Disneyland Character Dining: Restaurant Reviews, Tips, Discounts
Last update December 18th 2016 Disneyland Character Dining is one of the quintessential experiences of a Disneyland vacation. During the character meal, different characters move from table to table mingling with the guests, signing autographs, and posing for pictures. Disneyland offers multiple character experiences centering around different themes. The different restaurants vary in serving style with some offering buffet service and others providing table service. The characters at each character dining meal are based on the overall theme of the restaurant.
Below you will find information on every Disneyland character dining experience, my top tips on how to get the most out of the characters at each of the Disneyland character meals, and how you can get at least 10% off the bill.
Should You Book a Disneyland Character Dining Meal?
Disneyland Character Dining is more expensive than other restaurants on resort property and more difficult to reserve. However, these character meals are the perfect way to meet quite a few characters without waiting in long lines inside the parks. You will also have much more quality time with the characters during the meals, because they spend quite a bit of time at each table.
Keep in mind that small children may be overwhelmed by characters who where masks. If you know this will be the case, I recommend either sticking with Ariel’s Grotto character dining which features princesses (no masks) or checking out some of the other non-character dining options.
Disneyland Character Dining Restaurants
Below you will find Disneyland Character Dining reviews of each restaurant explaining where the experience is located, what food they serve, which meals are offered, which characters you will find, and who will enjoy the meal options.
Each Disney Character Dining experience is graded as either premium or regular. Aside from a difference in price, these ratings simply define the difference in meals, with breakfast considered “regular.” Get Away Today, offers Disney-approved discount vouchers for Character Dining that will save you about 10%. These vouchers must be purchased in advance. If you choose to purchase a voucher, be sure to purchase the voucher that coincides with the Disneyland character dining you have reserved.
For more Disneyland money saving tips, be sure to join our Disney discounts email newsletter where we keep you updated on the most important discounts for your trip.
There are five character dining experiences throughout the Disneyland Resort. There is one located in each theme park and one in each hotel.
Ariel’s Disney Character Dining Princess Celebration
What do they serve? During the character meal, they serve three courses with an appetizer, main course, and dessert. This is the only Disneyland Character Dining that is not a buffet.
What meals do they serve? Breakfast and Lunch are served.
What characters are here? The Disney princesses are all out and about. Ariel will of course be floating around and expect to see a variety of other Disney princesses.
Who Should Go? This is the only non-buffet character meal at Disneyland, so I recommend this for anyone who wants to be served their food. This is especially recommended for anyone who has Disney princess fever.
What costs are involved? This restaurant is located inside Disney California Adventure. Guests must have park admission to dine in Ariel’s Grotto. Also, this Disneyland character dining experience is considered a “premium character dining experience.” If you purchase the discount voucher in advance, be sure to buy the premium one.
Pro Tip: There’s both an inside and outside patio at this restaurant. The outside patio looks out over the beautiful Paradise Bay area (you can see the patio with it’s blue awnings in the photo linked).
Goofy’s Kitchen at Disneyland Hotel
Where? In the Disneyland Hotel located just a couple steps from the lobby and next to Steakhouse 55.
What do they serve? Goofy’s Kitchen is a buffet style meal with food that appeals to kids and adults alike. The food changes between dinner and lunch. I highly recommend the peanut butter pizza.
Who should go? Everyone! This is our favorite Disney character meal. This meal can be a great mid-day break from visiting Disneyland. The best time to visit Goofy’s Kitchen is when you are celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or something else special. But, as Disney recently said, there is always something worth celebrating. Any visit to Goofy’s Kitchen is a good one.
What characters are here? Goofy’s Kitchen is home to Goofy and a variety of other random characters. In the past we have seen characters including Pluto, Baloo from the Jungle Book, Aladdin and Jasmine, Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Chip or Dale, and Pinocchio. In the evening, Minnie Mouse might be found here.
What costs are involved? This Disneyland character dining experience is a “premium character dining experience,” however it does not require park admission because it is located inside the Disneyland hotel. When purchasing your discount dining voucher, be sure to purchase the one marked “premium”.
Breakfast With Minnie and Friends–Disneyland Character Dining Breakfast
Where? Right off of the hub in Disneyland park, on the Tomorrowland side, at the Plaza Inn. (Must have theme park ticket to visit this character dining experience.)
What do they serve? The Plaza Inn serves a hot breakfast buffet, a step up from what you would find at a Doubletree or other hotel.
Who should go? Many people really like Breakfast With Minnie and Friends, but I would prefer to eat at one of the other character dining experiences. I would recommend eating at Chip and Dale’s Critter Breakfast for the same price instead. Remember though, the morning is the best time to get on attractions character breakfasts take up precious time. Checkout other character dining options on this page.
What characters are here? A whole mixture of characters can be found here including Minnie Mouse, Eeyore, Gepetto, Captain Hook, Genie, and Rafiki.
What costs are involved? This restaurant is located inside Disneyland Park and requires park admission. This Disneyland character dining experience is considered a “regular character dining experience” so be sure to buy the regular voucher before you go in order to save money.
Chip n’ Dale Critter Breakfast at Storyteller’s Cafe
What do they serve? Chip n’ Dale Critter Breakfast is a buffet style meal that has food that appeals to kids and adults alike. The buffet is great here. The best of the non-premium Disneyland Character Breakfasts. Great Caramel French Toast.
Who should go? This is the second best Disney character meal. It is a good idea to have an early breakfast here before hitting the parks or a late breakfast on the final day of your trip when you don’t purchase park admssion. The food and atmosphere is good for the entire family.
What characters are here? Chip n’ Dale Critter Breakfast is home to both Chip and Dale as well as all of the forest critters from the Disney universe. Characters that we have seen here in the past include Meeko from Pocahontas, Koda from Brother Bear, and Pluto.
What costs are involved? This Disneyland character dining experience is considered a “regular dining experience” and does not require park tickets as it is located in the Grand Californian Hotel. Be sure to buy the regular voucher if purchasing in advance.
Surf’s Up Mickey and Friends Character Breakfast
In recent months the experience at the Surf’s Up Mickey and Friends Character Breakfast has improved. Previously we did not recommend this Disneyland character dining experience at all, however the food and overall reviews have become increasingly positive.
What do they serve? This breakfast buffet features a wide variety of all of your favorite breakfast items but nothing extremely creative (try the Chip n’ Dale Critter Breakfast for much better food).
Who should go? This is the only breakfast where you can meet Mickey Mouse. This is a great reason to go, simply because you will avoid the long lines to meet Mickey Mouse in Toontown.
What characters are here? Surf’s Up Mickey and Friends breakfast features Mickey Mouse everyday and other characters from the fab five. Frequently you will find Minnie Mouse, Stitch, Daisy Duck, Goofy, and Pluto circulating the restaurant. Goofy is the least seen character here, as he has his own Disneyland character dining at the Disneyland hotel.
What costs are involved? This Disneyland character dining experience is listed as a “regular dining experience” and doesn’t require park tickets as it is located in the Paradise Pier Hotel. If you are purchasing vouchers in advance, be sure to purchase the “regular dining” voucher.
When to Enjoy a Disney Character Meal?
Schedule your Disney Character Dining as either a late breakfast or lunch. For years, our tradition was enjoying Goofy’s Kitchen to celebrate a birthday. On these days, we would go into the park early using Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning and then exit the park right around 9:30 or 10 am just as the huge crowds were arriving. As I tell you in our guide to maximizing your time at Disneyland, these first couple of hours in the parks are extremely valuable for riding the most popular attractions in the parks. Lunch is a perfect option to escape the crowds and weather during the busy months of the year. Actually, I always recommend booking a meal to escape the crowds.
Booking a Disneyland Character Dining Meal Voucher
First, make your reservation for your Disneyland character meal. Reservations are highly recommended for the character dining experiences. While I prefer to call–the number is (714) 781-3463–you can book all Disneyland restaurant reservations online. (See tip #7 below for other advice when booking.)
The only higher discount for dining comes with the purchase of the two top tier Disneyland annual passports where the passholder receives 15% off at most dining locations throughout the Disneyland Resort. (See info on the other Disneyland annual pass benefits at the bottom of our tickets page.)
The voucher is a great way to save money on your Disneyland vacation, so that you can spend that money in other places, like on awesome Disneyland souvenirs.
Exclusive Disneyland Discounts for MickeyVisit.com Readers
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9 Tips To Make the Most of Your Disney Character Dining Experience
These are a couple of my top tips to make the most of your character dining experience.
Respect The Character’s Time: Be on the lookout for the characters as they are coming around the room. If you see a character approaching, wait to take another trip to the buffet or restroom. Get ready for the character by having cameras on and autograph books out. The more you have ready, the more quality time you will have with the Disney character.
Autograph Book: Be sure to bring an autograph book with you to the character dining meal you choose. These books really engage your children and will have them looking forward to seeing each character. After purchasing the book, this is something free they can collect to really make the experience that much better. You can purchase a Disney autograph book in advance to save money over the prices charged at the parks. See all of our tips on souvenirs here.
Consider PhotoPass: You can read all of our review of PhotoPass here, but in essence, this system will allow you to purchase specific pictures with characters. A new PhotoPass package that includes all of the photos taken on your vacation is being rolled out slowly. Check in with the hostess at the restaurant to see how they are currently using PhotoPass at the restaurant.
Don’t Promise Any Character: The only characters that are guaranteed to appear at any one Disney Character Meal are the ones who the experience is named after. I don’t think I have ever been to Goofy’s Kitchen and not seen Goofy, but just in case, I wouldn’t get too excited about any one character.
Tell Them What You Want: Be sure to let the character know what photos and signatures you want from them right when they arrive at your table. This will ensure that they don’t leave before you have gotten all of those different groupings of people in photos and each autograph book signed.
Don’t Freeze Up: For some reason I will often freeze up around characters and just stop talking. Interact like it’s a regular conversation and join into the story with them. This is especially fun for the face characters who will get into big conversations with you. We have had quite fun conversations with Peter Pan and the Fairy Godmother once I loosened up.
Remind the Character If You Have Met: If you have met the character previously, remind them of your previous meetings. Ask them how they have been and really get the conversation going. This will start them along the path of checking in with you about how you have been since your last meeting.
Tell Your Waiter If You Are Celebrating Or Need Anything: Let your waiter know if you have any special circumstances. This can mean that you are enjoying a special occasion such as a birthday, anniversary, or first visit to the parks or could be that you need special care because of a certain allergy or food preference. In both of these situations, the restaurant staff will be especially helpful. Keep in mind that you can also make special notes when booking your dining reservations (info above).
Costumes Are Just Fine For Most: The character meal is the perfect time to break out the costume if your son or daughter wants to dress as their favorite characters. It can go either way, a majority of those in costume are young guests dressed like princesses. (Disneyland recently updated their costume rules to state that costumes are allowed for anyone under the age of 14.)
Bonus: If you are looking for any other specific characters, check out the Disneyland App, which is now available to track characters in the parks. This will help you to find characters you didn’t get to meet at your character meal.
Disneyland Dining and Other Restaurant Advice
The Disneyland Character Dining options listed above are just a few of the many different dining opportunities at the Disneyland Resort. Be sure to check out our full review page for all of the restaurants we recommend visiting in Disneyland.
To secure your reservation, you can visit Disneyland.com to see all avaliable restaurant times.