Our top Disney character dining tips

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Are you considering adding a Disney character dining experience to your next Disney vacation?  It can be a wonderful addition to a Disney trip.  You can eat some great food and meet some of your favorite Disney characters.  It is kind of like the ultimate Disney experience.  And, honestly, it is a chance to be inside in the air conditioning while getting to sit for a while.  That alone can sometimes make it worth the price of admission.

But speaking of price, it can be expensive.  Worth it, but expensive.  But to make the experience even more worthwhile, consider using these Disney character dining tips.  They can help you either make the most of your character dining experience or the tips can help you save money.

Please note that while there are other Disney character dining experiences at other Disney parks around the world, this blog is mostly focused on the Disney character dining experiences you can get at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  So some of these tips are based on these Disney character dining experiences, but a lot of the same rules apply.

Go at an Offpeak Time

Consider visiting at an off-peak time.  Take, for example, Hollywood and Vine at Hollywood Studios.  When my family did this character dining experience during Minnie’s Holiday DIne during the Christmas season, we went at 12:00, a peak lunchtime.  We got to interact with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, and Goofy a couple of times.

But it was nothing compared to when we went for Minnie’s Springtime Dine.  Then, we had a reservation for 2:50 PM so we’d have time to get to the park since we were arriving at Disney that day and unpacking.  Since there weren’t a lot of people there at that time, we got to interact with all the characters multiple times all afternoon.  So if you love interacting with the characters, don’t book yours at the most popular time.

Although there is one thing to note here.  If you are doing a character dining dinner and you love seeing the characters, make sure you don’t book a reservation for too late.  When we went to Akershus Dining Hall at the Norway Pavilion at Epcot, the characters left at 8:00 PM.  So you’ll want to avoid booking a time too late there if you want to see the characters.

Get an Autograph Book Beforehand

If you like interacting with characters or your child does, you may want an autograph book so you can always remember this experience.  If you wait to buy it at Disney World or at your hotel, you’ll end up spending more money.  So consider buying a Disney autograph book like this beforehand to save money.

Eat Lightly Beforehand

If you are say doing a Disney lunch experience, don’t have a huge breakfast.  You’re going to want to be hungry when you arrive.  You can eat a lot of food at these Disney character buffets.  And you’ll want to get your money’s worth.  Plus, a lot of this food is so delicious.  For example, at Minnie’s Springtime Dine at Hollywood and Vine, there was New York Strip and salmon.  So the food goes way above standard theme park fare.  You’ll want to try out all the best food.  And you’d hate to say miss out on one of their delicious desserts because you’re full.

A hack for saving money on your dream Disney trip

A picture of a pb&j tart, cheesecake, Mississippi mud, and carrot cake cupcake you can get at Minnie's Springtime Dine at Hollywood and Vine at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL

You could consider skipping breakfast altogether and just having brunch.  Though you may get very hungry if you like to get up early to say take advantage of early entrance into the parks.  So you could also consider saving a little money to help justify paying for a character dining buffet by bringing a small breakfast so you can eat in your room beforehand.  You could for example bring breakfast bars from home on your trip, and that would save you a lot of money versus eating at a restaurant.

Consider a Disney Character Experience at a Hotel

There are a lot of great Disney character dining experiences in the parks, such as the aforementioned Akershus Dining Hall and Garden Grille at Epcot, Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios, etc.  But there are also great Disney character dining experiences at Disney hotels, too.  Some of my family’s favorites include Chef Mickey at the Contemporary Resort, the Cape May Cafe breakfast at the Yacht & Beach Club, and Ohana at the Polynesian Resort.

If you have a Disney character breakfast at your hotel, you can consider doing this on the last day of your trip.  That way, you can save money on tickets by not going to the parks that day.  You can go to your breakfast in the morning and then start heading back home.  Or you could do a character dinner dining experience on the first day of your trip.

You might think staying at a hotel with a Disney character dining experience might be too expensive.  But the truth is, it’s not.  In fact, it can be cheaper than staying at a lower-priced Disney hotel.  But that is only if you use this hack when booking your Disney World stay.

Make a Reservation Ahead of Time

Remember how I said off-peak times were better?  Well, you might have to choose one of those times if you don’t book a reservation well ahead of time.  A lot of the character dining experiences get booked way in advance.  So go ahead and book your character dining experience before your trip so you won’t miss out on doing an experience you’d love.  You can see more advantages of booking a reservation for Disney dining ahead of time here.

Disney Character Dining Reviews

You can also pick up some more tips from a few of our favorite Disney character dining reviews.  Please note that Disney is often changing these experiences as more things open up post COVID-19, so the experience might be different when you go: