Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Cinderella, Lilo and Stitch, Tigger, Pluto, Goofy ... the list goes on forever. Everyone who has ever been a kid has a favorite character or two, and Walt Disney World is the place where they come alive. You can even eat with your favorites, and character dining has become one of the top restaurant attractions in the parks. Some of the most popular restaurants are the one where your kids can shake hands with their characters that otherwise only exist to them on screen.
What is character dining?
At selected restaurants all around the park there are special meals hosted by different characters. For example, at Disney's Polynesian Resort Lilo and Stitch host Ohana's Best Friends Breakfast every morning. These are meals where a specific group of characters are "hosts" of the meal. Some restaurants have character dining all day and some only have it for one meal.
What to expect?
Unfortunately, your favorite character is not going to sit down at your table and eat with you. Characters circulate through the room on a preset pattern. During a typical meal, you will be greeted by three or more characters who will pose for pictures with your family and sign autographs. It's a good way to get "autographs" without having to stand in line for hours. Some of the characters will be mischievous, grabbing hats and making gestures. And don't expect full-costumed characters to speak: it's hard to find actors whose voices actually sound like Mickey. The characters that don't have covered faces (such as Cinderella) will speak and some sound just like the character they are impersonating.
Warning - Danger Will Robinson
All kids love Mickey, don't they? So what happens when you arrive at Chef Mickey's in the Contemporary Resort, which is across the lake from the Wilderness Lodge, and little Janie or Johnny sees this six-foot-tall Mickey for the first time? What would you do if you were a child and a six-foot-tall mouse was coming toward you? You'd scream, right? That's the reaction some kids have the first time they encounter the characters at Disney World, so be preapred.
Break the kids in gently. If you suspect a child might be intimidated by a huge mouse, don't run up to the first Mickey you see and stuff the kid in Mick's face. Let the youngster get acclimated to the characters. Point them out -- from a far -- every chance you get. Bring them closer slowly. Let the child become comfortable with them before one grabs the hat off their head.
Where to find character dining
Restaurants that feature character dining include:
- 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot
- Chef Mickey's at Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Cinderella's Royal Table in Fantasyland
- The Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom
- Hollywood & Vine at Disney's Hollywood Studios
More details here.
Make your reservations early
Character dining is very popular. Reservations for these slots go very quickly. Disney takes reservations 180 days in advance, and certain reservations, such as Cinderella's Royal Table, are filled within the first hour.
There is nothing more special than seeing your daughter beam with excitement because Cinderella is at your table, so definitely consider character dining during your next trip to Disney!
–- Carl Trent of Dad’s Guide to Walt Disney World and Dad’s Guide to WDW the blog