You’re going to Disney World! This truly can be the happiest place on Earth to take the family. Seeing your favorite Princess and Mickey Mouse face to face, in real life, truly is a magical experience. However, for a novice, Disney world is intimidating and large with its four major theme parks, 23 on-site themed resorts, a Boardwalk, and hundreds of other amenities available. With all of this going on how do you get those perfect character pictures you’ve been dreaming of filling your photo album with? Hakuna Matata, No Worries!
Disney World has a vast array of options for the perfect character experiences; it’s all a matter of who you are looking to meet. A wonderful and advantageous option is the use of the meal plan option. Meal plans are available in a variety of price options, there are the Quick Service, Plus Dining, and the Deluxe Dining options. The Plus and Deluxe both include Table Service meal options, which can be used to apply to a large variety of character dining meals. At a character meal you have a personal visit where they come to your table, sign autographs, you can take a number of photographs, and in some cases have a lovely chat. The best part about this is that it is a relaxed environment with no lines, and no intimidating time crunch.
There are many character dining options, at all four parks and a number of resorts. Some of the most popular and extravagant experiences available of these are Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, the Garden Grill, Tusker House, Cinderella’s Castle, the Crystal Palace, Playhouse Disney’s Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood & Vine, and 1900 Park Fare.
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is at EPCOT’s Norway in the world showcase pavilion and can feature any or all the classic Princesses: Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Ariel, Snow White, Cinderella and Jasmine. The food here is exquisite and if you are looking for an excellent rendezvous with the Princesses for a single table service meal per person, this is the place.
The Garden Grill is located in EPCOT’s the Land, upstairs from Soarin’. This is a rotating restaurant with classic Disney Characters: Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Chip, Dale, and Goofy. The food is all grown locally and is very wholesome, not to mention tasty. Especially the kids; sweet potato fries, yum! This too is a single table service meal per person, and Chip n’ Dale are a hoot any day.
Tusker House Restaurant has the only character meal in the Animal Kingdom and it is only available at breakfast time. It is located in the Africa section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and is Donald’s Safari themed buffet with another variety of the classic characters: Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy. As far as single serving character breakfast goes the food selection here is one of the best. It is buffet and the kids will love taking part in the conga line style dance around the restaurant with African theme instruments in hand.
Cinderella’s Castle, this is the center piece of Main street USA as you walk into the Magic Kingdom, and the pentacle of character dinning experiences. You enter Cinderella’s Castle as her royal guest, and enter in to meet Cinderella herself. There your little princess or prince will have a picture taken with Cinderella that will later be delivered to your table. You are then escorted up the swirling staircase to the royal dinning chambers and your table. Each little princess will be given a magic wand and princes will be given a sword, as well as a wishing star. Here a variety of characters and Princesses will be announced: Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Snow White, Jasmine and the Fairy Godmother. You have the option of Breakfast or Lunch and both are an astounding experience, they are also in high demand so you want to book this ASAP. The only unfortunate thing about this and the meal plan, is that it is two table service meals per person. But this is one experience that is worth the extra it will cost. You can not go wrong with Cinderella’s Castle!
The Crystal Palace is on the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street USA . This is a relaxed old fashioned southern style buffet meal, whether you choose Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner. And includes friends from the Hundred Acer Woods : Winnie the Pooh and his friends Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and Kanga. Here too the kids take part in a parade around the dinning area waving flags and following Pooh and Piglet. Here visitors are back to the great value of one table service meal.
Playhouse Disney’s Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood & Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in a buffet that is also one table service meal. Here you will be joined by Playhouse Disney pals: June and Leo from Disney’s Little Einsteins, Jojo and Goliath, and Handy Manny. Here, there are two fun musical, singing, dancing meals- breakfast and lunch. This is one meal that your little ones will love! Not only do you get great pictures and autographs at the table, but you can get some good shots of the kids dancing with their favorite Playhouse Disney pals.
At 1900 Park Fare you have popular Disney Characters who are always delighted to come to your table, pose for photos, and sign an autograph. 1900 Fare Park is the Restaurant in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, here you can have a choice of the American-style breakfast and dinner buffets. At the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast you are joined by an interesting mingling of Disney Friends: Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter, Mary Poppins, Winne the Pooh, Tigger, and other Wonderland friends. In the evening guests are welcomed into the delightful Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner buffet, where you will meet: Cinderella, Prince Charming, the Fairy Godmother and a assortment of Cinderella‘s friends. Either one you chose will be a sheer delight!
Even with the vast array of Character meals there may still be someone your family wishes to meet, such as Tinker Bell, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Aladdin, or Mulan, who was not “on the menu”. Or perhaps the meal plan including table service meals is not a part of your vacation plans at all, in which case you need a plan B for those keepsake Character photographs to last a lifetime.
There was once a day when the Magic Kingdom was the only place at Disney World you could meet Mickey and all his friends, now you can go to any one of the four parks and meet a vast array of Disney Friends, but for those who are not seasoned Disney veterans a couple of tips come in handy.
When you first enter the theme park, always grab a Disney Park Map and copy of the free Times Guide available. This will give the times and locations of scheduled character greetings.
If you are looking for a very specific character that is not listed on the Times Guide, just stop by the Guest Relations office at one of the parks. They will call the “character hot-line” to verify if, when, and where your favorite character will be available.
You can go to Disney World’s website and search for other character locations and dining options. There is also th Disney Mom‘s Panel, on-line, that is very helpful in planning and getting personal answers to any questions you may have.
As you arrive at the Disney Theme Parks you will see professional looking photographers all around, these are the Disney PhotoPass cast members who will take your picture for you with your own camera and theirs. When you get home check out the shots they took for you at the Disney Photopass site. The calendar is quite a deal, with the amount of pictures that can be included in it.
There is a Disney Rewards Visa Cardyou can apply for, which offers numerous benefits at the Disney Theme Parks for the Cardholders on every visit. At the Walt Disney World Resort, Card Members can stop by a private location reserved just for them to meet and pose with some of their favorite Disney Characters, receiving a complimentary 5 x 7 photo.
But if you are only visiting a short time or only visiting the Magic Kingdom these are the best places to meet Disney Characters without a meal:
♦City Hall at Town Square
♦Mickey’s Toontown Fair
♦Toontown Hall of Fame
No matter what choice you make Disney is going to be a great place for the whole family and you will have wonderful memories that will last you a life time. Have a Magical Day!