Tips from the DFB Guide: Best Character Dining for YOU!

Character Dining! What’s a trip to Walt Disney World without at least one meal shared with your favorite Disney Characters?

dfb2015_guide_3d

There’s simply no better way to kill two birds with one stone at Disney. You enjoy a hearty meal — oftentimes, it’s all-you-care-to-enjoy — and you get to interact with your favorite characters. Best of all — they come to you! There’s no waiting in line for hours to see them.

But you may think that a character dining experience isn’t for you if you don’t have kids in your party, or if your kiddos are as tall as you now. Or maybe you fear that the excitement and stimulation — not to mention all those trips back and forth to the buffet — will leave you and your toddler exhausted before you even get to the Parks.

Well, I happen to think that there’s a character dining experience just right for you, regardless of who makes up your unique party. So today, let’s look at a few tips that I’ve put together from countless Character Dining Meals — courtesy of the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2015!

And if you like what you see here, there are a lot more where these came from! To see all of our advice for choosing just the right Character Dining Experience, pick up your copy of the Guide today for $4 off using code 2015 right here!

Character Dining With a Toddler: ‘Ohana Best Friends Breakfast

You’ve decided that the time is right for your pre-schooler to enjoy breakfast with Character Appeal for the first time. Now, how in the ‘World do you choose the meal that’s right for you?

Well, one thing to keep in mind is that most of the character dining experiences offer a buffet spread. This is great news when it comes to value. But juggling trips to the buffet, photo ops with characters, and a toddler who is stimulated to the max can be a challenge. So one of my favorite tips is to enjoy character dining that offers a sit-down…and stay down…meal. And one of the best is the Best Friends Breakfast at ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

To begin, well. Mickey in a Hawaiian Shirt. Best.

Say Aloha to Mickey and Friends at 'Ohana

Say Aloha to Mickey and Friends at ‘Ohana

But then, you have platters of Pastry and Bread, Fresh Fruit, and a Bountiful Breakfast Skillet brought to your table! And it’s as much as you want. And you don’t have to get up a SINGLE time to get any of it!

Family Breakfast Platter at 'Ohana

Family Breakfast Platter at ‘Ohana

Friendly servers also roam the dining area with Mickey Waffles! And you can ask for seconds. And thirds.

Mickey Waffles

Mickey Waffles

They even have Stitch waffles for the younger set.

Stitch Waffles for the Littles

Stitch Waffles for the Littles

Mickey, Lilo, and Stitch share relaxed times with you and pose for lots of pictures. And there’s no end to the smiles during the Coconut Races. It’s one of my favorite ways to kick off a Disney Day!

Character Dining For Grownups: Garden Grill

You may have witnessed the — shall we say, exuberant — spirit that pervades Chef Mickey’s at breakfast and dinner time. This character dining experience at Disney’s Contemporary is one of the Resort’s most popular, and can be viewed from above as you whirl by on the Monorail. It can get right down raucous with excited children and loud music and the inevitable napkin twirling.

And that’s totally fine, if you’re up for it. But if you aren’t, you may leave with a splitting headache.

If you’re an adults-only group, there’s probably a good chance you’d prefer to keep it on the quiet side. You know what? You can still enjoy character dining and all the great photo ops. And Garden Grill in Epcot’s Future World is a great spot for it.

Garden Grill is located in The Land building. And while the character dining is super fun, the restaurant has another unique attribute: it revolves!

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

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

Not at supersonic speed, of course. You won’t be getting motion sickness while you dine. But you will enjoy an ever-changing view of the Living with the Land attraction as you enjoy your dinner. And in between the changing tableaus, expect a few fun visitors!

Farmer Mickey

Farmer Mickey, Chip & Dale, and Pluto Join You for Dinner

As for eats, there isn’t a lot of traipsing about, as the Garden Grill is family style meal. You’ll enjoy Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Harvest Feast, an all-you-care-to-enjoy meal of [Read more…]

Disney Food Post Round-Up: December 21, 2014

If you’re planning an upcoming Disney World trip, we have a FIRST LOOK at the new Trattoria al Forno restaurant at BoardWalk Inn resort!

Charcuterie at Trattoria al Forno

Charcuterie at Trattoria al Forno

And you can now book a character dinner at Tusker House in the Animal Kingdom! Yes, all three meals will be hosted by Disney characters as of March 8, 2015!!

Headed to Disneyland for the holidays? Well, we have some recommended snacks for you!

While there, we suggest sampling a NEW churro ice cream sandwich while strolling through Downtown Disney. Or any of the other spectacular seasonal treats lining the bakery cases!

Craving more news? Dig in below — just click on the links!

Disney Food News

Check out all the latest Disney Food News — even the stuff we don’t mention in posts on the blog! — on our Disney Food News Pin Board, including restaurant closures, and more!

We’ve got all the latest for you, so check it out before you go.

DFB Reader Finds

If you find a fun new food — or other edible awesomeness — in or from Disney, share a photo with us on facebook or twitter so we can add it to our DFB Reader Finds each Sunday!

It’s time for some cake!!

Carrie, our cake guru, shared a Fozzie Bear cake that she enjoyed while dining at the California Grill.

Fozzie Bear!!

Fozzie Bear!!

And here’s a homemade Olaf from Facebook Friend Samantha. Love!

Olaf!!

Olaf!!

Do you have a favorite find? Share your Disney food photos!

Last Minute Holiday Gift!! DFB e-Book Gift Certificates

Our popular Disney Food Blog Guide to Walt Disney World Dining and our full assortment of Specialty and Snack Guide e-Books make great gifts for friends or family members planning a trip to Walt Disney World!

DFB Everything Bundle Gift Certificate

Give the gift of a great Disney World trip!

Give the Gift of Delicious Fun This Year with DFB e-Book Gift Certificates!

Give Them the Gift of Savings and Expert Advice!

Give Them the Gift of Savings and Expert Advice!

And now it’s easy to give the gift of dining planning through our Disney Food Blog e-Book Gift Certificates!

It’s a piece of cake to do — simply:

1. Purchase a gift certificate

2. Either print & give the details to the recipient, OR email the details to the lucky Disney fan!

Don’t let your friends and family go to Disney World unprepared. Our full line of e-books will ensure that your loved ones will get the biggest bang for their dining buck in Walt Disney World!

And here’s even more reason to act now — all gift certificates include a 2015 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining pre-order, with the 2014 DFB Guide download free when the coupon is redeemed! So you can get started with your planning right away, with the most up-to-date information delivered to you as soon as it’s published!

Gift Certificate Discounts

Gift Certificate – DFB “Everything” Bundle: Our most popular Bundle, this collection includes all of our critically acclaimed e-book titles, including our Food & Wine and Holiday Guides. And by using code LASTMINUTE at check out, you’ll get an extra $10 off the already highly discounted purchase price.

DFB Everything Bundle Gift Certificate

DFB Everything Bundle Gift Certificate

Gift Certificate – DFB Guide and Snacks Bundle: Give them the gift of [Read more…]

Sneak Peek: Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort Opening Tomorrow!

Welcome to Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, where “luxury meets magic!” We got a chance to take a look around the hotel before it opens, and wanted to give you a quick peek! (Nope; they’re not paying us to do this. We just figured you’d be interested. ;-D)

Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World

Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World

Opening August 3rd, Four Seasons Orlando says they will provide a best-of-both-worlds vacation experience: “easy access to all the area entertainment in a tranquil setting,” at Golden Oak in Walt Disney World, according to Thomas Steinhauer, Regional Vice President and General Manager.

The Disney Help Desk

The Disney Help Desk

Stairwell to the lobby

Stairwell to the lobby

Chandelier

Chandelier

Twenty-six acres will hold [Read more…]

Review: NEW Star Wars Jedi Mickey Character Dining Meal at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios

Are you ready for a delicious dinner buffet served up with a side of THE FORCE?!

I sure hope so, because a long time ago (a few hours now) in a galaxy far, far away (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) we attended the debut evening of the Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine! We JUST returned from the long-awaited new character dining meal in Disney’s Hollywood Studios featuring…yup!…STAR WARS CHARACTERS!

Well, not exactly Star Wars characters; this was BETTER than Star Wars characters because it was Disney characters dressed up as Star Wars characters!!

Confused? Maybe a picture will help it to make more sense… ;-D

Ewok Chip and Dale welcome you!

Ewok Chip and Dale welcome you!

Now, let’s dive in and check out the Cantina… uh, I mean, the scene!

Jedi Mickey's Star Wars Dine

Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine

Atmosphere

Staged (see what I did there?) at Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood and Vine Restaurant — which normally houses Disney Junior characters — the new Star Wars Weekends character meal was nearly an immediate sell-out when we announced it just over a month ago.

Hollywood and Vine

Hollywood and Vine

The restaurant is set up as a buffet, which means you’re able to set the pace of your meal and make sure you’re at your table when the characters come your way.

Hollywood & Vine is themed as a vintage “Cafeteria to the Stars” (and the art deco decor on the buffet makes it stand out a teensy tiny bit from its companions around Walt Disney World).

Hollywood and Vine Buffet

Hollywood and Vine Buffet

However, for this event, the place received a bit of a galactic makeover!

Star Wars Character Meal Backdrop

Star Wars Character Meal Backdrop

Star Wars decoration

Star Wars decoration

Otherwise, a relatively neutral backdrop featuring photos of old Hollywood, a big ol’ mural, and aluminum tables and chairs means that the characters really are the feature here.

Hollywood and Vine Seating

Hollywood and Vine Seating

Hollywood and Vine Mural

Hollywood and Vine Mural

Characters

Speaking of…the characters! That’s what you really want to hear about, right? Enough pictures of seating, DisneyFoodBlog…let’s get to the fun!

As seen earlier, Ewok Chip & Dale greet you immediately upon your arrival with a couple of hugs and a chance for a sweet photo opp! (But hey, ummm, guys… I think you’re facing the wrong way ;) )

Ewok Chip and Dale up to their usual antics

Ewok Chip and Dale up to their usual antics

Ewok Chip and Dale

Ewok Chip and Dale

There, that’s better! After your picture, your photographer will hand you a special Photopass card just for the occasion: your picture with Chip & Dale is included in the cost of this experience.

Star Wars Character Meal Photo Pass

Star Wars Character Meal Photo Pass

Clearly, everyone is excited about this ;) !

Everyone's getting in on the fun!

Everyone’s getting in on the fun!

Once you’re seated at your table, you’ll entertain a few other special visitors who stop by, including Stormtrooper Donald,

Star Wars Character Meal Storm Trooper Donald

Storm Trooper Donald

Darth Goofy (Brilliant!),

Darth Goofy

Darth Goofy

Princess Leia Minnie (LOVING that bun/ears combo!)…

Princess Leia Minnie

Princess Leia Minnie

… and JEDI MICKEY himself, striking his best Jedi pose!

Jedi Mickey!!!!

Jedi Mickey!!!!

I will say that the meetings with the characters were a bit brief compared with some other character meals I’ve experienced — the house was packed. But even so, we got to meet and have our photos taken with every single character, and were happy with each visit. And as I saw the characters interact with the kids, it seemed that there were plenty of hugs and autographs going around. The general mood was just high-energy FUN.

Okay, with both the Empire and the Alliance represented with these characters, you now have a choice to make. Upon being seated at your table, you’ll notice something in addition to your napkins and silverware. A piece of paper that is red on one side…

Star Wars Character Meal Red Light Saber

Red side of paper

… and blue on the other.

Star Wars Character Meal Blue Light Saber

Blue side of paper

What appears to be merely paper transforms into a LIGHT SABER!

Blue for Jedi Mickey's side!

Blue for Jedi Mickey’s side!

Throughout the meal, guests are invited to choose their color: fold your paper to show blue if you’re on Mickey and Minnie’s side (the Alliance), or red for Goofy and Donald (the Empire). I thought it was super clever how they didn’t ask kids to choose between the dark side and the good guys — basically, you just picked your favorite character, waved your light saber like crazy, and let out a holler! (This is also, by the way, a great little energy spender for kids who are really excited while waiting for the characters to arrive at their table).

I noticed impromptu light saber battles happening all around the restaurant, primarily between fathers and their kids (and, yep, a few pairs of full-grown adults, too!).

Light Saber battle!

Light Saber battle!

I would LOVE to see a more permanent souvenir available for the kids with this meal, like a small, plastic red or blue light saber — the paper ones were such a hit, I think something like that would be an extra thrill and terrific touch.

For all this talk of children, you should know that my friend and I — both adults — felt right at home, and there were plenty of other adults-only groups for this event. While this is not the case with the typical Disney Junior meals featured throughout the year here, please don’t shy away from this event if you would like to go but don’t have children to bring. All Star Wars fans are welcome, both young and not-so-much :) !

Eats

I think the Hollywood and Vine buffet offers some truly unique choices compared with some other buffets on property, but on this evening, the fare was a little extra special.

Buffet

Buffet

Things started in a fairly typical fashion with the salads, fruit, breads, and the cold bar.

Assorted Breads

Assorted Breads

Fruit

Fruit

Create Your Own Salad

Create Your Own Salad

Not sure of shrimp name

Cold Bar

But moving foward, we didn’t just have a chance to try pork, chicken, beef, etc… oh, no!

On this night we ate everything from Tusken Raider Chicken, to Salacious Crumb’s Crusted Pork (an absolute standout!), to Kamino Maple Mustard-Glazed Salmon. Reading the Star Wars names for the dishes was nearly as fun as eating it all!

Tusken Raider Chicken

Tusken Raider Chicken

Salacious Crumb's Crusted Pork

Salacious Crumb’s Crusted Pork

Kamino Maple Mustard Glazed Salmon

Kamino Maple Mustard Glazed Salmon

Even beyond the fun names, the entrees were plentiful and varied. We also had [Read more…]

Review: Dinner at Garden Grill Restaurant in Disney World’s Epcot

We’re heading back to Epcot’s Future World for dinner at Garden Grill Restaurant!

This is a DFB favorite, and it comes together as Chip ‘n Dale’s Harvest Feast. The dinner features an all-you-care-to-eat meal served Family Style.

If you’ve ever shied away from eating in Future World in favor of the more varied cuisine available in World Showcase, it may be time to give Disney World’s only rotating restaurant a chance.

Please join me, Chip ‘n Dale, Pluto, and the main Mouse himself (MICKEY!) at the Harvest Feast for some food and fun!

Garden Grill Sign

Garden Grill Sign

The Atmosphere

The atmosphere? Well, that depends… You see, the Garden Grill rotates over the various scenes of the Living with the Land attraction, so what you see depends on where in the rotation you are in the moment.

It takes about one hour to make the full rotation, so it’s slow enough that you don’t really notice the feel of it while you are dining — at least, I didn’t. I was too busy enjoying the views!  Take a look…

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

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

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

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

Living with the Land as seen from Garden Grill -- Rainforest

Living with the Land as seen from Garden Grill — Rainforest

Transition from Rainforest to Desert

Transition from Rainforest to Desert

Garden Grill Mural

Garden Grill Mural

We enjoyed all of this from our table on the lower level of this two-level restaurant. It’s definitely a score if you are seated on the lower level, which is fashioned with booths as opposed to the chairs and tables on the upper level.

Garden Grill booth

Garden Grill booth

The booths provide more of a “front row seat” experience for the attraction, so it’s worth asking at check-in to see if you can get one. I wasn’t expecting a booth since it was just my husband and me, but several of the booths are divided with drop-leaf tables, allowing for a larger family on one side, and a pair on the other. The drop-leaf, of course, can be raised to accommodate a larger group, if needed.

Larger Booth -- Family Side

Larger Booth — Family Side

Larger Booth -- Side for a pair

Larger Booth — Side for a pair

Of course, the special touches are in full effect here — check out this table setting! Remind you of a certain character?

Mickey Table Setting :)

Mickey Table Setting :)

Speaking of… The one thing with the ability to distract you from the attraction views is… well, it’s actually FOUR things: the Characters!

Here’s Chip striking a pose in front of the Prairie Desert.

Chip strikes a pose

Chip strikes a pose

Pluto stopped by to say “Hello!”

Pluto!

Pluto!

Dale plotted how he might sneak some of our food…

Dale Plotting...

Dale Plotting…

… but I informed him it was people food, and not well-suited for chipmunks. (That makes for a sad chipmunk!)

Sad Dale

Sad Dale

Okay, this next shot is not a shining example of terrific photography ;) . But I hope it conveys that moment of excitement when you first spot THE EARS over a nearby booth (c’mon, you can admit it!), and realize who will be at your table shortly…

EARS!

EARS!

Farmer Mickey Mouse — in OVERALLS, no less!!!

Farmer Mickey

Farmer Mickey

At the start of the meal, I was a bit [Read more…]

Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins Join Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood and Vine!

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Announcing the arrival of young royal Sofia the First to Hollywood and Vine at Hollywood Studios… and joining Her Highness is fellow Disney Junior star, Doc McStuffins!

Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First

Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First

Hollywood and Vine

Hollywood and Vine

That’s right! Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins have joined their pals Jake from “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” and (AJ’s favorite :-D ) Handy Manny for the Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine character meal.

AJ's Favorite! Handy Manny at Hollywood and Vine Restaurant

AJ’s Favorite! Handy Manny at Hollywood and Vine Restaurant

Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates

Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates

Not only do the characters mix and mingle, but Play n’ Dine also features “musical moments” where all the kids are invited to sing and dance along (while Mom and Dad can keep on eating)!

Sofia and Doc McStuffins bring a few new [Read more…]

Review: Cinderella’s Royal Table Dinner in the Magic Kingdom

Gather, Subjects of the Royal Kingdom! It’s time to head to the castle for the dinner feast at Cinderella’s Royal Table!

Eating INSIDE Cinderella Castle is a quintessential experience for guests who visit Walt Disney World. After all, the castle has served as the icon for Disney itself in the past, and is the symbol for Disney World’s flagship park, Magic Kingdom.

Any guest visiting Magic Kingdom, whether they are 4 or 94, has dreamed of seeing inside the majestic building. Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table gives you the best taste of the royal residence itself. Plus,  you get an audience with Cinderella herself as well as her Princess friends.

This is the type of experience that Disney dreams are made of. As such, an advance dining reservation here continues to be a tough one to score. While it may be a little easier to get now that Be Our Guest Restaurant is open and pulling lots of guests in, you should still plan to call 180 days out if you hope to secure a table.

We thoroughly enjoyed breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table a while back. Time to see if dinner still measures up to that experience (I hadn’t been here for dinner in ages)! But first, let’s take a look around.

Atmosphere

Inspired by some of Europe’s most beautiful castles (plus the fortress from a certain animated feature film we all love), the interior of Cinderella Castle is every bit as grandiose as the outside.

The Grand Hall

The Grand Hall and waiting area lends a great deal of happy anticipation to the experience. Only guests with advance dining reservations — apologies, but no prying eyes permitted — are allowed beyond the heavy double wooden doors that lead into the Grand Hall.

And once you’re there, you’ll have an opportunity to visit with Cinderella for a bit as she welcomes you into her home.

We were really fortunate to capture some great shots of the hall while it was empty. Here, you can see the weaponry and shields that adorn the stone walls. Heavy chandeliers and Gothic arches punctuate the scene. Seating in the hall is available while you await your visit with Cinderella and your admittance into the dining room.The low benches are plush and comfortable.

Entry Hall Seating and the Elevator to the Dining Room

Here’s your chance to [Read more…]

Guest Review: Crystal Palace Restaurant in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Join us in welcoming guest author Katie McFarland with a guest review of the Crystal Palace in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom!

The Crystal Palace is a restaurant that holds a special place in many Disney fans’ hearts.

For me, it was where I discovered Breakfast Lasagna, had dinner with my husband right before he proposed, and where we ate the very first night of our honeymoon.

For many people this is where they first met Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, and Piglet.

Atmosphere

The décor is Victorian elegance with a 1904 World’s Fair-feel. It’s “old fashioned” without feeling stuffy, which is probably in direct relation to the enormous amount of windows in this restaurant.

Crystal Palace Signage

They offer wonderful views of Cinderella Castle, Main Street USA, and the entrance to Adventureland (and also lots of ducks if that’s your thing).

Outstanding view from our seat of Cinderella Castle

In addition to the soaring windows, there are stained glass windows all around the restaurant, most notably in the buffet area. And be sure to check out the bathroom – it’s very [Read more…]

Review: Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

It’s been a LONG time since we’ve talked about Tusker House, so let’s get down to business!

I consider this sprawling restaurant within Disney’s Animal Kingdom to be one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to Disney World character meals.

Yep — Tusker House is known for its bounty of African dishes, but it’s also a character dining destination. BUT — if you’re coming for the characters, be sure to book your ADR for breakfast and lunch. Mickey and friends don’t make an appearance for dinner.

We have a ton of yummy pictures to share with you, so let’s go!

Atmosphere

Animal Kingdom is one of my favorite Disney parks due to its truly incredible themeing, and Tusker House takes this one step further.

Tusker House - Outside View

It’s one of the Disney restaurants that doesn’t just incorporate theme on the surface — I could spend hours exploring all of the specialty decor, finishes, and props Imagineers have added to this massive restaurant.

You’ll enter the restaurant through the village of Harambe in Animal Kingdom’s Africa, and Tusker House serves as Harambe’s “open air” market on the edge of the Harambe Wildlife Preserve. The podium for the restaurant was outside during our visit. Once you check in, you have the option to wait at a few outdoor tables that are leftover from the days when Tusker House was a counter-service restaurant.

Outdoor Waiting area

Also, next door is one of our favorite watering holes — the Dawa Bar. This is a great spot to [Read more…]

News! Princess Dinners at Ariel’s Grotto in Disney California Adventure

Starting June 15, 2012, Ariel’s Grotto at Disney California Adventure will offer character dining during dinner with Ariel and other princesses. Choose between breakfast, lunch, or dinner! While Ariel’s Grotto has offered fun character breakfast and lunch dining, princesses at dinner will be a welcome addition to this whimsical restaurant.

Each character meal will include music, yummy food, and Disney Princesses. Before you book, check out our Ariel’s Grotto review!

Dinner reservations are now available for booking via 714-781-DINE (3463) or email to dine@disneyland.com.

NOTE: After June 14, 2012, “World of Color” dining packages will no longer be offered at Ariel’s Grotto.