As we planned for a visit to Disney World, there was one thing that came up time and time again when we asked our family, friends and YOU, our readers, what was not to be missed during our vacation: Character Dining.
Sure, when you visit the Disney parks, you can meet various characters throughout each park. The drawbacks are that you never know which characters you might encounter (for the most part) and you have to stand in line (sometimes for an hour or more) just to have the chance to meet that character and pose for pictures/get autographs. When you only have a handful of days at the parks, chances are good that you would rather spend your time on rides and seeing shows – not waiting in character lines.
A great solution is to check out a character meal (or two or three). If you are going to stay at a Disney resort, you can even use some of your Disney Dining Plan towards character meals. (Note: we did not stay on a Disney property so my experience is non-existent in this area- but various Disney guide books do a great job outlining it all.)
You have a bunch of options when it comes to character meals – various characters, time of day, location, etc.
As you all know by now, Lily Bean is complete Princess-junkie. So for us, it was a no-brainer… we knew we wanted to take her to a meal populated by princesses. We went back and forth between Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom) and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Epcot). We ultimately chose the Epcot location for 2 reasons: 1) it was a little bit cheaper and 2) the princess that greets you when you enter is almost always Belle from Beauty in the Beast. Belle is one of Lily Bean’s very favorite princesses, so we thought we would get a much bigger reaction to Belle and her signature YELLOW DRESS.
Dinner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
Note: Admission to this restaurant requires an admission ticket to Epcot Center
Location: Epcot Center in World Showcase (Norway)
Meals served: breakfast, lunch and dinner
Reservations: Reservations are highly recommended and it is not uncommon for the restaurant to be fully booked – so reserve your spot early (a $10 per person deposit is required to hold your reservation). We booked our meal around 3 months before our trip.
Price: Kids under 3 are FREE. Kids 3-9: breakfast $10, lunch $20, dinner $21 & Adults: breakfast $31, lunch $33, dinner $38. Soft drinks are included (kids can also choose from water, juice or milk). Alcohol is available for an additional charge.
Characters: Disney Princesses – appearance schedule can vary (we saw: Belle, Snow White, Aurora, Ariel and Jasmine)
Princess Meet and Greet: When you first enter the restaurant, you are greeted by a princess – we were greeted by Belle. I must say – I know that Disney goes to extremes when it comes to handpicking actors to portray their characters… but Bob and I were both ASTOUNDED by how perfectly authentic the young lady playing Belle appeared. Her hair, her face, her voice, her demeanor, her YELLOW DRESS were all absolutely perfect. Note the absolutely FREAKED out look on Lily Bean’s face – like a deer in the headlights, no? This was on day 2 of our park visiting. She was slowly warming up to the characters and was so excited to put on her Belle dress. But when we actually saw Belle – she was completely overwhelmed.
Belle was so wonderful with her. She saw her fear and immediately (and very gracefully!) moved from a standing to a kneeling position so that she could be on eye-level with Lily. She had the kindest tone and told Lily how much she loved her dress, etc. S-L-O-W-L-Y Lily realized that this experience, in fact, was not a punishment, rather something to be enjoyed. The second that we walked away from Belle, she was a total chatterbox and it was “Belle this” and “Belle that.”
Included in this meal is also a picture package – what a nice souvenir! We received (1) 8×10 print and (3) matching 4×6 prints in a protective cover.
Meal Style: Family style – server takes your drink and meal order and makes several check-backs for drink refills, etc. When you are seated, you are directed to a small buffet style appetizer bar. You will find rolls, chilled salads and some traditional Norwegian fare- including smoked salmon and Norwegian cheeses.
We ate dinner at Akershus (view the Akershus dinner menu).
I enjoyed a delicious and filling mustard-glazed seared salmon – SO good! Biker Bob tried the traditional Kjottkake (beef and pork dumplings) – he said his was scrumptious. Lily Bean ate off the kids’ menu (cheese ravioli!).
For dessert we were brought a plate of traditional Norwegian treats – 3 total – to share. There was plenty to go around. The only one that I didn’t care for was the Traditional Rice Cream – but I don’t like rice pudding, so that was a no brainer. :) I really liked the other two desserts and Bob loved all three.
Princesses During Mealtime: Throughout our meal, we had several princesses stop by our table to say hello. Every princess stops at every table – they will engage your child(ren) in a short conversation, pose for pictures and sign autograph books. Lily loved watching the princesses as they made their way from table to table. As each one stopped at our table, she had a shy attack and slowly warmed back up.
But by FAR – the most magical moment of the evening was when Snow White arrived at our table. Lily met Show White the day before at Magic Kingdom and had immediately drawn the conclusion that they were BFFs. So as Snow White gracefully swooped over to our dinner table that night, Lily was already enamored. Snow White started to tell Lily how much she enjoys baking Gooseberry Pies with the dwarves, and I commented that Lily LOVES CAKE. Snow White took that and ran. The two of them discussed their love for cakes. While Bob and I wept quietly in our chairs. ;)
Those are truly the magical moments that people seek when they go on trips like this. I can’t look at this picture without reliving the moment. I can’t relive the moment without grinning from ear to ear and thinking about our perfect evening at Epcot.
Conclusion: This character meal is going to get 4 out of 4 stars from us. We loved the food, we loved the entertainment, we loved the time spent with each other.
We also really liked the fact that the meal included a complimentary picture package.
When all was said and done, our meal (including tip) came to just under $100. We used some of the credit on our Disney Chase Visa Rewards Card, so it was actually FREE.
If you have a princess (or princesses) of your own, we highly recommend this character meal, based on our own experience there.