Best Disney World Character Meal Recommendations By Age

Character Meals. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all kinda world. You might think you’ll enjoy dinner at Chef Mickey’s with just your significant other.

Chef Mickey!

Chef Mickey!

After all, you’re kids at heart! But are you really thinking through the reality of it — complete with twirling napkins, blaring music, and loads and loads (and loads!) of kiddos everywhere?

Today, I thought we could break down some of the groups of guests who might want to take special care in deciding which character meal is best for them. Because when it comes to dining with your favorite Disney characters, no one should be left out!

Character Dining With Toddlers

What makes for great character interaction when you’re entertaining a toddler? I have one clearcut favorite: the Best Friends Breakfast, which you’ll find at ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

There are a number of reasons for this. First, you get to see Mickey in a Hawaiian Shirt! So cute.

Mickey at 'Ohana

Mickey at ‘Ohana

But in addition to the cool characters (you’ll also find Pluto as well as Lilo and Stitch), I love the set up here. In my opinion, buffets can be a logistical nightmare when you’re dealing with a toddler. I mean, sure, the endless variety is bound to yield something they’ll eat. But trips back and forth to get food while minding a child who would like to climb the curtains isn’t my idea of a fun vacation. Add in character interaction and trying to get those great photos and — well. Just forget it.

Family Breakfast Platter at 'Ohana

Family Breakfast Platter at ‘Ohana

But at ‘Ohana, they bring the food to you, family-style. And it’s delicious and bountiful. All you can eat breakfast favorites, including Mickey Waffles? I’m in.

Mickey Waffles!

Mickey Waffles!

But if you have a small army along for the visit, all of whom are willing to take a turn occupying Junior while you eat, then you may want to check out Play n’ Dine.

This lively character buffet takes place at Hollywood and Vine Restaurant inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The character roster includes Disney Junior favorites like Jake the Neverland Pirate, Doc McStuffins, and Sofia the First.

Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates

Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates

And watching your kiddos’ eyes light up when they see their favorites larger than life is certainly a big part of the fun. Besides, who can resist a Chocolate Fountain?

Chocolate Fountain

Chocolate Fountain

For sure not me!

Character Dining With the School-Aged Set

If you are parents to children who have already attained school age, you’re probably looking for something a little different. For older children, I think it’s fun to enjoy interaction with the Fab Five characters is in a themed setting.

One of my favorite spots is Tusker House in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Donald and Friends are dressed to go on safari, and it always makes me want to join in the adventure!

Goofy Strikes at Pose at Tusker House in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Goofy Strikes at Pose at Tusker House in Disney’s Animal Kingdom

But the other cool thing at Tusker House is the food. While there are plenty of traditional American dishes, you’ll also find some more exotic fare, like Samosas and Bobotie. In addition, the rotisserie meats are delicious. It’s a great balance if your older child prefers food that’s a cut above traditional kid offerings.

Beef Bobotie at Tusker House

Beef Bobotie at Tusker House

If you and your family have done every character experience — twice — and are looking for something new, check out Minnie’s Seasonal Dine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While breakfast and lunch are given over to the Disney Junior crew at Hollywood and Vine, Minnie holds court at dinner, and the theme of the brand new character meal changes seasonally. (Check out our review of Minnie’s Holiday Dine here.)

Minnie's Silver Screen Dine Takes Place Through the Beginning of Spring (Photo  ©Disney)

Minnie’s Silver Screen Dine is Happening Now Through March 20! (Photo ©Disney)

Chances are that the gang will always be celebrating something new, even if you just visited recently!

Character Dining Solo or as a Couple

Don’t shy away from character dining if you’re going solo or as part of a couple. There are plenty of spots that will fit the bill for you nicely.

If you’re dining at a table for one, consider Garden Grill in Epcot’s Futureworld.

Farmer Mickey!

Farmer Mickey!

We love this spot, which now serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for a few reasons. First, there’s lots to see in terms of characters and setting, because the restaurant actually rotates! And as it does, you’ll be treated to different view of Living With The Land, the boat attraction that shares the same building with Garden Grill, Sunshine Seasons, Soarin’, and Circle of Life. (Now that’s what I call mulitasking!)

Living with the Land as seen from Garden Grill -- The Farmhouse

Living with the Land as seen from Garden Grill — The Farmhouse

But also, because of the circular shape of the restaurant, tables are offered, well, a bit more privacy. You aren’t likely to overhear your next door neighbor’s conversation, or be caught in a picture of the mommy at the next table.

Garden Grill booth

Garden Grill booth

And the family style service and comfort food eats make for a relaxed and delicious meal. Save room for dessert for sure!

Kids Dessert

Kids Dessert

Harvest Skillet Cake

Harvest Skillet Cake

As a couple, Garden Grill may also appeal for some of the same reasons. But if you’re looking for something slightly more romantic, then you may want to book your advance dining reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

Cinderella's Royal Table Dining Room Window Seat

Cinderella’s Royal Table Dining Room Window Seat

Think about it — you’re in a castle, with grandeur all around. With plated meals rather than a buffet, and gracious princesses visiting your table, it’s a lovely spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

A Royal Tasting of Cheese at Cinderella's Royal Table

A Royal Tasting of Cheese at Cinderella’s Royal Table

We’ve actually seen quite a few proposals happening here!

Character Dining With Large Groups

When dining with a large group, a buffet is almost always your best bet. To begin, they offer a lot of variety. Whether you have a family full of food lovers, or your crew is picky, everyone is sure to find something they like. In addition, because of the come-and-go, self-serve style, you aren’t waiting forever while everyone decides what they’d like to order, and for food to arrive.

My favorite spot for a large group is Crystal Palace anytime of the day.

Welcome to the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom!

Welcome to the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom!

It’s a great rendezvous point for everyone to gather. And if you make your advance dining reservation for early morning, you may even enjoy a little time with Main Street USA nearly all to yourself, which is something that’s pretty special.

Nearly Empty Main Street

Nearly Empty Main Street

Besides — you get to visit with the gang from the Hundred Acre Wood. And really — do you know anyone who doesn’t love Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too? I didn’t think so.

Tigger at The Crystal Palace

Tigger at The Crystal Palace

If a resort setting makes better sense for your crowd, you have plenty of options. Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort is, of course, a very popular choice. As a result, getting a table at this spot can be challenging. Cape May Cafe  is a solid alternative, and one of my favorites.

Mickey Waffles!

Mickey Waffles at Cape May Cafe!

Cape May Cafe at Disney’s Beach Club offers a breakfast-only character meal. Appropriate to the resort’s themeing, you’ll enjoy Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast, where you’ll find Minnie and friends decked out in their seashore togs!

Mickey Mouse Cape May Cafe

Minnie in Her Beachy Togs

We’ve enjoyed the food here as well. While the spread tends to be fairly traditional, there are always a few surprises, like a Frittata that changes daily.

Spinach, Bacon, and White Cheddar Cheese Fritatta Cape May Cafe

Spinach, Bacon, and White Cheddar Cheese Fritatta Cape May Cafe

So rest assured — regardless of your particular situation, there’s a character meal that’s just right for you. Everyone can enjoy them. It just takes a little forethought and planning to make this fun rite of passage the perfect experience for you!

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And now, it’s time to hear from you! What’s your favorite character meal at Disney World, and why? Share with us in comments below!

Comments

  1. Dona says

    My husband and I loved the Garden Grill. I took him there for his birthday in October. It was a great place without being too girlie

  2. luvf&w says

    Thank you – perfect timing for this article! I am travelling to WDW with my 2 year old in a couple weeks on a trip for just the two of us and chose Ohana as a character meal – so good to hear it was a good decision! I agree; a buffet with a Toddler seemed like an impossible task!

  3. LeAnn says

    1900 Park Fare is also amazing for families of school age kids! The sisters are hilarious and will give any boys in your group lots of attention.

  4. Anna says

    No mention of Akershus at Epcot? That’s my favorite place on property, I’ve been there at least 10 times. 5 princesses, posed pictures with Belle in her ballgown, appetizer buffet, plated entree and plated dessert, and all the handsome Norwegian servers makes for the best character meal, in my opinion. And it’s less expensive than Cinderella’s Royal Table.

  5. Mel D says

    We took my daughter to the Garden Grill for her eighth birthday and it was perfect for her. She especially loved watching the scenery change as we revolved, and she wouldn’t let us leave until we had done a complete circuit! At the end she was presented with a slice of chocolate mousse cake with a candle in it by Micky, and she also got given a card signed by Micky, Chip, Dale and Goofy.

  6. says

    Thank you for including recommendations for adults too! We haven’t done Garden Grill yet but did eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table on our honeymoon :) And when I was there with a group of about 20 we ate at Crystal Palace and it was great!

  7. Nancy says

    Breakfast at Park Fare is the best! Interesting characters like Mary Poppins, Alice, Mad Hatter, Tigger and Pooh. Not to mention strawberry soup and lobster eggs Benedict. Best smoked salmon too. All in the grandeur of the Grand Floridian. Price is good too.

  8. says

    We chose two character meals for our trip in December and the experiences were like night and day. We were travelling as a couple and celebrating our engagement, and we went to Garden Grill and Ohana, both of which we had never been to before. The characters (and staff!) were amazing at GG and the food is some of the best I’ve ever eaten. It was our favorite experience of the trip. Our server was possibly the best server I’ve ever had at a restaurant period. Every time a character came by he ran over and took our picture- it was so nice! I also agree that the characters at GG are great with adults. Chip and Dale are especially fun. We ended our meal by discussing upcoming attractions with our server for quite some time!

    Ohana, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment, and unfortunately left a bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended) as it was the last thing we did before heading to the airport. The characters there acted like they were allergic to us, and while I understand character meals are more meant for the younger set, we were paying just as much as everyone else, and I really felt like I wasted my money on the meal. Worst of all, Stitch is my favorite character and Ohana is now the only place to meet him. That was really the only reason we ate there, and he made it clear he did not want to meet with us. Without making this comment into a novel, the bottom line is that it was unfortunate that we felt less than welcome at a restaurant that is ironically named “family.” I caution those travelling without children who love characters about eating at Ohana. I did notice the characters spending much more time with the parties that had little ones, so I know it was because we were an adult only party.

    My fiance and I are the type to never complain about a meal unless there is something extreme wrong, but the dichotomy in our experiences is somthing I felt needed sharing. I can’t wait to try GG again, but unfortunately I can’t say the same for Ohana.

  9. says

    Anna — Akershus is one of our favorites, to be sure! We were just looking for some specific criteria for this post, and in the case of our suggestion for Cinderella’s Royal Table, we were going for romance. :-) You can read more about our great experiences at Akershus here and here. Thanks so sharing your experience with us!

  10. Essie says

    Crys. Pal. is my best for breakfast. Love the crunchy French toast, the characters who greet all ages, the view of the castle (not all seats, but many), and the beauty of the restaurant. We loved 1900 Park Fare for dinner; we had so much fun with the characters that I don’t even remember the meal! LOL Chef Mickey’s is good food and fun, too, plus you get a monorail ride!

  11. Essie says

    Also, BTW, boys may be disappointed with Akershus. I took my 12 year old cousin and he was horrified! I thought that there would be some princes and maybe a Viking, but trust me, it’s all Princesses. He tried to escape from the photo with Belle and couldn’t wait until the meal was over!

  12. Susan says

    Just one comment for dining with toddlers and younger school aged children. The best thing we did with our about to be 2 year old was dining at the castle…the smiling faces are so friendly. The worst thing we did was to dine at Chef Mickey’s, Crystal Palace and the like. Those giant stuffed characters terrified her. As our server said at Chef Mickey’s…kids should be scared of a giant rat. It took her several trips to the parks to get her used to it. So just pay attention to your child…see if you can get to something close to home with characters (Chuck E Cheese, Easter Bunny photo ops, etc) to see how they do before you pay big bucks for your child to be miserable at a character meal. My son was just over 2 on his first trip and he wasn’t scared of the characters at all so we didn’t anticipate this issue with our daughter.

  13. Katie says

    We love buffets and we enjoy the characters, but with two teenagers in my family we don’t enjoy the endless amounts of screaming children that you find at some of those places. We have found though that a lot of times those places will try to put parties with no children or more shy children in a quieter room off to the side which for us was MUCH appreciated. Still, we don’t really go to restaurants like 1900 park fare and chef mickeys. We do enjoy tusker house though because it is usually a lot quieter and less crowded especially if you go earlier in the day.

  14. valerie says

    I enjoyed your article. we recently went to 1900 Park Fare with two teenagers, we chose this one because of the unique and diverse menu. However when they opened the doors to let us in the restaurant, it was like kindergarten gone wild princess edition!!!! On the plus side they sat us in a side room away from most of the madness, and the characters were so much fun! After this experience, we are a lot more choosy as to where we go. Thanks for the good suggestions.

  15. Ed says

    Just got back, Tuskers and the Crystal Palace were awsome. Great food, lots of characters for the kids and the adults! Would definately go back for more!

  16. says

    Elizabeth — It used to state that it was; now the web page doesn’t state it. Sometimes guests share that they are offered more than one item, while others insist that they are limited to one thing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem very consistent.

  17. Beth says

    Susan – I had the same thing happen with my daughter. She was all excited about Mickey Mouse until it was her turn and then she freaked out. Next trip we steered clear of characters unless they were princesses. When she finally was able to accept the characters that were in a covered costume she said “I don’t know what I was so afraid of.”

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