The cost of character dining experiences is actually something that has been gradually going up over the course of the last several weeks. Some shot up with other menus this week, but others quietly increased before the end of the fiscal year, while others changed when they’re furry friends returned. Anyway, here’s a rundown of what we’ve seen with character meal prices at Walt Disney World.
Let’s start with Crystal Palace, which was the first restaurant to increase its prices late last month. In fairness, it was Crystal Palace: A Buffet with Characters featuring Winnie the Pooh and Friends that introduced higher pricing, not vanilla Crystal Palace. Meaning that the buffet was cheaper as a non-character meal.
This is no surprise. When Crystal Palace reopened, its price actually decreased as compared to pre-closure. Lowering prices is not “a thing” that Disney does, and it was honestly slightly surprising to see it happen even with characters removed. Obviously, it made sense–the character component represents a significant portion of the meal’s value. But the idea of Disney actually dropping the price to keep it commensurate with the experience was still one of those “I’ll believe it when I see it” type of things. And to Disney’s credit, I did see it.
In any case, it thus makes sense that Walt Disney World would increase the cost of Crystal Palace when restoring “A Buffet with Characters featuring Winnie the Pooh and Friends.” Crystal Palace was priced at $39 per adult and $23 per child before characters returned. With the return of Winnie the Pooh and his posse, lunch and dinner now cost $59 per adult and $38 per child.
That’s an increase of $20 per adult and $15 per child. To put that into perspective, Crystal Palace: A Buffet with Character cost $55 per adult and $36 per child pre-closure. Honestly, I’m of two minds about this. It had been a while since we had done the character dining at Crystal Palace because we thought the pricing was obscene before, especially relative to quality.
Selfishly, I wish they would’ve kept Crystal Palace character-free. The price was fair, it was nice to have a buffet without characters, and the Victorian setting is serene and at its best without Pooh and co. prancing around. However, I realize this is Magic Kingdom and the restaurant is more popular with characters. Not everything needs to cater to me, personally.
With that in mind, I don’t think a few dollars more after nearly 3 years amidst historic inflation is really that bad. In short, it’s the “before” price with which I take issue, not the increase at Crystal Palace: A Buffet with Character.
Next up is Cinderella’s Royal Table, which is still not technically a character dining experience right now. Previously, Cinderella greeted guests downstairs and a few other visiting princesses roamed the main dining room, making the rounds for photos. None of the other princesses have returned to the dining room, which we’ve heard is because Walt Disney World is currently experiencing a pronounced ‘princess shortage.’ (Not to ruin the illusion or anything.)
Now, Cinderella once again greets guests downstairs, and there’s still no PhotoPass (to my knowledge). Since it’s not technically a character dining experience, nothing is guaranteed–meeting or seeing Cinderella is considered a bonus.
Upon reopening, lunch and dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table cost $62 for adults and $37 for children ages 9 and younger.
With the latest price increase, these same meals are now priced at $67 per adult and $39 per child. This puts the prix fixe meal on par with Be Our Guest Restaurant, the other “in-castle” dining option in Magic Kingdom.
On top of this, various premium cocktails, wine, and other alcoholic beverages have also gone up. We won’t fixate on this, as it’s already covered in our last post about hundreds of price increases. Nevertheless, expect to pay $.50 to $3 more for drinks at Cinderella’s Royal Table, should you order anything that isn’t included in the flat-rate prix fixe price.
Again, this is another instance of Walt Disney World reducing the price due to the lack of characters. Pre-closure, the cost of Cinderella’s Royal Table was an eye-popping $75 per adult and $45 per child for both lunch and dinner.
That was actually a relatively insignificant price decrease, if you ask me. It’s safe to say that most Walt Disney World guests booking this restaurant would rather pay ~$10 extra for a dining room filled with royalty. While we love doing in-castle dining…it’s not worth $62 or $67 per person for us. (I really wonder what percentage of families still book this expecting princesses.)
Nearby, the aforementioned Be Our Guest Restaurant has also raised the price of dining inside Beast’s Castle.
It’s literally the exact same story as Cinderella’s Royal Table, with a before cost of $62 per adult and $37 per child, and an after cost of $67 per adult and $39 per child. That price doesn’t include gratuity or tax. Similar to Cinderella’s Royal Table, this restaurant has one character appearance. Also similar to CRT, booze prices have increased at BOG.
It’s a polarizing place, but Be Our Guest is still our #2 restaurant in Magic Kingdom. That’s not the highest of praise given the (lack of) competition, but we think it gets disproportionate hate. A lot of that is driven by popularity and sky-high expectations due to ADR availability. If you take that away, it’s an above-average Walt Disney World restaurant. (That can be excellent if you order the filet and get a good cut that’s properly-cooked.)
Total aside, but it’s pretty wild to me that only a few years ago, people were able to do dinner inside Beast’s Castle and order only a cupcake. Not just that, but that this was a known problem for a long time, and it Walt Disney World several years to do anything about it.
(File this under “why we can’t have nice things.” It’s also the explanation the next time you’re wondering why another prix fixe menu is replacing an a la carte one.)
From Magic Kingdom, we take a quick stroll (or monorail ride) over to Disney’s Contemporary Resort. In the Grand Canyon Concourse, the flagship character dining experience has seen another change, as prices have gone up at Chef Mickey’s.
Breakfast at Chef Mickey’s now costs $45 per adult, up from $42, and $29 per child, up from $27. That’s an increase of $3 and $2, respectively. As with other restaurants, smoothies and other specialty drinks have also gone up in price by $.50 to a couple dollars each.
Dinner at Chef Mickey’s has also now been increased to $60 per adult (up from $55) and $38 per child (up from $36). Interestingly, this is $1 more expensive than other similarly-situated character meals for adults…but not for kids. (Interesting to me…maybe not to you.)
Continuing around Bay Lake to another Magic Kingdom area resort, we arrive at the insanely popular Story Book Dining at Artist Point with Snow White. This Wilderness Lodge character dining experience serving dinner features Show White, Dopey, Grumpy, and the Evil Queen.
While it’s difficult to quantify, I would say that Story Book Dining at Artist Point with Snow White is the most popular character meal and toughest Advance Dining Reservation in all of Walt Disney World. Subjectively, I would also contend that Story Book Dining at Artist Point is the best character dinner (distinguished from breakfast or lunch–a total cop out by me) in all of Walt Disney World.
It’s thus unsurprising that Storybook Dining also just received a price increase.
Previously, the cost was $60 for adults and $39 for kids at Story Book Dining with Snow White and friends (and enemy). Now, the adult price has increased to $65 (children have been spared the wrath of the Evil Queen Chapek…for now).
Honestly, not going to share my commentary about this price increase just in case anyone from Walt Disney World is reading. Don’t want to give anyone any ideas. I’ve probably already said too much. (Objectively, $65 is much more than Roaring Fork, Whispering Canyon Cafe, and Geyser Point cost. So using those as benchmarks…perhaps Walt Disney World should lower the price at Artist Point!)
Breakfast à la Art with Mickey & Friends at Topolino’s Terrace — Flavors of the Riviera (say that full name five times fast…or even slowly!) previously costs $42 per adult or $27 per child. It has gone up to $45 for adults and $29 for kids.
As much as we love Topolino’s Terrace, I have a tougher time justifying higher prices on breakfast than dinner. Perhaps that’s a “me problem,” but there’s only one entree (the Wood-fired Butchers Steak) that approaches being worth it at this point, and I cringe a little when we order a waffle or really any item without meat at this price.
With that said, this new price is consistent with other character breakfasts at the resorts. If I had to pay out of pocket for any of them, it would be this. I just think breakfast costs too much, in general, and would rather eat something boring in-room and do a nice dinner. YMMV.
Bouncing back to the parks, we head to Tusker House at Animal Kingdom. Currently, you’ll find an underwhelming family-style meal here, but that (thankfully) will be changing in a few short weeks when the buffet (which is hopefully still good and diverse) makes its triumphant return on November 1, 2022.
Previously, the all-day lunch and dinner family-style meal at Tusker House cost $55 per adult and $36 per child. As of the October 2022 price increases, that’s up to $59 and $38, respectively. Here’s hoping that’s in preparation for the better buffet coming back!
No issue speaking openly about the value proposition at Tusker House. Our experience at the modified meal was the most ripped-off we’ve felt at Walt Disney World in the last two-plus years, which is really saying something. I would’ve regretted paying $39/person for that, let alone $59! The buffet, however, is a totally different story. (Hopefully!)
It’s the exact same story over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where the cost of Minnie’s Seasonal Dine at Hollywood & Vine has increased by amounts identical to Tusker House. The lunch and dinner buffet pricing has increased to $59 per adult from $55. Likewise, kids are now $38.
Walking over to Disney’s Beach Club Resort from DHS, we find that the recently-restored Minnie’s Beach Bash Character Breakfast is now pricier than it’s character-free predecessor. The price was previously $25 per adult and $14 per child. Now, it’s $45 per adult and $29 per child. For those keeping score at home, that’s the same character premium pricing we saw at Crystal Palace.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the exact same story at the ‘Ohana Best Friends Breakfast Featuring Lilo & Stitch. When breakfast first returned to ‘Ohana, it was sans characters–and saw a price decrease ($25 adult/$14 child) as compared to pre-closure. With Mickey & Pluto plus Lilo & Stitch back in action, the price is also $45 per adult and $29 per child, plus tax and gratuity.
That’s a wrap on another Walt Disney World price increase update. Hopefully, that’s the last one for the year. Like the regular menu changes (portion cuts and cost bumps), most of these don’t seem too egregious in a vacuum. However, it’s the totality of the increases that’s really annoying, and their cumulative impact.
Also, there’s my personal view that many of these meals were exceptionally overpriced pre-closure, so today’s “negligible” increases are coming from an elevated baseline. Also, I suspect that some character meals did most of their business via the Disney Dining Plan–in which case, there was an incentive to inflate menu prices to create the illusion of greater savings for those guests.
What do you think of these character meals and other recent price increases at Walt Disney World? Think this is a natural consequence of inflation, or another example of Disney getting more greedy? Will these price increases impact your plans for future vacations? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Think there will be long-term consequences for Walt Disney World resulting from its pricing trends the last few years? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!