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.
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.
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!