So, there are about a million restaurants at Disney World (slight exaggeration I know…) all catering for your culinary desires, well most peoples anyway (even food allergies are really well taken care of). So which ones are best? This is our family’s quick guide to our top 5 character restaurants across the whole of Walt Disney World to help you get started and hopefully help you decide where to eat with the kids no matter where you are during your vacation. I will follow up with separate posts on fine dining, table service and quick service but thought it best to start with the ones which the kids are most interested in!
This list is based on quality of food (in our humble opinion), decor, experience and fun. But mostly fun! Almost every location is either buffet or family style…while this is largely due to this being common across Disney World it is also because this kind of dining for us is the perfect type for kids. A large selection of food and no waiting around trying to keep everyone entertained…if someone’s hungry then you can feed them with something they will like, and quick…moms we all know how important that is!
As a note that I know can be extremely important to some, if you have anyone in your party with food allergies then it is best to tell them at the time of reserving and also upon arrival at the restaurant. The chef personally comes out to the table at the start of the meal and runs through all of the menu items with you.
Warning! We haven’t factored in how much they cost, Disney World is generally expensive for dining (and everything else) especially character dining and these restaurants are the best in our view and that usually comes at a price, be prepared to spend around $130 for a family of 4… My best advice, reserve as far in advance as possible as there are a lot of little princesses and little Mickey fans who are keen to join in the character dining fun! In reverse and in a very particular order:
No.5 Akershus @Epcot
Located in Norway which is approximately half way around World Traveller Showcase at Epcot is this Scandinavian eatery with an appetizer buffet and limited selection of table service mains. The food is Nordic fare, so think fishy and raw for the appetizers and hearty for the entree. Our family are not big fans and based on the food this would not make our top restaurants – so why the top 5 listing? Simple really, this is the only princess themed restaurant outside of the insanely overpriced Cinderella’s castle (which did not make our top 5 because of the cost, service, crazy wait times and not great food to match…yep, we’ve tried a few times..)!
The Princess Storybook dining at Akershus guarantees HUGE smiles from little princesses and there are few things cuter than watching your baby girl walking hand in hand with a REAL princess in the princess parade! There is a photo opportunity, usually with Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty) or Belle at the entrance and be prepared to queue outside for your table to be ready for about 15 minutes or so but its worth it.
No.4 Garden grill @Epcot
The food here is family style with a fish dish, meat dish entree and a delicious dessert. The kids tend to enjoy eating their kids friendly meal and try some of moms and dads even if it consists of things that they might not ordinarily try, like catfish, which is great. The food is also sustainable, grown at Epcot including the fish which come from the fish farms located on site (or so we have been told)…pretty awesome…great after a ride on Living with the Land…educational fun and it links in with dinner as you see the vegetables and fish…! The character dining experience is also great. Mickey and Pluto are here (aren’t they everythere?) but the big draw is Chip and Dale in attendance. These cheeky chipmunks are only too happy to play peak a boo and to generally get smiles out of kids young and old.
It’s fun, no doubt. This is a revolving restaurant and half of it is open to the crowds of Epcot but don’t worry this is a very slow revolving restaurant…no Thunder Mountain speeds here! Great news, this used to only open at 4pm but it is now open for breakfast and lunch as well…this makes planning so much easier and the chances of getting a table so much greater. This always used to be a tricky one for availability!
No.3 Ohana @The Polynesian
Ohana places in our top 5 character and also table service as it rather uniquely has both character and non-character dining options and whichever you choose will be fantastic! Breakfast at Ohana is all about two people… LILO and Stitch! Along with Mickey and Pluto these two will make boys, girls young and old happy as anything. Watch out for Stitch though, he’s a playful one! They also let the kids participate in games around the restaurant which is great fun. Food is family style with probably the best sausages at Disney World, usual breakfast favourites like bacon, waffles and potato wedges are also here but fruit and pineapple bread add a nice freshness to the menu…feeling hungry?
No.2 1900 Park Fare @ The Grand Floridian
For us this is classic Disney and it is the first place we stop by for a bite at Disney World. Few things are better than breakfast with Pooh, Tigger, Alice, the Mad Hatter and Mary Poppins. Food is buffet style with everything you could want from waffles, strawberries, bacon, omelettes made to order etc.
For dinner the cast changes and the theme is cinderella’s ball complete with Prince Charming the evil stepmother and the ugly sisters. This is when things get very fun and the acting up brings out the smiles in mischievous little minds! Prince Charming might ask a little princess to join him for a dance while a young prince waltzes with Cinders. There’s a great video of my son Cam being very coy when he was asked to dance with…the evil stepmother…but I have been sworn to never show it in public! The food and atmosphere is great at this truly classic Disney location.
And the winner is….
1 Chef Mickeys @ The Contemporary
Both my kids fully agree (mom and dad celebrated the momentous occasion… 🙂 that this character dining experience at the Contemporary Resort is THE best restaurant at Disney World. The characters are the same in the morning and the evening, the food hardly ever changes and it takes longer to eat here than almost anywhere else, but the simple fact that Goofy, Donald and Minnie join Pluto and Mickey means the kids couldn’t care less.
They are happy and that is all that matters quite honestly! Seeing the smiles beaming… hugs and even the daddy kid taking selfies with Goofy is just too good not to visit at least once each trip. The food is actually quite good with beef and mashed potatoes satisfying the big kid and the selection of seafood, pizza and chicken is popular with the little ones. If you don’t have a reservation then try to turn up as soon as it opens for a walk up otherwise you are likely to be disappointed.
And that’s it – our top 5 character dining restaurants at Disney world. Have fun and let us know what would make your top 5…x♥x