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Travel Disney World has reopened character meals: Why they are better than ever

22:12  27 september  2020
22:12  27 september  2020 Source:   thepointsguy.com

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a group of people sitting at a table © Provided by The Points Guy
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Editor’s note: This guide is updated periodically as more restaurants reopen.

Once upon a time, there were theme park guests packed down Disney World’s Main Street U.S.A. Your biggest concerns were pondering the length of time you’d wait in line, how many FastPasses you could snag in a day and the ample opportunities to dine with classic Disney characters both in and out of the parks.

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Back in those gone but not forgotten days, you could have dinner with Snow White and the Evil Queen; dine in Cinderella Castle with the princesses; enjoy breakfast with Lilo, Stitch and Hawaiian-themed Mickey at the Polynesian; or have a meal with Winnie the Pooh and friends inside the Magic Kingdom.

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As you filled your belly with Mickey waffles, bacon and eggs, (sometimes by filling your plate at the buffet) each character would come by your table and you’d drop what you’re doing, all get up, take photos or awkwardly just say hi, not get up and they’d eventually pass you along. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, super magical for little kids who weren’t afraid of the characters and a much more civilized way of getting that coveted Mickey photo than a long line in the heat — but these meals had their interruptions and drawbacks, too.

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a group of people posing for the camera: Photo with Mickey from 2019 (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Photo with Mickey from 2019 (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Like many other things at Disney World right now, character meals have been significantly impacted by the coronavirus. As you can imagine, packed dining rooms where everyone hugs and takes pictures with Sleeping Beauty aren’t exactly socially-distanced friendly.

Related: 5 Disney World changes we hope become permanent

a group of people standing next to a little girl: Photo with Aurora from 2017 (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Photo with Aurora from 2017 (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Thankfully, just like how Disney World has found a way to tweak how its hotels operate and spread guests out in the parks, it’s also found a way to open back up some of the character meals — just in an all-new format that I think is even better than the original pre-pandemic version.

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Open character meals at Disney World

Before we get into what to expect at your next meal with Mickey, here are the currently available character meals that have restarted. Keep in mind that this list was current as of the most recent update at the end of September, but could change at any time.

Breakfast at Topolino Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort

Riviera Resort is Disney’s newest resort hotel that opened in late 2019. It’s a very grown-up and refined resort that doesn’t at all feel like you’re at a theme park. (But don’t worry, it doesn’t feel stuffy.)

a large building: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Topolino Terrace is a French- and Italian-inspired restaurant located on the top floor of the Riviera Resort. Each morning, it hosts a character breakfast that is quite the civilized way to see Mickey and friends.

Adults get a pastry basket, juice, coffee and an entree from a selection such as smoked salmon, quiche gruyère, sour cream waffles or the wild mushroom scramble I ordered below for $42.

a plate of food: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Meals for kids up to 9 years old will cost $27 and come with options such as Mickey waffle dippers, eggs, or fruit and yogurt.

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a bowl of fruit on a plate: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Here you’ll get to see Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy in their best Mediterranean outfits.

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a person standing in front of a window: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Garden Grill at Epcot

Unlike some character meals, such as Chef Mickey’s, “Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Harvest Feast” was family-style serving even before the pandemic.

Here you’ll get a family-style platter with options such as turkey breast, seasonal vegetables, grilled beef, salad and more — some of which was grown within Epcot’s Living with the Land area.

This meal is available for lunch or dinner and costs $55 to adults or $36 for kids. The characters normally include not only the headlining Chip and Dale, but also Mickey and Pluto — in their farming attire.

Ravello at the Four Seasons Orlando

This meal at the nearby Four Seasons Orlando is named the “Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy and Pals.” It’s currently only happening once per week on Saturday mornings. It was previously a high-end breakfast buffet of sorts but is now a sit-down meal that includes a bakery basket, sliced fruit, coffee/juice and your choice of entree for $48 for adults and $28 for kids 12 and under (which is a more generous definition of a child than Disney itself offers).

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At this meal, Goofy’s pals usually include Mickey and Minnie, all dressed in resort attire. If you want to add-on adult beverages, bottomless mimosas tack on $18 and bottomless bloody marys will add $19 per person. This reservation requires a call to the Four Seasons at 407-313-7777.

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Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios

A fun and very recently reopened character meal can be found in the popular Disney Hollywood Studios theme park (also home to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the newest ride at Disney World, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway).

At Hollywood & Vine, Minnie, Mickey and a couple of their friends dress up for the season, which will be Halloween-themed through October and then switches to holiday attire through the end of the year.

For now, the previous buffet-style service has been changed to a set menu that starts with family-style salad and rolls, followed by an entree with options such as shrimp mac and cheese or cracked black pepper prime rib, and concludes with dessert options including assorted pies or crème brûlée.

a little girl standing in a room: Hollywood & Vine (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Hollywood & Vine (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom

Be Our Guest is located within the Beast’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom and it has transitioned away from an a la carte lunch menu, to a three-course meal for both lunch and dinner. This means lunch costs more than it did before, but it now skips this awful (and extremely non-distanced) process we encountered at lunch here a few years ago.

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a group of people in a room: Be Our Guest at lunch can be an absolute zoo in 2018. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Be Our Guest at lunch can be an absolute zoo in 2018. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Here’s the same hallway at lunchtime now.

a group of people in a room: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Now, you are seated in socially spaced tables where you’ll have a three-course meal that is pricey for either meal, but it’s also super relaxing. It’s now $62 for adults and $37 for kids. With this big price tag, you get starter options such as lobster bisque, mixed greens salad or a meat and cheese board.

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a group of people sitting at a table: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Your main options will be along the lines of filet mignon, sea scallops or baked chicken.

a plate of food: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

And don’t over-stuff as the included dessert is a trio of treats — including the “grey stuff” that tastes much better than it sounds.

a tray of food: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

For me, this meal, while delicious, only counts as half a character meal as only one character — the Beast — comes out to make an appearance.

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Cinderella’s Royal Table

Dining at the end of Main Street U.S.A. in Cinderella’s Castle is a pretty iconic Disney World bucket list activity. Pre-pandemic, this was the pièce de résistance of Disney World character meals for anyone who adored Disney Princesses. It has very recently reopened for lunch and dinner ($37 for kids, $62 for adults), but with a major change.

Currently, Cinderella’s Royal Table is only kind of, sort of a character meal. Cinderella herself has been making “surprise” appearances in the castle to wave during the meal (much like the Beast at Be Our Guest), but the other princesses have not yet returned.

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If you’ve been yearning to get back in Cinderella Castle for a meal, get that credit card ready and go for it if you can snag a reservation. But if you want to do a once-in-a-lifetime meal with all the princesses, I’d wait a bit longer for this one to fully return.

a large clock tower in front of a building: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

What happens at a Disney character meal now

Now that you know the current character meal options, here’s how it works.

Make a reservation

Disney used to allow you to make dining reservations starting 180 days out, which frankly, was absurd. I don’t know what I want for dinner tonight, much less at Disney six months from now. Some hot ticket meals, like Be Our Guest, would be snatched up months in advance, leaving those with more spontaneous trips out of luck absent hitting the jackpot with someone else’s cancellation.

Now, you should still make a character dining reservation in advance since availability in the few open dining rooms has basically been cut in half, but reservations are only open 60 days out.

Mobile check-in and menus

When your reservation time comes, head to the restaurant and check-in via the Disney mobile app.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Your menu will also be available on mobile when you scan the QR code with your phone. (They do have paper menus available upon request.)

See the characters

While you eat, the characters associated with your restaurant will make appearances throughout your time dining.

At Topolino’s Terrace, each character was announced one by one as they entered and they would then happily go around the room to themed music. Each character would spend a minute or so in various spots in the room away from the tables to do a little dance and pose for photos and selfies.

a person wearing a costume: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

After each character had an individual turn, all four appeared together. During our breakfast, we saw this whole rotation twice, so it was happening pretty frequently, though not constantly.

During our recent lunch at Be Our Guest, the Beast also made two appearances during the meal. However, his walk-through was much faster, and he didn’t stop in various corners of the restaurant as the characters did at Topolino’s. (Another reason this meal is only kind of a character meal.)

Right now, you will not get posed photos with the characters, other than any selfies you can snap from your table. The characters didn’t come up to individual tables and don’t sign autographs. The restaurant asks that you stay in your seats while the characters are out and about.

To learn more, visit TPG’s hub for all things Disney

a girl sitting in a room: (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

This all may sound like a lot of rules, but it’s really great.

You are surrounded by characters while you dine, can wave and interact with them from a distance, snap photos as they go by or just keep eating your warm eggs and drinking your hot coffee while it’s still … well …  hot. It’s a much less intrusive and forced way of seeing characters than before.

That said, I know some will miss the autographs and individual photos, especially those with younger kids. If that is what makes a character meal special for you and your family, it may not be the time to spend the $30-ish per kid and $50-ish per adult for this type of meal right now.

But on a recent trip with my tween, we both agreed these were two of our favorite two character meals yet — second only perhaps to that time she got to hang with the Evil Queen.

Featured image courtesy of Disney Parks/Matt Stroshane, photographer

Editor’s note: Story has been corrected to reflect that Garden Grill was family-style before the pandemic.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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