Updated August 19, 2016
For many, a visit to Disneyland isn’t complete until they share a meal with a Disney character. I’ve researched your options, below, with details on each so that you can find the best fit for your family. If you’re considering making that meal reservation, know these things before you commit.
A few notes:
- There are five options for character dining at DLR. Three are within the resort hotels, one is at Disneyland and one is at California Adventure.
- Theme park tickets are required to enjoy a dining option at the parks.
- A hotel room stay is not required to enjoy a character meal at one of the DLR hotel restaurants.
- Reservations are highly recommended and can be made up to 60 days in advance. All reservations can be made online or you can call (714) 781-DINE (3463) between 7:00 AM and 9:00 PM daily (Pacific Time).
- You will not have to pay for children under the age of 3, however, include them in your party count when making a reservation. That way, the restaurant can accommodate accurate seating for your group.
A few tips:
- Character meals are priced a bit higher than other meals throughout the parks, however, there is a lot to be gained with these experiences. You can avoid standing in line for signatures and photos during park times, you get personal interaction with the the characters and you can achieve a more memorable experience during character meals.
- There is no need to follow characters around throughout your meal. They come to you! Be sure to pack your autograph book!
- Characters vary throughout meals and there are no guarantees you will see specific ones. The only absolute is that you will see the character whose name is included in your meal’s name. IE: Goofy will be at Goofy’s Kitchen.
- Small children may be overwhelmed with life size, enthusiastic characters interacting with them. Consider this before making a reservation.
- To ensure the most time available for rides and attractions, I recommend choosing one of the three DLR hotel character dining experiences (unless you time it just perfectly – more on that later), perhaps on the day you arrive or leave. This way, you don’t interfere with precious park time.
- If you are going during the hotter months, consider a lunch option to escape the heat and sit down for a while. While breakfast is a nice way to go, those hours are best used if you’re serious about riding a lot.
- Strollers are not permitted in any of the five restaurants with character meals.
The basics of each:
Storytellers Cafe Breakfast- Woodland Critters, lovely setting, no PhotoPass+
Goofy’s Kitchen Breakfast or Dinner – Your only dinner option, lots of “kid” food
Surf’s Up! Breakfast – Your only option to see Mickey Mouse (and Minnie!)
Ariel’s Breakfast and Lunch – Princessy fun
Minnie’s in the Park Breakfast – Most diverse characters, my favorite
Now, let’s compare the five restaurants in more detail……
DLR Hotel Dining Options:
- Location: Grand Californian Hotel
- Menu: Breakfast
- Cost: American, Asian, Mexican fare ($33 for adults, $19 for children)
- The main idea: Mickey waffles, buffet or other menu items are enjoyed while mingling with Chip n Dale and friends.
- What’s unique: Unusual characters are often spotted here, including Brother Bear and hard-to-find woodland critters. They often do the hokey pokey and the entertainment is lively and energetic. Check out our recent visit to the breakfast.
- Current, general opinions suggest this is a great option for only those who have experienced the classics. I agree. It’s one of my favorites, but the well known characters do not attend this meal.
- Typical (but not guaranteed characters): Brother Bears Kenai and Koda, Chip n Dale, Meeko, and Brer Fox. *****Note: this is the only character meal that is not included in the PhotoPass+ program.
- Location: Disneyland Hotel
- Menu: Breakfast and Dinner
- Cost: American fare ($35 for adults, $21 for children for breakfast; $39 for adults and $23 for children for dinner)
- The main idea: With table service and a buffet, this classic Disney character experience is a favorite because of its lively ambiance. Dancing is a must when Goofy’s around. Unfortunately, the interaction between characters and guests is limited – I believe – due to the size of this character meal. We had brief encounters with each of them, although they did all make it to our table once.
- What’s unique: This is your only opportunity for a character dinner, in or out of the parks. It is also the only place to find Goofy’s famous Peanut Butter and Jelly Pizza. Kids LOVE this option because of the huge amount of “kid food”. Check out our recent visit so you know what to expect.
- Current, general opinions suggest that this option has gone down in quality and experience. We had a great time at this meal, but encountered more characters at others. Other locations are more up to date decor wise, as well.
- Typical (but not guaranteed characters): Pluto, Chip n Dale, Goofy, and Minnie.
- Location: Paradise Pier Hotel
- Menu: Breakfast
- Cost: American fare ($35 for adults; $21 for children)
- The main idea: Mickey Mouse and friends cause mischief throughout the beach-themed restaurant, stealing sips of milk and acting silly. This meal is very interactive and has proven to be one of the best available.
- What’s unique: Mickey is a guarantee here and is only spotted at this dining experience. Check out our recent visit.
- Current, general opinions suggest this meal is an excellent opportunity to meet both Mickey and Minnie without standing in line in the parks, which will save you about an hour in your park visit. I agree.
- Typical (but not guaranteed characters): Mickey, Minnie, Stitch, Pluto and Daisy.
In the Park Options:
- Location: California Adventure Park, Ariel’s Grotto Restaurant
- Menu: Breakfast and Lunch
- Cost: American fare with healthy options and vegetarian cuisine ($37 for adults and $22 for children for breakfast; $40 for adults and $24 for children for lunch)
- The main idea: Ariel and her princess friends interact with guests as they eat.
- What’s unique: This is the only table service, higher-end character dining option and is a princess fan favorite. Food presentation delights young kids at this ‘fancy’ meal.
- Current, general opinions point towards this being the absolute authority when it comes to princesses and I agree. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and you can check out photos from my recent visit.
- Typical (but not guaranteed characters): Ariel, Belle, Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora
- Location: Disneyland, The Plaza Inn Restaurant
- Menu: Breakfast
- Cost: American ($32 for adults, $18 for children)
- The main idea: Minnie and friends mingle at this breakfast on-site, with seating inside and out. Most people like indoor seating better because interaction is a bit more likely and weather isn’t a factor.
- What’s unique: You can enjoy a view of the entrance to Tomorrowland while you dine and the Astro Orbitor is in view. Check out out photos for more details from our recent visit.
- Current, general feedback from this meal include great satisfaction in both the food and interaction with characters, plus the amount of characters you’re likely to see. I completely agree!
- Typical (but not guaranteed characters): Chip n Dale, Minnie, Hook, Tigger, Eeyore, Fairy Godmother, Winnie the Pooh, and Rafiki. (By far the most I’ve seen at a character meal – and they have GREAT interaction. This is my favorite character meal. I saw Pinocchio last visit! Others have reported seeing the mice from Cinderella.
Character meals are a special way to celebrate at Disneyland. Choose the best meal for your family, make your reservation ASAP and prepare for the fun ahead!
Some More Tips:
*Use the Disney Parks App to locate characters outside of your committed meal times if you don’t get to see the ones you want during your dining arrangements.
*My absolute favorite character meal is the Breakfast in the Park with Minnie and Friends. Here is why. It’s hosts the most characters, the characters and super interactive and attentive, and it’s in the best setting, as far as I’m concerned. Schedule this for 10:00 or 10:30am, so that after you arrive early for the early hours to enjoy the parks with fewer crowds and less chaos, escape to a nice meal right as the the people arrive. You will love this break from the crowds. Be sure to try the French Toast, too, with Banana’s Foster topping.
*My favorite for ambiance and setting is Storyteller’s Cafe, however, it does not include classic characters and I only recommend this one for those who have done the classics. I also believe they have the best food.
*Have the PhotoPass+ One Day package purchased before arrival if you are interested in grabbing the one image that PhotoPass photographers will take. That happens at the beginning of your meal. This is the only time I recommend pre–purchasing the PhotoPass+ One Day package, as it’s imperative to have it pre-purchased if you want that image from your character meal. Read more about PhotoPass+ and why you should have it for your trip. If you are interested in printed photos, you will have the opportunity to purchase these on site for around $35.
*In addition to these character interactions, know where to find other characters in the park while you’re visiting. They’re everywhere!
***Don’t have tickets yet? Check my ticket seller for discounted options.
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