One of the biggest attractions to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA is the wide array of Disney characters that are available for your kids to meet. Disney takes this one step further and offers families the chance to take their kids to certain restaurants and let them interact with Disney characters while they "eat" (I use this term loosely as kids' interest in any type of food cannot compete with their interest in the cartoon personalities walking around them!).Currently, there are 2 different places in the Resort that host these dining experiences all day and another 3 that offer them during certain hours:
|Goofy's Kitchen||Disneyland Hotel||
|Ariel's Grotto||Disney California Adventure Park (park admission required)||All Day|
|Plaza Inn||Disneyland Park (park admission required)||Park opening - 11:00am|
|Storytellers Cafe||Grand Californian Hotel||7:00am - 11:30am|
|PCH Grill||Paradise Pier Hotel||7:00am - 11:00am|
These opportunities to dine with the characters, or "Character Dining," truly are magical moments for your children and, in many cases, present you and your family the chance to see and interact with some Disney characters that you probably won't be able to see anywhere else. Needless to say, Character Dining is extremely popular at Disneyland Resort which causes a couple complications:
- Reservations - Due to the popularity of Disney's Character Dining it is highly recommended that you make reservations if you want to have any hope of being able to get inside any of the venues where this is offered. Reservations, also known as Priority Seating, can be made up to 60 days in advance by calling (714)781-DINE (3463) any day of the week between the hours of 7:00am and 9:00pm, Pacific Time.
- Price - Character Dining at Disneyland Resort is truly a unique experience and this detail is not lost on the business minds at Disney. As the saying goes, "you get what you pay for" and in order to have these huge experiences you will, unfortunately, end up paying hugely for them. At all of these restaurants, except one, the only meal options offered are either from a fixed price menu (select options of food but all for the same price) or buffet-style, again, with a fixed price which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to minimize the dent in your wallet. Prices are as follows:
|Restaurant||Type||Adult Price||Child Price (3-9)|
Breakfast/Lunch - $32.00 ea
Dinner - $40.00 ea
Breakfast/Lunch - $18.00 ea
Dinner - $18.00 ea
Breakfast - $32.00 ea
Lunch/Dinner - $35.00 ea
Breakfast - $18.00 ea
Lunch/Dinner - $20.00 ea
|Plaza Inn||Buffet||$35.00 ea||$20.00 ea|
|Storytellers Cafe||Buffet*||$32.00 ea||$18.00 ea|
|PCH Grill||Buffet||$30.00 ea||$16.00 ea|
The lone exception to the "fixed price" dilemma is at the Stroytellers Cafe in the Grand Californian Hotel. As of the time of this writing, the Storytellers Cafe is the only Character Dining experience that allows you to choose your meal from their ala carte menu which includes entrees ranging from approximately $17.00 - $23.00.
As I have said, experiences such as these are few and far between, even at a place as infused with magic as Disneyland Resort. My kids absolutely loved eating their meal while some of their favorite characters meandered through the restaurant; often pausing, interacting, and joking with each table. Beyond the prices, however, another thing that should be taken into consideration are the characters that tend to appear at each venue as this varies from one place to next.
Goofy's Kitchen - Goofy, of course, is the Master of Ceremonies here and can be guaranteed to be here day in and day out. Beyond him, the selection of characters you may run in to at Goofy's Kitchen is fairly random but has been known to include characters such as Pluto, Donald, Daisy and occasionally Mickey and Minnie as well as some lesser known personalities from movies such as Alice in Wonderland and Pinocchio.
Ariel's Grotto - Ariel's Grotto in Disney's California Adventure Park hosts "Ariel's Disney Princess Celebration which, obviously, is filled with the Disney Princesses. As to which particular princesses make a showing here at any given time of the day, it varies. One thing's for sure, any little (or not so little) girl will love it while any boys in your party might be threatening to mutiny by the time you get them out!
Plaza Inn - The Plaza Inn in Disneyland Park hosts Breakfast with Minnie and Friends. This special breakfast includes appearances by Minnie Mouse, of course, as well as a variety of her other friends like Goofy, Pluto, Donald, Daisy, and occasionally Mickey. Various characters from the Winnie the Pooh cartoons also make an appearance; such as Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit, Eeyore, and others.
Storytellers Cafe - Chip n' Dale's Critter Breakfast is held every morning at the Storytellers Cafe in the Grand Californian Hotel. Chip n' Dale are there and up to all sorts of mischevious antics as well as other Disney "critters" like Kenai and Koda from Brother Bear, Meeko (racoon) from Pocahontas, and even some friends from the Jungle Book; Baloo and King Louie.
PCH Grill - The PCH Grill in the Paradise Pier Hotel serves up Breakfast with Mickey and Friends and, as the name implies, offers families the chance to dine with Mickey and his friends Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto and Daisy. Also, it is not uncommon to see other beach-loving Disney characters like Lilo and Stitch, among others!
Again, like any parent I love my children very much and the urge to splurge and treat them to any one of these Character Dining experiences is great. At the end of the day, however, I know that the money I would spend on even one of these meals is enough that I could take them out to other places to eat two, or even three, times more! This is why I searched and searched in an attempt to find a way to do this for as little money as possible; the answer that I found was Chip n' Dale's Critter Breakfast at the Storytellers Cafe in the Grand Californian Hotel. Like I stated already, this restaurant is the only one that allows patrons to order from the ala carte menu and even though the entrees run anywhere from $17.00 - $23.00 there are a number of other options that are even cheaper! My kids loved the fruit plate that was available for less than $8.00 and I even discovered that the waiters at the Storytellers Cafe will put together a danish basket filled with selections of danishes and muffins from the buffet. This basket wasn't even on the menu and the best part is that it was about $5.oo! I would strongly recommend this Character Dining experience as I was able to take my whole family (6 kids) for roughly $40-$50. Of course, if you have a little princess that is dead set on eating breakfast with Ariel then you're on your own. Good luck and don't forget to check out some of my other tips!