When I was trying to deciding where to make advanced dining reservations at for a Disney park I ended up coming across the idea of a character meal.
A meal surrounded by princesses, pooh and his friends or Mickey himself. It sounded kinda fun. Who doesn’t want to eat Mickey waffles with Mickey himself? When I’m trying to decide where to dine, I like to pick places that have food that sounds good but also experiences I can’t get outside of Disney. I love pasta, but you can get good Italian other places. But you can’t get lunch with Pooh Bear at many places. So I booked my first character meal. In fact I booked three.
Funny, but the thought never occurred to me that because I was travelling without kids, that a character meal might seem weird. I wanted to eat with Pooh. So here’s what you can expect with a character meal if your travelling in a party of adults only.
-What are the basics about character meals?
Character meals are meals where, as you’re eating, characters (anyone from Mickey to Princesses to Pooh Bear, depending on the restaurant you book,) will stop by your table for a quick chat and a picture or two.
Character meals come in several different forms. The most common are buffet, or prefix menu ordering. At a buffet you pay a flat price and you can go and eat as much as you’d like from several different stations. No matter the meal they have a mix of types of foods, including vegetarian and meat options.
A prefix menu is a menu that has very limited choices. You also prepay a flat price for this meal, but you only get to pick from a small list of options. Usually an appetizer, entree and dessert. I’ve never found the choices to be lacking, and I can always find something that sounds appealing.
A few restaurants at times (like Storytellers in Disneyland resort) have offered a choice of buffet or menu ordering. This isn’t common, and you won’t see it often if at all these days.
If a character misses your table, while your up getting a plate from the buffet, they will come around again, but it might not be for more then an hour. Sometimes you can tell a cast member and they will try to bring them around for you. Just remember, meeting each and every character who is at the meal is not guaranteed. They try their best, but you might not get to meet every single one.
-Will there be a lot of kids at a character meal?
Yes. There will be hoards of kids. They are running around everywhere in their princess and pirate outfits. It’s a character meal at Disney, what did you expect? But I’ve never found them to be a bother. Usually I love watching the characters interact with the kids at nearby tables. One meal I was seated next to a family who’s very young song was dressed as Hook. When Peter Pan came to his table he was ecstatic to meet him, and the interactions were funny. But when Hook stopped by…. well I think that made this kids year. We got a kick out of watching mini-Hook with big Hook.
-Will the characters pay attention to me if I don't have kids?
YES! So characters make the rounds and stop at each table that has guests at it. I have never had a character skip my table because I didn’t have kids. Once I was sat at a table that was harder for some of the larger characters to get close to. But when they got close, I just stepped out to the main isle, and they were happy to interact with me. In fact sometimes I think they especially enjoy adult guests. They know I won’t hug to hard, or get under their feet. If they are a face (or character that is able to talk) the interactions get even better. Our table had several taller adults. When Peter Pan stopped by we figured we’d just take pictures sitting down in our chairs. Peter Pan insisted we stand up…. as soon as we did he says “well good job not growing up!” Wear a celebration button, and you can get even more funny interactions. I love watching a non-talking character pantomime happy birthday. Minnie loves to point to any shirt with Mickey on it and express her love for her Mickey. You just never know what will happen. Be open to anything.
-Is the food any good?
That can depend on your taste in food, where you choose to eat, and even day to day. I think over all I’ve never had bad food at a character meal. If you’re looking for 5 star stuff, try somewhere else. But I’ve never been unhappy with my food and I’ve had some of the best food during a character meal. Breakfast is pretty much standard good buffet breakfast. Lunch usually had cold/hot options from chicken fingers to roast beef to salad. Dinner is usually more hot options. A decent amount of character meals are buffets. This way you can go get food when you want, and not be eating when Mickey stops by. Don’t discount the buffet food entirely though. Two foods I’ve loved ( and tried on a whim because it was a buffet so I could always get something else) were at Crystal Palace buffet lunch. I’m still dreaming about the yellow curry noodles, and the Brussels sprouts (two foods I actually normally do not like, but Disney worked some magic on them, and I couldn’t eat enough). Some character meals are sit down affairs, like Cinderella’s Royal Table in WDW. I find the food at these as good, if not sometimes even better, then other sit down restaurants. Your going for the combination of good food, the characters, and an unusual dining experience.
-Will I look ridiculous without kids at my table?
That depends on your attitude. I was at a character meal once, and there was a guy sitting on his own at the table. I thought what a great way to have company at a meal if your traveling alone; eat where characters come up to you often to have some interaction. Well this guy basically waved off every character the entire meal. Maybe he was there because he liked the food, and didn’t want to take away the characters from kids. But hey if your there, enjoy them! Finally I did see one convince him to take a picture. I think you only look silly if you don’t have fun.
If you go in ready to meet your characters, and get excited when Mickey walks up, no one will even notice your not 7. When I see a character coming I always get the camera ready, and as soon as they walk up I greet them by name, say hi, interact a little, and get a hug and a picture. No one doesn’t love a hug from Minnie. Usually these are the best pictures I have from my trips. I find I look lost standing in front of the tower of terror, but I look right at home next to Donald Duck.
-How should I interact with Characters?
Going to a character meal means at least one thing. You will have to interact with a few characters. So what do you do? Well first off say hi! If it’s a non talking character, say hi, get in their line of sight, and stay there while you talk. So what do you talk about? Well with both talking and non-talking characters I like to make it character specific. With Pooh Bear, ask if he has any honey for your waffles. With Hook discuss the finer points of a crocodile, tell Eeyore that you’re having a great day and you hope today is a happy day for him too. If your meeting your favorite character, tell them that they are your favorite. They usually love to gush over that. They know how to interact with you, and if you just give them a little something to go on, they usually run with it. Remember its a minute or two conversation, so don’t get into the finer points of Fairy Godmother history, but you can ask her about making you a pumpkin coach!
With anything at Disney, be ready for a little magic and be ready to laugh.
I was finishing eating at a character meal. All the characters had stopped at my table already, so I was just enjoying my meal. I saw Piglet talking with a few tables nearby, but since I had already met him, I knew he wasn’t going to stop by. So I continued to shovel dessert into my mouth. I had just taken a huge spoonful of brownie and ice cream, when someone tapped me on my shoulder. I spun around, and there was Piglet I just started laughing, brownie mouthful and all. It was to much to even chew or swallow fast enough so I just pointed to the spoon still in my mouth. Piglet covered his mouth with a shocked oops face, and the bent down while they took a picture of me. After Piglet left, and I finally chewed up my brownie I could not stop laughing. It was so random and amusing. I looked ridiculous, I had a too big bite of food and a spoon in my mouth when Piglet came to visit. This could have easily been extremely embarrassing, except it was Piglet catching me eating to much in one bite! So I just laughed along with it. The picture they took, well it was so priceless its framed and sitting where I see it every day. It still makes me laugh. All you see is my face stuffed with a spoon, and Piglet making oppsy faces over my shoulder. Best lunch ever.