Character meals are special experiences offered at various restaurants throughout the Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts that allow guests to enjoy a meal while interacting with characters. Characters and food?! What’s not to love, right? Let’s take a closer look at three of my favorite character meals.
The Classic: The Crystal Palace
When I was a child, my family loved to eat at The Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom, so naturally this is where I take my own daughters. This character meal features friends from the Hundred Acre Wood: almost always Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger. The restaurant is located just past Main Street, and the décor is Victorian in style with vaulted ceilings and many windows overlooking Cinderella Castle and Adventureland.
This meal features a buffet with a wide variety of standard fare: various egg, potato, and meat dishes at breakfast, plus the famous Mickey waffles; rotisserie meats and extensive salad selections at lunch and dinner; and a wide range of desserts starting at 11:00 a.m. Servers bring drinks to your table and clear your empty plates, but no food is delivered to your table. This has always been an “above average” buffet when I compare it to non-Disney restaurants, but its quality seems to be slightly below average when compared to other Disney buffets, such as 1900 Park Fare or Hollywood and Vine. Even so, everyone will find something that they like.
I always tell my daughters that Pooh and his friends have to save their voices for when they sing, so they can’t talk at The Crystal Palace. That shouldn’t keep you from talking to them, though! Tigger is especially fun because he loves to watch you bounce, and he is always grateful if you can spell his name (T-I-double-guh-er). The characters here are in constant rotation, and they even lead a Friendship Day Parade for the little ones who have enough energy to march. Even if you don’t have kids, these characters can make you feel young at heart, especially because this is the only place to meet all four Winnie the Pooh characters in the same location.
This character meal costs one Table-Service meal credit on the Disney Dining Plan, but this does not include gratuity. If you pay out of pocket, costs will vary from $15.99 for a kid’s breakfast to $59.99 for an adult’s dinner, but this price can vary according to the meal (breakfast is cheaper) and season. Discounts are available for Tables in Wonderland and occasionally for DVC members or Annual Passholders, so ask your server or check online before you go.
This is a great restaurant for kids. They can meet some of their favorite, most huggable characters and get to choose exactly which chicken nugget they want. It is not as enjoyable for adults with kids because it is, in a word, exhausting. You have to time trips to the buffet with characters coming to your table (“Let’s wait for Piglet before we get seconds!”), and you have to serve your kids and yourself. There is little time to relax and almost no time to interact with your family. That said, it is in a convenient location, and it offers a lot of food for the price, so it is still an appealing place to eat.
The Splurge: Cinderella’s Royal Table
This has the swankiest location in all of Walt Disney World: inside Cinderella Castle! Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds. It also boasts real china and excellent service in an elegant, Medieval-inspired setting. Upon entering the castle, you will be greeted by Cinderella herself before being called to the upstairs dining room. Unlike The Crystal Palace, you can stay seated for your entire meal while four other princesses, usually some combination of Ariel, Rapunzel, Jasmine, Aurora, and Snow White (not Tiana because apparently her dress is too big to fit between the tables), greet you tableside.
Cinderella’s Table is fine dining, at least by character meal standards. Each meal comes with three courses: an appetizer, entrée, and dessert, but none of them are ordinary. My starter salad came with a poached egg over exotic greens, and my daughters both chose decorate-your-own cupcakes for dessert. The menu changes seasonally, and there is a significant difference between the food options offered for breakfast and afternoon meals. Even if you research a menu online in advance, there is a good chance that it will be different on the day of your reservation. Also remember that everything is individually prepared, so the staff can more easily accommodate allergies and specific requests.
In the dining hall, each princess enters with a fanfare and a twirl. The princesses spend a fair amount of time with each guest, even with honeymooners who are sometimes reluctant to enter into conversation, and they tend to spend more time with their biggest fans (like my daughters who LOVE Rapunzel). The interaction can feel slightly rushed, but it is more personable than a traditional meet-and-greet. There is also a special “wishing ceremony” in which guests hold up a special wishing star as lights twinkle. Each diner is presented with a sword or wand, too (these tend to be distributed according to gender stereotypes, but my oldest daughter did ask for a sword). This is a great place to get autographs without spending thirty or more minutes standing in line.
Unlike most other character meals, Cinderella’s Royal Table costs two Table-Service meal credits on the Disney Dining Plan. Prices range from $35 for a child’s breakfast to “$$$$ (over $60 per adult),” according to the WDW website, and these prices can vary throughout the year. The price includes gratuity, and it is also part of Tables in Wonderland. I have never seen a DVC or AP discount and cannot find proof that one has ever been offered. Yes, this is the most expensive character meal at Walt Disney World.
If you want a fancy restaurant that boasts an incomparable dining experience in the heart of the Magic Kingdom, then this is the place to go. If you love eating hot dogs while you watch birds outside of Casey’s Corner, then you may want to spend your Table-Service credits or money elsewhere. This is a great opportunity to meet princesses and actually go inside Cinderella Castle, but it’s not the only place to eat with royalty.
The Newbie: Bon Voyage Breakfast
A few years ago, the only princess meals were at Cinderella’s Royal Table and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. Now, there is a third option. The Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort opened on April 2, 2017, and it is my family’s new favorite. The décor is simple and reminiscent of a small town Italian restaurant, and it is not in a theme park (you can walk there from the back entrance of Epcot), but it has the best combination of food and character interactions. Not only will you meet two princesses, Ariel and Rapunzel, you also get to meet Prince Eric and Flynn Rider (aka Eugene), who are not regulars at Walt Disney World.
All of the food is served at your table, so you will not need to get up to get your meals. The menu is also entirely themed according to Tangled and The Little Mermaid. The first course consists of a frying pan (yes, a frying pan) full of pastries, plus individual bowls of fresh fruit. Next come your entrees, which vary from a tower of fluffy pancakes to a breakfast calzone (remember that this is an Italian restaurant). This is not your ordinary breakfast, but it is sure to delight even the pickiest children with meals like steak and eggs with the egg shaped like a fish. By far, this was our favorite food, even though it lacked the variety and elegance of the previous restaurants.
My daughters expressed their disinterest in Prince Eric and Flynn Rider before the meal, but they warmed to them quite quickly. Eric shared a long conversation with my youngest daughter, who was dressed like Ariel, in which they both expressed their love for the princess. Flynn also got into an appropriately cynical debate with my oldest daughter about whether Pascal was a frog or a chameleon (he never agreed that it was a chameleon). The princesses were kind, as always, but my daughters actually preferred interacting with their beaus. This whole experience felt much less rushed, perhaps because there are only three “performances,” or rather seatings, per day; this means that the characters only make three laps around the restaurant each morning. In addition to the table-side greetings, children can also participate in a parade around the restaurant. Interestingly, there were quite a few child-less adults who were obviously there to meet the characters, unlike at Cinderella’s Royal Table, where many adults go only to enjoy the food and atmosphere; in other words, children are not required at this or any other character meal.
This will cost one Table-Service credit or $15 to $35 per meal, but I expect this price will go up based on its current popularity. It is eligible for Tables in Wonderland, but it is not currently included in any DVC or AP discounts. Gratuity is extra.
This is, without a doubt, my family’s favorite character meal – ever. We had plenty of time to talk with each other and relax while we enjoyed our food, and the character interactions far exceeded anything we have experienced at other restaurants. This is a new character meal, so there are bound to be changes, but hopefully the Bon Voyage Breakfast will continue to be exceptional.
Both of the princess meals require reservations to be made online at the chime of 6:00 a.m. Eastern time 180 days before your trip. I have been able to get reservations at The Crystal Palace closer to my vacation, but you may not get your most desired time if you wait too long.
If you want dessert with your breakfast, try making a reservation at The Crystal Palace at 10:30 a.m. If you want to walk down Main Street before the morning crowds, then try to get an early morning, pre-park opening reservation at either Magic Kingdom restaurant. If you have a car, you can park at the Boardwalk Resort on the day of your reservation and walk into Epcot via the World Showcase entrance after your Bon Voyage Breakfast.
Remember to bring autograph books, too! It is also fun to get fabric markers for characters to sign T-shirts or pillowcases, but always bring a piece of cardboard or a clipboard for the characters to use when signing them.
Also bring your camera because there are no PhotoPass photographers in any character meal dining area.