Home » The Six WORST Character Meals at Disney (That Are Still Mostly Great)

    The Six WORST Character Meals at Disney (That Are Still Mostly Great)

    Image © Disney

    Character Meals at Walt Disney World are the gold standard in table service dining experiences. These are the rare vacation memories that can literally last a lifetime. I am not exaggerating when I say that my family has an entire wall filled with framed Disney pictures, many of which were taken by professional Disney photographers during Character Meals.

    There is pure joy embodied in all of these meals, even for those of us who do not have children. Simply hearing the laughter of kids is an uplifting sensation that elevates the food as well as the ambience. No Character Meal at Disney is ever bad – although the food can be. Still, ranking the dozen current options means that six of one group must be ruled lacking in order to better appreciate the half dozen of the other. As always, author bias is a huge factor. Many people love the character meal that I have ranked one of the worst two. Let’s agree to consider one another crazy if you violently disagree on any of these.

    Editor’s Note: As David mentioned, author bias is a huge part of this piece, and his opinions in no way reflect those of Theme Park Tourist or its staff. 

    6) Goofy and Pals Breakfast at Four Seasons

    Image © Disney

    Image: Disney

    This character meal was introduced in August of 2014. This breakfast-only meal is served at Ravello’s restaurant. If you are a longtime Disney park visitor and the name doesn’t seem familiar, there is a logical explanation. It is hosted at the recently opened Four Seasons Resort Orlando, one of the centerpieces of the new Golden Oaks luxury home community across the bay from Magic Kingdom. Therein lies the problem.

    The beauty of most character meals is that they are centrally located near the four Disney parks in Orlando and their nearby Disney resorts. The premiere locality allows travelers to ride a bus or monorail to their meal. Goofy and Pals Breakfast lacks this convenience. It is the only legitimately off-site character meal, although another one listed below technically qualifies for reasons I will explain in a moment.

    Once you get past the transportation issues, however, Goofy and Pals has a lot of positives. In fact, there were so many that it narrowly missed being on the Best Character Meals list. By all accounts, Goofy and Pals is a well-kept secret thus far. Disney fans willing to make the journey across the bay will discover a regularly empty breakfast, especially if the visit occurs closer to brunch hours. That means that you will have plenty of personal time with Goofy, Minnie and Mickey. Plus, the quality of food served at Ravello’s is tremendous.

    Perhaps the explanation for its lack of popularity is that Goofy and Pals only occurs on Thursdays and Saturdays. Note that an occasional third day is added during high-traffic points on the Disney calendar. Clever Disney trip managers who are not afraid of taking a taxi/Uber off-site will probably rank Goofy and Pals much higher. The mascot costumes are especially adorable.

    5) Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus

    Image © Disney

    Before you start screaming “PRINCESS HATER” with murder in your eyes, let me explain. Akershus, to its credit, provides some of the most original food of any character meal. I actually love the food options at this EPCOT World Pavilion restaurant a great deal. If you have never had Kjøttkake, well, you probably aren’t European.

    The reason why it makes the Worst List is something beyond its control. Akershus is the back-up princess meal option for people who cannot get reservations to Cinderella’s Royal Table. Many of the characters are identical at the two meals. The problem is that Akershus lacks the ambience of eating at the centerpiece of Magic Kingdom. Instead, it is tucked in the back of EPCOT. Akershus is actually a great option for people who want the princess meal experience without all of the hassle of the Magic Kingdom. It is by design and execution the inferior clone meal to Cinderella’s Royal Table, though.

    4) Winnie the Pooh and Friends at Crystal Palace

    Crystal Palace

    Image: Disney

    The only character meal at Magic Kingdom that does not require massive planning for Advance Dinner Reservations, Crystal Palace offers a lot of convenience. After all, Magic Kingdom is the most popular theme park in the world. This restaurant is only a couple of blocks away from the front entrance, which means that it is the easiest character meal to plan at Walt Disney World. Reservations are rarely a problem, and it is never more than a mile away for someone at the park.

    Why is it not ranked higher? At the risk of alienating Winnie the Pooh fans (count my wife as a member of your group), it is just not an exciting meal experience. The primary mascots are Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet, which means that there are several picture-taking opportunities available. If you consider Winnie the Pooh and his gang to be timeless characters, this character meal is not to be missed. If you are like me and outgrew them, all you are left with is the food. And Crystal Palace is an extremely dull buffet whose only saving grace is a strong dessert menu.  I view the restaurant as a fallback option if the better character meals are already booked.

    3) Garden Grove Café

    Image © Starwood Dolphin

    You have probably heard the phrase, “damning with faint praise.” I would like to offer a corollary here. I will now praise Garden Grove Café through faint damnation. If this is one of the bottom three character meals at Walt Disney World, the company is doing a lot right in their decision making. Actually, that isn’t quite true as Garden Grove Café is located at Starwood’s Swan hotel, which is situated beside Beach Club Inn and Resort at the back door of EPCOT.

    On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the hotel offers a character meal featuring Goofy and Pluto only. If breakfast is not your thing, wait for dinner and you can meet the same Disney puppies. Better yet, if you have dinner on Friday, Chip and Dale also make an appearance, doubling the selfie options. This character meal is a lot of fun. Plus, it is rarely crowded since it is a bit off the beaten path for most Disney tourists.

    The only problems are obvious. Since it is not an official Disney location, the Disney Dining Plan cannot be used. Also, getting to the hotel requires a bit of a hike compared to Boardwalk Inn and Beach Club Resort. Also, you may be a cat person, so Goofy and Pluto are not your thing.

    2) Donald’s Safari Breakfast at Tusker House

    Here come the torches and pitchforks. Yes, I realize that insulting any restaurant at Animal Kingdom is effectively a call to arms for many Disney purists. Remember, folks. I come in peace. Let me say before hitting the negatives that the outfits worn by Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Mickey at Tusker House are among the cutest of the dozen current character meal offerings. And if I were following the maxim that if you don’t have anything nice to say then say nothing at all, I should stop right there. Alas, that’s not how this process works.

    Tusker House has myriad issues. Even with reservations, the wait to enter the restaurant is oftentimes preternaturally long. Since Animal Kingdom is more humid than the other parks, the staff always seems edgier and less friendly than I expect from Disney. Worst of all, the food is terrible. Your mileage may (and hopefully does) vary, but the worst eating experience I have ever had at Disney occurred at Tusker House. Since I don’t want to stand in a hot area for an extended period of time, especially when I have reservations for an hour earlier, and since I don’t like hostile employees delivering lousy food, Tusker House is on my NEVER AGAIN list of Disney restaurants. The current length of that list is one. If you love Tusker House, let me remind you of what I said in the introductory paragraph about us agreeing to disagree.

    1)    Disney Junior Play ‘N Dine at Hollywood & Vine

    Image © Disney

    Image: Disney

    If you like to walk around and say, “Who is that?” a lot, this is the meal for you. Disney Junior is a character meal designed to celebrate Disney Junior characters. The problem is simple. I watch a lot of Disney Channel (don’t judge me). I know characters like Phineas, Ferb, Doofenshmirtz (I even know how to spell Doofenshmirtz), Dipper, Mabel and Grunkle Stan. I don’t watch the shows, but I know that there are people named Austin & Ally, and some dog has a blog. These are popular Disney characters. I have no idea who Doc McStuffins, Handy Manny, or Jake of the Neverland Pirates are. I do know Sofia the First, but that means that 75% of the characters at this character meal require an introduction.

    Disney seems to realize that this one is a clunker, because they don’t even operate the character meal for dinner, instead substituting in a much more desirable Fantasmic package. If you want to eat at Hollywood & Vine, that option is exponentially better. Of course, I wouldn’t even recommend that, either. Hollywood & Vine shares a bathroom with 50’s Prime Time Café, which makes me disinclined to visit either one. Also, the food at Hollywood & Vine is lackluster save for a solid Sundae bar. Simply stated, I don’t see many positives to this character meal, which is why it is clearly the worst of an otherwise solid group of options.