While normal character meet and greets are back at Disney World (yay!!) character dining is not quite back to normal yet. What we mean by this is there are still restaurants where the characters have not returned. You can eat there (think Crystal Palace or Cape May for example), but you will not see the characters that once graced us with their presence.
If you want to make sure you DO get the full character dining experience then you need to visit one of the following restaurants listed below. We have placed them in order of our favorites to visit, but at each of these locations characters will visit your table, take pictures with you, share a hug or maybe a high five, and even sign an autograph.
We recommend including character dining in your Disney World vacation for several important reasons:
They are FUN! Characters not only come by your table and give you special attention, they also perform for you! There may be a character parade, or dancing with lively music. They usually make everyone laugh with their silly antics and do their best to keep you entertained through out your meal. There is a reason we call this a dining experience!
More time to spend with your favorite characters! While it is absolutely wonderful meeting characters in the theme parks, it is always a quick interaction that is over much too fast. Character dining gives you the opportunity to have more time with your favorite Disney pals without being rushed by those standing behind you for their turn in line.
Allows you to keep the Disney magic alive while taking a break! You can eat at nice, normal restaurants any day of the year, but how often can you watch Donald Duck shake his tail feather while you sip on POG juice (pro tip- always order the POG juice) or encounter an Evil Queen while cutting into your steak? You are at DISNEY WORLD! Who wants a boring meal while on their Disney World vacation?? Not us! Get the full Disney experience and schedule at least one character meal on your trip. You will create wonderful memories for the whole family!
You get to see characters you can't always find in the parks or in different costumes! We go to Disney World ALOT, but have never been able to see all the characters from the restaurants in the parks every time. We also love the outfit changes and getting pictures with the characters in cute costumes. The artistic, Parisian outfits at Topolino's Terrace or Minnie's seasonal dresses at Hollywood and Vine are too much fun!
Makes for a great non-park day activity! We strongly encourage you to schedule a non-park day or rest day during your Disney World vacation. Especially if you have littles. But just because you might be spending a day outside of the theme parks, doesn't mean you have to miss out on time with your favorite Disney friends! Several resorts offer character dining and you do not need a park pass reservation or theme park tickets to visit: Contemporary Resort, Wilderness Lodge, and Riviera Resort.
CHEF MICKEY'S at Disney's Contemporary Resort
Chef Mickey's is the OG of character dining and if you ask most Disney people which of the character dining experiences is the best, they will answer with Chef Mickey's. We cannot argue, as the restaurant is undeniably all of our kid's favorites and we are sure to score reservations for every Disney trip. Pre-pandemic Chef Mickey's was a true buffet for both breakfast and dinner, but now is served family style at your table. Basically waitstaff are bringing the buffet directly to your table. Characters you will meet here include: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto all dressed in their chef costumes.
TOPOLINO'S TERRACE at Disney's Riviera Resort
Disney's newest character dining experience takes number two on our list because location location location. Topolino's Terrace is a rooftop restaurant at the Riviera Resort. Both the view outside your window and the view inside of the characters is fabulous. You'll meet Minnie, Mickey, Donald, and Daisy in their Parisian inspired artist costumes while enjoying a prix fixe breakfast menu. Be sure you make reservations for breakfast (7:30am-12:15pm) if you want to see the characters, as they are not present for dinner.
TUSKER HOUSE at Animal Kingdom
Tusker House is located inside Animal Kingdom theme park and is very similar to Chef Mickeys. In our experience, people are either Team Chef Mickeys or Team Tusker House. You will have to visit both to make the decision for yourself. We prefer Tusker House breakfast over dinner, but both meals are served family style at your table. You will meet Safari Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy here where they will all dance to lively music and stop by your table. We like the vibe here and since Animal Kingdom typically opens earlier than the other parks, we take advantage and book early breakfast reservations at Tusker House when we visit the park.
STORYBOOK DINING at Wilderness Lodge
The only princess character dining* (read more at the bottom for updated info) currently running at Disney World makes Storybook Dining a popular choice! If you or your children are Snow White fans then this meal should not be missed! You will meet Snow White, several dwarfs, and the Evil Queen. You can only book this dining experience for dinner, which makes this a more difficult option for families with younger children, especially since it is located at Wilderness Lodge and not inside a theme park. Storybook Dining is a unique experience that we always enjoy just be smart about your planning! Pick a rest day or on a day you are visiting Magic Kingdom because Wilderness Lodge is a quick boat ride away from MK theme park.
GARDEN GRILL at Epcot
This spinning restaurant (literally spinning) at Epcot is hosted by Chip and Dale, but Mickey and Pluto join as well. You will enjoy rotating scenes from Living with the Land while chowing down on a family style feast for lunch or dinner. If your kids are big Chip and Dale fans this is a good choice because those two can be hard to track down in the theme parks. We like Garden Grill, but as Epcot is our favorite place to eat with SO many options it is harder to justify this character meal unless you have multiple days to spend at Epcot or are unable to score Chef Mickey's or Tusker House.
HOLLYWOOD AND VINE at Hollywood Studios
This restaurant has different characters and offerings depending on the meal you book, so be sure you are paying attention when selecting! If you are looking for Disney Jr. characters then you must book breakfast (ends at 10:30am). If you’d rather dine with Minnie and friends then you need to go for lunch or dinner (begins at 11:30am). At breakfast you will find Doc McStuffins, Vamparina, Fancy Nancy, and Roadster Racer Goofy. Minnie hosts lunch and dinner with Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy and their costumes change seasonally. We much prefer the seasonal lunch or dinner option for the character looks, entertainment, and menu, but if you have little Doc McStuffins lovers (or the other Disney Jr. characters) then by all means grab a breakfast reservation.
Character dining is a fun and special experience at Disney World that we highly recommend! You don’t need to eat at every option, but certainly choose one or several that sound the best for you and your family.
Be sure when making your reservations to note any allergies. Disney will accommodate you and typically has separate allergy friendly menus.
*We mentioned the only princess dining location at this time is Storybook Dining. This is true, however, Cinderella’s Royal Table is open. Unfortunately, the other princesses have not returned but if you really want to experience this special dining location inside the castle at Magic Kingdom you will have a meet and greet with Cinderella before your meal. She may also make another appearance while you are dining, but typically only to wave from a distance.
Have you experienced character dining at WDW?? Which restaurant is your favorite? Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!