Sure, you and your gang get excited about riding Splash Mountain, visiting Cars Land, catching a show or two, and experiencing many other Disneyland highlights. But there may be no higher highlight, especially for children, than meeting Mickey Mouse and his gang. And there may be no better way to get up close and personal with Mickey's posse than at a character meal.
One restaurant in each of the two theme parks and the three hotels includes character meals.
But not all participating restaurants feature the characters at all of the meals. If you want to start the day with a hearty breakfast and a hearty hug from Minnie or one of her pals, you're in luck; all of the eateries offer morning meals with the characters. Only one of the restaurants, however, offers dinner, and just one has lunch.
Regardless of the time of day you plan to dine or the time of year you plan to visit, you are strongly advised to make reservations. The character dining meals are very popular, and you wouldn't want to get shut out if your kids (or you, you big kid) have their hearts set on schmoozing with the stars. Check out my page to learn more about making advance Disneyland restaurant reservations. The following restaurants offer character dining:
- Disneyland Park
Minnie & Friends - Breakfast in the Park
As the name indicates, the characters are on hand only at breakfast (although the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner). Like most of the other restaurants listed here, the meal is served buffet style.
- Disney California Adventure
Breakfast and lunch
Ariel’s Disney Princess Celebration
It may be Ariel's Grotto, but other princesses, including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White are on hand to meet and greet patrons as well. Instead of a buffet, guests choose a main course from the fixed-price menu, and salads and desserts are served family-style.
- Disneyland Hotel
Breakfast and dinner
Chef Goofy is the star here, but many of his buddies come to visit as well. The rambunctious restaurant (if you are seeking peace and quiet, consider heading next door to Steakhouse 55) features a large buffet with some unusual choices, including Mickey-shaped waffles, macaroni and cheese pizza, and peanut butter and jelly pizza (blech on the last one, but maybe that's just me).
- Disney's Grand Californian Hotel
Chip 'n Dale Critter Breakfast
Chip 'n Dale and their woodland friends only visit during breakfast (although the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner as well). Patrons can order a la carte from the menu or partake from an all-you-can-eat buffet. If Goofy's Kitchen is rambunctious, this place is enough to cause migraines for adults who prefer to slowly acclimate in the morning. An insanely loud "park ranger" periodically leads a conga line of characters and kids through the restaurant while he sings (more like screams) a ridiculous sing-along ditty and keeps time by pounding two rubber fish on diners' tables. Kids may love it, but adults may want to run outside and jump in the pool to escape the cacophony.
- Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel
Disney's PCH Grill
Surf's Up! Breakfast with Mickey & Friends
Another breakfast-only place for Mick and his buds (the PCH Grill is also open for dinner), it also offers a buffet for its morning meal. I'm not sure how Mickey feels about it, but the restaurant offers pancakes and waffles shaped like the famous mouse. If you're worried about his reaction, you could stick with the omelette station.
Tips and Things to Know
- This may seem kind of obvious, but for Pete's sake (and I know this is off-topic, but who the heck is Pete anyhow?), don't forget to bring your camera or make sure your smartphone has enough of a charge. If your kids collect autographs, remember to bring their books also.
- Allow the characters to make their way to you. They are great about ensuring that they visit every table, but they aren't too fond of unruly kids who chase after them. Stay calm. They will find you and your children.
- Be prepared for a noisy experience (see Chip 'n Dale Critter Breakfast above).
- Consider reserving a late or early meal. It may be less busy, and the characters might spend more time with you.
- The restaurants that offer character dining aren't necessarily the best places to dine at the resort. The food is secondary anyways, since the focus is more on taking a photo with Ariel or spending some hang time with Pluto. But if you want to discover where to find some great food (and there is some great food to be found), check out my roundup of the best Disneyland dining.