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Disney Gift Ideas for Adults

Disney Gift Ideas for Adults

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Disney Fastpass: Secrets, Strategies, and Tiers

Disney Fastpass: Secrets, Strategies, and Tiers

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The Best Places to Watch Epcot’s Fireworks (Restaurants, Fastpass, and more!)

The Best Places to Watch Epcot’s Fireworks (Restaurants, Fastpass, and more!)

Epcot’s fireworks show, “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth,” is a tribute to the nations of the world, involving not just fireworks, but also lasers, dancing water, and music. Premiering on October 1, 1999, it is Walt Disney World’s longest running fireworks show and, according to Wikipedia, has received several awards over the years, including 11 straight Best Outdoor Night Production Show Golden Ticket Awards.

Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about the best viewing spots for Illuminations, how to get those spots, and the pros and cons of each.


What Time is the Epcot Fireworks Show?

Illuminations are at 9pm, and the show lasts 12-15 minutes.

However, it’s a good idea to double-check the time, because sometimes (not often) it varies slightly.

For example, during the holiday season, IllumiNations may be pushed back to 9:30 on certain nights due to the Candlelight Processional.

Also, Epcot closes an hour early (8:00pm) on Good Friday, so Illuminations that night is 8:00pm as well.


Illunminations fireworks show at Epcot
Illumination Reflections of Earth in Epcot
Photo courtesy of Disney Photo Snapper

Does Epcot Have Fireworks Every Night?

Yes, weather permitting.

I did a little research to see what exactly “weather permitting” means.

Will they still have Illuminations if it’s raining? Yep. (You can read more about which Disney rides and fireworks get canceled when it rains.)

Even in cases of thunderstorms, they usually delay the show for an hour or two it before deciding to cancel it altogether.

So … does Epcot have fireworks every night? It sounds like the answer is “yes,” except in very, very rare occasions due to weather.

Touring Plans, one of my favorite Disney planning sites and the authors of my all-time favorite Disney World planning book, points out something important about the ending of the show, especially if you have young kids:

“IllumiNations ends the day at Epcot. When it’s over, only a couple of gift shops remain open. Because there’s nothing to do, everyone leaves at once …
More groups get separated and more kids get lost following IllumiNations than at any other time. In summer, you’ll be walking in a throng of up to 30,000 people. If you’re heading for the parking lot, anticipate this congestion and preselect a point in the Epcot entrance area where you can meet if someone gets separated from the group. We recommend the fountain just inside the main entrance.”


Is Illuminations Ending?

As of this writing (late August 2018), rumors have been picking up speed that a new night show at Epcot will be replacing Illuminations.

Nothing is official at this time, but in early June 2018 a user on the WDW Magic Forums by the name of marni1971 claims the new show will be called “Windows on the World” and (if I understand correctly) will be unlike Illuminations in that it will be involve Disney characters.

And last month the Orlando Sentinel reported that the World Showcase Lagoon was getting over $2 million of electrical work done.

Hmmm ….

So it seems almost certain that Illuminations will be ending before too long. But right now, exactly when that will happen and what it will look like when it does still remain to be seen.

UPDATE on October 2, 2018

Yup, it’s official.

Disney announced a couple weeks ago that Illuminations: Reflections of Earth will be ending in the second half of 2019. A new nighttime show on the World Showcase Lagoon will be taking its place.

On September 17, 2018, the Disney Parks Blog said:

“We’ve got big plans for our multi-year transformation of Epcot, with new experiences that will “Wow!” guests while keeping true to the original vision of the park. And the all-new nighttime fireworks spectacular coming to Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon will be part of the park’s exciting evolution.”

Some of Epcot’s upgrade will also include:
1) A “Ratatouille” ride (yay! Ratatouille never gets enough love) behind the France pavilion that will open in 2021.
2) “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which Disney is describing as “one of the world’s longest enclosed roller coasters,” will replace “Ellen’s Energy’s Ride” (which definitely needed replacing) in 2021.

So you still have roughly a year from the time of this writing to get it a last chance to see Illuminations.


New Fireworks Show: “Epcot Forever”

In April 2019, the Disney Parks Blog reported that the final showing of Epcot’s “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” would be on September 30 and that a new, limited-run show called “Epcot Forever” would begin on October 1, 2019, and continue to run into 2020.

(You folks that like Disney World trivia might know that October 1 is both the day that the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 and the opening date of Epcot in 1982.)

The new show will include fireworks, music, lighting, lasers and “choreographed, special effects kites.”

The show will take us on a journey through the past, present and future of Epcot. Featuring a stirring collection of songs that paint a colorful picture of the park, this nighttime extravaganza will offer both a trip down memory lane and a look towards the future and all the magical possibilities still to come.


Video — Preview of “Epcot Forever”


Will the viewing spots that work well for Illuminations also be good for Epcot Forever? I would guess so, but there’s no way to know for sure until it arrives.


Illuninations fireworks show at Epcot World Showcase
Photo courtesy of Brett at Disney Photo Snapper


Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing an Illuminations Viewing Spot

1) Unlike Wishes (the fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom), Illuminations is more of a “light show” that also has low-level fireworks and a globe display on the World Showcase lagoon. So when evaluating any viewing spot, take a moment to look around and see if any trees, torches, or light poles are blocking your view of the lagoon. If you can see the center of the Lagoon, then you can see Illuminations, and if not … well, then you can’t. That’s how you know whether or not you have a good spot.

2) Illuminations can produce a lot of smoke, so if the wind is strong enough that you can feel it and that it’s blowing toward you from the direction of the lagoon, this is not a good thing. Not only will you get a bunch of smoke blown in your face, but the smoke could cloud your view so much that you may not even be able to see much of the second half of the show.

Because of those two things, there is no one “best place” to watch the fireworks in Epcot. A great place could be five yards away from a “bad” place because of a tree island blocking your view, or what was a good place last week could be a “bad” place tonight because of that wind.

With that being said, here are some general “best places to watch,” in no particular order:


Best Places to Watch Illuminations Around the World Showcase

1. The Bridge between the United Kingdom and France:

This bridge gives you a bit of elevation and great views of not only the lake and sky, but also of each of the pavilions as they light up during the show. The IllumiNations Fireworks Cruise typically parks their boats under or in front of this bridge during the show, so … you know it’s gotta be good.

Another nice thing about this viewing spot is that if you’re staying an Epcot resort hotel, like like the Yacht Club, Beach Club, or Boardwalk Inn, you can make a relatively quick and easy exit.

2. The Second Floor of the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Japan:
The second floor, or restaurant level), deck of the Mitsukoshi Building in the Japan Pavillian gives you some beautiful views, as you can see from this photo from my friend Meg at The Mouselets. It also has a covered deck, which is a nice plus if it’s a little drizzly out.

View of Illuminations firework show at Epcot from Japan pavillion
View of Illuminations from Mitsukoshi
Photo courtesy of Meg at The Mouselets

If you didn’t already know, Mitsukoshi is a department store chain that originally sold kimonos when it opened in 1673. So make sure you arrive early to allow some time to check it out. They sell not only kimonos and kitchenware, but also bento boxes, snacks, and merchandise from Hayao Miyazaki movies like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away (some of my kids’ favorite movies).

3. Italy Isola:
The Italy Isola is a spot that juts out over the World Showcase Lagoon, giving you a great, unobstructed view, especially in you arrive early enough to get a spot right up against the railing.

(Once on a November trip we were, in fact, able to get a great spot against the railing here. Not because we got there early, but because of the weather: we were all wearing jackets and still uncomfortably cold. Hard to imagine, right?
Anyway, since most people had the good sense to not stand outside freezing, we had our pick of spots. I even said to the guy standing next to us, “We need to enjoy this, because it will probably never happen again!”)

Unfortunately, because Italy Isola is such a good spot, it’s often used for private Illuminations dessert parties and therefore isn’t available very often.


Best Restaurant to Watch Illuminations

Ah, doesn’t it sound lovely to enjoy a nice dinner in the World Showcase, then sit back and relax while you enjoy the fireworks show from your table?

Unfortunately, while that is a possible scenario, more often that not it doesn’t quite work out that way.

The problem is that none of the restaurants can guarantee you a decent view of Illuminations. Sure, you can request a table with a good view, but everyone else is going to be doing that too, so you very well may not get one — no matter how nicely you ask or even if you think you deserve preference because you’re celebrating a special event.

To make things worse, even if you are lucky enough to get a great table by the window, it is very possible that total strangers are going to come to stand right next to your table or, worse, try to wiggle up in front of you so they’re blocking your view.

Personally, I wouldn’t go to any Epcot restaurant for the purpose of seeing the fireworks show. Instead, I would pick up dessert from one of our favorite World Showcase bakeries and then find a good spot around the lagoon to watch.

Having said all that, if you still want to try viewing Illuminations from a restaurant, here are some of your options:

1, Rose & Crown — United Kingdom

The Rose & Crown is your best bet and probably the only place I would even consider eating with the intention of viewing Illuminations. It’s a table service restaurant with a pub atmosphere that serves dishes like bangers and mash and cottage pie.

Your best strategy is to make a reservation for around 7:30 or 8:00pm and arrive at the restaurant 10-15 minutes early to request an outdoor table. No, you still may not get one, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, especially if you’re willing to wait a little.

Epcot Fireworks view from Rose and Crown in United Kingdom

Photo courtesy of Kris from Nomad By Trade

Even if you end up having to siting indoors, you can still step outside “private viewing area” once the firework show begins. My friend Kris from Nomad By Trade took the photo above from that spot. If you plan on doing that, it’s a good idea to let your server know when you’re seated.

2. Tokyo Dining — Japan

Tokyo Dining is known for being a restaurant that offers a view of Illuminations, so I have to mention it here. But I don’t really think it’s a good choice, and here’s why: Remember when I said above that the deck at the top of the Mitsukoshi Department Store was a great place to watch the fireworks? Well, guess where those people are standing? Yup, outside the windows of Tokyo Dining (albeit slightly lower, but still at partially blocking the view).

Add to that the fact that at least 90% of the tables at Toyko Dining don’t even have a window seat, and … well, if you’re looking for a a great view of the Epcot fireworks, this may not be the best place to find it.

What does work for some people is telling your server at about 8:55pm that you’re leaving the restaurant to go see the fireworks and that you’ll will be returning when the show is finished. To me, that kind of defeats the purpose of eating there in order to see the fireworks, but it certainly is an option.

We’ve never eaten at Tokyo Dining, but I’ve heard that both the food and service are top-notch.

3. Monsieur Paul- France

Monsieur Paul is a gourmet French cuisone restaurant with classic French architecture and bright colors. The menu has items that I literally have no idea how to pronounce, but which sound delicious when translated, like Cassolette d’Escargots Cauderanaise (Escargot Cassolette with White Wine, Bacon, and Shallots) or Salade au Roquefort à la Poire et aux Noix de Pécan Caramélisées, (Salad featuring Bleu Cheese, Pear, and Caramelized Pecans).

And Monsieur Paul actually has a dress code (for example, no tank tops, flip-flops, or cut-offs). It is what my husband Robert would probably call “hoity-toity,” which would be his way of saying that he would never want to eat there.

Dessert at Monsieur Paul Restaurant in Epcot
Dessert at Monsieur Paul in France (Preston Mack, photographer)

So how is it for viewing fireworks? Same basic story: It just depends on your luck. The restaurant is on the second floor, so you could potentially get a good view, but many of the tables are not close to windows, and the windows are fairly small, which means the view you get from your table is likely to be very limited.

4. La Hacienda and La Cantina de San Angel – Mexico

La Hacienda de San Angel and Cantina de San Angel are sort of two restaurants in one, the first being table service where you need reservations, and the second being counter service where you don’t.

It has great ambiance, with soaring ceilings, warm-colored tile floors, and hanging lights shaped like metal star sconces and the paper lanterns. We’ve never eaten there, but is sounds the general consensus is that the atmosphere is amazing, but the food is … just okay. And surprisingly mild for a Mexican restaurant.

However, if you can get a table with a view, it’s supposed to be one of the best.


Watching Illuminations at the Frozen Ever After Dessert Party

Another option that’s kinda sorta like seeing the fireworks from a restaurant but that does guarantee you’ll get a good view is to get reservations for the Frozen Ever After Dessert Party.

Keep in mind that this is probably not a great option is you’re trying to do Disney on a budget. Priced at $79 per adult (ages 10 and up) and $47 per child, it would cost my family just under $400, which is a price tag that wouldn’t have been worth it for us, even when our girls were younger.

However, I’ve heard people rave about it in reviews, and if you love both a) Anna, Else, Olaf, and the gang; and b) Large amount of decorative sugar, then you might want to consider it.

Here’s how the Dessert Party works:

An hour before Illuminations begins (normally 8pm, although I’ve heard you can arrive even a little earlier than that), you’ll head to World Showcase Plaza East (the path that separates Future World and the World Showcase) and check in at the Disney Traders merchandise shop, located right before you reach Mexico.

You’ll receive an armband and be seated at your pre-assigned table. (If you’re in a smaller group, you’ll probably be seated with others as well.)
Your seats are assigned when you make your reservations, so the earlier you plan ahead, the better seats you’ll get. (Also worth noting: unlike making reservations at Disney World restaurants, reservations for the dessert parties are usually not available until 90 days beforehand. So don’t panic if you don’t see your trip dates listed just yet.)

The dessert buffet includes things like:
* Kristoff’s Kransekake Almond Cookie
* Wandering Oaken’s Eclairons
* Hans’ Key Lime Tarts with Orange Glitter Glaze
* Troll Rock Crispy Bon Bons
* Elsa’s Blue Velvet Cupcakes
* Kristoff’s No Sugar Added Lemon Curd with Blueberry
* Freeze Fried Salted Caramel Popcorn
* Olaf’s Warm Double Chocolate S’mores Pudding Cake
* Anna’s Warm Cottage Pudding with Salted Caramel Glaze
* Hand Dipped Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

There are also non-dessert options:
* Sven’s Fresh Fruits with Berries
* Grand Pabbie’s Mystical Winter Spiced Snack Mix
* Duke of Weselton’s Cheese Fondue—served with country bread cubes, broccoli, and grilled flatbread

In addition, they serve several beverages, including soda, margaritas, piña coladas, beer and wine, coffee and tea, and “melted snow.”

When it’s time for the fireworks to begin, you’ll be given a pair 3-D snowflake glasses. (I honestly don’t know if these actually improve the fireworks viewing experience or if they’re just cute. If you know, drop me a line in the comments.) Then after the show, you’ll be escorted to the Frozen Ever After attraction in the Norway Pavilion for a special VIP ride.

Frozen Ever After in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot
Frozen Ever After attraction in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot (Matt Stroshane, photographer)
It’s important to note that the Dessert Party does NOT involve a Disney character meet and greet with Anna, Elsa, or anyone else.


Some Frozen from IMDB Trivia to impress people at your next cocktail party: The characters of Hans, Kristoff, Anna and Sven are a reference to Hans Christian Andersen, the author of The Snow Queen.


Review: Is the Frozen Ever After Dessert Party Worth It?



Watching Epcot’s Illuminations from the FastPass Viewing Area

Getting a Fastpass to watch Illuminations may sound strange at first. (It definitely did to me.) How do you get a Fastpass for a fireworks show?

But yes, there is a reserved viewing area at Showcase Plaza between Disney Traders and Port of Entry, the two tower gift shops.

See how it says “Disney Traders” smack in the middle of the map below? That’s where the Fastpass viewing area is.

I’ve heard that the view is a very good one, and certainly this photo is fantastic.

Illuminations Reflections of Earth from Fastpass Viewing Area in Epcot
Photo courtesy of Brett at Disney Photo Snapper

Illuminations View from Fastpass+ location at Epcot Walt Disney World


So is it worth it to use one of your precious FastPassses for Illuminations?

The short answer is “probably not.”

The problem is that Illuminations is considered a “Top Tier FastPass experience.” You can only get one Top Tier FastPass. That means that is you get a FastPass for Illuminations, you’re forfeiting the chance to get one for Soarin’ Around the World, Test Track, or Frozen Ever After.

Over on the DisBoards forums, some people had a good experience with Illuminations FastPass:

We did a fast pass for illuminations in November because we had a couple people with us who had never been. It was well worth the FP. We didn’t have to worry about finding a spot super early and fighting the crowds, and the view was great.. Typically we would not have wasted a FP for it but considering the fact that we had “first timers” with us and that was their first day so we didn’t have morning FPs scheduled for them it was well worth it.

However, it seemed like many more people had these kind of experience with it:

FP+ for Illuminations is an utter waste. About as useful as a FP+ for Pixar Short film festival. The World Showcase is massive, there are endless viewing spots. You can show up last minute and find a good viewing spot.

We were there on the 4th of July this year didn’t show up until 8:50pm and had no problem finding a spot. Yes, it was much more crowded than normal, but we still found space (we actually stood on the bridge next to Mexico and had a great view). On a normal night, a prime viewing spot is simple.


Not only is it not worth it, we find it worse than “standby”. The World Showcase is HUGE, so there are endless spots to see it. The FP+ viewing area is relatively small (by way of comparison to the WS itself) and they cram a lot of people into it. We found it much more cramped in the FP+ area than just finding another nearby spot on standby…5 minutes before the show starts.


If you’re still debating whether using Fastpass is the right choice for you and your family, here are some other things to consider:

* You could choose to ride Soarin’ Around the World the second you walk into the park and use the single-rider line for Test Track, which is a way to shorten your wait considerably without getting a FastPass.

* If you have toddlers and preschoolers, you could try this same strategy by hitting Frozen Ever After first thing when you arrive. (If they are under 40 inches tall, they won’t be able to ride Soarin’ or Test Track.)

* If you’ve already used you’re three Fastpasses for the day, you can get on the My Disney Experience app and check to see if there are still FastPasses left for Illuminations (which is very possible if it’s around 2pm). If so, you can snatch them then.

* If you are visiting Epcot at a super-crowded time, like New Year’s Eve, getting a FastPass for Illuminations may well be worth it to not have fight the crowds and stake out a spot early at the World Showcase.



Best Places to View Illuminations Outside of Epcot

1. Disney’s Boardwalk Resort

The Boardwalk isn’t a bad place to watch the fireworks, as long as you don’t mind missing some of the low-level effects of the show. One of the nice things about it is that there is a lot of “stuff” going on, like street performers, caricature artists, and midway games.

For the best view of Illuminations, go to the bridge just past the ESPN Club.

2. Disney’s Beach Club Resort

If you’re staying at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, you have a few nice options for seeing Illuminations from your resort.

First, you can watch the high-level fireworks from Stormalong Bay.

Stormalong Bay at Disney's Beach Club Resort
Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Beach Club Resort (Todd Anderson, photographer)

Second, you could walk to the above-mentioned bridge connecting the Boardwalk and Beach Club and watch them there.

A third option is to walk over to Epcot at about 8:45pm, stand at the wall by France, and then leave through the International Gateway. Easy in, easy out.

Illuminations Seen from the Beach Club Lighthouse Pier


Orlando Hotels with a Great View of Epcot Fireworks

If you want to view the Illuminations completely outside of Disney property, here are two good options:

1. Hilton Buena Vista Palace at Disney Springs

This is a lake-front hotel that offers a Disney character breakfast, complimentary shuttle service to both the Disney theme parks and Disney Springs, and access to Extra Magic Hours. In addition, you could use the Pedestrian Skybridge to walk to Disney Springs.

You can choose to book a fireworks view, Disney Springs view, or resort view room.

2. Capa Steakhouse at the Four Seasons in Orlando

You can great a great view of both Illuminations at Epcot and Wishes at the Magic Kingdom from this rooftop Spanish steakhouse and bar, located on the 17th floor. This is a good option for people who are not traveling with little kids, both because of the price and the atmosphere.

In addition, the Four Season also has Park View rooms, where you can watch the Wishes fireworks show from your balcony. And they have a great Disney character breakfast as well!


And now I want to hear from you!

Have you watched IllumiNations from one of these spots? What did you think? Any other spots or secret strategies to share? Let me know in the comments!

Best Places to View Fireworks at Epcot in Disney World
The best viewing spots for Illuminations, the fireworks show at Epcot. Includes restaurants, Epcot resort hotels, and hotels in the Orlando area outside the park

Best Restaurants for Watching Illuminations firework show at Epcot

Illuminations Reflections of Earth should you get a Fastpass

Illuminations Reflections of Earth should you get a Fastpass
Illuminations Reflections of Earth should you get a Fastpass

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5 Tips for an Awesome Disney World Character Meet and Greet

5 Tips for an Awesome Disney World Character Meet and Greet

I remember our family’s very first trip to Disney World, when little two year old Becca gave Chip (or was it Dale?) a great big hug and just hung on, so content and peaceful that it looked like she never wanted to let go.

Then there was the time we met Goofy, and I wasn’t sure what he was doing at first … but it turned out that he was “kissing” me, and kept on doing it! I couldn’t stop laughing (or blushing).

Or another time we met Chip and Dale and I told them that I could tell who was who, because Chip had a chocolate chip on his nose and Dale didn’t. Dale hung his head sadly, which made me burst out laughing and tell him, “Oh, it’s okay, Dale! We still love you even though you don’t have a chocolate chip!”

Yup, character meet and greets can be some of the most fun and memorable parts of your Disney vacation. Like my friend Loraine says, “I can go on rides anywhere, but when I go to Disney World, I want to meet characters!”

I did some research and combined it with our own experiences to come up with 5 tips to make your Disney character meet and greets awesome:


1. Interact and Have Fun with the Characters

Yeah, we’ve done it too — get to the front of the line, awkwardly say hi to a creature who you know can’t speak a reply, wait for them to sign their autograph, then smile for the camera. Character meet and greet done.

Not that there’s anything really wrong with that … but it’s a lot much fun (and for them, too) if you get a little playful and come up with some ways to interact.

Things to say to Disney characters

If you get stuck for an idea, you can always compliment a character on his or her outfit. And if your child is meeting their favorite character (for Rachael, it was Donald Duck), be sure they tell the character that.

Disney character meet and greet with princess Aurora
Rachael talking to Princess Aurora while Rebecca gazes in admiration

Objects can be a good conversation starter as well. A little toy like one of these is great for children to show to characters to start a conversation. If your child is wearing a Mickey shirt or hat, they can show it to the character. I’ve heard that the characters are quite complimentary (and truly appreciative) when children give them a character drawing they’ve done.

This book is a fantastic conversation starter for meeting characters — AND a good way to collect autographs!
Disney Character meet and greet at Chef Mickey with Minnie Mouse
Fortunately, my son Ben has toy cars on him at all times

The DisBoards forums have some great threads where people share things they’ve said to Disney characters that got a fun response.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Tell Captain Hook, “Tick tock tick tock!” (or ask him where Mr. Smee is);
  • Ask Snow White what the dwarves are doing in the mine;
  • Ask Ariel what Sebastian or Flounder are up to;
  • Tell Prince John he’s the phony prince of England;
  • Ask Tigger for a bouncing lesson;
  • Ask Eeyore if he’s sure he hasn’t lost his tail;
  • Ask Buzz Lightyear if he’s had any run-ins with Zurg lately;
  • Act alarmed and tell Woody there’s a snake in his boot;
  • Call Chip and Dale gophers or rats (or call them by Alvin and Theodore;
  • Ask Donald Duck where Mickey Mouse is;
  • Tell the Mad Hatter that it’s your unbirthday;
  • Specifically ask the Mad Hatter for his “autograph” and see what he does;>/li>
  • Ask Mary Poppins to say “the word” with your child — or ask her to say it backwards;
  • Ask Minnie Mouse how many dresses she has (preferably if Mickey or a cast member is nearby;
  • Ask Minnie to strike her best diva poses for the camera;
  • Tell Mickey that Minnie was waiting for her ring, and he’d better hurry before Donald snatches her up;
  • Call Mushu a lizard or Meeko a badger;
  • Bark like a dog when you see Cruella;
  • Ask Pocahantas to tell you how she says hello
  • Tell Tinkerbell that she should be nicer to Wendybird.
  • Whoever the character is — TELL THEM “THANK YOU”!


What NOT to say to Disney Characters

I probably don’t need to tell you this, but just a reminder, because unfortunately, it does happen:

Please don’t complain to the characters about how long the wait in line was, and please don’t start screaming and yelling if a character gets “pulled offstage” right before it’s your turn. I know it stinks when that happens, but they have strict rules about this that they have to stick to, and yelling at them isn’t going to help anybody.


Poses to Do with Disney Characters

I’m sorry to say that over the years, we’ve never come up with clever ideas for poses. And hey, that’s okay too! We still love the photos we have.

But if you like the idea of posing, here are some ideas from others who are more creative than I am:

* Curtsying with Minnie Mouse or Belle;
* Saluting or standing with hands on your hips with Buzz Lightyear;
* Patting your tummy with Winnie the Pooh;
* Asking Gaston to show off his muscle, then squeeze his biceps for the photo;
* Clasping your hands under your chin with Cinderella’s stepsisters;
* Kiss your favorite character or pretend to tell them a secret.


As a big fan of Monsters, inc, and particularly Mike Wazowski, I got a big kick out of this photo:

And this photo with Baloo from The Jungle Book is just adorable:


2. Decide What (if Anything) You Want to Collect Characters’ Autographs In.

There are two schools of thought on Disney autograph books. Most people get them because they make a fun souvenir and because kids are a little weird in that they love to almost obsessively keep track of and count their autographs as if it’s a type a scavenger hunt.

Other people see them as a waste of money and something that takes away from being able to actually interact with the characters (which we’ll get to more in a minute).

Walt Disney World Four Parks Mickey Mouse Official Autograph BookWalt Disney World Four Parks Mickey Mouse Official Autograph BookWalt Disney World Four Parks Mickey Mouse Official Autograph BookDisney Mickey Mouse and Friends Spiral Autograph Book - BlueDisney Mickey Mouse and Friends Spiral Autograph Book – BlueDisney Mickey Mouse and Friends Spiral Autograph Book - Blue2018 Walt Disney World Autographs and Photographs Book with Pen2018 Walt Disney World Autographs and Photographs Book with Pen2018 Walt Disney World Autographs and Photographs Book with PenDisney Princess 2 pc. Autograph Book SetDisney Princess 2 pc. Autograph Book SetDisney Princess 2 pc. Autograph Book Set


We always got the autograph albums for our girls, Rachael and Rebecca, but not for our son Ben, who had little to no interest in meeting the characters.

(Since my husband Robert ranks waiting in line in the Florida heat to meet an actor in a costume somewhere between silly and downright irritating, it worked out well. The two of them would go ride the Tomorrowland Speedway or something and catch up with us later.)

Disney Character Meet and Greet with Minnie Mouse
Rachael getting an autograph from Minnie Mouse

It’s worth noting that several months ago, my oldest daughter Rachael (pictured above with Minnie Mouse), who is now in high school, cleaned out the bookshelves in her bedroom and brought me a big pile of things to go to charity. I was stunned and sad to find the Disney autograph album from years ago in her pile.

Of course, I didn’t get rid of it, but put it on my own bookshelf. Who knows, maybe years from now she’ll stumble onto it again and it will bring back all kinds of great memories. (And she’ll say to me, “Oh wow, Mom … thanks for being so amazingly wise and not getting rid of that book. You’re the best Mom ever.” Well … maybe not, but we can dream.)

If you do decide to be like the majority of families and collect autographs, make sure you get the right kind of pen that is easy for characters to hold.

Sharpie 32701 Retractable Permanent Fine-Point MarkersSharpie 32701 Retractable Permanent Fine-Point MarkersSharpie 32701 Retractable Permanent Fine-Point Markers


And don’t feel limited to an autograph book. Some people like to have characters sign a special hat, t-shirt, or tote bag. Etsy has some great personalized Disney bags that work well for collecting autographs


Disney Youth Hat Kids Cap with Mickey or Minnie Mouse Ears (Minnie Pink)Disney Youth Hat Kids Cap with Mickey or Minnie Mouse Ears (Minnie Pink)Disney Youth Hat Kids Cap with Mickey or Minnie Mouse Ears (Minnie Pink)Disney Little Girls Princess Characters Cotton Baseball Cap, Pink, Age 4-7Disney Little Girls Princess Characters Cotton Baseball Cap, Pink, Age 4-7Disney Little Girls Princess Characters Cotton Baseball Cap, Pink, Age 4-7Disney Little Boys' Cars Lightning McQueen Cotton Baseball Cap, Red/Grey, Age 4-7Disney Little Boys’ Cars Lightning McQueen Cotton Baseball Cap, Red/Grey, Age 4-7Disney Little Boys' Cars Lightning McQueen Cotton Baseball Cap, Red/Grey, Age 4-7Disney Mickey Mouse Boys Baseball Cap with Removable Sunglasses [2013]Disney Mickey Mouse Boys Baseball Cap with Removable Sunglasses [2013]Disney Mickey Mouse Boys Baseball Cap with Removable Sunglasses [2013]



3. Prepare for long waits in line.

Depending on which character you’re meeting and what time of year it is, you could be standing on line for an hour or longer. The fine art of waiting in line at Disney World deserves a post all its own, but some ways you can make use of this time is to reapply sunscreen, play I Spy, or have one of the members of your family run over to snag cream cheese pretzels for everybody.

If you to be ultra-prepared, consider stocking up with a few little goodies to keep in your park bag:

Creativity Street Big Box of Chenille Stems, 150-Count, Assorted ColorsCreativity Street Big Box of Chenille Stems, 150-Count, Assorted ColorsCreativity Street Big Box of Chenille Stems, 150-Count, Assorted ColorsPlay-Doh Party Bag Dough (15 Count)Play-Doh Party Bag Dough (15 Count)Play-Doh Party Bag Dough (15 Count)SNInc. Neon Bubble Bottles - Pack of 24 Party BubblesSNInc. Neon Bubble Bottles – Pack of 24 Party BubblesSNInc. Neon Bubble Bottles - Pack of 24 Party Bubbles



4. Consider Scheduling a Character Meal.

Character meals are a fun and efficient way to get to meet a bunch of characters at once. The up side is that you get to sit in an air conditioned building and chow down while you wait, instead of just standing around sweating bullets. The down side is that they can be pretty expensive and you have to plan ahead (usually way ahead).

We’ve done Disney trips both with and without character meals. We were on a smaller budget on our very first Disney trip, back when the girls were 2 and 4 years old and Benjamin didn’t even exist yet, and didn’t schedule any character meals.

Honestly, we didn’t miss it. The girls were so thrilled with the simplest things about the trip, like swimming in the condo pool and eating Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, that it didn’t occur to them that they should be disappointed about “missing out” on anything.

But on future visits, we were lucky enough to get the free Disney Dining Plan, and did enjoy several character meals, including:

Would I recommend character meals? Yes — if it’s in your budget and you do your research.



5. Do Your Research and Plan Ahead (but not too much)

I have mixed feelings about this one.

On one hand, a trip to Disney World and being in the company of young children are two things that, even when done separately, require some planning if you don’t want to be miserable.

On the other hand, though, there’s a lot to be said for seeing characters that not only did you not schedule for, but that you weren’t even expecting to be there. (I squealed with delight when we saw Mary Poppins and two penguins at the Magic Kingdom one morning.)

We were also completely taken by surprise shortly after we arrived at Hollywood Studios for the first time ever, we were all completely surprised to see Leo and Annie from Little Einsteins.

Character Meet and Greet at Disney Hollywood Studios
Surprise — these guys live at Disney World too!

So depending on your personality, maybe do some planning and leave some room for surprises. I would recommend, at the very least, scheduling time to see the one or two characters (or groups of characters) that your crew has it’s hearts set on to meet. And don’t forget that the My Disney Experience app — which is free — makes it easy to “plan on the fly,” so to speak.

My cheat sheet can help you with planning character meals:

Where to Find Characters at Disney World

In addition to meeting your favorite Disney friends at a character meal, there are places all over the parks where you can meet them. Be sure to check your My Disney Experience app, as the times and details can vary from day to day. has a detailed “Characters at a Glance” chart for each Disney park. Here’s a quick list I put together from their charts:

Disney Characters at the Magic Kingdom

Princess Fairytale Hall — Cinderella, Rapunzel, Tiana, Elena of Avalor

Fantasyland — Anastasia & Drizella, Lady Tremaine, Fairy Godmother, Ariel, Gaston, Daisy & Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Peter Pan & Wendy, Winnie the Pooh & Tigger, Alice & the White Rabbit

Adventureland — Jasmine, Aladdin, Captain Jack

Town Hall Theater — “Magician” Mickey Mouse, Tinkerbell

Town Square — Mary Poppins, Snow White, Pluto, Marie (from The Aristocrats)


Disney Characters at Animal Kingdom

Donald’s Dino-Bash in DinoLand USA — Daisy & Donald Duck, Launchpad McQuack, Scrooge McDuck, Chip & Dale, Goofy, Pluto

Discovery Island — Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Pocahontas, Russell (from Up)

Rafiki’s Planet Watch — Rafiki, Jiminy Cricket, Doc McStuffins

In addition, you can meet Timon near Creature Comforts and see DeVine (if you look carefully) by the park Entrance, Oasis, or the pathway between Asia and Africa.


Disney Characters at Hollywood Studios

Great Movie Ride Courtyard — Daisy & Donald Duck, Chip & Dale, Goofy, Pluto, Minnie Mouse

Walt Disney Presents — Star-Lord, Baby Groot

Pixar Place — Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Green Army Men, Cruz Ramirez (from Cars 3)

Star Wars Launch Bay — Kylo Ren, Stormtroopers, Jawas, Greedo, BB-8, Chewbacca

Animation Courtyard — Sophia the First, Pluto, Doc McStuffins, Jake of the Neverland Pirates


Disney Characters at Epcot

Epcot Character Spot by Innoventions West — Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Joy & Sadness from Inside Out, Baymax from Big Hero 6

Legacy Plaza — Daisy Duck

World Showcase Ambassador Gazebo — Pluto

United Kingdom — Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh and Friends

Mexico — Donald Duck

France — Belle, Aurora

China — Mulan

Germany — Snow White

Morocco — Jasmine & Aladdin


I hope this post has given you some good ideas for your next Disney character meet and greets. I know I learned some new things I’m going to say to characters on our upcoming trip!
If you have any of your own suggestions or experiences you’d like to share, leave them below in the comments.



Are you and your kids planning to have some Disney character meet and greets on your Walk Disney World vacation? 

Whether you're meeting Mickey Mouse or face characters like Snow White and Elsa, you'll love these tips and tricks on autograph books, what to say to characters, and more!

The best tips for families about Disney character meet and greets, whether at a breakfast or dinner meal at a character restaurant or just out and about in the parks at Disney World or Disneyland. Includes funny things that kids can say to Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Chip and Dale, and other favorite characters to make the meeting awesome!
 Tips and Ideas for fun Disney character interactions at the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and other Disney World parks. Have an awesome meet and greet with your kids on your families' vacation! Includes pictures.
Disney Character Meet and Greet and Interaction Tips
5 Tips for an Awesome Character Meet and Greet at the Disney Parks
Includes funny disney character interactions, which characters are at magic kingdom, the best pen for disney autographs, and what to ask Tinkerbell at Disney
Disney world vacation tips -- how to have an awesome time meeting Disney characters with your kids

Disney Character Meet and Greet Tips

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The Most Overrated Disney World Restaurants (and where to go instead!)

The Most Overrated Disney World Restaurants (and where to go instead!)

A big part of planning your Disney vacation is choosing the best places to eat. But which restaurants are really the best — and which are mostly just hype?

For as much as it costs to eat at Disney World — and even if you’re getting the free dining plan, there is still a cost involved — you don’t want to waste time or money eating somewhere that’s overrated and overpriced.

Here come the Disney bloggers to the rescue!

I asked 27 Disney bloggers to weigh in with what they thought was the most overrated restaurant at Disney World — and more importantly, where they suggest you eat instead.

Here’s what they had to say:

Ted at Parkeology:

I want to make sure that we are making a distinction between “overrated” and “bad“. Frankly, most of the more popular dining locations at WDW are “overrated” in my opinion, meaning that they may be fine, or good even, but simply not worth the hassle and price to dine there.

Foremost among these is Be Our Guest in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. It is a well-themed space and serves generally adequate (though not much beyond that) food.

However, reservations disappear almost immediately, lines are long, and the majority of the physical space is cavernous and feels akin to eating in a huge institutional cafeteria. If this were a location where you could simply walk in, grab a quick bite and take off it would be great. But until that day comes, it is not worth the hassle.

There are many restaurants in World Showcase at Epcot that feature similar levels of detailed theming, better food, and many fewer issues obtaining reservations. However I would recommend Satu’li Canteen in the Pandora section of Animal Kingdom. No reservations needed and surprisingly interesting food (Mediterranean inspired grilled meats and vegetables).

While at Animal Kingdom, Flame Tree BBQ is one of my favorite places anywhere at Walt Disney World. They have a solid BBQ sandwich and an amazingly good smoked turkey sandwich. It has outdoor seating, and the views across the lake to Expedition Everest are unbeatable — and far more spectacular than anything Be our Guest can offer.


Shane, the other half of Parkeoloy

Jiko The Cooking Place in Animal Kingdom Lodge always ends up on Top 5 lists for WDW, but for me, it’s like the Star Trek movies: Every other time is good.

I’ve had GREAT meals at Jiko, and then I’d go back a year later and it was like TGIFridays. Then I’d give it another shot and it’d be great again. Then terrible. It’s a vicious cycle. I have no idea if it’s just turnover in the kitchen staff, poor meal selections by me, or more likely, just a real hit-or-miss overrated restaurant.

The place I’d recommend instead is the obvious choice — Boma – Flavors of Africa. It’s much less formal than Jiko, but gives you that “Taste of Africa,” and the theming is similarly top notch.

I’d also recommend California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort, which feels like the sort of upscale dining that Jiko aspires to, but does it much better.

I would also have to concur with Ted that Flametree BBQ is a solid recommendation for just about anyone. Their smoked turkey sandwich was a phenomenal power-up meal for at least one of our WDW49 Challenge runs.


Leah at The Frugal South and The Budget Mouse:

I think Cinderella’s Royal Table is just not worth the cost (or two credits on the Dining Plan), especially when compared to Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase.

Akershus requires only one table service credit on the Disney Dining Plan, and with that, you get better character interaction and better food (in my experience) than at Cindy’s.

Cinderella at Princess Storybook Dining Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot Norway
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot
Photo courtesy of Leah at The Budget Mouse

The princesses spent more time with us at Akershus, the kids get to participate in a “princess processional”, and there is SO MUCH good food to try there – an appetizer buffet, entree, and dessert plate to share at the table.

The out of pocket adult cost can be up to $80 to eat in Cinderella Castle (compared to $50 at Akershus) and to me, it’s just not worth it.



Jenn at Touring in Wonderland:

I think the most overrated restaurant is Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, a dinner theater restaurant located in at The Fort Wilderness Resort and Campsites.

This restaurant is well known for it’s relatively good food, and slapstick dinner show. Hoop-Dee-Doo is a beloved place by many to have a meal on Disney property. It is expensive: a meal here cost between $64 and $72 for an adult, and $38-$43 for children 3-9, or two credits when on the Disney dining plan.

Hoop-Dee-Doo is also not a show for everyone, and it tends to be hit or miss with it’s hokey humor. It is not for you if you do not like corny jokes, and audience participation.

The food is all-you-care-to-enjoy American bbq fare such as fried chicken, pork ribs, mashed potatoes, and corn bread. Of course with a restaurant like this you are not really paying for the food, but more the experience.

If that does not sound fun for you; you will want to skip out and instead check out Trails End, an under-appreciated gem of a restaurant also located at Fort Wilderness.

Trails end is the perfect place to go instead of Hoop-Dee-Doo if you are not interested in eating at a dinner show. It is also very easy to get a ADR here as it is a bit out of the way.

Trails End and Hoop-Dee-Doo share a kitchen and the food is the same in both restaurants. However, Trails End is a buffet and has a bigger selection.

This is also the cheapest buffet on Disney World property, coming in at around $30 for adults, and $17 for children.

Trails End is one of the best spots in Disney to eat without all the noise, enjoy a big selection of delicious food (seriously the fried chicken, and ribs are amazing), and pay less for it than anywhere else.



Angela at The Life of Spicers:

I think Minnie’s Seasonal Dine at Hollywood and Vine is the most overrated restaurant we have tried. Whilst the buffet choice looks extensive a lot of it is repeated. There didn’t appear to be anything on the menu that we could find in all of the other buffet restaurants. The characters were fun to meet, but again they are all widely available to meet elsewhere.

I would suggest Tusker House as an alternative as the buffet has some amazing flavours and varieties of food. It provides a wider choice of buffet choices with food items you won’t see everywhere else. There’s also the infamous jungle juice which is well worth trying.


Craig at Disney Nerds:

My most overrated WDW restaurant has to be Nine Dragons Restaurant in the China Pavilion at Epcot.

I know its a favorite of many, but I thought the food was mediocre at best. Some things were good, but most of it was “meh.” I really expected a lot more since even friends of mine rave about this place, but the service was only okay and I’ve tasted better in our hometown.

Now, if you want really amazing Asian food, Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs is in a class by itself. Serving classic Asian fusion dishes created by Iron Chef Masuharu Moritmoto, it is an exhilarating journey for your taste buds! And if you’re lucky, you’ll even meet the master chef himself!

Morimoto Asia Restaurant in Disney Springs
Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs
Photo courtesy of Craig at Disney Nerds


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Renee at Disney by Age:

Okay, this is a question took some careful consideration, as there is one that immediately came to mind. To be fair to all those reading this, I feel I have to be totally honest. Yes, I am prepared for the boos and hisses that may result. This may not be a popular answer.

Here it goes.

My answer to this question is Victoria and Albert’s. in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.

Why? The wording said “overrated” and I think Victoria and Albert’s is very, very, good; however, it is, in my humble opinion, somewhat overrated.

When I first tried it, I was expecting fireworks in my mouth. Wine pairings that were so perfect they made the food come alive in my mouth.

Don’t get me wrong, it was great. But I didn’t leave thinking, “That was the best meal I have had in months,” like I had hoped to. I left thinking, “that’s an excellent Disney restaurant.” Maybe it’s my expectations that were unrealistic. To any I have upset, let’s go with that.

Where would I go instead? I’ll pick three Disney Deluxe Resort restaurants have food that I think rival it:
1) The California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort;
2) Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge;
3) Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian.

Bon Appétit.


Keri from Flip Flop Weekend:

I actually have a couple that come to mind.

First, Tony’s Town Square Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. I don’t hear as much ‘hype’ about this restaurant as others…but there are better options, in my opinion.

Location-wise, it’s nice. Conveniently located off of crowded main street, and you can get good views of parades. But, the Italian is just ‘ eh.” Very Americanized and I find myself thinking ” I can just make this myself ( which, to be honest, the ease of what it would take to do it myself is how I tend to gauge a meal’s price point and value.)

I would recommend Trattoria al Forno over at the Boardwalk instead.

My second choice is Be Our Guest, also in the Magic Kingdom.

Blasphemous and controversial, possibly. There is no doubt that it is well-themed and I do think it’s worth checking out for the theming alone…especially if you love Beauty and the Beast.

And, in full disclosure, I have actually never had dinner there. I am judging this solely on breakfast (which, if you just want to get inside, reserving breakfast is one of your cheapest options…option 2 would be reserving for dessert-only).

Breakfast at Be Our Guest Restaurant in Disney's Magic Kingdom
Breakfast at Be Our Guest
Photo courtesy of Keri at Flip Flop Weekend

But, the food was mediocre and overpriced… in fact, my eggs were a bit cold when they got to me and we paid almost $30 to split a breakfast. Service took a long time in the morning, despite the fact that it wasn’t super packed.

Plus, the bathroom was actually really gross. We know how Disney is about cleanliness, so I have somewhat chalked it up as an ‘off-day’ and may give it another chance…but just know that you go for the castle…not the food.

I don’t think there is a comparable alternative necessarily if someone is a fan of Belle. Cinderella’s Royal Table is obviously the other castle-experience dining in the Magic Kingdom, although I think 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand FLoridian Resort is a great experience outside of the parks.

I just think it’s important that if someone wants to get into Beast’s Castle, maybe they consider ordering dinner elsewhere and making a reservation later in the evening and just ordering dessert.


Mark at Points to Neverland

This may sound like sheer lunacy, but the most overrated restaurant at Disney World is Be Our Guest in the Magic Kindgom. It’s the hardest reservation to get, but it wouldn’t make our Top 10 Disney dining list.

There’s no doubt the ambiance is amazing. It’s worth eating there once to watch the snow fall through the windows in the Grand Ballroom or seeing the rose in the West Wing.

But the food is hit or miss. The waits are long, even when you have an ADR (Advance Dining Reservation). And, the Grand Ballroom is so large, it can feel more like the Grand Central Station of dining experiences.”


Taryn at Lau Family Travels:

I think one of the most OVERRATED restaurants in Disney World is Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort!

I understand that it’s a chance to eat with very popular characters, but there really isn’t anything special about the food or the restaurant itself.

Our go-to favorite restaurant is the Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

You can see many of the main characters (Donald Duck is #1 here) and the food is great! They have all the regular food items, but they also offer foods with African flavor! It’s a unique dining experience and feels a little more intimate compared to Chef Mickey’s. If you haven’t tried Tusker House yet, it’s a must for your next trip!


Jaclyn at Magic Mouse Travel:

In my opinion, Chef Mickey’s is an overrated WDW restaurant because it can feel very chaotic and rushed. I feel like the characters don’t have a lot of room to move around in, and therefore visits are very succinct. The buffet layout also doesn’t flow well.

One of my favorite character dinings is breakfast at Ohana at the Polynesian. In addition to a fantastic family-style breakfast, the characters spend more time with you and interact with the kids through a parade through the restaurant as well. You’re not afraid of missing a character because you’re up at a buffet getting food.

Plus the POG juice (passion fruit, orange, and guava juices) is a fave for kids and adults. We also like to stop by the front desk before our reservation to get free leis for the kids to put them in the aloha spirit.

Character breakfast at Ohana at Disney Polynesian Resort
Character breakfast at Ohana at Disney Polynesian Resort
Photo courtesy of Jaclyn at Magic and the Mouse Travel


Kimberly at Savvy Mama Lifestyle:

The most overrated restaurant at Walt Disney World is Be Our Guest. Tables are rushed, food is mediocre, reservations are impossible and you’re only dining at Be Our Guest for the atmosphere.

As a substitute, I recommend Cinderella’s Royal Table, also at the Magic Kingdom. While reservations are just as difficult to score, try to grab an early morning breakfast spot so your family can get park photos before the crowds. Plus, you’ll experience more characters and enjoy the atmosphere too.


Sarah at ‘Dis” Happy Home

In my opinion, Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria in Epcot’s World Showcase is one of the most overrated restaurants at Disney! As a born and bred New Yorker, I am a pizza snob. I realize that Italian style pizza is different from New York style, but when the price of a pizza pie is over $20 it better be amazing!

Although there are other food options and the massive stone pizza ovens are beautiful, I prefer Tutto Italia Ristorante, also in Epcot. This restaurant falls in the same price point and never disappoints. It is equally as beautiful and the food is amazing!


Robin at Luxe Recess:

The most overrated restaurant is Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. I’m a foodie, and the food and atmosphere aren’t enjoyable when there are other great character meals that are better quality and value.

The Four Seasons breakfast offers lots of time with the characters dressed in chic resort wear and an excellent brunch buffet food. It’s a great way to start a pool day or the last day of a Disney vacation.

Minnie Mouse at the Four-Seasons Disney World character breakfast
Minnie Mouse at the Four-Seasons character breakfast
Photo courttesy of Robin at Luxe Recess

In addition to The Four Seasons breakfast, The Tusker House buffet in Animal Kingdom is another way to meet Mickey while enjoying much better food, though the restaurant gets quite crowded.


Karyn at Sand and Snow:

I say Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom. Many may disagree, but the cost versus the quality of food leaves me wanting something else – and that something else is Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot. You’ll still see the Disney Princesses and the food is so delish!


Becka (DisneyKittee on YouTube):

I think the San Angel Inn, located inside of EPCOT’s Mexico Pavilion (with a view of the Gran Fiesta Tour boat attraction), is one of the most overrated dining reservations in Walt Disney World!

Instead, I *much* prefer the food quality and service across the street at La Hacienda de San Angel! The food is fresh, the margaritas are excellent, and if you time it right you can get a beautiful view of Illuminations!

I’d also recommend swapping out an expensive meal at Jiko (located in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge) for the Rivers of Light dinner package at Tiffins (located in Disney’s Animal Kingom park!)

The Tiffins dinner/show package is an excellent value, while Jiko’s prices remain insanely high but the quality of food and service seems to have slipped over the last several months.

Finally, if you have your heart set on eating at Be Our Guest restaurant in Disney’s Magic Kingdom, try a quick-service lunch reservation instead of the full dinner. You’ll get to see inside the castle, it won’t break the bank, and it’s an easier reservation to snag. (I’ve never been wowed by the dinner service at Be Our Guest, honestly.)

DisneyKittee’s Review of Be Our Guest


Ryan from Disney Pins Blog:

I think the most overrated restaurant at Walt Disney World is Be Our Guest restaurant. Although I do love this restaurant, I don’t think it deserves the hype and booking 6 months out. The atmosphere inside is beautiful, but the food isn’t my favorite. I do love the gray stuff though!

Sticking with Magic Kingdom, I’d suggest Jungle Skipper Canteen.

I think this restaurant is underrated. The atmosphere is awesome (I’m a huge fan of Adventureland) and the food is adventurous. They’ve changed up their menu a few times and I think it has gotten much better. At first, I was skeptical, but now I really like the fresh fish and falafel appetizer.

As a bonus restaurant, one of my favorites is Via Napoli at Epcot. The pizza is superb!


Genevieve at Oh Sweet Disney!:

I love a themed restaurant. Not just themed but extra themed. I want waiters in costumes, a rainforest decor and fancy drink glasses that light up and make sounds. The bigger the better. I’ll lose my mind if at some point the guests participate in napkin waving, song singing or dancing.

Okay, I think you get my point. I want the extra.

With that be said, T-REX Cafe in Disney Springs is a restaurant I probably won’t eat at again. It technically has all my requirements but comes out way flat.

Yes, there are dinosaurs and the theming is cool. But, the food is decent at best and way too expensive. I just think it’s overrated. The long lines and it’s hard-to-get reservation reputation make it seem so much better than it is. In my opinion, it’s not worth the crazy wait or the prices. Some people love it, but I think there are way better options.

So do you want overly themed but good food?

Try 50s Prime Time Cafe or Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They don’t have dinosaurs but you can’t help but get wrapped up in their theming. They are so much fun!

Unless your family is Dinosaur obsessed, I say skip T-REX and try somewhere else. You don’t want an “okay” meal on your vacation. You want a “Holy cow, that was the coolest!” kind of meal.

It’s Disney, soak up all the theming you can get!



Jordann at Mickey Mom Blog:

While Chef Mickey’s inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a must have (and hard to get) reservation for many families visiting Walt Disney World, I happen to think it’s likely the most overrated character dining option. The food is ok, but the overall experience leaves a lot to be desired.

The Contemporary is a unique space with monorails whizzing overhead, but Chef Mickey’s crowdedness and noise levels can be a bit overwhelming for the little ones. Characters certainly find time to snap photos and meet with kids, but in our experience, there are much better options if you want an eat & greet with members of The Fab 5.

Instead of Chef Mickey’s, I always suggest travelers try out Tusker House inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

For starters, the food is different than your standard Disney buffet. With spit roasted meats and tasty sides, Tusker House gets high marks in the culinary department. But don’t worry, there’s still classic buffet items for the kids (or picky eaters) like corn dog nuggets, mac and cheese, etc.

Mickey Mouse at Tusker House character breakfast in Animal Kingdom
Tusker House in Animal Kingdom
Photo courtesy of Jordann at Mickey Mom Blog

Tusker House offers a low key character dining option with the opportunity to spend more time interacting with characters. During our last visit, Donald, Mickey, Daisy, & Goofy visited with the kids multiple times, even inviting them to participate in a jungle conga line! Who doesn’t love a good conga line??

One last added bonus is that you’re inside one my favorite parks, meaning attractions like Kilimanjaro Safari’s & Flight of Passage are right around the corner.


David at Your First Visit:

Dinner at Chef Mickey’s is the most over-rated dining at Disney World. The character interaction is great, but the food is so-so, the setting noisy and uninteresting, and the price is high.

To meet Mickey at a meal, I’d recommend lunch at the Tusker House in Animal Kingdom instead.


Hannah at Eat, Drink, and Save Money:

As far as dining in the park, I don’t really think you can go wrong. As a foodie, I’m always happy with the restaurants in Disney World.

However, I’m not a huge fan of all of the Disney Springs options.

We went to Morimoto Asia after hearing raving reviews, only to be disappointed by the sushi. The Buri Bob was unique and delicious, but the rest of the dishes we tried just fell flat.

If you want Asian food in Disney, go to the Japan Pavilion in Epcot and eat at either Tokyo Dining or Teppan Edo.


Lisa at Living a Disney Life:

I’m going to have to say Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot’s World Showcase is the most overrated WDW restaurant. Pricey menu with just so-so food, crowded seating, average service and considered “Signature Dining”…it isn’t great.

I recommend a couple of other, much better options that are both within walking distance of Epcot’s International Gateway (a.k.a. “The Backdoor”).

Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht Club has the same price range as Le Cellier for a much better overall experience.

Yachtsmen Steakhouse Dinner menu
Yachtsmen Steakhouse dinner menu
Photo courtesy of Lisa at Living a Disney Life

For a date night splurge, I highly recommend one of my absolute favorite restaurants in the World- Shula’s Steak House at the Dolphin Resort. It’s a bit fancier, the service is spectacular and the tender, delicious steaks are prepared perfectly to order.


Amy, Meredith, & Sarah at The Mouse & the Monorail:

Chef Mickey’s in Disney’s Contemporary Resort is probably the most overrated restaurant in Walt Disney World. It’s a very basic buffet with the “Fab 5” characters, and the food isn’t special enough to make it worthwhile.

For a better experience, and overall better food, we’d recommend The Garden Grill in Epcot. The food is fresh and the characters are fun.


Megan at Magically Megan:

I think the most overrated dining is Chef Mickey’s. While it’s great to see all the Fab Five in one spot, it’s also chaotic and hard to enjoy.

I would suggest Garden Grill at Epcot or the Ohana breakfast at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

You will still get to see Mickey and Pluto in both locations: Chip and Dale at Garden Grill and Lilo and Stitch at Ohana breakfast. The atmosphere is amazing, a much slower pace, and the food while similar is served family style instead of a buffet, so it’s fresher!


Kylee at Green Monorail Destinations:

There are few restaurants that aren’t necessarily worth scrambling to get a reservation. The first is a restaurant that is extremely hard to get into and often viewed as a “must-do.” That’s Be Our Guest.

I do think it’s a gorgeous restaurant and the concept is incredible. The Beast’s Castle come to life? Yes, please!

Be Our Guest Restaurant Menu in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World
Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom
Photo courtesy of Kylee at Green Monorail Destinations

Where it fails is the overpriced, subpar food. The unfortunate thing is that I know Disney is capable of a delicious meal. One of the best meals I’ve ever had was served at Jiko in Animal Kingdom Lodge.

If you’re looking for a restaurant with excellent atmosphere, then I suggest Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. You’ll get a view of the lagoon, charming Polynesian décor, and you can pop out to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the resort’s beach afterward. And the food is really, really good. That one is definitely worth the hype.

The second overrated restaurant is Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom. Now, I wouldn’t say this is “hyped” like Be Our Guest, but it is one I want to give fair warning about.

I used to work in Entertainment at Disney World and was scheduled here a lot. The character meet n’ greets are often rushed because there are SO many tables in this restaurant. In doing so, the character experiences aren’t quite as intimate and once again, the food is not great. Step up your game, Magic Kingdom!

If you’re looking for a good character dining experience, then I suggest the “Bon Voyage Breakfast” at Trattoria al Forno or even 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian.

But never Crystal Prison — um, I mean, Crystal Palace. 😉


Kait at Kait Around the Kingdom:

In recent years I have found Be Our Guest to be extremely overrated.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the beautiful ballroom and amazing theming just as much as the next Disney lover, but the hoops you have to jump through to get a reservation just seem unnecessary to me! With all the hustle and bustle of a normal Disney day I try to keep things as painless as possible.

If you’re still looking for that Be Our Guest experience with a little less hassle, I suggest going for a Breakfast or Lunch reservation instead of Dinner. If you’re on a Disney Dining Plan, breakfast and lunch at Be Our Guest both count as a Quick Service meal — and I’d take that option over Cosmic Rays any day!

While initially securing a Be Our Guest reservation any time of the day can be tough (even 180 days out), I’ve found from previous trips that Lunch reservations often become available 1-2 days in advance due to cancellations. If you’re still looking to get a peek inside of the Beast’s beautiful castle, I would have to say breakfast or lunch is the way to go!

Searching for other great dining in Magic Kingdom?

When it comes to restaurants with amazing service and great food, I will always suggest Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square. Reservations are always available, the food is delicious, and for the service and quality they provide I think the price is very reasonable. I always try to make a reservation each trip if I can!

Liberty Tree Tavern table service restaurant at Disney World
Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom
Photo courtesy of Kait at Kait Around the Kingdom


Mindy at The Mommy Mouse Clubhouse:

For me, the most overrated restaurant at Walt Disney World is Chef Mickey’s. With three little boys, I have been to almost all character dining locations at Disney World, but I will definitely be skipping Chef Mickey’s next time.

Located in the Contemporary Resort, Chef Mickey’s is a buffet-style restaurant. The food quality is very low and definitely not worth the price you pay to dine there.

A lot of people say that they are there for the “experience” not the food, but there are much better options. The characters always seem to take much longer to visit your table than at other character dining locations.

Instead of dining at Chef Mickey’s, try Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! The food is amazing and the character interactions are the best!

During one of my meals there, a little girl had a small plush Donald Duck. Donald and Daisy were so cute with her and pretended that the plush toy was a baby duck. So cute!

Try to get a reservation for the last 15-30 minutes of breakfast and you will be there when the breakfast food is changed out for lunch. It’s the best of both worlds!


In Conclusion …

All I can say is, Wow!

A big thanks to all the awesome bloggers who contributed. Not only did I learn a lot myself, but now I don’t feel so bad that we couldn’t snag a reservation at Be Our Guest on our last trip!

And I totally agree — skip Chef Mickey’s and go to the Tusker House character breakfast in Animal Kingdom instead.

Or, if buffets aren’t your thing and you like the idea of a rotating restaurant (and love Chip and Dale, like I do), then consider The Garden Grill in Epcot.

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