Thursday, November 4, 2010

Character Dining at Walt Disney World

WDW Daily News
Making Magical Memories Column
November 2009

Deciding where we are going to eat is probably my most favorite part of planning our Walt Disney World trips. There are so many choices that it can be difficult to narrow it down. For us, we have so many favorites that we have a hard time leaving one off the list! Though there are many options for dining, I am going to focus this article on character dining.

There are many benefits to character meals. For us, it is to see how our children will react to the characters without standing in line in the parks. When you are seated, your server will ask right away how the kids are with characters. They then will let the characters know your response. On our last trip, we had no idea how they would react. At Chef Mickey’s, the characters took time with each of the four children in our party of 10. Our daughter Emily was ten months at the time and petrified, my son Joey and daughter Hayley were fine, and my nephew was a little scared at first, though warmed up quickly. When a character came around to our table, they would spend time with each of the kids and simply wave to Emily and make some small gesture. By the end of the meal, she had warmed up, which made a smooth transition for our next character meal. Another benefit of the buffet character meals is, not only do you have the character interaction, but your children who are under 3 can eat from the buffet for free. Before having children, we never thought to go to a character meal, but now we realize they really are for people of any age and they have become family favorites.

Our absolute favorite character meal is the Cape May Character Breakfast over at the Beach Club. We met Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto, all dressed in their beach clothes. Donald has taken the spot of Chip and Dale who used to be regulars at Cape May. The food is great, the service is wonderful and the character interactions have been better there than at any other character meal we have tried. Some of our best vacation photos have been taken there. The great thing about being at the Beach Club is that when you finish your meal, you can walk to Epcot and enter through International Gateway or you can take a boat to Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Epcot. We always plan this breakfast the morning we are going to be going to Epcot.

On our last trip, we tried Chef Mickey’s for the first time. We decided it would be a great start to our vacation and ate there our first night. We met Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Pluto all in their chef’s outfits or aprons. We enjoyed the food and the characters, but I must say it was quite loud, and our server was working more tables than she probably should have. We sat in a great spot though. The kids could see the monorail as it entered and left the Contemporary. When we finished our meal, we walked into the Magic Kingdom, which took maybe 10 minutes and that is with four children ages 3 and under. It makes for a great place to eat when you plan to go into the Magic Kingdom to catch the evening parade, Spectromagic, or fireworks show, Wishes.

We have also tried Crystal Palace. Of all the character meals, I have to say we liked the food here best. There were a lot of choices and the buffet area was wide open. But for the sake of all of us parents who would like their kids to eat something healthy before dessert, I wish they would move the dessert buffet to a spot not directly in front of the dinner buffet. Just kidding, but it was hard to get my kids past the delicious desserts (and there were a lot of delicious ones) to dinner. Luckily, my kids didn’t put up too much of a fuss and helped themselves to some ice cream when they were done. The characters were Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet. During the time we were there, Piglet never made it to our table, though he was circulating, and we rarely saw our server. This was the only character meal we have felt rushed at.  I think the servers here could use a big break. They seem to be spread very thin. Though we rarely saw our server he was very nice and was very good to our kids. Because this restaurant is right on Main Street, as soon as you are done, you can walk off your meal while strolling around the Magic Kingdom.

There are many more character meals in the parks and Disney resorts. We hope to explore them all someday. For our next trip, we are sticking with our favorites, Chef Mickey’s, Crystal Palace, and Cape May Café. With a five year old, three year old and two year old, I can’t wait to see their reactions to the characters!

What is your favorite character meal? Feel free to leave a comment and share your character meal experiences!


Crystal Young Photography said...

We'll be doing Chef Mickey's and Crystal Palace this trip. Crystal Palace is definitely our favorite. We also had a great time at 1900 Park Fare before, the step mother & sisters are hilarious!

Beth Doda ~ disneymom2jhe said...

My daughters love Cinderella and absolutely hate the sisters, so I am worried I will take them to 1900 PF and they will be upset. They call the sisters the "Bad Girls from Cinderella!" But I 1900 Park Fare is definitely on my to do list of restaurants I want to try. Now to convince the kids!

Natalie said...

Well, I always wish that they were not so OBESELY expensive! But my favorite must be ALL of them! I wish that for breakfast that they had latte machines though, as their coffee is TERRIBLE in WDW! Thanks for the article Beth! You are great!

Beth Doda ~ disneymom2jhe said...

Natalie - I agree. Luckily for us, in 2008 both my girls were under three, so they were free. Next time, all my kids will be over 3 so we will have to pay for all five of us. It may change the number of characters meals we can do. But one way to get around the price, we try to hit them for breakfast instead of for dinner.

Mike said...

Beth, my daughter's favorite restaurant is The Garden Grill. It is served family style, the restaurant rotates (it's over at the Land at Epcot), and Mickey, Pluto, Chip & Dale come to meet with you. After that, Crystal Palace is our favorite! We have eaten at 1900 Park Fair once, but we probably won't again. Sophie didn't like the step-sisters. They kept asking if it really was her birthday or was she lying? She didn't like that too much!

Beth Doda ~ disneymom2jhe said...

When planning out our ADRs, we have always placed Garden Grill on our "maybe" list(The Land Pavillion is my favorite Future World attraction, though The Seas with Nemo and Friends is a close second!), but we always end up with our favorites. I am hoping this next trip we will try it out. My kids LOVE Chip and Dale, so they would be quite happy there! :-)

My girls would probably have issues with the sisters at 1900 Park Fair too, though I must admit I would love to eat there. Maybe we will have to try out the breakfast to avoid the sisters since I think Mary Poppins is sometimes there (?) and my girls just love her too! Hayley and Emily would love Cinderella and Prince Charming, but those sisters and Lady Tremaine would definitely not go over well!