Disney Food for Families: Choosing the Right Character Meal for Your Family

Goofy's about to hang ten at Cape May Cafe

I’m excited to announce that we have two new Disney Food Blog columnists coming on board this week, but they’re not actually new to you! You’ve seen them guest blogging for Disney Food Blog for quite some time… First up, Ms. Erin Foster will be writing the Disney Food for Families Column. She’ll be giving us a unique perspective on dining with kids on Disney vacations, starting today with some great tools that will help you choose the best character meal for your needs! Welcome, Erin!

I recently helped my neighbor Stephanie plan her restaurant selections for an upcoming trip to Walt Disney World. Among her many questions was one that I hear often, “Which character meal should we go to?”

What’s a Character Meal, and How Do I Decide On One?

Character Meals are an iconic part of the Disney experience when traveling with children, or children at heart. There are ten different character meal venues at WDW proper, plus a few others in satellite locations.

For those of you new to Disney travel, character meals are dining experiences in which Disney characters are present in the restaurant. They generally travel from table to table, stopping to interact with each party for a hug, photo, autograph, or possibly a conversation. Your group gets guaranteed quality time with characters in air-conditioned comfort (rather than standing in endless lines), while simultaneously enjoying waffles, pasta, carved meats, or in some cases, adult beverages. It’s a win for junior as well as mom and dad.

Stuffed French Toast at Cinderella's Royal Table

In order to answer Stephanie’s “Which character meal?” question, I had to probe with some follow up about her family’s needs and priorities about dining. After our conversation, she ended up booking breakfast at the Cape May Café. I’m confident that they will have a great time. But this choice might not work as well for someone with different priorities. In a situation such as this, with a great number of variables (ten restaurants, different meal times), how do you go about answering a seemingly simple question such as, “Which character meal should I book?”

Choosing Character Meals Based on Your Family’s Needs

At the risk of becoming bizarrely over-analytical, I’m going to introduce a concept that my 14-year-old daughter Charlie learned for her debate team: the Value Criterion. The Value Criterion is the way you decide how you’re going to decide. In other words, what do you value? For some families, value might come from seeing a child’s face light up when meeting the character of her dreams. Other families might value the quality of the food or the accessibility of the location. Based on your Value Criterion, your ideal restaurant might be completely different from another guest’s.

Tigger Meets a New Friend at Crystal Palace

I’ve identified a number of Value Criteria that might come into play when choosing a character meal (many of these could be applied to other meal decisions as well). You can click on each link to see a special graph that will help you determine which character meal will be best for you based on each criteria:

meeting a particular character
minimizing cost
minimizing travel time
maximizing the number of food choices
maximizing food quality
minimizing noise level
sleeping late, or eating at a particular time

Putting It All Together

In practice, you’ll probably consider several of these Value Criteria when making your character meal decision, and possibly others that I haven’t considered.

My friend Stephanie’s Value Criteria looked like this:

  • She wanted her boys to dine with classic Disney characters, and
  • She wanted to minimize travel time to the meal

Because she is staying at the Beach Club, Cape May Cafe‘s character breakfast made perfect sense. However, a princess-lover on a budget would be better off at 1900 Park Fare for dinner. A little bit of thinking about what is important to your family will help you decide which option is right for you!

Be sure to check out our Disney World Character Meals page for links to great tools that will help you choose the best character meal for you.

Check out other posts from Erin’s column, along with Erin’s bio, at our Disney Food for Families page!


  1. says

    Great post Erin! Glad to know you’ll be frequently contributing to DFB!! :) I think so many times parents become so fixated on finding the perfect character breakfast with the big guys (Mickey etc) that they forget that kids will like just about anyone. While the park breakfasts are nice, I like that you focused on the breakfasts at the resorts. 1900 Park Fare is one of my personal favorites plus you get to see characters that you can’t normally find elsewhere.

  2. says

    One of my criteria (we are 2 adults on this trip) was trying new food so that’s why Akershus is in. If there was no character meal there, I would still go.

    The next thing I looked at was visiting new resorts. That’s how Chef Mickey’s and O’hana came into play. O’hana was also influenced by meeting Lilo and Stitch.

    I’ve been to 1900 Park Fare for breakfast but it’s dinner this time to meet Lady T and her daughters. I’ve heard these characters are wonderful and wanted to be sure to “meet” them.

  3. James (Disneynorth) says

    Wow, wow and…. wow! Awesome post. The graphs and flow charts are amazing! I love stuff like that.

    I’m glad to see you will be a regular columnist Erin. I love reading your posts.

  4. says

    Great news – and what a comprehensive post, with flow charts! I bow to you, and to the depth of DFB in general. I’m so happy that you’ll be blogging regularly, Erin. AJ has an eye for quality (and a tongue for it, too, although that’s related to tasting).

  5. Marcy says

    Awesome post…love the charts…we have already booked our character meal, but I ‘tested’ your charts anyway…Chef Mickey’s it is…thankfully we made the right choice ;) Great info!!!

  6. Shayne says

    Great post, Erin! We love character meals when we travel with the kids. I have two boys and the character interaction they get at meals is just the right amount for them. We get to be cool, eat, and don’t have to stand in endless lines trying to elbow our way to the front to see the characters out and about at the parks.

    I love the way you’ve analyzed this and plan to send it on to some friends who are currently planning their Disney vacations!

  7. Randy says

    By far, the best character dining experience I’ve had at WDW was at the Garden Grill in The Land pavillion at Epcot. Great, healthy food…and the characters come by your table a LOT.

  8. says

    As always, Erin, you totally rock! Love the charts, the analysis, the information – all the brain work is done, and now we can just go and enjoy our meal! Awesome!

  9. says

    I love reading about the character breakfasts because it brings back so many happy memories. My kids are getting older now (12, 14, 15), but I still love character breakfasts so we do things like Cape May Cafe’s breakfast in place of the ones offered in the park.

    My 15 year old daughter still loves them, and I think the boys do, too, but we let them think we’re doing it for me:)

    Very nice overview!

  10. says

    Great review Erin!

    Just out of curiosity would maximizing time with characters fall under “minimizing noise level” since that would mean less guests? Or even maximizing food quality and choices could be a possibility too.

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