What better way to start off your day than with a visit from some of your favorite Disney characters and some amazing food! I’ve mentioned before about being introduced to new Disney traditions and character meals (mainly breakfast) are just another one of the many traditions out there. I had only done one character breakfast in my life before I was married. I was maybe in middle school when that happened, but I soon found they are a tradition for the McDonald family (my in-laws) and I am very much okay with that.
My recollection of the one time I had experienced breakfast with the characters consists mainly of the fact that my cousin Joe, who was a baby at the time, was terrified of only ONE of the Chip N Dale characters. The only differences they have are their teeth and the color of their noses and while I don’t recall which one was so scary, it was quite hilarious to me. For all those who are wondering if he’s ok now, I think he grew out of it.
Having that said, I also remembered eating breakfast while random characters dressed in Hawaiian gear came around to each table to say hello, and at some point, we had a little dance party. I couldn’t tell you about the food or service or anything else, but I remember it being a pleasant experience. To the best of my judgement, it was a meal at Papeete Bay Veranda which we all now know now as the space for ‘Ohana at the Polynesian resort. (If anyone else had the chance to eat here, I would love to see pics). I don’t remember much past that, but fast forward to years later, and I was going to be getting used to the character meals in general with my new found family of traditions.
If you aren’t familiar with character meals, Walt Disney World offers many dining experiences across its parks and resorts where you can eat with your loved ones and meet some of your favorite characters a la carte. Many of these places offer some delicious food as you await the look of amazement on your children’s (or your own) face when their favorite characters come over just to see them. You snap some pics, have a somewhat weird, charades-like conversation (as most characters don’t talk), and enjoy watching the little ones have dance parties or fun little games during the duration of your meal. It truly is an experience for the whole family.
You might be asking yourself why character meals have become so popular over the years. Can’t you just meet all your favorite characters in the parks, Beth? Well, yes and no. You see, back in the day, characters use to just walk around the park all willy nilly and people would just stop them wherever to get an autograph and take a picture (this is actually how Disneyland does it still today). At WDW, I think it just got too hectic and started disrupting the foot traffic flow of the parks, so they began giving characters specific places for people to meet them at specific times. This also gave Disney leeway to create some atmosphere and set up professional photographers to make it more of an all-encompassing experience.
Cut to 2018 and now you can currently look up where and when your favorite characters will be available. Now you just show up at those specific locations and times to wait in line. If you aren’t interested in waiting in line to see some of these characters, then character meals are your next best option. I must note, though, that not all characters from dining experiences have meet ups in the parks and vice versa. While it seems a bit sad to me that you have to wait in line for yet another thing, there are some perks to it. Remember Disney doesn’t just do something off the handle without having put probably way too much thought into it.
On my first Disney trip with my husband Doug’s family we attended lunch at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Not only was I completely stoked to get to see the inside of Cinderella’s Castle (my real home), but to be on a different level of the castle overlooking Magic Kingdom was a totally new experience. I was so excited and kind of knew what to expect from my one previous experience but I soon found out not all character meals are the same; some have their own perks.
Some of these perks include special photo ops with character meet-ups such as Cinderella at her royal table or Beast at Be Our Guest. These special photos are taken by professional cast member photographers, for PhotoPass or Memory Maker, in specific locations of the restaurant. Some photos you can purchase on site. It’s nice to have professional pictures done by Disney where everyone in your party can be featured, too. We all know someone usually gets left out when we are all walking around together not wanting to constantly stop a random guest to take a pic for us (some of us hate being “that guy”).
One major perk of character meals is seeing a lot of characters at one time, not having to stand in a line for it. You can sit down, enjoy some food and watch them come to you. You can also see characters in different costumes. We tend to think about Minnie Mouse in her famous polka dot dress with her yellow heels but at places like “Tusker House” she’s in full on safari gear. It’s good to know they have some variety in their closets, I guess.
Now, I will be honest that for some restaurants I think you’re paying more for the character experience than for the food. For some, though, the characters are simply an added bonus. Two of our favorite character breakfast spots (that happen to be on our own must-do list) are Tusker House in Animal Kingdom and Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood Studios. Both of these are buffets and we love the variety and taste of the food. I think we would eat here whether characters are here or not but it’s fun to see what our pals are up to before we hit the parks for the day. As for an example of the alternative, I think Cinderella’s Royal table is an amazing character experience but I was not exactly blown away by the food. You get where I’m going with this.
All in all, I would highly recommend character dining to anyone visiting Walt Disney World parks and resorts. These more casual, slower-paced experiences are much appreciated in the overall chaos that can ensue for Disney vacations. I think they help us take in a little more when you are engulfed with characters as you eat some famous Mickey Waffles preparing for your next fun day at Disney. Happy dining everyone!
To book your next vacation, character dining included, you can contact CJ Ayd from Magical Vacation Planning HERE!
Thank you to @rad.disney.dad, @Nicole Ellington, and @apopkapete for the use of their amazing photos!