Visiting Walt Disney World with your family? Chances are, you have a wishlist of Disney characters your kids just have to meet. The best way to meet Mickey Mouse and friends might not be just showing up at the Magic Kingdom and waiting in line. Want favorite Disney characters like Cinderella, Ariel, Donald Duck, and even Mickey Mouse to come right to you? You’re looking for Disney World character dining. (Feature Photo: Disney/Matt Stroshane)

Not all character dining is created equally. Ranking the best Walt Disney World character dining includes all kinds of variables, including location, characters, and dining experience (because you’re going to want to eat something while you’re there!). Choosing the best character dining for your family is an important decision, though, because character dining experiences often last an hour or two, and they come with a hefty price tag.

And here’s a quick booking tip: Walt Disney World restaurants open for booking 180 days in advance. So even if your Florida vacation is months away, the time to plan for dinner with Cinderella is now!

Best Character Dining in the Theme Parks

There are character dining locations in all four theme parks, giving you a lot to choose from. Cinderella’s Royal Table, located within the iconic Cinderella Castle, gets top marks from many for sheer location, but if you can’t score a seat at the princess’s table, don’t fret. Right across from Cinderella Castle, a Victorian palace shares bragging rights for the most photogenic castle in Walt Disney World.

The Magic Kingdom's Crystal Palace is a castle unto itself. Photo: Photo Flickr/cd23murray

The Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace is a castle unto itself. Photo: Photo Flickr/cd23murray

For sheer ambiance, a large and delicious buffet selection, and a gorgeous backdrop for all your character photos, The Crystal Palace is a perfect choice. Located at the end of Main Street U.S.A. and facing Cinderella Castle, this glass-domed Victorian beauty has been a cherished site of family photos since Walt Disney World opened in 1971. Alongside its mirrored walls and potted palms you can hug your favorite friends from the Hundred Acre Wood.

A gallant kiss on the hand from Tigger at The Crystal Palace. Photo: Flickr/serenalyn

A gallant kiss on the hand from Tigger at The Crystal Palace. Photo: Flickr/serenalyn

Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, and even Rabbit are the stars here, but every so often they invite all the children up for a rousing Friendship Day Parade through the restaurant. It makes a great opportunity for little ones who are a little apprehensive about getting a hug from their favorite character for the first time.

The food is consistently bountiful, diverse, and delicious, with chefs thinking up creative new house specialties all the time. The Crystal Palace serves breakfast for about $35/adult, $21/child, and lunch/dinner for about $48/adult, $29/child. 

Read a Review at A Pinch of Pixie Dust

Best Character Dining for Little Princesses

While Disney World offers several opportunities to dine with royalty, each offer different experiences. For the easiest access, largest selection of fare, and best price point, try 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. Located just a boat or monorail ride away from the Magic Kingdom, the restaurant’s Happily Ever After dinner experience includes meet-and-greet opportunities with Cinderella, Prince Charming, and the Fairy Godmother, plus Cinderella’s wicked stepmother and stepsisters.

Fulfill your little princess's dreams of grandeur without the stress of trying to get a reservation in Cinderella Castle. The reception areas around 1900 Park Fare are perfect for royal twirling. Photo: Flickr/ChadSparkes

Fulfill your little princess’s dreams of grandeur without the stress of trying to get a reservation in Cinderella Castle. The reception areas around 1900 Park Fare are perfect for royal twirling. Photo: Flickr/ChadSparkes

The comic relief of Cinderella’s boy-crazy stepsisters offers a welcome diversion for anyone in the party who has grown out of fairy tales (and eye-rolling brothers), and the huge buffet spread promises something delicious for everyone’s tastebuds. (Don’t forget to try the strawberry soup!) Also nice? The price: about $45 for adults and $27 for children, putting this buffet on the lower end of the dinner scale.

Read a Review at WDWPrepSchool

Best Character Dining for Boys Who Won’t Hug Princesses

Meeting Farmer Mickey Mouse at Garden Grill. Photo: Flickr/Bethann_K (cropped)

Meeting Farmer Mickey Mouse at Garden Grill. Photo: Flickr/Bethann_K (cropped)

As yet, there’s no option for dinner with Lightning McQueen, although we think that would book up pretty quickly considering the relationship so many little boys have with their toy car collection!

Find the next best thing at Epcot’s Garden Grill, where the entire restaurant actually revolves. You really have to hop up from your table to get the best views of the ever-changing scenery, as the balcony gives you a bird’s-eye view of the ecosystem sets in the Living With the Land attraction. From the rainforest to the American farm, the life-like animatronic animals inhabiting this attraction are sure to impress in between bites. These backdrops also provide great settings for your character photos. You’ll get to meet Mickey Mouse, Pluto, and Chip and Dale — all in their farmer outfits!

With traditional American fare like beef filet, sliced turkey with stuffing, and fresh fish, all served family-style, there’s a pleasant meal in store for your lunch and dinner. Breakfast goes big with some traditional items like scrambled eggs and potatoes, and the signature cinnamon roll bake. Breakfast and lunch runs $32/adults, $19/children, and dinner is about $45/adults, $27/children.

Read a Review at Disney Tourist Blog

Best Character Dining for Foodies

At most character dining restaurants, the food takes a little bit of a backseat to the overall experience. Not so at the Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy and His Pals, offered Thursdays and Saturdays at the Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort. This is a rare opportunity to get your photo with Minnie Mouse and dine on house-cured meats, local cheeses, and made-to-order omelettes, all amidst the ambiance of Ravello, a fine dining restaurant within the Four Seasons resort.

Everyone will look adorable in photos, too, with Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy wearing their country-club sweaters for the occasion. Speaking of photos, here’s the real bonus: the meal comes with complimentary digital downloads of photos taken by the on-site photographers. The price is around $46/adults, $24/children, and plan to tip your valet if you drive – there’s no self-parking.

Video Review:

Best Character Dining for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Fans

You can meet Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, and Pluto in various combinations all over Walt Disney World. But there’s only one place where you can meet all of them, and that’s Chef Mickey’s. This sprawling buffet restaurant, located on the Grand Canyon Concourse (that’s the monorail level to you and me) of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, offers a dizzying array of dishes as the monorail glides overhead, but everyone’s there for the characters. 

Meeting Mickey Mouse at Chef Mickey's becomes a tradition for many families. (Photo: Disney/Matt Stroshane)

Meeting Mickey Mouse at Chef Mickey’s becomes a tradition for many families. (Photo: Disney/Matt Stroshane)

Chef Mickey’s tends to be booked sold even in non-peak periods, and it has the price point to match its popularity: breakfast starts at $43/adult, $25/child, and dinner at $54/adult, $32/child. While it’s unlikely you’ll eat your way through several hundred dollars’ worth of food while you’re there, Chef Mickey’s has a way of becoming a family tradition.

Read a Review at Dad for Disney

This list barely scratches the surface of Disney World character dining. You can also dine with princesses at Epcot, meet Donald Duck and friends in their best safari gear at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and hobnob with Disney Junior stars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. No matter where you choose to go, you’re sure to capture memories that will last a lifetime, so bring that camera, put the photographers to work, and jump up to be in a few Mickey photos yourself! After all, you’re not paying a premium for that roast beef carving station, but for an incredible family experience.

Please note all information was correct at time of publication and may be subject to seasonal variation. Prices are approximate and gratuity and tax are additional.

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