one table service credit on the dining plan, it’s an excellent value. At breakfast, eggs, bacon and potatoes, all very good, are brought to your table by friendly Norwegian college students who will make you wonder if the entire population of Norway is this incredibly good-looking. There’s also a buffet of fruit, cold cuts, a breads. At lunch and dinner, the buffet features familiar favorites like short ribs as well as Norwegian specialties such as Venison stew. Your Meal includes one photo with a princess, which will be brought to you after your meal. A full review with photos can be found here.
- Crystal Palace. Pooh and friends preside over this buffet, located in the Crystal Palace just off Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. It’s wildly popular and a bit loud, but the service is good and the food is fresh and plentiful. At lunch and dinner you’ll find cold cuts, bread for sandwiches (good for pickier kids), grilled veggies and meats, macaroni and cheese, pork tenderloin, and pizza as well as other items, but the desserts were the real winner. Good character interaction; our kids were quite taken with Piglet, who was a real charmer.
Except for CRT, breakfast for kids runs around $13.00; adults can eat for around $29.99. Dinners for kids are approximately $21. An adult dinner runs around $40.00. Food is served buffet style except for CRT where diners order off a fixed-price menu. In my experience, Disney buffets (except for Boma, which is excellent and in a class by itself) are a step or two above the type of buffet you probably have in your home town. The food, while not gourmet, is fresh and plentiful and there is a good variety. I’m not a huge fan of buffets, but I can eat at a Disney buffet and feel satisfied and happy.
Depending on how long you’ll be at Disney World, I’d recommend limiting your character dining experiences to two or three. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it’s expensive and even with an unlimited budget, you can only eat so much, so you’ll be missing out on other restaurants which have a lot to offer if you mainly stick with this type of dining. I also think that it can be too much for kids. The thing about Disney is that your ticket into the parks gives you a lot of value and a lot of experiences; there’s no way you can do it all even if you stay a month. Adding extra experiences is great, but at a certain point, these types of things tend to run together, particularly for younger kids. Keep in mind too that not every child in your group may enjoy the characters; many small children are afraid. Finally, I think that, as a mom, you’re probably going to be doing more running than eating when you dine at a buffet. Most Disney restaurants, even signature restaurants like California Grill, are so kid friendly that there are only a few that I wouldn’t take my children to, so don’t hesitate to try even finer dining at Disney World with the kids in tow.