One of the many memories I have of trips to the Magic Kingdom as a child is this: riding the Monorail through Disney's Contemporary Resort and seeing Mickey Mouse walking around talking to people as they ate breakfast. At the time, I probably just thought "wow...those kids are so lucky, they're having a meal with Mickey!" Little did I know they were eating at Chef Mickey's - one of the many locations where you can enjoy a 'character meal.'
Until a few years ago, I didn't know much about character meals at Walt Disney World. Sure, I had seen Chef Mickey's and The Crystal Palace...but I had no idea what happened inside! My first character meal experience was March 2006 at The Crystal Palace. My husband and I had spent the day at the MK with our 2-year-old daughter -- and had dinner at the CP. My daughter was so excited to see Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet as they stopped by our table for photos. Oh, and the food is really good too!
So, here's a few of my tips for successful character dining at WDW.
1. YOU MUST MAKE RESERVATIONS 90 DAYS IN ADVANCE! No, really. You MUST. Advance dining reservations (also known as ADRs) are a necessity if you want to have any sort of character meal at any of the WDW parks/resorts. You must call the ADR phone number (407-WDW-DINE) at 7 a.m. EST on your specific day. To figure out what day to call, visit this site -- the Planning Strategy Calculator is amazing. For tips on getting the ADRs you want, go here.
2. If you have little girls who LOVE the princesses, try to get a reservation for Cinderella's Royal Table! This is probably the most difficult reservation to get -- and you really must call 90 days before. I have been lucky enough to dine here twice (both for breakfast) and...wow....all I can say is WOW. You can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at CRT ... but as far as I know, the princesses only make an appearance at breakfast and lunch. At dinner, only the Fairy Godmother visits the dining room. Cinderella herself does not visit the dining room -- instead you meet her downstairs and have a photo taken. Dining at CRT will cost you two table service credits on the Disney Dining Plan (when we go next week, we are actually paying cash for the meal instead of using 2 credits).
3. If you are unable to get CRT....try to get reservations at the Akerhaus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway (in Epcot). You can dine with the princesses at the Princess Storybook Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner.
4. Character meals at WDW are served several ways: traditional buffet, family style or pre-plated. Examples: Chef Mickey's and the Crystal Palace are buffets; CRT is a pre-plated meal, and Chip and Dale's Harvest Feast dinner at The Garden Grill (in the Land Pavilion in Epcot) is served family style.
5. I would absolutely recommend the Disney Dining Plan to everyone. There are several different dining plans from which to choose, including: the original Dining Plan, the Deluxe Dining Plan and new in 2009, the Quick Service Dining Plan. The plans vary in price based on what types of meals they include. Personally I like the "Magic Your Way plus Dining" plan -- for each night of your stay in a Disney resort you receive 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal and 1 snack. [Character meals normally count as 1 table service -- except for CRT].
For our trip next week we have these meals planned:
1. Donald's Safari Breakfast at the Tusker House (Animal Kingdom)
2. Crystal Palace - dinner with Winnie the Pooh & friends
3. Cinderella's Royal Table - breakfast
4. 50's Prime Time Cafe - dinner
5. Chef Mickey's - dinner
6. Hollywood & Vine - character breakfast w/ JoJo and the Little Einsteins
7. Les Chefs de France
8. 1900 Park Fare - character dinner w/ Cinderella
I'll be sure to report on all of them after we return home.