For a first time Walt Disney World visitor, a character dining experience is a must. At our first visit last May, I was pleasantly surprised with the character breakfast offered at 1900 Park Fare.
Getting “Mad” at 1900 Park Fare!
As guests of the Grand Floridian, Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, we made a point to make reservations at several restaurants onsite including 1900 Park Fare, the Grand Floridian Café and Narcoossee’s.
Even the quick-service option, Gasparilla Island Grill, exceeded our expectations–we ate on the Grill’s beautiful patio overlooking Magic Kingdom’s horizon on many mornings. Sigh.
Mary & Me
The character breakfast offered by 1900 Park Fare is a unique one, partly due to the character selection offered. Where else can you find Mary Poppins, Alice, the Mad Hatter, Pooh Bear and Tigger?
This nostalgic group really gave me that warm-and-fuzzy feeling of being young again (and at 30-years old, with two young children of my own, it gave me some much needed youthful recharging!).
Of all the character meals that we enjoyed during our trip, this one stood out for the immediate likeability of the characters and setting. Booking a later brunch (10:30 a.m. on a Friday) resulted in unprecedented one-to-one attention.
Alice played a game of hide-and-seek with our two-year-old!
Mary Poppins gave me pointers on parasols!
Hide and seek!
The breakfast buffet itself provided a great variety of traditional breakfast foods (and made-to-order omelets) and some signature items too. The restaurant’s infamous sweet strawberry soup had us all talking–and trying to recreate it at home!
Check out this menu for details on the buffet offering and pricing.
Ultimately, making a later reservation for brunch provided great out-of-pocket value, and got us through a good part of the day touring the parks until dinner.
However, my all-time favorite hour to make reservations is first thing in the morning (especially if you are dining in the parks) as it allows you to get a head start on touring. For example, if you make a reservation at 8 a.m., you can always pop out around park opening/9 a.m. to grab your first Fastpass. This can help you see more attractions first thing in the morning.
It was one of the less expensive character dining options, but allowed us to meet five characters that would have otherwise been the subject of long line ups in the parks.
Personally, I prefer character dining to waiting in long lines for character meet and greets. It’s more relaxing, it’s air conditioned, and you are able to have the characters come to you.
What character dining experience is your favorite?
One of the most important things to do when planning your trip to WDW…Making your dining reservations. If you are counting on enjoying character dining experiences, or meals at the better on-site restaurants at decent times, you will need to plan your reservations early.
From 180 days in, you can make your reservations online or by telephone (407-WDW-DINE) for most table-service restaurants. Luckily, you can modify and cancel your reservations so that you can create your touring plans, and ensure that your reservations fit in with your overall vacation plan. When planning our first trip back in May, and in a quest to plan a perfect trip, I probably made, edited and cancelled over 30 reservations. We ended up keeping six.
You will only need reservations for table-service restaurants, which offer a more formal dining environment. Quick-service restaurants are available too, and are great alternatives to a sit-down meal when you’re on the go.
Gasparilla Island Grill
We frequented a few quick-service restaurants during our recent stay–Gasparilla Island Grill, at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa; Pecos Bill’s in Magic Kingdom; and the new and elaborate Be Our Guest restaurant in Magic Kingdom, which operates for lunch as a quick-service establishment (table-service by night–make your reservations early!).
Making your reservations for certain restaurants is more important than others. For example, if the Disney princesses are your kind of thing, you will want to make your Cinderella’s Royal Table reservations as soon as you have your trip confirmed. This is a “premium” character dining experience (at more than $50 per child, and even more for an adult!) that takes place within the magic of Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom.
Breakfast at Cindy’s
A few other tips–I would suggest making dining reservations early for restaurants located within the parks. An 8 a.m. reservation at Cindy’s means that you will most definitely be able to beat the mad rush of families lined up at the entry turnstiles, waiting for rope drop at 9 a.m.
Another note about reservations–making them online can be a time saver, but can also turn into a source of insomnia for some die-hard planners.
Character dining is great if you are heading to WDW with small children (and even enthusiasts like me!). While it can be expensive, character dining provides you with an opportunity to meet with several Disney characters at one sitting, without waiting in the hot Florida sun to greet them.
Expect to pay $20 to $50 for breakfast, or $30 to $60 for dinner. In my opinion, it was worth it. We especially enjoyed our brunch at 1900 Park Fare (located at the Grand Floridian), which allowed us to “meet” Mary Poppins and Alice (of Wonderland fame) among others.
Mary & Me
One last tip–making reservations for the night you arrive is not a good idea. I would suggest grabbing a quick bite at a table-service or quick-service restaurant at your resort so that you’re not bound by time and location. This will give you more time to enjoy the parks or the pool on your first day.
There are so many options to choose from when staying on property at WDW. A couple of my favourite restaurants included the Grand Floridian Café, Ohana at the Polynesian Resort, and Via Napoli in Epcot.
I’ll provide full reviews in future blog posts, so stay tuned!