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Disney World Character Dining ... The Pros and Cons Plus Photo Tips!

by Vern Woodruff on January 7, 2014 6

Character greeting Mickey MouseBack in November, I provided you with a number of tips to make the most out of meet-and-greets with your child's favorite Disney characters. Today, I wanted to talk about Disney World character dining -- more specifically the pros and cons. Plus, I wanted to offer a few more tips for getting great character greeting photos.

A great way to meet several characters at one location is to treat the kids to a Character Meal. These special meals are held at a variety of locations around the Walt Disney World Resort and consist of a group of three to five characters visiting guests at their tables while they enjoy their meal. My family attended three different character meals, all of which the kids loved. My two boys greatly enjoyed Chef Mickey's and having the opportunity to see Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto, while my daughter absolutely loved meeting Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora, Ariel and Jasmine at Cinderella's Royal Table. These meals were one of their favorite experiences at Disney and among the most memorable. An entire article could be written on character meals, but I'll just list some pros and cons below to help you decide if you want to make a character meal part of your family's Disney experience. Please note that character meals are extremely popular and it is of utmost importance to make your reservation as far in advance as possible, starting 180 days out from your planned visit. If you are a staying at a Disney resort, you can make reservations starting 180 days from your arrival as well as for the rest of your stay at Disney, up to a total of 10 days.

Disney World Character Dining -- Pros:

  • You can meet a number of characters at one location without having to wait in line. Plus, you have something to do (eat) while waiting for the characters to come to your table.
  • Disney World character diningYou can maximize your time in the parks by scheduling a breakfast prior to park opening or a dinner after park closing or your leaving the park for the day. Doing this allows you to meet the characters without taking time out of your schedule in the parks. For example, we met Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore during a breakfast at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom prior to the official park opening. This saved us from needing to stand in line waiting to meet Pooh and friends later when we could spend our time at attractions instead. One bonus with a character breakfast in the Magic Kingdom is that you are able to enter the park prior to the official opening, which allows you to have a photo taken in front of Cinderella's Castle with almost no one (or no one at all if you are lucky) in the background.
  • Due to the number of characters and a child's excitement with being able to see them, a character meal is highly memorable for them and will likely be one of their favorite activities from Disney World. The meal at Chef Mickey's was a highlight of the trip for my two boys, and we will definitely make reservations for a meal there next time we visit Walt Disney World.

Disney World Character Dining -- Cons:

  • While you are able to meet a number of characters, the surroundings and backgrounds are not very picturesque since you are in a restaurant.  For example, we have a picture of our daughter with Snow White from our visit to Cinderella's Royal Table that has booster seats, high chairs and the restaurant walls for the background.  However, the photo of my daughter taken with Snow White in the German pavilion at Epcot has a wishing well and the side of a house for the backdrop.

Snow White character dining

  • The idea of having the characters come to your table to meet you can sound great, but it makes for a meal full of interruptions and excited kids that do not eat much because of the anticipation of meeting characters.  You have to keep an eye on where the characters are at while you dine so that you can be sure you are at your table, have your camera ready and avoid having a mouthful of food when a character stops by.
  • EyeoreThe dining areas are large and it can take some time for all the characters to come around.  This time is increased by the characters occasionally stopping visits for a quick parade around the room or singing some songs.  Plus, the characters need a break every so often.  As a result of this, you may need to stay at your table after you have completed your meal in order to see all of the characters.  We had to stay an extra 15 minutes at the Crystal Palace to greet everyone.
  • For some reason, Disney PhotoPass photographers are not at the character meals.  So, you will need your camera and be ready to use it.
  • In part due to the high demand and popularity of the character meals, they can be a bit pricey.  You can save some expense by opting for breakfast instead of dinner.  For my family of 2 adults and 3 children, dinner at Chef Mickey's cost a total of $189 versus $124 for our breakfast at the Crystal Palace.
  • Since reservation times can fill up quickly, you have to plan out your days at Walt Disney World 6 months in advance.  Having a reservation for Cinderella's Royal Table means you have to visit the Magic Kingdom that day, so you cannot spend all day at another park.

Character Greeting Tips - Photos

After returning home and going through the many pictures we had taken of the kids with the different characters, I discovered three important photo tips to keep in mind when posing kids with the characters that I wish I had thought of or known ahead of time.  The tips are:

  • Character dining - GoofyWhen posing kids with characters like Pluto or Goofy, you need to watch where the character's whiskers are in relation to the kids' faces. If the kids are wearing a Mickey Mouse ear hat, you need to watch that they don't block the face of each other or the characters.
  • Unless the child is small or the character is tall, it is better to have the kids standing beside the character instead of in front. Otherwise, you risk having part of the character's face blocked.
  • When taking pictures, be sure to take both horizontal and vertical pictures.  The reason for this is that after getting home, you may decide you want an 8 X 10 of a picture, but do not have an image with enough extra space to crop it to size.  Also, do not zoom in such that a picture is cropped perfectly for the aspect ratio you are looking at it on the camera.  Leave some extra room all around the picture so that you can more easily add borders to the picture or crop it to a desired size after returning home.

These are my tips for character greeting photos and the pros and cons of Disney World character dining. What was your experience like and what are your favorite tips? Share in comments below. You’ll find more information inside our Planning Pages.

Related: Disney World Character Greeting Tips for Your Visit

Related: Preparing Your Child to Meet the Characters

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Jan 17, 2015 at 4:46 a.m. Lynn Says...

I've planned a royal lunch at Cinderellas castle in March. Do you know how long the lunch will be? Our rez is for 215p, and the parade is at 3p. I wonder if we'll be able to catch the tail end of it after lunch? Any thoughts.....

Jan 20, 2015 at 12:02 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Lynn,

It's possible that you will be able to catch some of the parade from Cinderella's Castle since it begins in Frontierland. I would expect lunch will take at least 45 minutes and probably closer to an hour.


Mommy Frog

Mar 4, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. Jackie Says...

Quick question and I did not know which post to put this under so it does not exactly relate to character dining. I see your daughter wears a princess dress to the park. I am debating on this with my 2.5 year old when we visit the end of April. I love the pictures I see with girls in their dresses especially with the princesses, but I am worried about it being too uncomfortable and possibly hot for a full day in the park. What are your thoughts?

Mar 5, 2014 at 6:08 p.m. Vern Woodruff Says...

Hi Jackie,

The princess dresses vary quite a bit in how comfortable they are to wear. My daughter would start to complain almost immediately that the Snow White dress was scratchy, but was fine with the Rapunzel dress. To help with dresses that felt scratchy, we would put an undershirt on her that helped. Two of her dresses, Alice and Minnie Mouse, were made out of material that was similar to a regular dress and she never complained about wearing them. The Minnie Mouse dress ended up working out very well for many pictures of my daughter at Hollywood Studios (which doesn't typically have a princess present to meet other than Sophia) and at Epcot (with Spaceship Earth in the background). If there is a Disney Store you can visit, I would recommend going there for your daughter to see and try on some of the dresses. Once you know the dresses she likes and the best size, you can then buy them there, from the Disney Store website (which has sales fairly often), or check e-bay.

Since we visited at the end of November, we were more concerned with her being too cool instead of too hot. I think the Alice and Minnie Mouse dresses would be fine, and some of the other princess dresses I think would be cool enough too for the summer. A Tinkerbell outfit is fairly short. Current versions of Ariel and Belle on the Disney Store website have thin straps on the shoulders and seem fairly airy, so they should be cooler too.

Depending on what princess dresses you are most interested in for your daughter, one option would be to go into the park with more than one outfit. The extras could either be stored in a locker or carried in a backpack or bag. We did this the day we visited Epcot, when the Snow White picture was taken. My daughter wore Minnie Mouse into the park and met Minnie. Then, she changed to her Alice dress and met Alice. Next after lunch, we changed her to Snow White (the scratchy dress) just long enough to meet Snow White and have a picture taken. After the picture, we changed her back to Minnie Mouse. With my daughter being 5 at the time, she was big enough that she could walk every where, but she preferred to be carried on my shoulders. I took advantage of this by telling her that I would only carry a princess on my shoulders. This seemed to help her with being content to wear her dresses. Also, she did like how much attention she attracted from other visitors in the park and especially the Disney cast members who all called her "Princess". WIth your daughter being 2 1/2, her dresses and clothes would be smaller and easier to carry. An option for her would be to wear shorts, which a dress would cover, and carry along an extra T-shirt. The princess dress could be worn specifically for pictures, and then she could be changed to a T-shirt if the dress started irritating her or it became too hot.

I hope these comments help you out. Looking back at the pictures from our trip, the most endearing ones we have of our daugher are the ones of her in princess dresses with the characters and the ones of her in the Minnie Mouse dress with Spaceship Earth. As she grows older, I'm sure these pictures will become even more cherished. Make sure to check out my other article on character meet and greets for additional information, tips and photos.

Feb 11, 2014 at 2:57 p.m. sharon Says...

I love reading about your frog family (I love frogs) but the news is mostly about family fun and activities. Could you please give some insight on places to eat, things to do, etc. for the older couples that love the Orlando parks, especially Disney.

Feb 12, 2014 at 4:26 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Great suggestion, Sharon!

Look for more "grown-up" posts in the coming months!

-- Mommy Frog

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