Character dining has started to return to spots like Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood Studios and we’ve seen characters make very brief appearances in Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom.
But, the character dining experience is very much modified from what it used to be in Disney World.
In spots like Hollywood & Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Topolino’s Terrace in Disney’s Riviera Resort, and Garden Grill Restaurant in EPCOT, you can still see some of your favorite characters, like Mickey and friends, in modified ways.
The characters will typically walk around the restaurant several times during your meal, but they cannot come up to you directly and give you a hug or take a close picture with you. Instead, they wave at you from a socially distanced point and will stop for distanced pictures and selfies.
When they pause for photos, though, you still get the opportunity to chat with them a bit, from a distance, which can be a lot of fun.
The characters also cannot sign any autographs, so in these spots, you’ll also typically receive an “autograph card” of some kind from your friends. Again, not the same as having Chip ‘n’ Dale sign your backpack or autograph book, but it’s something!
In places like Be Our Guest Restaurant and Cinderella’s Royal Table, we’ve also seen some characters — namely, the Beast and Cinderella, respectively — make a very limited appearance. Neither the Beast nor Cinderella really paused for selfies or distanced photos, and we didn’t really get the chance to ask them about their castle quarantine activities or anything like that.
They simply strolled throughout the restaurant, waved, and made their way out. Cinderella also only walks through a small section of the restaurant, so you could end up being far away from her when she walks through. This can be a bit disappointing, especially if you or your little ones were looking forward to having more of a standard character experience.
Disney has reduced the price of some of these character dining experiences, but others have actually increased in price. Overall, none of them are cheap by any means. Lunch at the Garden Grill Restaurant will cost you $55 for adults and $36 for kids, which is actually an increase in price compared to what it was pre-closing ($42 for adults and $27 for kids).
At Cinderella’s Royal Table, lunch will cost you $62 for adults and $37 for kids, which is only $13 less than what it used to be. Breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace with the characters is slightly less than the other two, but will still cost you $42 for adults and $27 for kids (up from $41 for adults and $24 for kids).
With all the changes currently in place, do you think character dining is still worth the splurge?
And here’s what you had to say:
About 4,727 votes (32%) were placed in favor of character meals, while more than DOUBLE that amount (10,258 votes or 68%) said “No Way” to the current prices. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons our readers gave us.
“Of Course!” Character Dining Is Worth the Splurge!
Some of you felt like the splurge was worth it. One reader said, “It’s a job for those [Cast Members] and memories for the people who choose to go!!” It’s certainly possible that, for some, just seeing the characters and chatting with them one-on-one, even from a distance is worth the cost alone.
Even though it’s a different experience, there’s no denying that, at least with some of these character interactions, you can still create some fun and magical memories. For some spots, like Cinderella’s Royal Table or even Be Our Guest, the atmosphere — the ability to dine INSIDE of one of the castles — may also carry a lot of weight for those who see the value of these experiences, despite their modifications.
Other spots, like Hollywood & Vine, may get an added bonus because they have a special theme — currently, you can see Disney characters in their Halloween costumes there. If you aren’t headed to Magic Kingdom for those Halloween cavalcades, or you simply want to see them in some different costumes up close, that may be enough of an added benefit.
“No Way.” Character Dining Isn’t Worth it Right Now.
One reader told us it isn’t worth it to do a character dining experience right now, “not for the price they’re charging.” Another said that it might be worth it, but “only if the price is lowered.”
Going to Disney World is expensive enough on its own, and it seems the majority of you felt that adding a character dining experience on top of it, given the current changes in place, simply isn’t worth the extra money.
On the one hand, character dining is an extremely different experience than what it used to be. But, for some, seeing Mickey and the gang in some way that’s a bit more intimate than the character cavalcades is that touch of magic they NEED for their trip.
Check out our review of our experience at Cinderella’s Royal Table and whether we think this particular spot is worth the splurge.
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Where do you side in this debate? Let us know in the comments below whether you think character dining is worth the splurge right now.