Disney World


Top 5 Disney World Character Meals for Babies and Toddlers

It’s no secret that there are countless character dining experiences to be had in Disney World.  They are located everywhere from Disney Resort Hotels to all 4 Disney Theme Parks.  But which ones will keep tots smiling while keeping their parents own sanity in check?  Check out the list below of my top 5 character dining picks for little ones!

The results were determined based on the following criteria:

Food Selection and Quality:  The variety of food choices and the overall quality of the food.

Please note:  In my opinion, Disney character meals serve decent food but the primary reason for booking any character meal is for the character interactions.  If your main objective is to dine on exceptional cuisine then you should consider one of Disney’s non-character dining options instead.

Characters:  The characters that will you see and their level of interactivity.

Dining Style:  Disney Character Meals feature two types of dining experiences:  Buffet style and Family style.  I find family style to be a lot more enjoyable when traveling with little ones.  Buffets add another layer of complexity to your dining experience when dining with babies and toddlers. Getting up repeatedly to wait in line and then trying to maneuver through a crowded restaurant balancing plates with either tots in tow or with them screaming for you across the restaurant can suck all the fun from your dining experience.

  1. Akershus – Princess Storybook Breakfast
    Norway Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase  

    Akershus features a family style breakfast with the Disney princesses.  Typically the experience features a total of 4 princesses.  The princesses who appear will vary but will often include some combination of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, and Ariel among others.  The princesses each spend a good amount of time at each table and do not rush.  The food itself is absolutely delicious.  From scrambled eggs to bacon to sausage to breakfast potatoes to breads, Akershus is a breakfast lovers dream. Akershus brings its breakfast fare to your table in a cast iron skillet and the food is all you care to enjoy.   In other words, after each skillet is devoured, another one is then brought to you in its place.  There is also a cold item buffet that you can visit in addition to Akershus’ family style offerings.

    From a food and ambiance perspective, this is a wonderful character meal.  It also provides the ease and convenience of family style dining.  Typically, little ones are more into fur characters rather than the princesses at this age which is why Akershus only lands at number 5.  It is truly a wonderful character breakfast and I would have ranked it much higher for girls between the ages of 4 and 10 for example.  Please note that characters only appear during breakfast.

  2. Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

    Chef Mickey’s features the big five characters:  Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto. Getting to see virtually the entire main cast of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in one place is beyond huge for the preschool crowd.  The theming of Chef Mickey’s is equally adorable. All characters are dressed in chef themed attire.  Chef Mickey’s serves breakfast, brunch, and dinner.  All buffets are massive.  Breakfast includes eggs, bacon, sausage, french toast, pancakes, biscuits, breakfast potatoes and more.  For brunch, they serve shrimp, corned beef hash, baked salmon, mango BBQ pork ribs and more.  For the dinner buffet, you will enjoy seasonal salads, braised short ribs, Mickey’s cheese ravioli, eggplant Parmesan,  carved meats, and more.  A great and adorable feature at Chef Mickey’s is their children’s height buffet featuring kid favorites like chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, corn dogs, pizza, and meatballs.  Assorted fruits and dessert selections are available on all buffets.

    Although many people do love the food at Chef Mickey’s, I consider the buffet average at best.   Also, due to the characters it features, Chef Mickey’s is an extremely popular with many and as a result is often very crowded.  Therefore, it is hard to maneuver and it takes a while to get your food and get situated at your table when dining with young children. Chef Mickey’s large crowds often keep the character interaction to a minimum.  Characters will only come to your table once and if the restaurant is exceptionally busy, they will not stay very long.  The characters do dance around the restaurant often twirling napkins and they encourage the kids to join in the fun.  However, this activity is a little too advanced for little ones unless parents join in with them.  Chef Mickey’s lands at number 4 mostly due to the characters. They are all there.  It’s true one-stop magic.

  3. The Crystal Palace – Dine with Winnie The Pooh and Friends at The Magic Kingdom

    It’s no secret that most little ones love Winnie and Pooh and friends and at the Crystal Palace, they can see and interact with these characters right up close.  Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet make the rounds during breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Magic Kingdom’s only character dining spot (besides dinner at Be Our Guest which features the Beast).  Given it’s location, dining at the Crystal Palace provides a great break from the nonstop action of the Magic Kingdom park. Conversely, however,  if it’s a crowded day in the Magic Kingdom, it will probably also be crowded at the Crystal Palace too which might make for a less than stellar experience.

    The characters each come around to your table one at a time and the servers do a great job working with the characters to ensure that each character visits your table before your meal is completed.  Character visits did not feel rushed and each character spent enough time at our table for hugs and pictures.

    The food is at the Crystal Palace is pretty good.  At breakfast, diners enjoy scrambled eggs, made to order omelets, bacon, sausage, breakfast potatoes, assorted cereals, fruits, pastries, and breads.  At lunch and dinner, they serve an array of salads, soups, breads, vegetable side dishes, peel and eat shrimp, chicken, fish, and carved meats along with assorted desserts.

  4. The Garden Grill – Chip and Dale’s Harvest Feast at the Land Pavilion in Epcot (B,L, or D)

    The Garden Grill is seriously wonderful and could have easily been my top pick.  The Garden Grill is a rotating restaurant on the top floor of the Land Pavilion.  If you do not like movement, sit on the top inner portion of the restaurant.  In this location you will not feel the restaurant’s rotation.  If movement does not bother you, consider sitting on the lower portion towards the outer perimeter of the restaurant so you can catch glimpses of the Land boat ride which operates just below the restaurant.

    Chip and Dale’s Harvest Feast features Chip, Dale, Mickey, and Pluto.  To keep with the theming of the pavilion along with the fact that many of the ingredients come fresh from the Land’s own onsite greenhouses, all of the characters are dressed in farmer’s attire.  From a character interaction standpoint, this is the best character meal at Walt Disney World because the characters come to your table multiple times each.  I think during our visit we at least saw each character three times which is pretty much unheard of.  I think this is in part to the rotating restaurant concept as they want to ensure that each character visits every table, the rotation literally keeps them moving, and because the restaurant, unlike the more popular character meal options, is rarely overcrowded.  If you were to book just one character meal to attend with your baby or toddler, I would choose this one even over my top pick because of the amazing character experience.

    The food at Garden Grill is really very good.  Like Akershus, the food is all you care to enjoy and is served family style in a cast iron skillet.  Breakfast features eggs, bacon, ham, fresh fruit, sticky buns, breakfast potatoes, and Mickey Waffles.  At lunch and dinner you can enjoy bread and salad before your meal while your main course consists of beef filet, turkey with gravy, and a seasonal fish all paired with garden fresh vegetables, mashed potatoes, sweet potato fries, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, rice pilaf, and then dessert.

  5. ‘Ohana – Breakfast with Lilo and Stitch – Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

    ‘Ohana gets the nod as my very favorite character dining experience in Walt Disney World.  I rated ‘Ohana number one because of the all around ambiance of Disney’s Polynesian.  Due to it’s south seas theming, the all-around pace of the resort is slower than the hustle and bustle that surrounds many of the other character meals.  It’s relaxing setting, friendly waitstaff, and adorable characters make the experience a real can’t miss.

    ‘Ohana is also another family style character dining experience so you do not have a buffet to contend with.  The food is equally as delicious as the other family style breakfast options – Akershus and the Garden Grill.  They offer scrambled eggs,  bacon, sausage, breakfast potatoes, Mickey and Stitch Waffles, seasonal fresh fruit, and their famous pineapple coconut bread.

    The characters are wonderful at ‘Ohana as well.  Mickey, Pluto, Lilo, and Stitch will each visit your table dressed in their best Hawaiian themed apparel.  They each spent a good amount of time with us.   They also danced around the restaurant and encouraged the kids at each table to join in.  ‘Ohana was a really great experience that both little ones and adults could equally enjoy.   Please note that characters only appear during breakfast.

Honorable Mention:

  • Hollywood & Vine – Minnie’s Seasonal Dine – Disney’s Hollywood Studios

    Hollywood & Vine offers dining with the Disney Jr. characters for breakfast.  These characters will also be featured at lunch through the beginning of September.  However, these characters may or may not be a big hit with the under 3 crowd,  My children are 2 1/2 and so far they only watch the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse so we have yet to go to the Disney Jr. character meal.  We did however go to an early dinner featuring Minnie’s Seasonal Dine at Hollywood & Vine and really enjoyed it.

    Minnie’s Seasonal Dine is offered at dinner and will also be offered at lunch beginning in early September.  Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, and Pluto are all in attendance at Minnie’s Seasonal Dine.  Unlike other Disney character dining experiences, Minnie’s Seasonal Dine is themed based upon the time of year in which you visit. Themes include: Minnie’s Silver Screen Dine, Minnie’s Springtime Dine, Minnie’s Summertime Dine , Minnie’s Halloween Dine, and Minnie’s Holiday Dine.  Character dress is dependent upon the theme / time of year.  We attended during the holidays and it was truly adorable to see the characters all dressed up for the holidays and a great opportunity to see all of these beloved characters in one place.

    The food was your standard Disney buffet fare and included ham, turkey, shrimp, flank steak, various side dishes, and desserts.  This character meal was a little more expensive than the others probably due to the great theming and because all of the core characters are in attendance.

No matter which character meal you choose in Disney, you and your toddlers are in for a real treat.  There is nothing more magical than seeing little ones’ faces light up when Mickey and friends visit your table.  However, some little ones don’t always love the characters.  If this is your little one’s first trip, try to book a character meal 48 hours after meeting your first character in the park.  Meeting a character in a place where it is easy to cut an interaction short if the child is not receptive to it, is best.  If the little one isn’t loving the characters, you can cancel any advanced dining reservations 48 hours or more ahead of time without penalty.

Staying Healthy in Disney World Even With Toddlers

Full disclosure… I am a bit of germaphobe.  Things like cleansing wipes, hand-sanitizer and even regular good ol’ bar soap kind of excite me.  Is that weird?  Kind of.  But I know that I am not alone in my love for all that is clean.  Plus, no one wants to have their vacation ruined by a bad cold or the dreaded stomach bug if they can help it.  Therefore, I am sharing my germ prevention tips for travel.

First of all, the norovirus, which is more popularly referred to as the stomach bug, is most prevalent from November through April.  Therefore, if you travel during the winter months you have a higher probability of catching it than if you travel during other times of the year.  Also, colds and other viruses run more rampant during the winter months as well.  This is something to keep in mind when choosing dates for your vacation especially if you are traveling with small children and have a flexible travel schedule.

Although Disney World is impeccably clean when compared to other theme park and resort destinations, it is still visited by thousands of people each day; a handful of whom are sick.  This, combined with the fact that children touch everything in their field of view and babies and toddlers put anything not bolted to the floor into their mouths, often leads to the passing of nasty germs.

When planning your trip, checkout Disney’s crowd calendars.  Sites such as Undercover Tourist are great resources to see when peak crowds visit the park.  Obviously, the higher the attendance, the higher the potential that there will be more sick people in attendance.

But no matter when you travel to Disney World or anywhere else for that matter, there is a potential for someone in your party to catch something which will make even the happiest place on earth a lot less so.  Therefore, to combat this as much as humanly possible, I pack some germ fighting items in my purse, carry-on, and in another easily accessible locations.  I also pack additional reinforcements of these same items in my checked baggage so I can have more available once we arrive.

Germ Fighting Product Arsenal: 
The links below are affiliate links.

Bottle of Hand-Sanitizer (less than 3oz to meet airport security standards) such as:

For adult use (or for those older than a toddler) to quickly clean hands before handling food, after a diaper change, etc.

Small packet of toddler hand sanitizing wipes such as:

For use when children touch dirty surfaces and prior to meals, etc.

Small packet of surface cleaning wipes such as:

To clean airline seat area:  tray table, arm rests, air vents, etc.

I also use them to quickly clean hotel room surfaces upon arrival such as:

  • Counter tops / dressers
  • Door knobs
  • Faucets and knobs on the sink and shower
  • Remote control
  • Phone(s)
  • Complimentary pen
  • Tables, chairs – basically any hard surface that I can

I will also take extra packets with me to the parks and pull them out to clean table surfaces, and high chairs at restaurants before mealtime.

Obviously, following these methods will not eliminate the possibility of getting sick on your vacation but being a little vigilant will definitely reduce your risk thereby increasing you’re opportunity to focus on the fun.

Disney’s Magical Express with Toddlers

Disney’s Magical Express® is a complimentary service that Disney provides to transport resort guests from the Orlando International Airport to their Disney resort hotel upon arrival and back from their Disney resort hotel to the airport upon departure.

Guests staying at any hotel that is owned and operated by Disney may use the Disney Magical Express® service.  There are some hotels that are located on Disney property but are not owned and operated by Disney so these resort guests cannot use Magical Express. These resorts include the Swan, Dolphin, the hotels across the street from Disney Springs, and Shades of Green.

I am truly an advocate of using Disney’s Magical Express® service for numerous reasons in general but I feel that it is imperative to use the service if you are traveling with toddlers / small children.

Advantages of Disney’s Magical Express® when Traveling with Small Children

  1. You Don’t have to Rent a Car.  If you use Disney’s Magical Express®, there is really no need to a rent car thereby saving you hundreds of dollars that you can and will spend on other things in “the world” including but not limited to character dining, park admission, and souvenirs.
  2. No Car Seat Installation.  Rental car companies require drivers by law to install car seats into rental cars, themselves.  So with Magical Express®, you do not have to fiddle around with installing a car seat model that you are unfamiliar with in the often, very hot, parking garage at the Orlando International Airport.  The Magical Express® is a coach bus and young children are allowed to sit on your lap – so easy!
  3. There’s no chance of getting lost.  Your brain can literally be on autopilot at least from a navigation standpoint.  If you do not know the Orlando area, you do not have to learn it.  Your Magical Express® driver definitely knows the way.
  4. You Don’t Have to Carry your Luggage.  Small children do not travel light.  With Magical Express® you receive yellow luggage tags that Disney will mail to you approximately 2 weeks before your vacation.Disney Magical Express Luggage Tags
    • You place these yellow luggage tags onto your checked baggage.  Then you just drop that baggage at the luggage counter in your departure city and it is magically delivered to your resort hotel room for you.  This process allows you to completely bypass the baggage claim in the Orlando Airport all together.
    • You do not have to do the balancing act of holding your child or your child’s hand while simultaneously dragging 8 pieces of luggage behind you.
    • Then before you head home, your bags can be checked right at your Disney hotel and you do not have to deal with them until you arrive back at your home airport – avoiding the balancing act yet again!

Although I am an advocate of Magical Express®, Disney obviously created the service to keep you “hostage”- meaning that once you arrive on property, you are probably there to stay and therefore spend all of your vacation dollars at Disney.  Conversely, rental cars give hotel guests the freedom of enjoying a meal outside of Disney or hitting up one of the other non-Disney theme parks.  So, if Disney isn’t your only destination, you might consider not using the service and renting your own car.

Personally I love being on Disney property and with two toddlers under 3, it’s wonderful to just get there, stay there, and not have to lug around your bags. Plus, Disney has every mode of transportation available – from bus to boat to monorail – to take you anywhere you’d like to go within its 41 square miles of magic so I wouldn’t dream of not using it.