Disney World is reopening more character meals: Why they are better than ever
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Editor’s note: This guide is updated periodically as more restaurants reopen.
Once upon a time, theme park guests packed Disney World’s Main Street U.S.A. Your biggest concerns were pondering the length of time you’d wait in line, how many FastPasses you could snag in a day and there were ample opportunities to dine with new or classic Disney characters both in and outside the parks.
Back in those gone but not forgotten days, you could have dinner with Snow White and the Evil Queen; dine in Cinderella Castle with the princesses; enjoy breakfast with Lilo, Stitch and Hawaiian-themed Mickey at the Polynesian; or have a meal with Winnie the Pooh and friends inside the Magic Kingdom.
As you filled your belly with Mickey waffles, bacon and eggs, (sometimes at the buffet) each character would come by your table and you’d drop what you were doing, get up and take photos — or awkwardly just say hello, not get up and they’d eventually move along.
Don’t get me wrong: This was fun and super magical for little kids who weren’t afraid of the characters, and a much more civilized way to get that coveted Mickey photo than waiting in a long line under the afternoon sun. But these meals had their drawbacks, too.
Like many other things at Disney World right now, character meals have been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. As you can imagine, packed dining rooms where everyone hugs and takes pictures with Sleeping Beauty aren’t exactly ideal for social distancing.
Thankfully, just as Disney World has found a way to tweak its hotel operations and spread guests out in the parks, it’s also found a way to resume some of the character meals — just in an all-new format that I think is even better than the original pre-pandemic version.
Open character meals at Disney World
Before we get into what to expect at your next meal with Mickey, here are the currently available character meals that have restarted. Keep in mind that this list was current as of the most recent update in mid-October, but could change at any time.
Breakfast at Topolino Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort
Riviera Resort is Disney’s newest resort hotel that opened in late 2019. It’s a very grown-up and refined property that doesn’t at all feel like you’re at a theme park. (But don’t worry, it also doesn’t feel stuffy.)
Topolino Terrace is a French- and Italian-inspired restaurant located on the top floor of the Riviera Resort. Each morning, it hosts a character breakfast that’s quite the civilized way to see Mickey and friends.
Adults get a pastry basket, juice, coffee and an entrée from a selection such as smoked salmon, quiche gruyère, sour cream waffles or the wild mushroom scramble I ordered above for $42.
Meals for kids up to 9 years old will cost $27 and come with items such as Mickey waffle dippers, eggs or fruit and yogurt.
Here, you’ll get to see Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy in their best Mediterranean outfits.
Garden Grill at Epcot
Unlike some character meals, such as Chef Mickey’s, “Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Harvest Feast” was a family-style affair even before the pandemic, so that part didn’t change. The characters and their adorable farming outfits haven’t been altered either.
Here, you’ll get a family-style platter with items such as fluffy rolls, turkey breast, seasonal vegetables, grilled beef, salad, cheesy macaroni and more (some ingredients may have even been grown in Epcot’s Living with the Land area).
And I’m not sure there’s a more kid-friendly meal in the world than macaroni and cheese with goldfish sprinkled on top.
This meal is low-key but a ton of fun, and is available for either lunch or dinner to a tune of $55 for adults and $36 for kids.
The characters normally include not only the headlining Chip and Dale, but also Mickey and Pluto. Mickey’s overalls are truly adorable.
Oh, and be sure and save room for dessert. It’s also unlimited, so don’t be shy.
Ravello at the Four Seasons Orlando
This meal at the nearby Four Seasons Orlando is named the “Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy and Pals.” It’s currently only happening once per week on Saturday mornings. It was previously a high-end breakfast buffet of sorts but is now a sit-down meal that includes a bakery basket, sliced fruit, coffee or juice and your choice of entrée for $48 for adults and $28 for kids 12 and under (which is a more generous definition of a child than Disney itself offers).
At this meal, Goofy’s pals usually include Mickey and Minnie, all dressed in resort attire. If you want to add on adult beverages, bottomless mimosas will cost an extra $18 and bottomless Bloody Marys will add $19 per person.
This reservation requires a call to the Four Seasons at 407-313-7777.
Related: Review of Waldorf Astoria Orlando
Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios
A fun and very recently reopened character meal can be found in the popular Disney Hollywood Studios theme park (also home to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the newest ride at Disney World, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway).
At Hollywood & Vine, Minnie, Mickey and a couple of their friends dress up for the season, which will be Halloween-themed through October and then switches to holiday attire through the end of the year.
For now, the previous buffet-style service has been changed to a set menu that starts with family-style salad and rolls, followed by an entrée (such as shrimp macaroni and cheese, or cracked black pepper prime rib) and concludes with dessert including assorted pies or crème brûlée.
Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom
Be Our Guest is located within the Beast’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom, and has transitioned from an a la carte lunch menu to a three-course meal for both lunch and dinner.
This means lunch costs more than it did before, but it now skips this awful (and extremely non-distanced) process we encountered at lunch a few years ago.
Here’s the same hallway at lunchtime now:
Now, you’re seated at safely spaced tables where you’ll have a three-course meal that’s pricey any time of day, but is also super relaxing. Lunch and dinner are now $62 for adults and $37 for kids. For that price, you get starters such as lobster bisque, a mixed greens salad or a meat and cheese board.
Your main course might be a filet mignon, sea scallops or baked chicken.
And don’t over-eat, as the included dessert is a trio of treats — including the “grey stuff” that tastes much better than it sounds.
For me, this meal, while delicious, only counts as half a character meal as only one character, the Beast, makes an appearance.
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Cinderella’s Royal Table
Dining at the end of Main Street U.S.A. in Cinderella Castle is a pretty iconic Disney World bucket-list activity. Before the pandemic, this was the pièce de résistance of Disney World character meals for anyone who adored Disney Princesses. It has very recently reopened for lunch and dinner at a lower than normal price ($37 for kids, $62 for adults), but with a major change.
Currently, Cinderella’s Royal Table is only kind of, sort of, a character meal. Cinderella herself has been making “surprise” appearances in the castle to wave during the meal (much like the Beast at Be Our Guest), but the other princesses have not yet returned.
If you’ve been yearning to get back to Cinderella Castle for a meal, get that credit card ready and go for it if you can snag a reservation. But if you want to do a once-in-a-lifetime meal with all the princesses, I’d wait a bit longer for this one to fully return.
Normally, Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort is as busy as could be with guests making piled-high breakfast plates from the buffet line while the “Fab 5” — Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy — make their rounds.
When Chef Mickey reopened over the summer with family-style dining, however, there weren’t any characters. But beginning on Dec. 16, that will change, and the Fab 5 will return! It’s also worth noting that the higher price will also return at that time.
Right now, breakfast is $25 for adults and $14 for kids, a steal by Disney standards. Effective Dec. 16, the price will increase to $42 for adults and $27 for kids once characters return.
Either way, you’ll get all you care to enjoy French toast sticks, Mickey waffles, bacon, sausage and the oh-so-delicious potato-and-cheese casserole and tater bites.
What happens at a Disney character meal now
Now that you know the current character meals available, here’s how they work.
Make a reservation
Disney used to allow you to make dining reservations 180 days out which, frankly, was absurd. I don’t know what I want for dinner tomorrow, much less at Disney six months from now. Some hot ticket meals, like Be Our Guest, would usually be snatched up months in advance, leaving those with more spontaneous trips out of luck unless they hit the jackpot with someone else’s cancellation.
Now, you should still make a character dining reservation in advance since availability in the reopened dining rooms has basically been cut in half, but reservations are only open 60 days out. If you miss out on making an advance reservation before your trip, check the app for walk-up availability on the day of when you’re ready to dine by selecting “dine now” in the dining booking portion of the app.
Mobile check-in and menus
When your reservation time comes, head to the restaurant and check in via the Disney mobile app. Your menu will also be available on mobile when you scan the QR code with your phone, and paper menus are available upon request.
See the characters
While you eat, the characters at your restaurant will make appearances.
At Topolino’s Terrace, for example, each character was announced one by one as they entered and would then happily go around the room to themed music. Each character would spend a minute or so in various spots in the room away from the tables to do a little dance and pose for photos and selfies.
After each character had an individual turn, all four appeared together. During our breakfast, we saw this whole rotation twice, so it was happening pretty frequently, though not constantly.
During our recent lunch at Be Our Guest, the Beast also made two appearances during the meal. His walk-through, however, was much faster, and he didn’t stop in various corners of the restaurant as the characters did at Topolino’s. (Another reason this isn’t your typical character meal.)
At dinner at Garden Grill within Epcot, there was no fanfare or announcements, the characters just made the loop around the restaurant every 20 or 30 minutes. Ultimately, we had each character come behind our booth to pose and wave two or three times each.
Right now, you won’t be able to pose with the characters, other than any selfies you can snap from your table. While Garden Grill is a little unique due to its setup and may be an exception to the rule, generally, characters won’t come to individual tables and certainly won’t sign autographs. The restaurant asks that you stay in your seats while the characters are out and about.
To learn more, visit TPG’s hub for all things Disney.
This may all sound like a lot of change, but it’s really great.
You are surrounded by your favorite characters while you dine, can wave and interact with them from a safe distance, snap photos as they go by or just keep eating your warm eggs and drinking your hot coffee while it’s still, well, hot. It’s a much less intrusive and forced way of seeing characters than before.
That said, I know many travelers will miss the autographs and individual photos, especially the younger kids. If that’s what makes a character meal special for you and your family, it may not be the time to spend roughly $30 per kid and $50 per adult (or more) for this type of meal right now.
But on recent trips with my kids, we all agreed the current versions of character meals were some of our favorite Disney character meals yet — second only perhaps to that time we got to hang with the Evil Queen.
Featured image courtesy of Disney Parks/Matt Stroshane, photographer
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