Character interactions were one of the experiences that were greatly impacted. Disney implemented new cavalcades, promenades, and distanced meet and greets to accommodate the physical distancing regulations. Character dining experiences had to be modified greatly to adhere to the new procedures as well. The new adjustments have changed our opinions on what is considered the best character dining meals.
Some new pros and cons have popped up for all the reopened character restaurants. So, which restaurant is our favorite since everything’s changed? Come take a look at our rankings for the modified character dining meals at Disney World!
You’d think that dining inside of Disney World’s iconic castle would be reason enough to visit this restaurant, but our ranking is based on what character experiences are giving guests the biggest bang for their buck right now. Cinderella’s Royal Table is currently only featuring one Disney Princess. Prior to closing, guests met with multiple princesses, who visited your table over the course of your meal. It was a great way to meet many A-List characters without waiting in line and experiencing a fancy meal inside the castle.
For now, only one Disney Princess, Cinderella, is making an appearance during dining hours. Additionally, the social distancing rule only allows her to walk in and wave briefly to guests. The pre-meal private meet and greet was also cut due to this rule. That means guests are only getting a brief, distant moment with Cinderella (something you can get during the cavalcades) and a very expensive meal.
We still totally understand the appeal of eating inside Cinderella Castle whether it’s with one princess or several. For some, it’s a once in a lifetime experience that can’t be compared. The magic of walking into the castle and enjoying a good meal is something that many people would love to soak up. As for character experiences, though, there are other restaurants that have adapted better to the new regulations.
Topolino’s was the first character dining experience to reopen at Disney World. The restaurant is located on top of the new Disney’s Riviera Resort and features Mickey and friends dressed in artsy costumes for breakfast. The new character dining experience still hosts Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy. Much like Cinderella’s Royal Table, each character does a brief walk-through individually. Every so often, all the characters come out for a small celebration show and dance.
Our experience at Topolino’s wasn’t at all disappointing. The food is tasty and not your standard Disney meal consisting of Mickey waffles and various breakfast meats. Our ranking is mostly due to the fact that other restaurants have more convincing reasons to visit and are implementing creative entertainment.
Also, unless you’re staying at the resort, the restaurant is a little out of the way. This can be both a pro and a con. Topolino’s is currently the only outside-the-Parks character dining experience. This means you don’t need a Disney Park Pass reservation or theme park ticket to eat at the restaurant. The con here is that you need to find transportation to get to the resort. You’ll either need to drive, take an Uber/Lyft, ride the Skyliner, or take a bus transfer to arrive at the restaurant.
#2 Garden Grill
Garden Grill continues to be one of our favorite character dining experiences, even with the modifications! The restaurant features a rotating seating arrangement that gives you a view of The Land Pavilion and the Living with the Land attraction. Half of the seats are unavailable due to physical distancing. The seats that are available are placed on the outer seating ring. This means every seat is the best seat in the house!
The inner ring is occupied by roaming characters including Pluto, Chip, Dale, and Mickey. This is one of the most intimate and fun character experiences we’ve had at Disney World since it reopened. The distanced seating arrangement allowed the characters to stop by multiple times, and we got a ton of fun selfies and magical moments with all of them.
Also, the food is still really good, tasty, and unique! Garden Grill always offers fresh eats with some of the ingredients pulled from Living with the Land. The food was great, the view was fantastic, and the character interactions were incredibly fun!
There are a few restaurants that have experienced a glow-up since reopening at Disney World. The reopened Hollywood and Vine was a fantastic experience! We recommend visiting if you’re seeking high-quality character entertainment. Disney brought back Minnie’s Seasonal Dining to kick-off Halloween and will do the same for the holidays.
The modified version of the seasonal dining event was incredibly fun! Tables were spread out, leaving a wide area for characters to roam and create fun moments with guests. The added bonus here was the spooky theming. The costumed characters and music made the experience extra fun. It’s the only place at Disney World where you can get a picture of Vampire Mickey up-close and personal.
The upgraded menu is what made Hollywood and Vine a slam dunk for us! Previously, the restaurant featured a buffet, but that has been changed to a standard made-to-order menu. We were NOT disappointed by this change. The food was a huge upgrade with delicious pork, fresh salads, and rich desserts. We’re ranking this restaurant as #1 because you get holiday theming, good character pictures, and a great selection of NEW menu items.
Coming Soon: Chef Mickey’s!
Characters are returning to Chef Mickey’s starting December 16, 2020. While it reopened some time ago, the lack of characters made this restaurant skippable for most guests. We’re anticipating that the return of Mickey and friends will make Chef Mickey’s another must-do character dining experience. They are also adding new menu items like all-you-care-to-enjoy Mickey’s “Celebration” Pancakes, “Loaded” Potato-Cheese Casseroles, and Goofy’s Banana Bread French Toast. We’ll have to wait and see what the character experience will be like at Chef Mickey’s very soon!
Meeting Disney characters is one of the most magical experiences while visiting the theme parks. Any interaction with Mickey, Pluto, or Cinderella is sure to create memories for a lifetime. Our rankings here are based on our experiences within the last few months. Dining at Disney World will continue to change while the theme parks adapt to the new health and safety regulations.
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Have you recently visited a character dining restaurant at Disney World? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!