What’s better than breakfast? Breakfast with a princess.
Want to meet characters without waiting in line and wasting valuable park time? The Disney pros know the best way to do that is character meals. You’ve gotta eat, so you might as well use that time to mingle with Mickey. Disney experts know that character dining is a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the parks while still being in full vacation mode. Get off your feet, into the air conditioning and the magic as you watch your littles interact with their favorite Disney characters.
While lots of guests flock to these popular dining options, not everyone takes full advantage of all that character meals have offer. Here are our top 5 tips for enjoying those character meals like a Disney Pro.
1. Take All the Pictures
Take pictures before and after characters. Take pictures with characters. Take pictures that are posed for. Take candid shots. Take shots with individual family members, and then as a whole group. Let your kids take pictures! Take all the pictures because these are magical moments and you never know what you’re going to capture.
If you’re new to character meals and are unsure about how to broach the picture taking subject, never fear, the cast members are here! Face characters are excellent at prompting you for pictures and helping to position little ones in the best configuration. They are literally pros, and are so helpful without you ever knowing you were being helped.
Got a tween or teen who isn’t psyched to be hanging out with Winnie the Pooh? Designate them to be the family photographer. The little ones and parents can enjoy the fun while the older child can still be involved at a level they feel comfortable with.
I took this picture while tired and pregnant. No photographer am I, but I love how it came out, with Pooh out of focus.
2. Prepare Your Kids
When you do Character Dining, characters will make the rounds of the restaurant, stopping at every table for an interaction. Your child does not need to run up to them while they’re visiting with someone else. Donald will get to you, little friend, promise.
Let your child know that the characters will be visiting them in turn, and to not interrupt another family’s time. Knowing what to expect will help them be patient. On the off chance a character misses your table, let a cast member or your waiter know. They’ll hook you up.
For every character meal, Disney specifies that the characters may change depending on availability. While it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll see the character if their name is in the meal or restaurant title (Chef Mickey’s, Minnie’s Beach Bash Buffet), characters will rotate. You might see Mickey join Lilo and Stitch at Ohana for breakfast, but it might also be Pluto. The princess are on constant rotation at Akershus and Cinderella’s Royal Table. Prepare your child before hand that the “friends” who make it to the meal will be a surprise. This will help them enjoy the meal and avoid meltdowns. And if a character is an absolute must, see if they have a meet and greet available.
Character meal hall of fame. The Frying Pan was NOT feeling Prince Charming.
3. Pay Attention for the Parade
Most character meals will involve some kind of interactive activity for the kids, usually taking the form of a parade through the restaurant. These parades will be announced during the meal and the kids will be called to meet at a specific spot, or directed towards a character. These are simple, sweet ways to involve diners of all ages. Make sure you have that camera ready.
Princess Parade at Akershus. The Glass Slipper waves to her adoring subjects.
4. Think Outside the Box for Meal Times
One of the most tried and true dining tips is to hit up those character breakfasts before the parks opens. The earliest reservation you can get for a character meal in the parks is 8:05am, and most days the parks will open at 9am. If you’ve got the earliest reservation time, you can get into the parks before the crowds, scoring you some awesome photo opportunities. Once you’re done with your meal, you can high tail it to the most popular attractions to take advantage of low to no wait times. We had at 8:05 reservation at Akershus, finished by 8:50am, and walked onto Frozen Ever After with no wait. Then we were able to pop over to the Royal Sommerhus to meet Anna and Elsa before most people had cleared Epcot’s security.
The best way to get those early reservations? Booking your dining 180 days in advance, a perk offered to all Disney World guests. Click for more about Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) and how to make one.
A less known, but no less valuable, dining tip is to get creative with meal times. Booking the final spots for breakfast (11am-12pm, depending on the restaurant) can not only get you lower prices for a character meal, but you’ll get some extra time with the characters. Eating dinner during the earliest spots (3pm-4pm, depending on the restaurant) means you are getting the characters fresh at the start of the shift. Booking lunch earlier (11am) or later (2pm) might be the secret to getting a hard to score reservation, and it also means a break from some of the most crowded times in the park. Let other folks stand in line while you enjoy a sweet treat with Cinderella.
Worth waking up early to twin it and win it with a princess.
5. Don’t Forget the Special Photo Op
Select character meals will have a special photo opportunity with a backdrop and a photo pass photographer. These pictures can be linked to your account via your Magic Band and are included if you bought Memory Maker. Sometimes you cannot enter the restaurant without seeing these photo ops (both Cinderella’s Royal Table and Akershus have a receiving princess before you sit down), but sometimes they are a little off the beaten bath. 1900 Park Fare’s is essentially behind the dining room, and I wouldn’t have known it was there if I wasn’t wandering around looking for a bathroom. The Beast, who meets only at Be Our Guest for dinner, is in a special parlor to the left of the three dining rooms. Very easy to walk by and miss. While this isn’t available at all meals, keep an eye out or ask the cast member that seats you if there are any special photo opportunities in addition to meeting the characters at your table.
Photo Op at 1900 Park Fare. Pictures were done, but Tigger still wanted to hang out.
Character meals accept cash, credit, Disney Gift Cards, and of course, the Disney Dining Plan. While many are a 1 Table Service Credit, some of the really sought after ones (Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest) are 2 Table Service Credits, so plan accordingly. Character meals are available at all four of the Disney Parks and at select Disney Resorts.
What is your favorite character meal at Walt Disney World? What’s your best pro tip when it comes to character meals? What’s one character meal you wish they had at Disney? Share down below!
Kristen B. is wife to the best Prince around, mama to the spunkiest little princesses, and lover of all things Disney. She started her savings journey five years ago and is now dedicated to making her family’s wishes come true one coupon at a time. She is so excited to take her love of saving to the next level and share her journey with you! Click here to catch up on Kristen’s Savings and join in on your own savings adventure!