At Walt Disney World, Imagineers bring magic to life. Fictional characters from Disney movies become real enough to touch. It’s the basis of all the many wondrous attractions at the parks, but it’s also the inspiration for character meals. At these special dining experiences, your favorite Disney icons will roam from table to table, interacting with guests. My family is a sucker for these meals, and we’ve done them all, most of them multiple times. Here are my choices for the best character meals at Walt Disney World.
8. Crystal Palace
Winnie the Pooh has experienced a resurgence in recent years. Part of the explanation stems from the popularity of Christopher Robin, the 2018 Disney movie starring Ewan McGregor. The film describes the Hundred Acre Wood from the perspective of Christopher Robin, a character based on the son of author A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh. This bit of personalization struck a chord with movie audiences and reinvigorated people’s love for that hunny-lovin’ bear.
At Crystal Palace at Walt Disney World, diners can hang out at Hundred Acre Wood. Winnie the Pooh and his friends wander the restaurant, entertaining guests with their genteel brand of hijinks. Even in the library of Disney intellectual properties, Winnie the Pooh stands apart for his kindness and purity. This opportunity to play with him is a profound experience for children. Also, while it’s less important overall, the interior of the Crystal Palace is mesmerizingly beautiful. The only reason why this place isn’t ranked higher is that the food is bland.
7. Tusker House
You will NOT find bland food at Tusker House. This restaurant is hosted in the Africa themed land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. And the recipes here pack a punch with their spicy goodness. Exotic dishes like Tabouli and Bobotie are on the menu, depending on which meal you attend. Tusker House is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which isn’t true for several places on this list.
Of course, the food is only half the story at a character meal, no matter how delicious it is. At Tusker House, you’re here to meet Donald Duck and his special lady friend, Daisy Duck. They’re the host and hostess of this soiree, and they’re dressed as if their next stop is a safari. The characters joining them on this upcoming adventure vary, but you’ll generally find Mickey Mouse and Goofy rounding out the list. It’s a quartet of the classic Disney gang, all wearing Insta-worthy outfits.
6. Chef Mickey’s
California Grill provides an unprecedented view of Magic Kingdom’s fireworks display, and The Wave by the first floor lobby is a hidden gem of Disney dining.Disney’s Contemporary Resort is home to some of the best Disney resort restaurants in the world.
The fourth floor of the Contemporary is the best, though. It’s where the Contempo Café and Chef Mickey’s sit side by side, a Quick Service/Table Service combo that’s impossible to beat. While I love the food at the Contempo and frequently eat there for breakfast when I stay at the resort, I always feel a bit left out. The sounds of laughter from Chef Mickey’s are impossible to ignore, and they indicate that every child eating at this character meal is having the time of their life.
Chef Mickey’s is home to the main Disney gang. Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald Duck all wander the restaurant, entertaining the guests with their shenanigans. Mickey is the one holding court here, though. He’s dressed in adorable chef gear as he walks from table to table, verifying that his guests are having a blast. And they are.
I’ve previously described Chef Mickey’s as “pure joy,” and I stand by that. The laughter of children here is absolutely deafening. The only drawback is the bland food. Disney does need to address the vanilla offerings at its All-You-Care-to-Enjoy (AYCE) restaurants.