Walt Disney World Character Meals Ranked

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Walt Disney World Character Meals Ranked

Character meals are an essential part of the Walt Disney World experience for many families.  With the number and variety of character meals now available, and the high cost of each one, you have to make difficult choices.  In this post, I rank each of the character meals at the Walt Disney World resorts and theme parks on the basis of food quality, character experience, location, and overall theme and atmosphere.

Notes about each category:

  • Food: This is quite subjective based on personal tastes. I generally take the stance that meals served family style (food delivered to your table) are a bit better than buffets, as your food is more likely to be fresher, served at proper temperatures, and comes with a Cast Member’s service. Also taken into account is the variety and uniqueness of the food at each location.
  • Characters: In this category, the time spent waiting for characters, uniqueness of the characters in the resort, and how characters interact with you are key factors.
  • Location: Restaurants located in the theme parks require park admission, and those in the resorts come with transportation challenges.  I weigh these together to come up with my score.
  • Theme/Atmosphere: How well does the restaurant execute their theme, and is the theme itself worthy?

Methodology: Each category is ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best.  The total score is used to rank them.  In the case of ties, I use overall cost-to-value to break them.

#1 and #2 (Tie) – Tusker House and ‘Ohana

With the higher variety of food items, I give the edge to Tusker House over ‘Ohana.

#1 Tusker House

  • Meals Served:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Style:  Buffet

Tusker House Buffet

The beautiful buffet area at Tusker House in Disney’s Animal Kingdom

  • Food (5):  Food is excellent here, with enough unique African flavors (beef bobotie at breakfast, basmati rice and curry chicken and curries at lunch and dinner) and traditional offerings (eggs and waffles at breakfast, spit-roasted chicken and roasted pork at lunch and dinner) to please most palates.
  • Characters (4):  Mickey, Goofy, Donald, Daisy.  The first three are found in most of the theme parks and other character meals, but Daisy is not found quite as easily.  Characters here are handled quite well and make the rounds to all tables on a regular rotation.
  • Location (4):  Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Being in a theme park makes this relatively accessible, though not all families visit Animal Kingdom, and it is only accessible by bus or car.
  • Theme/Atmosphere (5):  Tusker House is nestled in Africa, and the details inside and outside are extremely well done.

Overall Score: 18

#2 ‘Ohana

  • Meals Served:  Breakfast Only (Dinner is not a character meal.)
  • Style:  Family Style
  • Characters (4):  Stich greets you with a photo opportunity. Lilo, Mickey, and Pluto then walk around to the tables.  This is the only place on property to meet Lilo on a regular basis, and Mickey and Pluto don their Pacific island garb.  Interactions are fairly standard, though the characters do lead the kids in a parade around the dining area.
  • Food (4):  Breakfast favorites like Mickey waffles, eggs, and fried potatoes are served alongside delicious pineapple-coconut bread and Hawaiian-style ham with pineapple compote.  Nothing stands out as too unique, but there is enough variety here to please most palettes.

Ohana Skillet

The skillet at ‘Ohana in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

  • Location (5):  Disney’s Polynesian Resort and Village is the best themed resort in all of Disney World, and dining here gives you a taste of this quintessential Disney experience.  It’s easy to get here from the Magic Kingdom via monorail or boat, and an easy walk from the Transportation and Ticket Center.
  • Theme/Atmosphere (5):  The Polynesian has an extremely well-executed theme, and the atmosphere inside ‘Ohana matches it well, from the background music and décor to the relaxed vibe and view of the rest of the resort (and Magic Kingdom in the distance).

Overall Score: 18

#3 and #4 (Tie) – Akershus Royal Banquet Hall and Garden Grill

With the more unique food offerings, I give the edge in value to Akershus.

#3 Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

  • Meals Served:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
  • Style:  Buffet/Family Style (breakfast); Table Service (dinner)
  • Characters (4):  Meeting five of Disney’s princesses (Belle, Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, and Snow White) at one time is a great way for the prince and princesses in your own family to meet them all in one place.  None of the characters are unique to this restaurant, but having them all here is convenient and the interactions are top-notch.  There is also a parade through the restaurant led by the Disney royalty.

Aurora at Akershus

Meeting Aurora at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

  • Food (5):  Breakfast has quite a few common favorites like scrambled eggs and sausage, but it also has some unique offerings like smoked pork loin and peppered mackerel.  Dinner starts with a “Taste of Norway” with Norwegian meats, seafood, and cheeses followed by entrees like Norwegian meatballs, salmon, and stuffed pasta.  There is enough typical American-type fare on the menu to please most palates, but also quite a few authentic and unique offerings that make this interesting.
  • Location (4):  Epcot (Norway Pavilion).  Being in the middle of world cultures in Epcot makes this a win.
  • Theme/Atmosphere (4):  The Norwegian architecture feels authentic, though the inside can seem a bit dark and cramped.  And I’m not sure how Disney princesses fit into the Norwegian culture, so they do seem a bit out of place.

Overall Score: 17

#4 Garden Grill

  • Meals Served:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
  • Style:  Family Style
  • Characters (4):  Mickey is in his farmer gear here, making a unique photo opportunity.  Pluto, Chip, and Dale also make their way around the restaurant.  Chip ‘n’ Dale are quite lively and mischievous, making this meal great fun for all.

Mickey Mouse at Garden Grill

Meeting Mickey at Garden Grill in Epcot’s Land Pavilion

  • Food (3):  Served family style at your own table, servers bring you eggs, sticky buns, Mickey waffles, and tater tots at breakfast and turkey, pot roast, mashed potatoes, and stuffing at lunch and dinner.  Nothing inspired, but having your own serving dishes is nice.
  • Location (5):  Epcot (Future World).  The restaurant rotates very slowly inside the Land pavilion.  At one point in the rotation, you overlook the Living with the Land ride.  The layout of the restaurant also means you don’t sit among a bunch of other tables, so often you feel like the characters are there just for you.
  • Theme/Atmosphere (5):  Nestled on the main level of the Land pavilion, the dress of the characters, the agricultural-based menu, and overlook of the Living with the Land attraction, the theme is carried out well at Garden Grill.

Overall Score: 17

#5, and #6 (Tie) – Cinderella’s Royal Table and 1900 Park Fare

Coming in at two credits on the Disney Dining Plan, Cindy’s table loses out to the more affordable 1900 Park Fare.

#5 1900 Park Fare

Meals Served:  Breakfast, Brunch, and Dinner

Style:  Buffet

  • Characters (5):  For breakfast, you get a cadre of British characters in the morning, with the likes of Mary Poppins, Pooh, Tigger, Alice, and the Mad Hatter.  You can meet these characters elsewhere in Disney World, but dining in the elegance Grand Floridian and meeting Disney’s finest Brits gives this one an air of sophistication.  The characters of Cinderella come to your table for dinner: Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Drizella, and Anastasia typically. On rare occasions, when the stepsisters aren’t available, you may get the mice. I elevate this to a 5 because the stepsisters interact with each other and are an absolute hoot, which you won’t find at any other character meal.

Cinderella's stepsister at 1900 Park Fare

Meeting Cinderella’s stepsisters is a hoot at 1900 Park Fare

  • Food (3):  The buffet here has made-to-order omelets and eggs, pancakes, cheese blintz, and a ham-carving station at breakfast.  The dinner buffet features salads, Mongolian beef stir fry, roast pork loin, and a kid’s station.  There is quite a bit of variety to satisfy most, but nothing is all that memorable.
  • Location (5):  Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is an easy monorail or boat ride from the Magic Kingdom.  Entering the lobby is an experience unto itself, so be sure to leave enough time to explore the beauty there, which might include hearing the orchestra or pianist that often play there.
  • Theme/Atmosphere (3):  The Grand Floridian itself has a upscale theme, but it doesn’t seem to carry over quite as well to the restaurant.  Like most character meals, it can get a bit loud and chaotic, which doesn’t seem as authentic to the grandeur that is befitting of the Grand Flo.

Overall Score: 16

#6 Cinderella’s Royal Table

  • Meals Served:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
  • Style:  Table Service
  • Characters (3): You start out by meeting Cinderella in the lower level and posing for a family photo.  You are then escorted up the stairs to your table where you will meet Aurora, Jasmine, Ariel, and Snow White.  Having all these Disney princesses in one place makes this very convenient for the young ones in your family who can’t get enough of them, but they can be met individually at other locations (and some of them at the other princess meal on property, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall).  Interactions are OK, but seemed rushed so they can get as many people in and out as they can.
  • Food (3):  This is the most expensive character meal on property, yet it is also the most unimaginative menu.  Breakfast features pastries and traditional offerings like eggs, stuffed French toast, and baked quiche.  Dinner has a braised pork shank, beef and shrimp, and pan-seared chicken.  The food quality just doesn’t merit the price paid.
  • Location (5):  Magic Kingdom (Cinderella Castle).  There probably isn’t a more perfect setting to meet Disney royalty.  Eating in Cinderella’s castle and seeing views of the Magic Kingdom from on high can’t be beat.  (And it’s also why they can charge you exorbitant prices!)

Cinderella's Royal Table Dining Room

The regal dining room at Cinderella’s Royal Table

  • Theme/Atmosphere (5):  You can’t beat the atmosphere of dining on the upper floor the icon of all the Disney parks.  The regal announcements of the princesses entering one at a time adds to the pomp and circumstance.

Overall Score: 16

#7 The Crystal Palace

  • Meals Served:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
  • Style:  Buffet
  • Characters (4):  Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore.  While you can meet Pooh and Tigger in a few other places, this is the only location for Piglet and Eeyore.  These characters come around at reasonably predictable intervals, and Tigger is quite playful!

Eeyore at Crystal Palace

Meeting Eyeore at The Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom

  • Food (3):  Breakfast includes an egg station, pancakes and waffles, and breakfast meats and potatoes.  The lunch/dinner menu features salads, chicken, carved meats, and peel-and-eat shrimp. It’s a step up from some of the buffet character meals, but is nothing to write home about.
  • Location (5):  Magic Kingdom.  Being in the world’s most popular theme park makes this an easy stop for most guests.
  • Theme/Atmosphere (3):  The Crystal Palace seems befitting of a bit of grandeur that just isn’t present here, with a rather loud, open, and sometimes cramped, setting.

Overall Score: 15

#8 and #9 (Tie) – Trattoria al Forno and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ

Mickey comes in at 2 dining credits on the Disney Dining Plan, so the edge here goes to the Bon Voyage breakfast at the Boardwalk.

#8 Trattoria al Forno (Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast)

  • Meals Served:  Breakfast
  • Style:  Table Service
  • Characters (5):  This is Disney’s newest character meal offering and they score points for featuring two of the princes, neither of whom is found anywhere else in Disney World outside of special events and parties.  Ariel and Prince Eric along with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider visit your tables.  Ariel leads a “napkin parade” around the restaurant.  The interactions with the characters, since they can all talk, is also quite good.
  • Food (4):  You start with a plate of pastries and either a fruit salad or yogurt parfait, then you get a choice of an entrée with a fancy name like King Triton’s Shipwreck al Forno (a calzone filled with eggs, meats, and cheeses) and Tangled Eggs (eggs, gravy, breakfast potatoes, and bacon or sausage).  Having table service rather than the buffets of most character meals is a plus.
  • Location (3):  Disney’s Boardwalk Inn is a beautiful resort, but unless you are staying in an Epcot-area resort, getting there will take some time, either by taking a bus to Epcot and walking to World Showcase and out of the International Gateway to the Boardwalk or by getting directly to the Boardwalk by car.
  • Theme/Atmosphere (2):  This is an Italian restaurant for dinner, and the décor reflects that; the Disney characters don’t really fit in with the theme, so it loses points here.

Overall Score: 14

#9 Mickey’s Backyard BBQ (select nights, seasonal)

  • Meals Served:  Dinner
  • Style:  Buffet/Dinner Show
  • Characters (4):  Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Chip ‘n’ Dale are dressed up in their hoedown garb.  Chip ‘n’ Dale in particular are fun characters to meet, boosting this score up a bit.  The BBQ is also a dinner show, with a live country-western band entertaining everyone.  Those who book Category 1 seating get to meet the characters before the rest of the folks are admitted.
  • Food (3):  Fort Wilderness food is some of the tastiest on property if you’re into ribs, fried chicken, and corn-on-the-cob, and you get all that plus hamburgers and hot dogs at the Backyard BBQ.  Adults also get unlimited beer, wine, and sangria.  It’s served in a buffet in the hottest times of the year, however, so sometimes it’s difficult to have a hearty appetite in the heat and humidity.
  • Location (3):  Ft. Wilderness Campground itself is a beautiful place, and this barbeque fits in quite nicely.  Where it gets knocked down is in the length of time it takes to get there. If you drive your own car or take a ride share like Uber or Lyft, you will end in the main parking lot of Ft. Wilderness; from there, you take the internal bus to the other end of the property.  You can take a boat from Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary, or Wilderness Lodge; the dock is a short walk from the dining location.  From all other resorts, you must take bus or boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom and boat there, or take it to another theme park and transfer to a Ft. Wilderness bus.   The only way to get there using one form of transportation if you’re not staying at the Contemporary or Wilderness Lodge is to use a Minnie Van with its extra cost (Minnie Vans are the only form of transportation that can drive directly to this location within Ft. Wilderness.).
  • Theme/Atmosphere (4):  Other than the intense heat of the summer, the atmosphere of the outdoor BBQ is done very well.

Overall Score: 14

#10 Chef Mickey’s

  • Meals Served:  Breakfast, Brunch, Dinner
  • Style:  Buffet

Chef Mickey's Entrance

Location in the Contemporary Resort is the best thing going for Chef Mickey’s.

  • Characters (3):  Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto.  This is the only location where you get the Fab 5 all in one place, and here they are dressed in their kitchen garb.  Since you can meet these characters at a number of locations, I knock it down a peg.  This restaurant has also had problems in recent years with getting all characters to each table in a timely manner.
  • Food (2):  Food here is generally considered to be bland and uninspired. Breakfast features Mickey waffles and cheesy potato casserole; brunch has a combination of breakfast and dinner dishes; and dinner has peel & eat shrimp, a carving station, and kids’ macaroni and cheese.
  • Location (5): Disney’s Contemporary Resort.  The location is what sells Chef Mickey’s, as it is an easy walk from the Magic Kingdom and is on the monorail line.
  • Theme/Atmosphere (3):  Chef Mickey’s should be the ultimate experience.  You get the Fab 5 characters; you get the monorail running up above; there is a buzz about the whole place.  But there is something very plain about the overall execution and atmosphere that leaves me wanting it to be more than what it is.

Overall Score: 13

#11 Cape May Café (Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast)

  • Meals Served:  Breakfast Only (Dinner is not a character meal.)
  • Style:  Buffet
  • Characters (3):  Minnie, Donald, and Goofy in their bathing suits, which is cute, but with only 3 characters that you can meet all over Disney World, this scores lower with me.
  • Food (3):  You get your standard Disney breakfast buffet here with pastries, cheese, sliced meats, and Mickey waffles.  A lot of variety to please the masses, but nothing memorable.
  • Location (3): Disney’s Beach Club Resort is beautiful, but a bit of a pain to get to early in the morning unless you are staying at an Epcot-area resort, when it is an easy walk.  Getting here from other Disney resorts requires a bus to a theme park, then a transfer to Beach Club.  You are better off driving yourself or using a ride-share service like Uber, Lyft, or a Minnie Van.
  • Theme/Atmosphere (3):  The atmosphere of the Beach Club carries over nicely into their restaurant with pastels and beach items (umbrellas, beach chairs).

Overall Score: 12

#12 Hollywood & Vine

  • Meals Served:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
  • Style:  Buffet
  • Characters (3):  Breakfast is called Disney Jr. Play & Dine, and you can meet Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, Jake, and Handy Manny. This is the only character meal featuring Disney Jr. characters (though you can also meet most of them within Hollywood Studios).  Lunch and dinner features Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy in seasonal clothes, which is cool depending on the season, but you can meet these characters in many locations.

Jake at Hollywood and Vine

Meeting Jake at Hollywood & Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Food (2):  The menu here is uninspired, catering to the lowest common denominator.  An omelet station and pancakes/waffles at breakfast and salads and chicken and carved meats at lunch and dinner are Disney’s standard fare
  • Location (4): Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Being in a theme park makes this accessible, though not all families visit Hollywood Studios (at least until Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens!).
  • Theme/Atmosphere (2):  You are supposed to be in a diner-like restaurant in Hollywood, but the result is a fairly plain, run-of-the-mill restaurant with nothing memorable.  The mix of characters from different parts of the Disney company doesn’t compliment the theme either.

Overall Score: 11

Note:  Walt Disney World has two other character meals on property that are not reviewed here, as they are not Disney-operated and have limited availability:  Garden Grove at the Swan (character meals for dinner daily, breakfast on weekends only) and Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy and His Pals at Ravello at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando (Thursdays and Saturdays and Tuesdays during school breaks)

Do you agree with our character meal rankings?  Share your thoughts and experiences on Disney character meals in the comments below!

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