Each of the five Disneyland character meals has its own feel, special touches, and star character. These meals are a great way to meet many characters in one fell swoop. This frees up park time to enjoy rides, shows, and other attractions rather than waiting in long lines for a brief photo opp. But how do you know which Disneyland character meal is best for your family? Let me break it down for you…
Disneyland Character Meal Overview
Most character meals are served buffet-style. I am not a huge fan of buffets but Disney does everything well, and buffets are no exception. For breakfast, you will find made-to-order omelets, pastries, Mickey-shaped waffles, and other tasty treats. For dinner, expect kid-friendly food like macaroni and cheese, pizza, and chicken plus some especially delicious desserts. Ariel’s Grotto is the only character meal option that serves a sit-down, three-course meal of appetizers, main course, and dessert.
Best Character Meal inside Disneyland
Where? The Plaza Inn inside Disneyland (so you must have a Disneyland park entrance ticket to dine here).
Meals offered? Breakfast only.
Characters? We saw a multitude of characters at this meal, from Minnie herself to Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother.
The Verdict? Dining with Minnie with a view of Tomorrowland’s Asto Orbitor was a wonderful start to our day at Disneyland. However, I’d rather not “waste” precious park time eating a long breakfast. I suggest eating a character meal at one of the hotels either on the day of arrival or departure to squeeze in some extra Disney magic on a day when you don’t want to spend your money or time at the parks.
Tips? Be sure to request a seat indoors when you make your reservation and again when you check in so you can get out of the heat or the cold, as the case may be. The pink stained glass mosaics inside are darling, plus you will feel more a part of the action.
Best Disneyland Character Meal for Unusual Autographs
Chip n’ Dale Critter Breakfast at Storyteller’s Cafe
Where? Storyteller’s Café at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel.
Meals offered? Breakfast only.
Characters? Chip n’ Dale and other woodland characters like Brother Bear and Winnie the Pooh.
The Verdict? Children who have their hearts set on seeing a specific character may be a tad disappointed to be greeted by the array of woodsy creatures here. On the other hand, kids collecting signatures might be pleased to find some off-the-beaten-path characters to sign their autograph books!
Tips? Don’t follow the characters around the restaurant. Enjoy your meal and they will come to you! (This is true of all Disney character meals.)
Best Meal for Dancing with Disneyland Characters
Where? Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel.
Meals offered? Brunch and dinner.
Characters? The only character guaranteed to make an appearance at any meal is the meal’s namesake. So, for sure you’ll see Goofy here. You are likely to see other classic characters like Pluto, Donald Duck and the like.
The Verdict? Watching the kids dance with Goofy was definitely the highlight and added a little something special to this meal. Goofy parades about the restaurant before clumsily “spilling” a bunch of clanking, non-breakable dishes. Then he invites children to join him in making music by banging the dropped plates and bowls.
Tips? This is the only Disneyland restaurant that offers a character dinner. If you want to dine with characters in the evening, book this one early!
Best Disneyland Character Meal for Princess Lovers
Ariel’s Disney Princess Celebration
Where? Ariel’s Grotto in Disney’s California Adventure Resort (so you must have a Disney’s California Adventure entrance ticket to dine here).
Meals Offered? Breakfast and lunch. As of mid-June 2010, dinners at Ariel’s Grotto no longer feature the princesses. Instead a special World of Color dining experience is available at night.
Characters? Ariel and other princesses like Cinderella, Belle, Jasmine, and Aurora. Unlike the masked characters, the princesses talk to diners. And they never break character. My husband said, “You really look like Snow White.” To which the raven-haired princess replied in her tiny, bubble gum voice, “Why, whatever do you mean?”
The Verdict? For a little girl, this is the ultimate treat for a birthday or other celebration. Younger children scared of plush characters will find the princesses less intimidating. My son, Leo, was 19-months-old when we visited and he seemed just as enthralled as his big sister by all of these sweet, beautiful women stopping by his table to say hello. I enjoyed the more relaxing, upscale dining experience of this only sit-down Disney character dining option. Hors d’oeuvres and mini pastries are presented on tiered trays, adding to the fanciful feel of the meal.
Tips? There is both indoor and outdoor seating at Ariel’s Grotto. Make your preference known when making a reservation and checking in.
Best Disneyland Character Meal to Meet Mickey
Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey & Friends
Where? Disney’s PCH Grill at the Paradise Pier Hotel.
Meals Offered? Breakfast only.
Characters? Mickey Mouse and other classic Disney characters like Donald and Daisy Duck, Minnie Mouse, and Pluto as well as former title character, Stitch.
The Verdict? This is the newest Disneyland character meal, headlining the head cheese himself, Mickey Mouse. The characters dance, sing, and frolic with children throughout the beach-themed meal…so much that you might have a hard time getting kiddos to sit down and eat! Stitch was my kids' favorite character to visit our table, stealing pretend sips of milk and causing other mischief in true Stitch-style. I highly recommend the longer walk to the Paradise Pier Hotel for this interactive and tasty meal. Watch a video of the Mickey Mouse & Friends character meal entertainment.
Tips? I’ve never seen Mickey Mouse at any of the other Disneyland character meals, so if Mickey is on your must-see list, make your reservation at the PCH Grill. You may need to wait a long time after checking in to be seated at this popular meal so plan accordingly.
More Character Meal Tips
Some young children are fearful of these life-sized cartoon characters. Before attending a character meal, you may want to get your child acquainted with Disney creatures by reading books featuring Disney characters, watching Mickey Mouse Playhouse or other shows on the Disney Channel, or renting a couple of Disney movies. Also, you may want to wait until after your family has had a day in the parks to get used to the idea of the characters at a distance before plunging into a character meal.
An autograph book brings a whole new, entertaining dimension to the character meal experience. Hold off purchasing one until your child is old enough to appreciate it. My daughter requested her first autograph book at age 5 and proudly brought it to preschool for “show & tell” the following week.
Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera! Shots of your kids cuddling up to their favorite Disney characters are priceless.
Reservations are recommended for all of the character meals and can be made up to 60 days in advance by calling 714-781-3463. Call as soon as you know you will be attending; you can always cancel later.
What is your favorite Disneyland character meal? Leave a comment below!
A Note from the Travel Mama: My family and I recently received free passes to Disneyland so that I could review the Breakfast with Minnie at The Plaza Inn. We paid for all of the meals mentioned in this post ourselves. I will always let you know if I receive any complimentary or discounted goods or services related to a story on TravelMamas.com.
Photos and video by Colleen Lanin.