Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Character Dining...Twice the Disney Magic!!

Whew!  It's been over a week since my last post!  Wow!  I guess I got a little behind. :(

Oh well.  Today, I'm gonna talk about something that is pretty close to the magic for my family, and for many of my client's families...Character Dining.  For many, this is where the true magic happens as far as the characters are concerned. 

Let me start by saying that all of the parks, from Disneyland to Disney World, from Disney Paris to Tokyo Disney, and even Shanghai, Hawaii, and the cruise line, have characters that meet and greet guests.  It's just part of the whole Disney package.  In fact, the only Disney travels item that don't overtly contain character opportunities are the Adventures By Disney, and even those have a few that will (i.e. Southern California Adventure).  I certainly believe that seeing your prince or princess meet their favorite character in person for the first time is something that has to be experienced...picture and words just don't do it justice!

Of course, much of that magic can be lost when you are waiting in line for an hour only to be told that the character needs to take a break!  Thankfully, we've been lucky enough many times over to be the proverbial "Last Family" in line to meet a character before they take a break, and some of those have been the most magical times for us.  That being said, if you have the chance to have a one-on-one with a character, that makes it so much better.

Today, I'm going to focus on Walt Disney World and the character dining experiences there, and in later posts, I'll hit the dining experiences at the other parks.

Disney World has over a dozen character experiences, ranging from Mickey Mouse and his pals to Lilo and Stitch.  You can find the list of character dining experiences by doing to www.disney.com, clicking on Parks & Travel, choosing your resort, and selecting Dining from the Things to Do menu.  Search there for your character dining experience and make your reservation as early as possible (within the 180 day window, of course) to ensure that you receive the time you desire. 

But Jason, you may ask....Why should I pay to see the characters, when I can just plan to see them in the park?  Good Question.  The real reason is your time.  You have a set amount of time at Disney.  Your days will be chock full of shows, meals, rides, parades, and, well, magic!  In my opinion, why would you wait in line for something if there was a way to, well, kill two birds with one stone?  By combining the meal with the characters, you have the ability to greet the characters during your meal, and get to have some one-on-one time with your favorites (my family even made me get up and take a picture with my favorite princess, Ariel!).  Additionally, many people choose to have the meal plan, and the character meals are included in the table service portion of your Disney Dining plan. 

Every family will gravitate towards their favorites, based both upon the characters that are there and the food that is offered at that location.  For our family, we've found that these are truly the ones that top our must do list when we go:

Chef Mickey's - Contemporary Resort - Mickey and Friends
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall - Epcot, Norway Pavilion - Princesses (Belle, Snow White, Ariel, Jasmine, Aurora)
Hollywood & Vine - Hollywood Studios - Disney Junior Characters (Jake, Little Einsteins, etc.)
1900 Park Fare - Grand Floridian - Mary Poppins for Breakfast, Cinderella for Dinner
Donald's Safari Breakfast - Tusker House Restaurant, Animal Kingdom - Donald and Pals
Crystal Palace - Magic Kingdom - Winnie the Pooh and Friends

That is certainly not all of them.  Our friends Matt and Melissa almost always go to the 'Ohana breakfast at the Polynesian, where Lilo, Stitch, Mickey and Pluto are regulars.  The Garden Grill at the Land Pavilion in Epcot is another popular spot, featuring Chip, Dale, Mickey, and others. 

All of the above will only use 1 table service credit for the meal.  Disney, however, does offer some options that are 2 table service credits.  These include Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review, Mickey's Backyard Barbecue, Spirit of Aloha Dinner (Luau), and Cinderella's Royal Table in Cinderella's Castle.  These are all phenomenal shows and meals, but keep in mind that they will take two of your table credits, and leave you most likely having to purchase a quick service meal down the line to complete your trip.

All in all, the character dining experiences are well worth the time, effort, and cost, even if you don't have the meal plan.  The intimate interaction between our princess and her favorite princess becomes a priceless memory, and eliminating the line waiting makes it all the more special.

Have a Magical Week!!


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