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A visit to the Disneyland Resort means balancing your schedule with rides, meals, shows, and character meet and greets. Why not multitask and knock out several character interactions while you enjoy a meal? If you want to meet a gang of Disney characters without waiting in line for each one or seeking them out in the parks — some are always on the move! — then character dining allows you to fuel up while letting the characters come to you.
There are four restaurants that offer character meals at the Disneyland Resort, one in each Disneyland Resort hotel and one at Disneyland Park. All of them offer character breakfasts, plus Storyteller’s Café has a weekend brunch, and Goofy’s Kitchen offers a character dinner.
One of the most popular restaurants for Disneyland character dining, Ariel's Grotto at Disney California Adventure, has closed (at least temporarily) while Paradise Pier is transformed into Pixar Pier! (Read more about it and all of the Disneyland refurbishments and closures.) While Ariel's Grotto is closed, you've still got some tasty Disneyland character dining options. So how do you choose the right experience for you? We’ve hopped about Disneyland Resort to get the scoop on each of them (the things we do in the name of research!) and share our best tips so you get the most from your Disneyland character dining.
Here Is How Each of the Disneyland Character Dining Options Stack Up!
The Plaza Inn is located right in the heart of Disneyland on Main Street USA. You can dine inside or outside in Victorian style. What we love about this character breakfast is that the character selection is the most diverse of the Disneyland character meals, and you’ll find the most characters at one meal — usually about eight (while some others have only four in comparison). You’ll meet Minnie Mouse and other characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Fairy Godmother, Captain Hook, Chip, Dale, Rafiki and special guests who hop on by since they are in the park. You could encounter a rare treat like Piglet, Pinocchio, Max or some other surprise. They offer a breakfast buffet with traditional breakfast items like cereal, scrambled eggs, French toast, omelets, sausage, and those Mickey waffles. They have an omelet station. If you have an allergy and are struggling with the buffet, you can talk to the chef, who may be able to whip up a special dish for you. The only downside is that you do need to pay for park admission to access this Disneyland character meal. Adult buffet meals are $34 and children are $19. Breakfast opens when the park opens and is open during Magic Morning and Extra Magic Hour. There is a separate entrance open for character dining.
2. Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey and Friends — Disney’s PCH Grill at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel
The surf is always good at the Paradise Pier Hotel! Check in for California-themed character breakfast, and rub noses with the big cheese himself, Mickey Mouse. Take photos and share a moment with him at his lifeguard stand. While you enjoy your food at the buffet, Minnie, Daisy, and Stitch will come by your table. One of the most unique parts of this Disneyland character dining meal is that a couple of times per hour, Mickey’s pals join him to dance and invite all the kids to dance with them. This makes a great breakfast for small children who like to get up and shake the wiggles out. Plus, they will get to share a lot of one on one time with the characters.
You’ll find Minnie pancakes, Mickey waffles, and grilled peanut butter and banana with chocolate–stuffed French toast at the children’s buffet. Most of the buffet food served at PCH Grill is very similar to the food served at the other hotel breakfast buffets — scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, smoked salmon, egg white frittata, omelet station, parfait yogurt, fruits, and pastries. There are only four characters to meet at this character meal, but Stitch is definitely not someone you get to hang out with in the parks so you might enjoy stepping into alien territory to meet him. Breakfast is $39 for adults and $23 for kids.
3. Breakfast and Dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel
Step into Goofy’s Kitchen to be greeted by your host, Goofy, for some hugs, fun and photos! After being shown to your table, grab a plate and hit the buffet. At breakfast, which offers some brunch selections as well, you’ll find some traditional scrambled eggs, eggs Benedict, pastries, bacon, sausages, Mickey pancakes, yogurt, fruits, and Mickey waffles as well as salad, egg white veggie frittata, made-to-order omelets, smoked salmon, sautéed veggies, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and pizza. Pizza? Not just pizza but also silly pizza such as peanut butter pizza or apple pie or s’mores pizza. It is Goofy’s kitchen, so expect some, well, goofiness. There is a smorgasbord of dessert from cookies, cakes and even a soft-serve frozen yogurt sundae bar, which means supervising your little ones as they make their meal choices. Otherwise they may come back to the table with dessert for breakfast. It happens. Adults can treat themselves to cocktails for an additional fee. Mimosa, Bloody Mary, or Bellini anyone?
At dinner Goofy's Kitchen offers a carving station, pasta, salads, veggies, fruit, more of Goofy’s famous pizza (here’s your chance to try macaroni and cheese pizza), hot dogs, Goofyroni and cheese, and a number of hot and cold selections.
Whether you start or end your day at Goofy’s Kitchen, while you dine you can expect to be visited by Goofy’s A-list friends such as Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Chip and Dale. You’ll get about five to six character interactions at this Disneyland character meal. At breakfast, the price is $39 for adults and $23 for kids. Dinner runs $43 for an adult and $25 per child.
4. Chip ‘n Dale Critter Breakfast — Storytellers Café
Storytellers Café offers a relaxed buffet breakfast during the week, and a buffet breakfast and brunch on the weekend. Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m., and on the weekend brunch food comes out from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The breakfast choices closely match the other Disneyland character meal buffets. Brunch includes all the breakfast items as well as roasted chicken, chicken nuggets and desserts. You can expect to meet four characters at this character meal: Kenai, Pluto, Chip, and Dale. Breakfast runs $36 for an adult and $21 per child.
While we have ranked our favorite character dining options based on our favorite characters in attendance and how well the organization of the meal worked for our family, you might have a favorite for a different reason. Basically, what we have learned is that the food at all the breakfast buffets is all very similar. Goofy’s kitchen adds a silly spin on breakfast. There are small differences in the menus, but what it comes down to is the characters. Choose the meal that offers you the most likelihood of meeting the characters you most want to spend time with or the dining experience most convenient to you (i.e., in your hotel or in the park you are planning to visit that day). Your small tadpole might do best with a smaller selection of characters where he or she can get up and hop around. Your older child might want to maximize the signatures they add to their autograph book. You really cannot go wrong with any of the character dining experiences, but here’s some advice to help you maximize your time.
Disneyland Character Dining Tips to Maximize the Fun!
Here are some tips for the best Disneyland character dining experience:
- Bring your camera, autograph book (or DIY character signature project like this one), and a pen or marker.
- Plan some fun poses for pictures with the characters.
- Think of some fun questions to ask the characters or things you might want to tell them.
- Make advance dining reservations, especially with Disneyland down a character dining restaurant.
- Note any allergies or dietary issues when reserving, checking in, and with the waiter and/or chef.
- When you check in, let them know if you will be celebrating a birthday. They will bring out a cupcake with a candle (along with birthday buttons) for no extra charge.
- A 15% gratuity is added to all meals, including Ariel’s Grotto.
- Children under the age of three may share from an adult's plate at any of the restaurants at no charge.
- You do not need to be staying at an on-site hotel to dine at a character meal.
- Characters and prices are subject to change. You are likely to see the characters we mentioned, but you are only guaranteed to meet the one whose name is on the meal, such as Goofy at Goofy’s Kitchen. So don’t make any promises to your tadpoles. Let the character meet and greets be a surprise bonus to breakfast.
- Consider booking a character breakfast on a day you will not be rushed so you can enjoy it without feeling pressure to move on.
- Consider booking a late character breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner so that you can take advantage of morning time in the park.
- If you are entering the theme parks the same day of your character dining, you might consider purchasing MaxPass for the day, which allows you to receive unlimited PhotoPass downloads from the meal and photos taken in the parks that day, including other character meet and greets. MaxPass also allows you to make a FASTPASS reservation from your smartphone, saving time.
- If you are planning to use MaxPass, try to enter a theme park before your meal so you can activate MaxPass. That way you can make FASTPASS ride reservations from the restaurant and be ready to skip the lines in the park once you are done eating.
While you may be able to get reservations for Disneyland character dining upon short notice, you should make your reservation in advance to get the best choice of times and locations. If you are visiting during a weekend or holiday time, reserve up to 60 days in advance. And if your favorite character did not make it to breakfast, no worries. Here are some tips for meeting your favorite characters in the parks.
Hoppy Eating and Meeting!