I am going to come right out and say it – I am a Disney fanatic. My daughters and 3 and 5 years old and they have already been to Walt Disney World twice – and we have their third trip planned for this November. My husband and I honeymooned at Disney World and we have decided that our yearly family vacation will always be Disney related. Half of the fun for me is planning out our trips – I mean booking dining reservations and fast passes. We always get the dining plan because it makes sense for our family so when I book reservations, I try to find the best character dining experiences. Since we will not be paying for each dining experience individually (because they each just use a meal from the dining plan), we always cram in as many character dining meals as we can. Having been to WDW at least 15 times myself, I know which ones are worth the time. Here is a list of our “must do” dining reservations.
Be sure to book your dining right at your 180 day mark if you can as these experiences book fast. If you miss out on something, check back a day or two in advance and you might be able to get a last minute reservation. Our last trip, we got 4 last minute reservations! I hope this helps you plan your trip.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
(Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Donald Duck, Goofy)
Enjoy a lively, all-you-care-to-eat buffet with Disney Friends in a bright, happy space. As the monorail whizzes by, Disney Characters mingle with Guests for photos and autographs and periodically lead diners in song and dance. Delight in the revelry, soak up the expansive views of Bay Lake, and behold the stunning 90-foot-high mural by Disney Legend Mary Blair that overlooks the festive eatery.
If you can, book the first breakfast of the day. This will not take away from your time in the parks, and you will be fueled up for several hours. The food is great, and you get to meet five of the most popular characters without having to wait in long lines. Chef Mickey’s is a family favorite!
The Crystal Palace
(Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger)
Join Winnie the Pooh and a few of his Pals for a willy, nilly, silly good time! Inspired by Victorian greenhouses of the late 1800s, The Crystal Palace brims with light, topiaries and tropical palms—and is an enchanting spot to meet some favorite Disney Friends! Plus, while you dine on scrumptious fare, Disney Characters stop by for laughs, photos and autographs.
This is a favorite because the food is great no matter what meal you are eating – breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The characters are great, and come around fairly quickly. One of the few places to Winnie the Pooh and friends! The views are fantastic. If you can schedule an early time for breakfast, you could get into Magic Kingdom early! Take your time eating and then head to be first in line for your favorite ride or character meet and greet!
Hollywood & Vine
(Doc McStuffins, Handy Manny, Sofia the First, Jake)
The breakfast buffet features such favorites as Mickey waffles, frittatas, pastries and fresh fruit. For lunch, you can treat your taste buds to a buffet of kid- and adult-friendly entrees like baked chicken, deli meats, hearty pastas and fresh salads. Be sure to save room for a treat from the ice cream sundae station too!
This is another great experience to choose for an early breakfast. Book your meal before the park officially opens and you will be one of the first in line for your favorite ride (I suggest heading right to Toy Story Mania as line can get quite long.) This is a favorite dining experience for my family because my young daughters love Disney Junior. I will never forget their faces the first time we ate there!
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
(Snow White or Cinderella, Belle, Princess Aurora, Ariel, Mary Poppins or Mulan)
Her Highness the Queen is holding a feast in honor of the world’s best-loved Storybook Princesses—and you’re invited! Dine in a medieval castle as Disney Princesses and Friends mingle with Guests to give autographs and pose for pictures.
I personally love this experience because you get so many of the classic princesses in one place with no waiting in line. I will be honest, the food was good, but it wasn’t great. But with the experience that you get, this dining reservation is well worth it. My daughters loved seeing all of the princesses, and they even got to join them in a parade around the restaurant. If you are a fan of the princesses at Disney, this is a must!
Cinderella’s Royal Table
(Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel, Princess Aurora, Jasmine)
Cinderella makes your acquaintance in the majestic Grand Hall, before you ascend a spiral staircase to the banquet hall above. (A gilded elevator is also available to transport you to the festivities.)
Then, dine in a storybook setting surrounded by soaring stone archways, majestic medieval flags and spectacular stained-glass windows overlooking Fantasyland. During your time inside the castle, visit with classic Disney Princesses. Tiaras and glittering gowns are optional, although young Guests are encouraged to dress up for the occasion.
This dining experience will cost you two table service meals if you are using the dining plan – but it is well worth it. The food, service, and ambiance are exceptional. My family actually ended up having the same server that my husband and I had on our honeymoon 6 years earlier! Kids will receive a wishing star that they actually get to wish on during the dinner. Snow White happened to be at our table while the time came so my daughters got to wish with her (talk about tears! It was so sweet!). Princes get a toy sword and princesses get a toy wand (even adults!). Cinderella’s Royal Table is by far my favorite dining experience at Disney World!