Character meals are an incredibly popular dining experience at Walt Disney World, but not all character breakfasts and dinners are created equally. In this post, we highlight the character meals that are consistently the worst at Walt Disney World. In some cases, we also provide better alternatives to a particular character meal.
Before we get going, we have to concede that your opinion of any character meal has a lot to do with how lucky you get with interactions and how long your food choices have been sitting under the heat lamp. There’s more than a little truth to the notion that all character meals are inconsistent, so even the ‘best’ can have bad moments, and the ‘worst’ can have standout moments.
Moreover, some people have polarized opinions on character dining. At one end of the spectrum, some people think all character meals are an overpriced waste of money with food that doesn’t measure up to the prices. That’s understandable, but not helpful to people who see value in the convenience of character meals or view them as a quintessential Walt Disney World experience. (I still remember character meals from when I was a kid–so they left an impression on me!)
At the other end of the spectrum, character dining is an incredibly emotive experience and food quality is immaterial for some people. Your kid hugging Mickey Mouse in the Grand Canyon Concourse of the Contemporary can be such an emotionally powerful experience that you don’t even remember what the food tasted like. That’s also understandable, but not exactly helpful when it comes to narrowing the character dining field.
Let’s start with a couple of character meals that don’t exactly have the best reputations among fans: Mickey’s Backyard BBQ and Hollywood & Vine. Part of the poor reviews for Mickey’s Backyard BBQ seem predicated upon its high cost (undoubtedly caused by unlimited alcohol, a peculiar choice for a character meal) and unconventional style. We haven’t dined there, so we can’t really speak to the actual quality beyond that.
Hollywood & Vine is a bit more complicated. It is routinely blasted for being the worst character meal at Walt Disney World, but that has not been our experience in dining there twice. However, we think this disconnect comes down to our meals being during the seasonal meals, whereas most poor reviews relate to the Disney Junior Character Breakfast.
As I don’t even know who most of the characters at the Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine even are, it’s not one we plan on doing anytime soon. (By the time we have kids, I’m optimistic that Ludwig Von Drake will have made a huge comeback, and will be the star of this meal.)
We still believe there are several character meals that consistently deliver subpar experiences and meals as compared to their counterparts…
Anything in Non-Disney Hotels – If you’re a Disney hotel or bust sort of person, you may not even realize that a few of the Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels (both Hiltons and Wyndham Lake Buena Vista), Swan & Dolphin, and Four Seasons Orlando all offer character dining. While we have yet to dine at all of these (and honestly, never will), we’ve also yet to have what we consider a good character dining experience at one of these hotels.
The characters are always limited, and the atmosphere muted. There is something to be said about convenience if you’re staying at one of these hotels, and it’s also possible that you’ll enjoy an uncrowded restaurant and receive more attention as a result. That’s a gamble, though, and one that we think is not worth it.
Akershus (Breakfast) – We will be the first to admit that we’re biased towards character dining that features fur characters instead of the princesses and other face characters. We just prefer Mickey and friends, and find that our interactions with them are more fun and comical–but that’s just us.
Setting that aside, Akershus breakfast was our worst face character dining experience. The food was underwhelming (and not exactly Norwegian), the interactions just fine, and the setting was a far cry from Cinderella’s Royal Table. That last point is probably the salient one: if you want a princess meal, go big with a meal in Cinderella Castle, instead of this “overflow” castle dining option.
Chef Mickey’s (Dinner) – Our disdain for dinner at Chef Mickey’s is well-documented, and something we’ve referenced in several posts. I’ll reiterate for those who have not read our scathing Chef Mickey’s Dinner Review: the food should have an asterisk attached as it’s barely edible, the restaurant is loud, and the price is outlandish.
One point that should be underscored is that breakfast at Chef Mickey’s is a very different experience. While it has been a while since we’ve done that meal, our memories of it are fond, and numerous commenters on the above review have reiterated that it’s the far superior meal. The takeaway here is that you can save money and have a better meal by doing Chef Mickey’s breakfast instead of dinner.
‘Ohana (Breakfast) – The quality of breakfast at ‘Ohana further underscores how one restaurant can differ so dramatically from one meal to another. When it comes to dinner, ‘Ohana has tasty cuisine and is an incredibly fun experience, albeit without characters. It’s one of the toughest ADRs to score for good reason.
Breakfast is a totally different story. The same attempts are made at a fun atmosphere, with a character parade and (obviously) the same views and other qualities inherent to the restaurant. Yet, ‘Ohana doesn’t seem–to us at least–to have the same energy at breakfast. Perhaps our opinion is soured by virtue of the food, which is quite literally family style portions of counter service staples like rubber bacon and fake eggs. You’re much better off just eating at Captain Cook’s and doing a character meal elsewhere.
When it comes to the ideal ‘arrangement’ of these two popular Magic Kingdom Resort Area restaurants, we’d strongly recommend breakfast at Chef Mickey’s and dinner at ‘Ohana. That’s truly the best of both worlds, and you’ll enjoy food that is significantly better than doing those meals in reverse.
Crystal Palace (Dinner) – We have a lot of nostalgia for Crystal Palace from our first few trips together ages ago that makes me a bit hesitant to include this. We still enjoy both breakfast and dinner at Crystal Palace, but that’s colored by our personal experiences there.
Taking a step back and thinking about my least favorite character meals both in terms of characters and food, I have to concede that Crystal Palace is right behind Chef Mickey’s at dinner. This is not to say there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s just “meh” all-around. We’ll enjoy our fond memories of our visits here, but we have no urgent need to go back anytime soon.
Have you had any poor experiences at character meals? Do you agree or disagree with our choices on this list? Any questions we can help you answer about these character dining experiences? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!