Remember the Disney commercials of our youth, when apple cheeked cherubs would run into the arms of a waiting Mickey and Minnie? No crowds, no FastPasses, no anxious parents looking at you from the line with a face that clearly says, “Please hurry, if my child does not meet this giant Mouse in ten minutes, we are looking at a defcon 3 situation…”
Those days are gone, but their memory lives on. Specifically, in character meals. For my money, character meals offer some of the most spontaneous, personal time with the characters. There are no lines, no FastPasses, and while you wait, you get to enjoy some delicious food and beverage. It’s just like the commercial, only instead of running you get Mickey waffles. A much better deal, in my opinion.
The meet and greets in the parks are terrific, no doubt about it. But there are variables you have to work around. Outdoor meet and greets can get hot, and the lines long, since there is no FastPass available. Indoor meet and greets, the lines can still be long and small children can be overwhelmed by the atmosphere and spend the whole time starring at the walls. Take this from one who knows. My Frying Pan once spent her entire Ariel meet and greet starring at the rocks in the Grotto, and then cried when it was over because she didn’t get to meet Ariel. Even though she sat next to Ariel for a solid few minutes, the experience just did not register. It can happen.
To avoid having to make another FastPass or stand back in line, like we did, consider a character meal. Character meals offer the chance of quality time with a character in a more relaxed, air conditioned, environment. Disney pros use breakfast character meals in the parks to get access to the park before it opens, giving them a little extra time with rides once they’ve finished their meal. They hit up a character meal at lunch to get out of the heat and the most crowded time of the day. Dinner character dining can get you the perfect view for fireworks, or even a super exclusive character meet (hi, Beast!). Character meals are a great way to meet multiple characters at once without waiting in line or using a FastPass.
Be Our Guests diners can see the enchanted rose for themselves in the West Wing dining room.
Each of the four Disney Parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios) hosts a character meal at one of their table service restaurants. The Magic Kingdom, being the largest park, has several options. Cinderella’s Royal Table and The Crystal Palace serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At Cinderella’s Royal Table, you are attended by some of Disney’s most famous princesses. The Crystal Palace whisks you away to the 100 Acre Wood to celebrate with Pooh and pals. At dinner only, Be Our Guest gives you the opportunity to rub elbows, errr paws?, with the Beast. Check out each restaurants page to get information on cost, Disney Dining Plan credits, character availability and more.
Each of these character meals brings something different to the table. (See what I did there?) Be Our Guest is the only location in all of Disney World where you can meet the Beast. The Crystal Palace has a long history, since it is the table service restaurant that opened with the Magic Kingdom in 1971. A meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table allows you to spend time INSIDE the iconic Castle. No matter which meal you choose, you are guaranteed some excellent quality time with your favorite Disney characters.
For character dining newbies: you must have park admission if you plan to eat a meal in the parks. Park Hopper tickets will allow you to bounce around as you please, but if you have a base ticket, your reservation must be for the park you’ve spent the day in. No park tickets? No problem. There are some great character meals at many of the Disney Resorts as well.
A few quick tips:
- These meals are in demand so it is highly recommend that you take advantage of the 180 reservation day window and make your reservations as soon as possible.
- Characters are subject to change. While it’s pretty certain you will get the character whose name is in the meal description (Ie Cinderella’s Royal Table) the rotating secondary characters may alternate.
- You can meet characters at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with the exception of Be Our Guest, where the Beast only meets at dinner.
- The prices of meals will vary by time of the year (peak vs regular vs value season) and by day of the week (weekends tend to be a little pricier than weekdays) and also just cuz Disney’s gonna do Disney. The prices listed are an estimate based on recent menus. These prices do not included gratuity, though an automatic gratuity of 18% will be added for a table of 6 or more.
Which of these character meals is your favorite? Which one are you dying to try? What character meal would you like to see at the Magic Kingdom that doesn’t exist yet? Where would it be and what characters would be there? Give me all your best Imagineering thoughts in the comments!
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!