Mickey at character lunch with two guests

Is Character Dining at Disneyland Worth it?

If you’ve chosen a Disneyland vacation for your family, you’re probably wondering whether it’s worth it to meet the Disney characters during dinner. There are several character dining options, and they provide a suitable way to meet and interact with your favorite characters. Naturally, these dinners come with a hefty price tag attached, and you may wonder whether or not the investment is worthwhile.

So, is character dining at Disneyland worth it? If you’re wondering whether dinner with the characters should really be part of your Disneyland itinerary, this is the article for you. By the end, you’ll know whether you’re willing to make the sacrifice, and if so, what you should know about character dining to make the most of your experience. Keep reading to learn more.

Which Characters Will I See?

The characters you get to see and interact with during character dining depend on the option you choose. At Ariel’s Grotto, you’ll interact with several Disney princesses. Meanwhile, in the Plaza Inn, PCH Grill, and Goofy’s Kitchen, you’ll find Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, and several other classic Disney favorites. If you’re looking for wilderness characters such as Chip N’ Dale, you’ll find these ones at the Storytellers Café.

How will you interact with them? Character experiences happen naturally in the course of dining when the characters available for the evening move from table to table. One way to maximize your interaction is to have children on the outer side of your sitting booths so that they can easily get up and pose with characters for photos.
Dining with the characters allows you more quality time with your favorites.

Unlike in the parks where you have to queue to get a picture taken, during dinner, the characters spend a few minutes at the table and make small talk with your whole family.

Within these locations, you may be lucky to enjoy small impromptu shows with the characters and some children participants from the diners. For example, PCH Grill has a stage where characters put up a show about surfing. In the Storyteller’s Café, Chip N’ Dale start a march around the restaurant with the children. Such events can make the highlight of your child’s trip to Disneyland, as well as providing squirmy children with something else to do other than sitting and eating.

People who have tried character dining at Disneyland have nice things to say about the experience. You’ll certainly take many good pictures and go home with stories about some silly thing a character did with your kids at the table. Depending on their age, such silly playing could form the highlight of their entire trip, and hence be well worth the cost.

What Shall We Eat?

The reality about character dining, especially with younger children, is that your kids will be less interested in the food and more interested in the characters traversing the floor. Still, the adults will probably dig into their meals, and all the character restaurants have tons of great options for parents to choose from.

Most establishments have meals set up in buffet style, with slight variations in the entrees depending on the location. For example, all breakfast locations feature a Mickey Mouse Waffles section and an omelet bar. Similarly, all dinner locations include a prime rib station.

Meals are all-you-can-eat-and-drink; that’s what makes character dining so great. Alcoholic beverages are sold separately, but everything else is included in the cover price. There are also tons of available options, and you can keep coming back for more!

The single exception to the rule is the Storytellers Café that works just like a normal restaurant. You’ll order off a menu with different items costing differently, unlike the other establishments where you have a flat entry fee according to the number of people in your party. You might prefer an option like this because you only pay for the food you want and will actually eat, rather than the experience as a whole.

4 Tips to Make Your Dining Experience Worthwhile

If you’re planning to include Character Dining in your Disneyland trip, here are some things you should definitely take note of.

  1. Book Early

Character dining is fairly popular, and the tickets sell out quite quickly. There are limited slots because of the intimate atmosphere and to allow diners to get quality one-on-one time with their favorite characters. You can book up to two months in advance, and make reservations even earlier if you’re traveling during busy seasons.

  1. Book Online

You can make your booking online, where you’ll see available times for the dates you enter. Be a little flexible about the times should you not get the slot you wanted. You’ll need a credit card to hold the reservation, even if you will pay cash or use a different card to pay. You won’t be charged until the day of the meal, and a penalty of $10 per person applies if you don’t show up.

  1. Carry Your Camera

Keep your camera handy at all times. The characters can be very unpredictable, and you don’t want to miss a photo movement because you weren’t ready for the randomness they are serving. You can’t be sure that you’ll always see all the characters you want unless it’s their restaurant or meal – e.g. Goofy will always be at Goofy’s Kitchen.

  1. Understand the Costs

Most character dining options cost $60 per person for adults and $40 for children. Dinners are more expensive than breakfast dining options, although not by much. If you have booked your travel package through Costco, AAA, or the Walt Disney Travel Company, their bundles usually include one character dining. Otherwise, you’ll pay for the dinner out of pocket, unless you have another vacation package that includes it.

The Bottom-Line

Whether or not the character dining experience is worth the extra cost is ultimately up to you. For example, if you will meet the characters at other events or locations, such as the park opening, you have an opportunity to take photos. You might also be lucky enough to see or interact with them during different theme park events. In this case, the added cost for the dinner won’t be worth it.

If you have young children who are wild about the Disney characters, however, the cost of dinner will be worth every penny, as an interaction like this will make the highlight of their experience. Younger children are likely to appreciate the characters more than older children.

Find out whether your family will truly appreciate the character dining experience and whether you can afford the extra cost. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be dismayed; there are plenty of opportunities to meet with the characters in different parts of the theme park.