Characters are among the very best things about the Disney parks. Kids go crazy over character meet-and-greets, and seeing your favorite Disney friends onstage is always a treat. Unfortunately, many of the character experiences found in Walt Disney World are not available at this time. In fact, you might have to do a bit of hunting to find any characters at all. The best place to reliably find characters? Character meals! While all of the character meals typically found in property aren’t available at the moment, a few of them still are, and although these meals are a bit different than they once were, they remain totally amazing and worthwhile. Wondering what to expect from your character dining experiences during your upcoming trip? Here’s what you need to know.
1. There are 6 Currently Available
As mentioned above, many of the character dining options usually found on property are not currently available. That said, the ones that are available are very good. In all, there are six character meals being served at Disney World right now. These include:
- Chef Mickey’s
- Cape May Cafe
- Tusker House
- Toppolino’s Terrace
- Hollywood and Vine
- Garden Grill
People have also reported seeing the Beast while dining at Be Our Guest, as well as Cinderella while eating at Cinderella’s Royal Table.
2. Meet-and-Greets are At a Distance
Once upon a time, chapters would come right up to your table while you enjoyed your meal at a character dining location. Unfortunately, because social distancing practices have been implemented, this is not possible at this time. Instead, characters keep their distance, but do still stop to pose for photos, wave at guests, and have interactions from a distance.
3. Autographs are Unavailable
Because social distancing is being implemented at character meals, another thing that is temporarily on pause are character autographs. Many Disney fans look forward to gathering autographs from their favorite cartoon friends with anticipation. It’s important that these individuals realize they won’t be adding any signatures to their collection for a bit, at least until character meetings can be up-close once again.
4. Entertainment Does Still Happen
If you’re one who enjoys the songs and dancing that happen during character meals, you’ll be happy to hear that entertainment does still happen throughout your meal. Singing and dancing are commonplace during the current character dining lineup, and while guests do not parade around any of the restaurants right now, they are encouraged to join in the fun by dancing and singing from their seats.
5. Buffets are Now Served Family-Style
Several of the Disney character meal options were once served buffet-style. Unfortunately, buffets can be germ spreaders, leading Disney to take a more cautious route and change things up a bit. These days, the meals that were once buffets are now served family-style, with huge platters of food being brought to each table for the party to share. Want more of something? Just ask.
6. Limited Seating Means Reservations Go Quickly
Distanced character meets are just one of the ways Disney is attempting to give everyone their space. The company is also making every effort to ensure guests are distanced from one another. This means there are fewer tables and chairs in each restaurant, giving you room to breathe without worrying about sharing germs with your neighbor. Of course, fewer seats means fewer people can dine at any given time, making it more difficult to snag dining reservations, especially for those coveted and limited character meals. For this reason, we highly recommend reserving your character dining experiences as soon as your reservation window opens.
7. Reservation Window has Shortened
Speaking of dining reservation windows, it’s also important to note that the dining reservation window has shortened. Now, instead of 120 days out, guests must wait until 60 days before their trip to secure dining reservations. Those staying onsite may make all of their reservations in one fell swoop 60 days before they check into their hotel, giving them a very small advantage. For this reason, if certain reservations could make or break your trip, you might want to consider an onsite hotel.
8. Other Ways to See Characters
Couldn’t get that reservation you wanted? Prefer not to pay for a character dining experience? Want even more characters after your meal has ended? Not to worry! There are other ways to see your favorite Disney friends despite the meet-and-greets being closed. One way to see characters is by watching for the character cavalcades that run at random throughout the day in all four parks. These are like mini parades and include a wide variety of characters. In Magic Kingdom they can be seen running the usual parade route. In Hollywood Studios, cavalcades run the length of Hollywood Blvd. Epcot’s cavalcades circle the World Showcase. Lastly, in Animal Kingdom, you’ll see boat cavalcades making their way through the waters of the park. Another option is to watch for characters hanging out in various places through the parks. This typically happens in grassy areas, on bridges and balconies, and in other areas that are blocked off, creating a barrier between the characters and guests. We’ve seen the stepsisters in front of Fairytale Hall, Donald Duck near the Chinese Theater, and Winnie the Pooh outside of Journey into the Imagination.