I have so many Disney posts in the works, from our last trip this past Christmas.
I keep putting off sorting through them, but here is a sample!
We have enjoyed planing out character dining experiences the past several times we have done a Disney trip. They are pricey, yet I highly recommend them! You’ll remember, I am not big on overdoing the days at a theme park, see Disney on a Dime Part 1 and Part 2. We’ve enjoyed staying a couple days at the Disney All Star Movies resort and the Art of Animation Resort. We have only ever done one day at a time in the theme parks (one day is very tiring with small kids!). Instead of doing multiple days at a park, we leave plenty of down time to enjoy the resort and schedule at least one character dining experience at another resort or in the park.
Why We Love Character Dining
- You are guaranteed to see the characters that you want, up close and personal with no lines or waiting.
- It is fun! The characters do a great job at interacting, are personable and sensitive to kids that may be scared or unsure.
- When planing out a character dining time while in the park, it has always worked out for us to be a nice break during the long day. We’ve taken cover during rain, warmed up when it has been cold, and enjoyed the down time.
- It takes off the pressure to see characters while in the park. If lines are long and the park is crowded while you’re there, you may not get a chance to meet any characters. You may just decide to use your time waiting in lines for particular rides rather than to see a character.
- The food is always a good selection and there is always a great child-friendly section.
Character Dining Tips
- Make reservations way in advance! Disney allows up to 180 days in advance for resort guests.
- For large groups: Call on the morning of your 180 days out! This past time we went to Disney World, we went with our extended family and there were 20 of us in all. We called to schedule our dining experiences on the very first day possible (180 days in advance) and still did not get in to all the places we wanted.
- Pick a restaurant based on what characters you want to see. Be sure to ask up front what characters will be present. Not all characters are guaranteed at all restaurants. Certain places have a random selection of characters. However, places like 1900 Park Fare or the Crystal Palace will always have the same ones each time.
- Arrive early and check in. Just because you have a reservation, does not mean you wont have a wait time. Disney actually recommends you arrive 1/2 hour early.
- For large groups: Be sure to make special seating requests clear. We had 10 adults and 10 kids for our family reunion trip and being all together was important to us. We thought that having a reservation guaranteed we’d be seated together. This is not always the case! Most restaurants were very accommodating, and the friendly staff did what they could. However, many of the restaurants are just not set up to fit that large of a table all together. At Chef Mickey’s for example, we were at 3 small separate tables, but grouped together. At 1900 Park Fare we crammed into one large table, but it was tight (and took some persuading)!
- If the restaurant offers a photo, get in line right away! You may not want to purchase the photo, but if you change your mind afterwards you will have to wait. We made this mistake once. What they want you to do is get in line right away and get your picture taken, then they seat you almost immediately after. The photo is printed and brought to your table to purchase. If you wait till after your meal, you will have to wait around for the picture.
- Have cameras and autographs books ready! There were times we had literally just sat down before a character showed up and it was a whirl wind of excitement and activity. Be ready! You are guaranteed to see the characters pass through at least once. If you are there long enough they may pass through a second time before you leave. Staff will request that you have your books open and ready to go.
- Prepare your kids. Kids will either be excited, shocked and awed or terrified! The characters are really good about evaluating and acting accordingly. Try to prepare your kids for what they will see.
- Be respectful of everyone around you. Being a large group, we were very aware of the fact that we could easily dominate the time the characters were in our area of the room. Remember that you will be given plenty of time to see each character, they come to each table individually, but they do have a schedule to stick to so that everyone else has fair time.
- On the other side of this: it was very annoying when it came our time to get pictures and autographs but kids from other tables were running up and jumping into the mix. Don’t be that family! Explain to your kids that you must take turns and share the characters with the other kids and their families.
- Take lots of pictures!
- Have fun and interact with the characters. They are so much fun to joke around with, especially the evil step sisters and stepmother at 1900 Park Fare. They were actually our favorite part! Goofy is also fun to goof around with even though he cannot talk.
Start Here: Disney’s Official Site for Character Dining Options
Great tips on character dining. Love the pictures. Chef Mickey’s is one of my favorites!