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Which Disneyland Character Meal Is Best for Your Family?

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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 opportunity. But how do you know which Disneyland character meal is best for your family? I break it down for you below. (Scroll to the end of the story to learn how you can win a Disneyland vacation for a family of four!)

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Best Character Meal Inside Disneyland

Breakfast in the Park with Minnie & Friends

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?
 This breakfast buffet features will made-to-order omelets, pastries, Mickey-shaped waffles, and other tasty treats. 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. Read more about Breakfast in the Park with Minnie & Friends on TripAdvisor.

Breakfast in the Park with Minnie and Friends ~ Which Disneyland character meal is best for your family?

Breakfast in the Park with Minnie and Friends at the Plaza Inn inside Disneyland (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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.)

Chip n’ Dale Critter Breakfast at Storyteller’s Cafe ~ Which Disneyland character meal is best for your family?

Chip n’ Dale Critter Breakfast at Storyteller’s Cafe (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Best Disneyland Character Meal for Dinner

Goofy’s Kitchen

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?  The highlight of this Disneyland character meal is a joyous parade of characters through the dining room. Then the characters split apart and make their way to the tables. Expect kid-friendly food like macaroni and cheese, pizza, and chicken plus some especially tempting desserts.

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!

Goofy's Kitchen character meal at the Disneyland Hotel ~ Which Disneyland character meal is best for your family?

Goofy's Kitchen character meal at the Disneyland Hotel (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin and Disney)

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 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 was just a toddler when we first tried this character meal and he seemed just as enthralled as his big sister by all of these sweet, beautiful women stopping by his table to say hello.

Tips?  There are both indoor and outdoor seating options at Ariel’s Grotto. Make your preference known when making a reservation and checking in.

Ariel's Princess Celebration at Ariel's Grotto in Disney California Adventure Park

Ariel's Princess Celebration at Ariel's Grotto in Disney California Adventure Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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.

Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey & Friends at Disney’s PCH Grill in Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel ~ Which Disneyland character meal is best for your family?

Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey & Friends at Disney’s PCH Grill in Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel (Photo credit: Disney)

More Disneyland 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.

Get your Disneyland autograph book before leaving home! ~ Disneyland character meal tips

Get your Disneyland autograph book before leaving home! (Photo from the Disney Store website)

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. Buy your autograph book and Disney pens now from the Disney Store!

Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera or smart phone! Shots of your kids cuddling up to their favorite Disney characters are priceless.

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Save Money on Your Disneyland Vacation

Reservations are recommended for all of the character meals. Want to save money on your Disneyland character meal? You can! Click here to save up to $11 per adult meal and up to $5 per child meal.

Save even more on your Disneyland vacation. Use discount code TravelMamas to get an extra $10 off any two-night or longer Southern California package (hotel and two ticket minimum) when you book through Get Away Today.

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What is your favorite Disneyland character meal? Leave a comment below!

A Note from the Travel Mama: My family 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. 

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About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. Wow.. these are simply amazing. I hope one day I will be there.

  2. alissa farias says:

    thanks for the contest!and the blog about disney!

  3. kevsunblush says:

    Thanks for the tips. Did I miss how much they cost?

  4. Nancy Curtoa says:

    Hopefully we can take our kids one day.

  5. carolyn phinney says:

    Our kids loved Surfs up Breakfast with Mickey. The only character meal, you can meet Mickey and Sitch!

  6. Jan Komancheck says:

    Thanks for the tips but I think we would rather be walking throughout the park rather than spending an hour at breakfast.

    Jan K

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Jan – I see what you mean. I typically plan a character meal on a day when we are NOT touring the parks – like on arrival day or departure day – to add an extra bit of magic to our visit.

  7. I have never been to a character meal but I know they book SUPER EARLY!! It was a good idea to do it on arrival or departure day. Thanks for the tips! kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you. Happy Spring!

  8. paula skeans says:

    I dont know my favorite meal as we are just planning on trying to take my daughter and nephew maybe next yr. thank you for awesome information.

  9. We loved our character dinning experienced at PCH. It was a must do because we wanted to meet Stitch.

  10. Jason Diehl says:

    You can see often see Remy (from Ratatouille) at the Cafe Orleans in the French Quarter and get a picture with everyone’s favorite “little chef”.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      So fun! I haven’t been to Cafe Orleans for a while. Will need to check it out the next time we go to Disneyland!

  11. Yanhua T. says:

    Thank you for sharing!

  12. Marcella Brazelton says:

    Goofy’s Kitchen or Ariel’s Grotto would be the best for my family. I think we might have done Ariel’s Grotto at some point.

  13. Stephanie V. says:

    We’ve never had a character meal — but Mickey always get my vote!

  14. M Burrell says:

    I celebrated a birthday dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen and had a blast! So many characters and the food was A-MAZING! I’d do it again in a heartbeat. *0*

  15. KATHRYN TEEL says:

    I would say Goofy’s Kitchen for me but for the grandkids it would probably have to be Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey & Friends they like most kids love Mickey Mouse!

  16. michele says:

    We are looking forward to Goofy’s Kitchen on the day of our arrival!

  17. Goofy’s Kitchen took really great care of all 4 generations when we were there! From the eldest to the youngest.

  18. My kids would love Goofy’s Kitchen. Thanks for the tips.

  19. Jeane Campbell says:

    We are the Breakfast with Mickey Family! Have done that before and were not disappointed.

  20. Sunchicka says:

    Love this article.

  21. Hannah J. says:

    Thanks for the tips! Any experience with allergies?

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hannah – I am a gluten-free eater so I do have experience with working around food allergies and sensitivities at Disneyland. Disney is really fabulous about helping food allergy sufferers enjoy safe and delicious meals. When you make your booking, mention the allergy. Tell your server again when you arrive. Someone will walk you around and show you which items you can eat. They may even make a special meal just for you, depending on the severity of your allergy and dining situation. I have a friend whose daughter has Celiac and she never, ever lets her go out to eat anywhere for fear of cross contamination. I recommended a Disney Cruise to her because I know how fastidious Disney is about food allergies. They had a fabulous time on their cruise, with their daughter enjoying meals with the rest of the family with zero problems.

  22. Kimberley Jansen says:

    You have to try them all at least once!

  23. Tony Cruz says:

    The tips on where to eat are amazing but I bet it’s very overpriced for the meals. Best to pack snacks and eat at a restaurant outside the park. 🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Tony – It’s true that Disneyland character meals aren’t cheap. I think it’s nice for one splurge per trip.
      To save money on your character meal, be sure to take advantage of the Get Away Today discount!

  24. Tammi L. says:

    I also am a big fan of doing character meals in the earliest part of our vacation because I hate the line ups for autographs. The more we get this way, the less time we waste in the parks! My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t feel it is worth the extra money… fortunately he is a good sport and gives in for at least one a trip!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      That’s the nice part about being the family vacation planner…you get to choose the meals and activities! 🙂

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