Character dining is offered in the hotels and in-park at Disneyland Resort. These breakfasts and dinners are a stress-free way to meet characters without waits, and enjoy a meal in the process. In this guide, we’ll cover the best and worst restaurants for character meals, what to expect from the experiences, and more!
Whether you’re looking for a “Disney” way to start your day on a morning when you’re not visiting the parks or want to see Minnie & Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, etc. in unique costumes that aren’t used elsewhere at Disneyland Resort, character dining is a great option. It doesn’t hurt that the food is surprisingly good at three of the meals.
We’ve done all of the character breakfasts, and have reviewed each of the character dining experiences currently available at Disneyland Resort. Let’s start with a quick synopsis of those meals, pros & cons of each, and links to our full reviews…
Breakfast in the Park with Minnie and Friends – The only in-park character meal at Disneyland, this dining experience is held at Plaza Inn on Main Street. The seating is indoor and outdoor, with views of Sleeping Beauty Castle and Tomorrowland, depending upon where you’re seated.
The biggest pro of this meal is the sheer quantity of characters and the zaniness of the encounters. As you can see and read about in our full Review of Breakfast in the Park with Minnie and Friends, you’ll encounter at least double the number of characters here as any other option on this list. The biggest downside is food quality–this has the weakest food of any of the meals.
Donald Duck’s Seaside Breakfast – Located in Paradise Pier Hotel at PCH Grill, this beach-themed meal is the least popular choice on the list. You start by meeting Donald Duck in his dedicated backdrop at the front of the restaurant, followed by other characters coming around to your table.
As we discuss in our full Review of Donald Duck’s Seaside Breakfast, the biggest strength of this meal is that it’s laid back and typically less-crowded. The biggest downside is the setting, which is a bit dated. Ultimately, this is a good experience all around, there’s just nothing exceptional about it.
Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast – Located at Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa in Storytellers Cafe, this meal was recently updated with fresh explorer looks for the characters and a refreshed menu. Our full Review of Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast takes a look at the unique character outfits, which are one of the main highlights.
The other biggest strength is food quality, which is very high and offers surprisingly sophisticated options for a character breakfast. The biggest downside to this breakfast is the chaotic and crowded environment. Check-in and waiting for a table is usually a hassle, and there’s insufficient space between photos for character photos without other guests in the background. This is Sarah’s favorite Disneyland Resort character meal.
Goofy’s Kitchen – The flagship character meal in California is located in the restaurant of the same name at Disneyland Hotel. This is my favorite character breakfast at Disneyland Resort, and my top recommendation for families who want the best balance of a fun experience and a fun meal.
Our full Review of Goofy’s Kitchen takes a look at the food, the highlights of which are some truly goofy breakfast pizzas, ranging from peanut butter and jelly to banana’s foster (they are so much better than they might sound). Character interactions are also generally pretty good. The downsides are overall food quality and costumes that aren’t quite as good as Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet.
Now, let’s turn to some tips for character dining at Disneyland Resort. The big one is that these meals are incredibly popular, and one of the few restaurants for which making reservations a week or more in advance is typically a strict necessity.
Character dining at Disneyland can be booked as many as 60 days in advance, which is rarely necessary but not a bad idea if you’re visiting during a holiday or school break. Most character restaurants have availability a couple of weeks in advance.
As with all restaurants at Disneyland Resort, you can make a dining reservation online or by phone by calling 714-781-3463 (DINE). We recommend going the online route because it’s typically easier, and you’ll be given a range of times that are available if your first choice isn’t.
When making your reservation, you’ll need to secure it with a credit card, irrespective of how you plan to pay for the meal. You won’t be charged anything unless you’re a no-show for your reservation, in which case there’s a $10 per person fee. You can cancel your reservation with no penalty if you do so at least 24 hours prior to the reservation.
At present, all of the character meals at Disneyland Resort are all-you-can-eat buffets, including non-alcoholic beverages like Coke and coffee (gotta get caffeinated before a long day in the parks!). While the food quality varies from buffet to buffet, there are at least a couple of good options on every buffet.
If you’re booking a character meal for a parks day, we would highly recommend making the latest possible character dining experience you can (usually 10:30 a.m.). Usually, this is the least-popular reservation, so if you’re booking at the last minute, you may not have much of a choice!
The advantages to this late breakfast are two-fold. First, if gives you an opportunity to rope drop Disneyland or Disney California Adventure, do a few attractions with minimal waits and start collecting FastPasses (or trigger MaxPass by virtue of entering) before taking an early morning meal break.
Second, this gives you an opportunity to eat and meet the characters as the restaurant starts to clear out. We are big proponents of the last seating at any character meals for this very reason, and we’ve found that the attention we get and interactions we experience are top notch.
Alternatively, if you’re doing Breakfast in the Park with Minnie and Friends at Plaza Inn, booking a pre-park opening meal can have its advantages if you get the earliest possible reservation (and don’t mind waking up early). Those advantages are breezing through bag check before the crowds, semi-empty photos on Main Street, and (hopefully) getting breakfast totally out of the way before your day in the park begins. This does require a relatively fast-paced meal, though.
Double alternatively (if that’s a thing), you could do dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen if breakfast doesn’t sound appealing to you at all. We have no experience with this one, so you’re on your own in terms of a recommendation, but we’ve heard it has the same style of “fun” food and wacky atmosphere.
On March 30, 2019, another character dining option will debut (or has debuted, depending upon when you’re reading this) at Disneyland Resort. Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures at Napa Rose is available Thursday through Monday between 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. at a cost of $125 per person (child or adult). Yes, you read that price correctly.
While Napa Rose is the pinnacle of Disneyland Resort dining and one of the best restaurants in Orange County, California, it’s still tough for us to justify $125/person on a princess meal. Perhaps the food will rival dinner and justify the high price tag; you’ll have to find out for yourselves because at this point, we have no plans on reviewing it.
If you’re a Walt Disney World veteran, you might notice that the character dining options at Disneyland Resort are surprisingly limited. Comparatively speaking, this is absolutely true. Historically, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have been locals parks, and there’s less demand for this type of experience among non-tourists.
However, that is starting to change. We’ve noticed the character dining experiences at Disneyland Resort have grown in popularity the last couple of years, which explains why the princess meal is being added to Napa Rose. Moreover, with rising Annual Pass prices and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland Resort is likely to continue moving away from its status as a local’s playground to a tourist resort destination.
As that occurs, we’d anticipate a corresponding increase in the number of character breakfasts and dinners. Suffice to say, if you’re planning a Disneyland trip today for a year or two from now, you might find there are more character meals by the time you arrive. It’d certainly make sense for a couple more, particularly at Disney California Adventure.
Overall, character dining at Disneyland Resort is an excellent experience. At the three hotel restaurants, food quality is very high and better than the vast majority of Walt Disney World character meals. While the same cannot be said for Plaza Inn, the non-stop barrage of characters and fun interactions more than compensates. Your favorites might vary from ours–it really comes down to how you prioritize cuisine versus characters. No matter which option you pick, you’re likely to have a good time at Disneyland Resort’s character dining experiences!
If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!
If you’ve done character meals at Disneyland Resort, which is your favorite and least favorite? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of these meals? Other recommendations or character dining tips you’d add? Any questions? 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!