Best Dining Plan Character Meals
This list of the best-value Character Meals at Walt Disney World will help you maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan. Eating at these character restaurants gets you the most bang for your buck and saves you the most money on the Disney Dining Plan, because these are normally the most expensive meals. Even if you’re doing “Free Dining” it’s good to know you’ve put your credits to good use, and that’s what we’ll help you do here.
For those confused as to why you’d want to eat at the most expensive restaurants possible when on the Disney Dining Plan to “save” more money, it’s really quite simple: since you pre-pay a set daily amount for the Disney Dining Plan, regardless of where you eat, you get the most value out of the Disney Dining Plan if you eat at restaurants that would be more expensive if you were paying out of pocket.
For example, if you pay $60+ per person per night for the standard Disney Dining Plan, you save more money by eating dinner at the $50+ Akershus character meal than you save if you order a burger and dessert at Beaches & Cream. In the former scenario, you only have to eat a counter service meal and snack with a combined cost of ~$10 to break even on the Disney Dining Plan, which is very easy to do.
In the latter scenario, you’d have to eat a $30 or more counter service meal and snack just to break even on the Disney Dining Plan. This would be impossible to do. If you’re just using the Disney Dining Plan for convenience, this list will serve little value. For the rest of you trying to stretch your vacation dollars as far as possible, this ranking of best-value Disney character meals on the Disney Dining Plan should prove helpful.
Cinderella’s Royal Table is one exception to this rule, and that’s because it is a two-credit experience. If you are on the Deluxe Dining Plan or have credits that might otherwise go to waste, you should definitely consider booking Cinderella’s Royal Table. We like Cinderella’s Royal Table, but we think that is a meal best done by paying out of pocket instead of using the Disney Dining Plan.
With that background set, let’s discuss the restaurants that made the list. In addition to being great character meal options on the Dining Plan, they are also great values in comparison to other options on our Top 10 Table Service “Best-Value” Disney Dining Plan rankings. This is true even of the restaurants here that didn’t make that list–most character dinners have a “value” of above $40 per adult, which puts some just below the #10 restaurant on the aforementioned “Best-Value” list.
If character dining is something that interests your party, and you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, these are definitely the restaurants you should consider if you want to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan…
5. Chip ‘N’ Dale’s Harvest Feast Dinner at The Garden Grill Restaurant – Garden Grill’s dinner is actually one of our favorite character meals, and for a meal with Mickey Mouse inside a theme park, it’s surprising that it’s not more popular. Garden Grill features Farmer Mickey Mouse, Chip, Dale, and Pluto. Garden Grill is a rotating restaurant in The Land pavilion in Epcot’s Future World that offers a view into the Livin’ with the Land attraction.
For Disney geeks like me, this alone is a huge draw. At dinner, Garden Grill is an all-you-care-to-eat, family-style dinner, serving grilled steak, roast turkey, sustainable fish of the day, sides, and desserts. Some of the foods served are grown in The Land pavilion, which is doubly cool. The last time we dined here, the food was absolutely excellent. Family style meant a bit of a more limited menu, but I’ll gladly trade in a limited menu for delicious choices. It’s hard to call a popular character meal “underrated,” but compared to the other Mickey Mouse character meal, Garden Grill is exactly that. Click here to read our full Garden Grill Review.
4. Chef Mickey’s Dinner – Chef Mickey’s is often-considered the second-most difficult reservation dining reservation to get, right after Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella Castle. This is primarily because it features “Mickey” right in the name of the restaurant, and it’s the only character meal where you can meet Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. Its location (outside the parks but at a monorail resort) also increases demand.
Food quality, however, is not so great. In fact, the dinner buffet is downright bad. The characters and setting are so good many families don’t really care about the food, though. Click here to read our full Chef Mickey’s Dinner Review.
3. Crystal Palace Dinner – Crystal Palace is a fun restaurant, and will primarily appeal to kids interested in Winnie the Pooh. We’ve dined here a few times for both breakfast and dinner, and we prefer breakfast. This is not to say that the food at dinner is bad. It’s not by any means–with options like sirloin, rotisserie chicken, and Atlantic salmon, plus plenty of sides, and desserts.
We prefer dining at Crystal Palace in the morning, mostly so we can enter the Magic Kingdom before the park opens for some special empty-Main Street and no-one-around Cinderella Castle photos. If you do this, you won’t get as good of a “value” on the Disney Dining Plan as you would by eating dinner here, but don’t those special photos and memories have value, too? Click here to read our Crystal Palace Review.
2. Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare – Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner in the 1900 Park Fare restaurant at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is hosted by Disney princess Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, and Anastasia and Drisella.
With a large and varied buffet that offers an array of salads, soups, pastas, prime rib, salmon, chicken marsala, and Italian sausage, plus a number of desserts, you’d think 1900 Park Fare would be a great choice. However, reviews of this restaurant are very hit-or-miss. Some people think it’s the greatest character meal ever, some people hate it. If you’re with kids, I’d imagine a big part of your decision will concern whether you have kids who love Cinderella. If so, it’s probably worth giving a try to see for yourself. If not, choose something else.
1. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall – Akershus is good for maximizing your value on the Disney Dining Plan if you’re looking solely at price. As we discussed in our Top 10 Restaurants to Book for Free Dining, we like Akershus as a way enjoy a pre-park opening stroll through World Showcase and to do Frozen Ever After with minimal wait. In terms of food, the breakfast lacks variety and is way overpriced for what’s offered (making it a qualitatively poor use of Dining Plan credits), so you might want to look elsewhere.
For dinner, popular items include Mustard Glazed Salmon, Sauteed Chicken Breast, Kjottkaker (meatballs made of pork and beef), Vegetable Stuffed Pasta, Braised Lamb and Cabbage, and other Scandinavian specialties. The children’s menu includes standard items, such as pizza, pasta, hot dogs and grilled chicken. Click here to read our full Akershus Breakfast Review.
So there you have it–the top character meals on the Disney Dining Plan if you’re looking to maximize your value. Although this list provides the absolute best value character meals at Walt Disney World, this is not necessarily the list of the “best” character meals on property. If you’re more concerned with booking the best meals, we recommend using this list as a starting point, but also reading some reviews of different restaurants.
Hopefully this list helps you get more bang for your buck on the Disney Dining Plan. Check out our Value-Maximizing tips for Counter Service restaurants, Table Service Restaurants, and Most Cost-Effective Disney Snacks to get even more value out of the Disney Dining Plan! Looking for Disney trip planning tips? Make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.
What are your favorite character meals at Walt Disney World? Share which ones you recommend, or any other tips to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan, in the comments!
So glad to see the Garden Grill here! This was one of my favorites as a kid (20+ years ago) because it rotated and you could see into the land. I thought it was a bonus that it came with a character meal now, and booked it right away for our upcoming trip with our four kids. My Disney travel agent seemed surprised we’d want this one, and kept trying to steer me elsewhere. I’m glad to see I didn’t make a “mistake!”
Akerhus lunch, Crystal Palace lunch or dinner, and Tusker House breakfast are my favorite places to eat. There food is so good. I also enjoy the character interaction, but to be honest I’d attend even if they weren’t character meals.