Beauties, Beasts & Beyond: Navigating The Best of Disneys Character Dining
Looking for magical Orlando dining at Walt Disney World? There’s no question that character interaction can sprinkle any Disney experience with that much more fairy dust. And lest you think that park admission is required, think again! While fabulous choices abound at each park – Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom’s enchanted Fantasyland, for example – so, too, is magic hiding at the realm’s many beautiful resorts. Guests adore the soaring ceilings and monorail rides they’ll enjoy alongside their food and photo-ops at the Contemporary’s Chef Mickey’s and the Grand Floridian’s opulence seeps into every interaction at 1900 Park Fare, where choices in character dining abound. Your child can enjoy a parent-free tea party with Alice and her Wonderland friends or meet princes, princesses and even evil stepsisters at Cinderella’s Happy Ever After Dinner. Cravings for Mickey waffles (along with other classic early-day eats) can be sated at this venue’s Supercalifragilistic Breakfast. And while we can’t rate it just yet, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is bringing a whole new, multi-stop experience beginning July 2019! Circle of Flavors: Harambe Nights, featuring characters from the Lion King, is already accepting reservations…
Located in the opulent Grand Floridian Resort, 1900 Park Fare brings the fancy for your little princes and princesses. And character dining options abound. From the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast to Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner, your dining party will be well sated (both meals are buffets) and up to your eyeballs in photo-ops and autographs. Culinary selections for the latter include fare from “kingdoms” around the world, with plenty of kid-friendly chicken, pizza and macaroni to keep busy-day meltdowns at bay. What’s more, 1900 Park Fare is also home to the kids-only Wonderland Tea Party, where 4-12-year-olds enjoy a parent-free hour of games, stories and cupcakes. Photo-ops and fun crafts round out the very-special experience.
Recommended for Disney® Character Dining because: Combining the opulence of the Grand Floridian with the enchantment of Disney’s classic characters equals a superb experience that families will remember forever.
A.D.’s expert tip: As with all character dining experiences, reservations are highly recommended and can be made up to 180 days in advance.
Minnie, Mickey, Pluto, Donald and Goofy will be on-hand for memorable pics and signatures as you and your traveling companions enjoy a buffet-style meal amid the soaring confines of the beautiful Contemporary Resort. Soak up lake views, the gorgeous mural, nearly 100 feet high, and of course: the food. Breakfast features mainstays like eggs, waffles, cereal and dinner’s big draws include a prime rib carving station and pasta bar. As always, the kids get their own special fare – pizza, macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers galore populate their very own child-friendly buffet. And everyone appreciates the ice cream sundae bar.
Recommended for Disney® Character Dining because: One of the best features at Chef Mickey’s is that you can take the monorail in and out. The kids love it!
A.D.’s expert tip: Plan ahead, get a table. Disney resort guests can book reservations as soon as their 180-day window opens. Do it immediately!
Located in a pristine glass pavilion on Main Street, USA, this sunny restaurant’s the perfect place to meet Pooh and his pals, who appear at each meal for photos, autographs and hugs. Inspired by the Victorian greenhouses of the late 1800s, tropical palms and topiaries delight horticulturists, other decorative details will likely thrill the steampunk setting. And everyone loves Winnie the Pooh! The buffet offers an array of classics at breakfast and tasty meats, pasta, salad and plentiful sides at lunch and dinner. Ice cream and an abundance of toppings await you at the sundae bar, so don’t skip dessert.
Recommended for Disney® Character Dining because: Great service and lovely atmosphere in the center of the Magic Kingdom mean you can grab a delightful breakfast and head out to explore!
A.D.’s expert tip: While reservations are recommended for any character dining experience, here it’s pretty well mandatory. Even then, don’t be surprised by a wait.
Appropriately located in the Fantasyland realm of the Magic Kingdom, Be Our Guest brings diners inside the Beast’s castle. Lunchtime here is a fast-service affair but come dinner, things become far more formal, with sit-down table service in three brilliantly themed rooms: the West Wing, Belle’s beautiful book-lined library or the grand and regal ballroom where snowfall peppers the windows and cherubs soar amid the chandeliers. The menu, like the tale, is French-inspired with onion soup and charcuterie, chicken breast Provencal and thyme-scented rack pork chops, delicate ratatouille and â” for steak lovers â” a perfectly seared New York strip served with garlic butter and pomme frites (aka steak fries). For Disney lovers in search of opulent themed venues, Be Our Guest is a natural match.
Recommended for Disney® Character Dining because: It’s the only place where guests can meet the Beast, and in a super-opulent regal setting to boot!
A.D.’s expert tip: Regardless of where you’re seated, take a little time to explore. Each dining room is different, each magnificently themed.
Come afternoon tea time, this opulent venue at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa makes for a wonderful girls’-day treat available at a variety of price points, but the mornings are made for the littlest fans at Disney’s Perfectly Princess Tea. Hosted by a magical rose from Princess Aurora’s garden, guests enjoy storytelling and prime visits from the princess herself, along with a ransom of extra-special gifts including an 18-inch Princess Aurora doll and their very own tiara with their meal. They’ll also enjoy a princess-led parade through the resort. Kids are encouraged to dress as their favorite Disney character for this phenomenally royal experience.
Recommended for Disney® Character Dining because: This is the ultimate royal treat for tiny Disney fans (but you will pay for it)!
A.D.’s expert tip: Disney’s Perfectly Princess Tea is a high-end splurge for wee princes and princesses. $333.64 covers one small attendee (ages 3-9) and his or her adult dining partner.
Ready to greet the day like royalty? Hit up this Boardwalk favorite for the Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast, where wee princes and princesses will enjoy cavorting with a host of favorite characters. You never know for sure who will show, but bring your autograph book and camera just in case you encounter Ariel and Prince Eric from “The Little Mermaid” or Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from “Tangled!” This is a breakfast-only event at Trattoria al Forno that does include plenty of traditional menu offerings, but also a few Italian-inspired options, such as the frittata with roasted peppers, prosciutto, onions, potatoes and Pecorino Romano cheese or the breakfast calzone, loaded down with eggs, cheeses and cured meat.
Recommended for Disney® Character Dining because: The Boardwalk is a wonderful place to begin your Disney day, even without the prospect of meeting your favorite character. This just ups the ante!
A.D.’s expert tip: Always remember that the characters appearing are subject to change, so don’t make any promises to the kiddos!
A bevy of lovely fairy-tale princesses await the arrival of your royal contingent in the Norway section of Epcot, where adventurous eaters can get a taste of that nation’s interesting delicacies such as gravlax salmon, lefse, venison and more. Buffet-style dining means you can try it all and either load up on the koldtbord (cold entrees) or smarvarmt (hot entrees) but fear not, you’ll find dishes that you’ll recognize by sight if not name! Ariel, Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine, Snow White and Mulan are among the princesses you might meet, but be aware they’re not all on-hand at any given meal.
Recommended for Disney® Character Dining because: Let it go! The Norway section of Epcot is charming and your princes and princesses will delight in the idea that they are dining in Ar
A.D.’s expert tip: Got picky eaters? Go with breakfast. Lunch and dinner feature many Norwegian items that even Queen Elsa might not convince your tot to try.
For a quintessential fairy tale experience, treat your princess to a meal with Cinderella, her Fairy Godmother, Belle, Snow White and Aurora inside the Magic Kingdom’s signature castle. Step into the magnificent dining hall, featuring a cathedral ceiling and beautiful European arched windows. At breakfast, guests dig into to an all-you-eat buffet, and the lunch and dinner menus offer traditional treats like prime rib and mash potatoes, as well as kid-friendly bites like burgers and chicken fingers. Also, did we mention you get to dine inside the epic icon of the Disney empire? Yeah, we thought that might make an impression.
Recommended for Disney® Character Dining because: Do you even need a reason? It’s dinner. With princesses. IN THE CASTLE. If ever there were a Disney no-brainer, this would be it.
A.D.’s expert tip: You bring your little princess to Cinderella’s Castle to dine among Disney Royalty. It’s the most valuable pre-vacation behavioral bribe in a parent’s arsenal. (Note: Void after use.)
Serving all three squares on the edge of “Africa” within Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tusker House also is home to Donald’s Dining Safari. Translation: Donald Duck and pals will host your character interaction at breakfast and lunch. Early in the day, the flawlessly themed venue serves an array of American favorites (eggs, bacon, Mickey waffles and the like) along with African-influenced dishes such as mealie pap, a traditional porridge, and beef bobotie. Lunch and dinner bring even more Afrocentric fare like Kenyan coffee BBQ pork loin and Berbere-rubbed spit-roasted beef striploin. Fear not, however, picky children and less adventurous eaters will be more than pleased with the selections.
Recommended for Disney® Character Dining because: With more variety and exotic choices than many other offerings in the realm, Tusker House brings Africa to your tastebuds and Donald to your table.
A.D.’s expert tip: Reservations are highly recommended, as is showing up about 30 minutes before your seating time.
Aloha! An island ambiance pervades this restaurant whose name means “family” in Hawaiian. Although prevalent, families aren’t the only ones entertained by the festivities, which include group singing, coconut races and hula hoop competitions. A blazing fire pit provides a focal point and also turns out skewers of seafood, chicken and beef. All dishes are served family style, so folks can choose the foods and portions they like best. Steak and seafood take priority on the menu, but you’ll also find stir-fried vegetables, noodles and salads. The meal is a production in itself and a lively, festive jaunt to Polynesia, Disney style. Their popular character breakfasts, hosted by Lilo and Stitch, are guaranteed fun for the entire family.
Recommended for Disney® Character Dining because: Did we mention the Dole Whip? If that’s not your bag, no worries, this Polynesian venue. You can grab a drink at Trader Sam’s, too!
A.D.’s expert tip: Love Lilo & Stitch? This is the buffet for you. Plus being at the Polynesian means two words all Disney fans love to hear: Dole Whip!!!