Debating whether or not Disneyland Character Dining is worth the splurge? Here is the ultimate guide to Character Dining at Disneyland – including the best prices, which character dining experience is the best, and tips for having the best experience ever!
After talking with my mom and sister, and reading different reviews online, we all decided it would be worth the splurge.
It was hard to decide which one to sign up for – they all sounded so fun and delicious. I wish we could have done all of them!
I’m by no means an expert, but I thought I’d share this Disneyland character meal guide to show you your options and how to decide what’s best for your family. It was definitely one of the best splurges we did on this trip.
As you are planning your Disneyland vacation, I highly recommend using Get Away Today. Both times I’ve been to Disneyland in the past several years, we have used them, and they are EXCELLENT. You can even do a Lay Away plan so you don’t have to pay for the whole trip right away. You can get $10 off any package using the code ClarksCondensed at checkout.
Is Character Dining Worth it?
This is the million dollar question – is it worth the splurge? This is something I asked myself over and over while we tried to decide if we wanted to do it.
Obviously, in the end we did, and I’m so glad we did. It was honestly one of the highlights of the trip for all of us, and it was totally worth it to watch Jack interact one on one with the characters.
I think that it’s really great for young children who really want to see the characters, but they may not be able to stand in line for a long time at the park waiting to see their favorite characters. I asked a few friends on Facebook, and here are a few different opinions:
You just have to expect that you are paying for the experience more than the food. I remember my son eating fruit loops and ice cream and that’s all he would eat. lol! Pretty expensive for that but the atmosphere is fun. – Kara
It’s been years since we’ve been but I always thought they were worth it. Mostly because you have the time to meet up with the characters and then when you are in the park you can focus on the attractions vs hunting down the characters. We did Goofy’s Kitchen a few times and Ariel’s Grotto. Again, though, this was years (at least 5 years) ago. – Rachel
I don’t love them. I did a princess one for P. I thought we got a similar amount of time when we did the princess visit thing (who’s name I am blanking on). We did it with her BFF, so it was superfun and we will always remember it. But it is INSANELY OVER PRICED. I think itw as close to 70 for just the two of us. – Hilary
It is expensive, but I feel it was worth the money so that the rest of the day we were focused on doing things together as a family and going on the rides and not waiting in line for a meet and greet. – Tia
I think the general consensus that I’ve found is that it’s great for younger children. We didn’t do a lot of other splurges during the trip, so it was worth it to us!
Best Prices for Disneyland Character Dining
When we first started to plan our character dining, I wanted to make sure we got the best price. We ended up booking through Get Away Today (which is also where we bought our Disneyland tickets).
The tickets through Get Away Today are up to 10% cheaper than just paying at the restaurant, as they include the gratuity and tax. They have two options – regular character dining and premium character dining.
Here are the descriptions of each (and the prices) from Get Away Today’s website:
Regular Character Dining:
“Regular Disney Character Dining tickets are the most affordable way to get some one-on-one time with the characters and have a great meal. Regular Character Dining is available for breakfast only and includes Surf’s Up Breakfast with Mickey and Friends at the PCH Grill inside Disney’s Paradise Pier® Hotel, Chip ‘n Dale’s Critter Breakfast at the Storyteller’s Cafe inside Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel® & Spa, and breakfast with Minnie & Friends at the Plaza Inn on Main Street inside Disneyland® Park.”
As of right now, the prices are $38 for people ages 10 and up, and $23 for children 3-9. This is the option we chose.
Premium Character Dining:
“Premium Disney Character Dining tickets are valid at the two most popular Character Dining experiences at the Disneyland® Resort: Goofy’s Kitchen inside the Disneyland® Hotel and Disney’s Princess Celebration at Ariel’s Grotto inside Disney California Adventure® Park for breakfast and lunch.”
Disneyland Character Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner?
Character dining is available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfasts are all-you-can-eat buffets, with the exception of Ariel’s Grotto.
I would say that if you are going to pay the extra for Ariel’s Grotto or Goofy’s Kitchen, you should do it for lunch or dinner. Ariel’s Grotto is only open for breakfast and lunch, and Goofy’s Kitchen is open for breakfast and dinner. I just feel like you’ll get more for your money that way.
If you are paying for the regular, I think the breakfast is a really fun way to start the day. I’ll talk about this later, but I think going earlier is better because you will likely get more interaction with the characters.
Disney Character Dining Reservations
I highly recommend getting reservations. You can make these on the Disneyland dining website for the restaurant you are going to. You can make them up to 60 days in advance – and you can also change or cancel though. However, if you do have to cancel them (or any of the people in your reservation), you will want to make sure you do so in advance, as they may charge you otherwise.
Character Dining Options at Disneyland
Here are the different character dining experiences you can have. Keep in mind that the characters that attend can vary. Most of these are in hotels, and you do not have to be staying at the hotel to eat there.
Surf’s Up Breakfast with Mickey & Friends
This is the one we attended. It is at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, and it serves a buffet of delicious foods for breakfast. I was very impressed with the variety of food. They had amazing banana foster’s french toast, chilaquiles (which I couldn’t get enough of), an omelet bar, fresh fruit, and much, much more.
I loved that this breakfast had many of the classic Disney characters – we saw Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Daisy Duck, as well as Stitch – who was hilarious. Our kids got a lot of attention from them, as we were some of the first people there.
It’s a really casual environment, and we had a lot of fun. Mickey Mouse is always guaranteed to be there. They have a fun dance party every hour, which our kids really got into!
Goofy’s Kitchen – Disneyland Hotel
When I initially asked people for character dining recommendations, people often recommended this one. I’ve heard it’s quite the experience for everyone, though I’ve heard mixed reviews on the food.
Here are a few reviews from friends:
We went to Goofys kitchen. It was a fun experience for the kids, mediocre food- although a decent variety and was super pricey. We had a discount thankfully, but would have felt it wasn’t worth it if we paid full price. We won’t do it again. – Sara
We’ve loved Goofy’s kitchen in the past. Pretty expensive for that but the atmosphere is fun. I recommend going for breakfast since the prices are much less than dinner. – Kara
We had a great experience at Goofy’s Kitchen. We saw Goofy of course, Minnie, Chip and Dale and Pluto. Food was awesome. Many visits to our table by the characters and posed for pics for as long as we wanted. Our two year old grandson loves it. We went for breakfast before Disneyland opened and timing was perfect. Highly recommend and we will be doing this again in the very near future. You do need to make reservations months in advance. – Sandy
Most recently we did Goofys Kitchen and we were disappointed on the lack of characters and the amount of time they spent in the room. Reservations are key. – Lori
Chip ‘n Dale Critter Breakfast at Storyteller’s Café
Storyteller’s Cafe is in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel ® and Spa. It is hosted by Chip n’ Dale, and it often has lesser-known characters, such as Meek from Pocahontas and Turk from the Jungle Book. If your kids are really hoping to see popular characters, this may not be the best option.
However, it is a nice restaurant and a fun experience from what I’ve read.
Minnie and Friends – Breakfast in the Park
This one takes place in Plaza Inn on Main Street U.S.A. inside the park. Although the characters vary, from what I’ve heard, it has some of the older characters frequently, such as Captain Hook and the Fairy Godmother. Of course, Minnie is the host!
They serve a buffet breakfast with a large variety of food. I think it sounds like it would be a lot of fun.
We’ve done the character breakfast at Plaza Inn several times and love it! Reviews of the food are always poor, but we’ve never had an issue. We always leave full and get to take photos with the characters while eating. For us, it’s worth the price! – Camille
We’ve been to the character breakfast held at the Plaza Inn – located adjacent to the castle. We’ve had great experiences every time we have done these. Reservations are needed most of the time. There is a nice variety of breakfast food and drinks are unlimited while dining. Characters are continually coming and going so this is a great opportunity for autographs and photos! – Jodi
We also did the one at Plaza Inn and it was fun too! Lots and lots of characters coming and going so the opportunity for pictures and autographs is great! We made a reservation for both but probably didn’t need one for Plaza Inn. But we went durning a down time on a Tuesday morning for breakfast. – Amanda
We have been to Breakfast with Minnie at The Plaza Inn. It was really fun with many characters to see and take photos with. Our breakfast included a family picture with Minnie. We had to have a reservation.
The food was very good and we had unlimited drinks. I would definitely do it again. Our kids loved it! – Jolynn
Ariel’s Disney Princess Celebration
This is located in Disney’s California Adventure. I’ve heard that the food at this one is excellent, though going for lunch is a little bit better value.
If you have a princess lover in your family, this can be a great option. While you can see the princesses for free at the Disney Princess Fantasy Fare, this is a good opportunity to be able to see and interact with them without standing in line forever.
The breakfast and lunch are served family style, though there is a kid’s menu for lunch. Here are a few reviews from my friends:
This year I decided that we spent a lot of time waiting in lines and so I took her to the princess breakfast at Ariel’s grotto in California adventure I liked that we could go before the park even opened and so it did not eat into the day at all. I really liked that this one was inside the park so we could just meet my husband and son at the gates when we were done eating. It was a really special thing for her and I to do and she was over the top excited. My daughter loved having the princesses come to our table. I really enjoyed the food and felt like there was an abundance of it. They first brought a plate of sliced fruits and 4-5 pasteries. Then we got to order something from the menu. They even offered to box up our pastries and fruit to take with us into the park for the day which we did because it was just too much to eat for the two of us. I would do a different one next time just to experience the others they offer. – Tia
We went to the Disney Princess breakfast. It was so awesome! Our girls were 4 and 2 and it was so magical for them. All of the princesses were there. I remember Belle scooping up Alexis in her lap and talking to her. It was definitely worth the extra money because it was so hard to see the princesses anywhere else without standing in a huge line. It was definitely the highlight of that Disneyland visit. – Diana
We did Breakfast with Minnie and Friends at the Plaza Inn with both the twins and Maizy when we took them before their third birthdays. It was perfect for that age group. Good way to start the day.It was good because our girls weren’t big talkers at the age, so there was no pressure. Hugs, high fives, see ya later. – Brianne
We did Ariels Grotto and my daughter (3) loved it! All the princesses came around and spent time with each table and took a picture. It was great! – Amanda
Tips for Disneyland Character Dining Success:
Make a Reservation
A reservation isn’t required, but it is recommended. The restaurants fill up quick, and I can’t imagine anyone would want to get there and be turned! away (especially a child). You don’t have to pay anything when you make a reservation, and you can make them on the website or by calling (714) 781-DINE. You can make them up to 60 days in advance.
We originally were going to try and go to the Minnie Mouse breakfast, but two weeks out, they were booked solid for when we were going to go. So make those reservations ASAP!
Earlier the Better
My mom made our reservations, and I wanted to groan when she told us they were for 7:45 AM. However, it turned out to work out really well. When we arrived, there was only one or two other families there, and all the characters came over to us right away.
We were able to get lots of one and one with the characters and got first dibs on everything in the buffet!
We stayed for about an hour and a half, and it started getting very congested around 8:30 AM.
Come Ready to Smile!
This is one of the best opportunities to get take pictures with your favorite characters. We didn’t have to wait in any lines, and we got some great pictures. I loved that we could really interact with the characters. When you are out in the parks, there are usually tons of people waiting, so you don’t get to see the characters for as long.
They have a professional photographer that can take a photo. We did this, and while they try and sell you on buying it in an expensive package, we were able to download it with our photo pass later on.
Bring an Autograph Book
This is a great opportunity to get your child’s autograph book filled up. As with getting pictures, it was nice not to have to wait outside in the hot sign to get our son’s favorite characters signatures.
They do offer autograph books on site, but, as to be expected, they are PRICEY. You can even buy an official Disneyland autograph book from Amazon.
When we first arrived for our breakfast, we were given the opportunity to have a group picture taken at the front with Mickey. We had someone take them on our phones, but the professional photographer did as well.
Of course, they tried to sell us a super expensive package of pictures, which we declined. However, we were able to add it to our Disney account later, and I was able to download the photo for free. So I think that’s a pretty good option!