Dining with the Characters - Disneyland
Character meals are a must-do part of a Disney vacation for many families. Character dining gives you a chance to take photos and get autographs from multiple characters in a short period of time while taking a break from rides and entertainment in the park. Even though these experiences can be a little pricier than other dining options at Disney parks, the memories made for the kiddos are priceless .
First, compared to Walt Disney World, Disneyland actually has relatively few character dining options. There are currently only 5 choices, to be exact. There is one standard character dining location in each of the three Disneyland hotels, one in Disneyland park, and an additional premium character meal in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. Each has its own style so it is important to pick carefully.
Disneyland Character Dining Basics
Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park at Plaza Inn in Disneyland park (breakfast only)
Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel (breakfast and dinner)
Donald Duck’s Seaside Breakfast (formerly Mickey’s Surf’s Up! Breakfast) at Disney’s PCH Grill at the Paradise Pier Hotel (breakfast only, brunch on weekends)
Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet (formerly Chip ’n Dale’s Critter Breakfast) at Storytellers Cafe at the Grand Californian Hotel (breakfast only, brunch on weekends)
Princess Breakfast Adventures at Napa Rose at the Grand Californian Hotel (breakfast/brunch only, Thursday-Monday)
The character meal offerings have changed a lot at Disneyland in the past several years. A restaurant called Ariel’s Grotto closed in early 2018 and Disneyland changed two of the other character meals on July 10, 2018, as is reflected in the list above. Finally, a new meal debuted in spring of 2019. So, if you find older information about the character meal choices at Disneyland, it is likely outdated.
While character dining is very popular, Disneyland visitors don’t make reservations as crazy-early as guests do at Walt Disney World, where the best reservations can be gone 180 days in advance. In fact, dining reservations don’t open up until 60 days in advance at Disneyland. Even so, qw recommend reserving dining early for Disneyland too.
What is the Best Character Meal at Disneyland?
In our experience, the best character meal is different for every guest. For a family taking a bucket list one-time vacation to Disneyland, their choices may be very different than a seasoned annual pass holder. If you have a child who is obsessed with a certain character, the best character meal for them may well be the meal that gets them that coveted character interaction time and photo opp.
Things to Think About When Choosing Disneyland Character Meals
1. How big is your budget?
All but one of the character meals are in the same price range per person (give or take a couple of dollars). Goofy’s for dinner is a tad pricier than the rest, but not by much. And Plaza Inn is usually a few dollars cheaper than the other breakfast options. PCH Grill and Storytellers Cafe in Fall 2018 was $39 for adults and $23 for children (plus tax and tip). Goofy’s at dinner as of summer 2019 was $48 for adults and $28 for children (plus tax and tip). Plaza Inn is regularly $34 for adults and $19 for children (plus tax and tip).
But if you have a bigger budget and have a princess fan in the family, there is a super-premium character dining experience to know about. Princess Breakfast Adventures is a character breakfast with Disney princesses in Napa Rose in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel that launched in May 2019. At $125 per person pre-tax and tip (for both adults and children ages 3+), it’s a spendy experience in another league entirely. It’s open 8:00 am until noon Thursday through Monday. The meal includes gifts and premium activity experiences in the price, so it’s a bit misleading to compare it directly to the other character meals since it offers more for the price.
2. In-park or out?
The next major choice to make is whether you want to eat in-park or out-of-park in one of the hotels. If you are dining out-of-the park, you won’t need a park ticket that day to have a Disney experience. For that reason, we often help families schedule a character meal in a hotel location on their arrival or departure day. This strategy allows families to make better use of their park days.
Plaza Inn in Disneyland park is the only character dining experience where a park ticket is required, so you have manu more choices for out-of-park options in the three hotels.
3. What time of day?
All of the character meals in Disneyland offer breakfast. Since the early morning breakfast hours can be valuable park time when lines are shortest, however, we highly recommend a non-breakfast option if you are an early-morning ride fan. There is only one restaurant that serves a character dinner (Goofy’s Kitchen). With the closing of Ariel’s Grotto in January 2018, there is no longer any location where you can eat lunch with characters. But all hope is not lost. Mickey’s Tale of Adventure now offers brunch through 2pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Donald’s Seaside Breakfast has added brunch until 1pm those same days. These are the closest to a new lunch offering as you may get.
4. Are Certain Characters Important?
Is there one character that your kids MUST see? Then your choice in character meals may be narrowed down easily. While you’ll probably meet 4-8 characters during any given meal, there is only one character guaranteed at each Disneyland dining location (with the exception of Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures):
Donald Duck at PCH Grill
Goofy at Goofy’s Kitchen
Minnie Mouse at Plaza Inn
Mickey Mouse at Storytellers Cafe
(No princess is guaranteed at Napa Rose, but Rapunzel generally greets guests upon arrival in the waiting area and Ariel closes the meal with an included Photopass photo).
Even though there is only one guaranteed character, there are some characters that make fairly regular appearances at certain locations. For example, you’ll almost always see Stitch at Donald Duck’s Seaside Breakfast and Winnie the Pooh is a frequent guest at Plaza Inn. Minnie Mouse can regularly be seen at all character meals (except Princess Breakfast Adventures) these days. Check out the printable below for common characters you may see at each location.
5. What Kind of Food?
The basic breakfast options at most of the character dining restaurants are all fairly similar. You’ll find standard fare like eggs, sausages, bacon, and Mickey shaped waffles everywhere.
But each restaurant does have some variations and unique offerings. For example, Donald’s Seaside Breakfast offers chilaquiles, which is a traditional Mexican breakfast or brunch dish and is served with shredded beef, salsa verde, and queso fresco. If you are looking for something a little more unusual, we would also recommend Goofy’s Kitchen, Goofy’s is known for a few wacky choices like pizza topped with macaroni and cheese or PB&J. And of course, since Goofy’s offers dinner, there is more than just breakfast cuisine if you dine at the later time of day.
Princess Breakfast Adventures has a unique and much more extensive menu. While there is a breakfast buffet component to the meal, the offerings are much less mass produced and definitely aimed at foodies – including champagne for adults. The meal begins with a bread basket of breakfast pastries, followed by tiered display of starters like an open faced and cheese sandwich with cranberry cream cheese or a chia and granola parfait.
Then the hot buffet is open, featuring kid-friendly favorites like Mickey waffles, macaroni & cheese , and scrambled eggs. Adults will also enjoy more exotic options like tempura shrimp with a spiced dipping sauce and braised short ribs. Home fries are also provided on the table as well. Finally, the meal finishes with a tiered display of 5 different miniature desserts like cake pops, seashell macarons, and strawberry honey sorbet.
The menus of every character meal are available on the Disneyland website now, so check them out in advance to see what looks most appealing to you.
6. What Extras Interest You?
While all character meals include food and character meet-and-greet time, a few of them have some extras that might matter to you or your kids. For example, at all of the character meals except Mickey’s Tales of Adventure, Disney PhotoPass photographers take a formal photo of you with the meal’s main character. If you have Disney’s MaxPass, your character meal photos are included just like all your PhotoPass photos are! Because there is no pre-meal photo opportunity at Storytellers, this might be a meal you should do on a non-park or non-MaxPass day.
If your kids are outgoing and want even more character fun, they might like some of the offerings that allow them to get up out of their seats and interact with the characters. At PCH Grill, kids can dance to beach music with the characters during a regular dance party. And at Mickey’s Tales of Adventure, the characters parade around the restaurant every 20 minutes or so, leading the kids who carry and play musical instruments and noisemakers. At Goofy’s, there’s a similar character procession that ends with getting kids up to dance.
Of course, if you have kids who might be overwhelmed by the noise, the quieter meal option of Plaza Inn might be better for you! And when it comes to activities, none of the character meals can hold a candle to the offerings at Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures. There, kids can participate in story time with Belle or learn some warrior skills with Mulan. Children ages 3 and up receive an autograph book at the start of the meal and can also choose between a parting gift – a tiara, necklace or a sword and shield set. Adults receive a free Photopass image (no Maxpass required) and a tote bag with chocolates.
Things to Remember:
Anyone can dine at the hotel character meals. You do not need to be a hotel guest to make a reservation or dine.
Your Pixie Planner can book all dining reservations for you at least 60 days in advance.
Even with a reservation, you might not be seated immediately upon arrival. Leave some buffer time in your schedule for the day to account for this, especially if you are trying to make rope drop or a FASTPASS reservation time.
Kids under 3 are free at all character meals. You should, however, count them in making your table reservation. The true count is needed to assure proper table size.
Parking validation is available for character meals in the Disneyland resort hotels if you drive to your meal and park. But don’t try to use this trick to then go to the parks for the day – the validation limit is usually only for 3 hours.
Don’t forget your autograph book! Character meals are some of the easiest times to get character autographs.
If you plan to dine at Princess Breakfast Adventures, plan on at least 3 hours to complete the experience. Consider carefully whether your toddler or preschooler has the patience for a meal of that length – I personally think the meal is really best suited to kids 5 and up.