Where is the best character dining at Disney World — in the parks or at the resorts? We’re sharing your complete guide here!
There’s nothing quite as special as sitting down for a meal with your favorite Disney characters and, at Disney World, you can actually do this! Walt Disney World is home to 12 character dining restaurants and you can meet everyone from Mickey Mouse to Winnie The Pooh to Cinderella to Stitch to Fancy Nancy from Disney Junior – there’s a lot of variety!
But, there’s a lot to consider when choosing which character restaurant is best for you and your family. After all, these restaurants are pricier than many other dining options throughout Disney World so you want to be sure you’re making a reservation for a place you know you’re going to enjoy. So, should you book a reservation for a character restaurant in the parks or resorts? Here’s how they compare.
Overview of Character Dining at Disney World
If this is your first time dining with characters in Disney World, welcome! Disney’s character dining restaurants are some of the most popular places to eat in both the theme parks and the resorts. Each restaurant has its own unique menu with some menus being prix fixe, some buffet-style, some family-style, and some a la carte. But, no matter which restaurant you choose, you’ll be greeted by several Disney characters at least once during your meal with a chance for autographs and photos with each.
Before we dive into the details, here’s a quick overview of what character restaurants there are in both the parks and resorts at Walt Disney World.
Character Dining Restaurants in the Disney World Parks:
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall – EPCOT
- Cinderella’s Royal Table – Magic Kingdom
- The Crystal Palace – Magic Kingdom
- The Garden Grill Restaurant – EPCOT
- Hollywood & Vine – Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Tusker House Restaurant – Disney’s Animal Kingdom
It’s worth noting that Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom does feature an appearance from The Beast from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. However, he simply walks through the dining room and does not stop for photos or to greet guests like the traditional character dining restaurants throughout Disney World.
Character Dining Restaurants in the Disney World Resorts:
- 1900 Park Fare – Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (Currently Unavailable)
- Cape May Cafe – Disney’s Beach Club (Breakfast Only)
- Chef Mickey’s – Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- ‘Ohana – Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (Breakfast Only)
- Story Book Dining at Artist Point with Snow White – Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (Dinner Only)
- Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera – Disney’s Riviera Resort (Breakfast Only)
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a look at how the food, characters, price, and overall experience compare at character restaurants in the parks and the resorts.
While many of the character dining restaurants throughout Disney World offer classics like waffles and eggs at breakfast, each has its own menu that differs from all the others. That’s why it’s important to look at the menu online before you book your reservation – you don’t want to show up to a menu full of things you don’t want to eat!
Some character meals feature unique menus that may not be well suited to picky eaters. For example, the menu at Tusker House is filled with African-inspired cuisine, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall features Norwegian-style food, and Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera has Italian-inspired dishes.
And, we can’t talk about character dining without mentioning some of the highlights. For example, the breakfast buffet at The Crystal Palace has much-loved Churro Mickey Waffles. These cinnamon and sugar-coated mickey-shaped waffles are a must-try. The freshly made Pineapple-Coconut Breakfast Bread at ‘Ohana and the Potato Casserole at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is also two fan-favorite dishes.
Of course, some character meals in Disney World won’t wow you, but it really depends on your taste and what kind of food you enjoy. Meals at Chef Mickey, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and ‘Ohana have been criticized in the past for being “just okay,” but for some, the food isn’t a deal breaker – it’s the characters they’re there to see anyway!
The Winner: Tied
Disney World is known for having some of the best theme park food and that certainly extends to their character restaurants. While some meals may be more hit or miss than others, you’ll likely find something on the menu that everyone in your family will enjoy at any character restaurant in both the parks and resorts.
Characters You Can Meet
While a full meal is certainly a perk of eating at a character restaurant in Disney World, there’s one thing that’s a bigger draw for guests – the characters! The characters differ at each restaurant in Disney World, though it’s worth noting that there are many more restaurants featuring Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald throughout both the parks and resorts compared to other Disney characters.
Character restaurants in the parks feature Disney Princesses, Disney Junior characters, Winnie the Pooh and friends from the Hundred-Acre Wood, and Mickey and his pals. Of course, you’ll have to pick and choose which spot you want to eat at based on what characters you want to meet, but there’s a pretty good variety of characters meeting guests at the restaurants in the parks.
The character restaurants in the Disney World Resort hotels feature opportunities to meet Mickey and his pals, Lilo and Stitch, Snow White, Dopey, Grumpy, and The Evil Queen. Plus, 1900 Park Fare has included even more characters like Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, Prince Charming, and the Evil Stepsisters from Cinderella in the past when it was open.
The Winner: The Parks
If you’re hoping to meet Mickey Mouse and the gang, then you’ll have plenty of options both in the parks and the resorts. However, the parks win in this category because there is a greater variety of characters to meet at character dining restaurants, especially if you want to meet Disney Princesses during your meal. Be sure to check which characters meet and greet at your restaurant of choice before booking your reservation.
When it comes to cost, character dining restaurants are some of the most expensive on Disney World property. However, individual pricing at each restaurant varies a lot based on the type of meal, the characters you can meet, and how popular the spot is overall. But, can you save some cash by choosing a restaurant in the resorts versus the parks or vice versa?
Currently, a character breakfast at a restaurant in the parks costs between $45 per adult and $29 per child to $69 per adult and $42 per child. Whereas at the resorts, the range is between $45 per adult and $29 per child to $54 per adult and $34 per child. So, you’re not necessarily going to save a ton of money choosing to eat at the resorts, unless you’re going for the more popular options.
It’s worth noting that character dining around lunchtime is only available at restaurants in the parks, so you’re going to have to pay somewhere between $62 per adult and $40 per child to $84 per adult and $49 per child if you want a midday meal with characters.
Dinner is available at select character restaurants both in the parks and the resorts and again the pricing is pretty comparable. Character dining in the parks for dinner costs between $61 per adult and $40 per child to $84 per adult and $49 per child. Character dining in the resorts for dinner costs between $60 per adult and $39 per child to $66 per adult and $41 per child depending on which restaurant you choose.
The Winner: Tied
While choosing a character restaurant in the resorts can save you a few bucks (if you choose the cheaper options), the prices are nearly identical. It’s going to cost you more than a standard Disney restaurant no matter which character dining option you choose.
Overall Dining Experience
The dining experience is perhaps where the character restaurants in the parks and resorts differ the most. One of the main differences is the time it takes you to get to the restaurant. If you’re not staying at a resort that has a character restaurant, then you’ll need to factor in travel time to and from the hotel. This can really cut into your park time compared to a restaurant that is already in the park you’re visiting for the day. However, in-park restaurants do sometimes feel more chaotic and rushed, as these tend to be more crowded compared to the restaurants in the hotels.
You may also have a better chance at seeing the characters more than once during your meal at resort character dining restaurants compared to the park options. Resort restaurants are often smaller, meaning that the characters can get through greeting all the tables much quicker and often return for seconds.
The Winner: The Resorts
Though getting to the restaurant can take some time, character meals in the Disney World hotels tend to feel less rushed and you may have a better chance of seeing the characters more than once while you eat.
All in all, there’s not necessarily a wrong answer when picking a character dining restaurant in Disney World. But, there are some things you should consider to decide which restaurant and location is best for you. If you’re staying at a Disney World Resort hotel that has a character restaurant, it may be the most convenient option to make a reservation for breakfast or dinner and stop by before or after your park day. However, if your hotel doesn’t have a character meal, choosing a restaurant in the parks will decrease the travel time for getting there and give you more time in the parks.
It’s also important to consider what kind of food you want to eat, especially if you are a picky eater. While most character restaurants serve standard American cuisine, prix-fixe menus can limit your options and some restaurants in the parks have more niche menus like Tusker House and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.
However, it all might boil down to who you want to meet during your meal. If you have a Disney Princess fan, you’re going to have to opt for a character meal in the parks. However, if you just want to meet Mickey and his pals, you may want to book a restaurant in the resorts to give you more time with the characters.
So, consider what’s most important to you when booking your next character meal in Disney World, and be sure you book your reservation as soon as you can since they tend to be the most popular places to eat!