Only Three Of Disney's Character Dining Experiences Have Re-Opened—And They're Actually More Enjoyable Than Before

Megan duBois
Photo credit: Megan duBois
Photo credit: Megan duBois

From Delish

Waking up early to go to a character dining breakfast is a quintessential part of a Walt Disney World vacation. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, character dining options at Mickey's house were plentiful, and they included character groups like princesses, classic characters, and even Winnie the Pooh. As a theme park journalist, part of my job is to eat as much food as humanly possible while at Disney. And now that Disney World has begun their phased reopening, getting to a character dining experience was at the top of my to-do list.

As I looked to see what my options were for character dining I saw that only one was available to all Disney guests right now. It was at Topolino's Terrace at Disney's Riviera Resort for Breakfast à la Art with Mickey and Friends. I snagged up the prized reservation for my mom and I and waited for the day I could finally see Mickey and his friends while I munched on waffles. My sweet mom was along for this trip because having a buddy when you're stepping into the unknown is always a good idea, and she quickly became my official photographer.

The day of my breakfast reservation arrived and we hopped in my car to drive from Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge-Kidani Village, where we were staying, to Disney's Riviera Resort, where breakfast was to take place. We were first greeted by the security guard who checked his list of registered diners and checked my ID. After parking and getting out of my car I felt a little apprehension. I hadn't done character dining in months, and now because of Disney's new health and safety protocols it was going to look different. My mind started racing because of the unknown, but was quickly put at ease by a Disney cast member (Disney speak for employee) as I walked through the front doors of the hotel.

My mom and I were greeted, and he asked where we were headed. I told him we were going to Topolino's Terrace for breakfast with my main mouse, and he then asked if he could show us to the elevator. We obliged, and along the way he gave a mini tour of the hotel, including a cafe that was themed after the Walt Disney animated classic "The Aristocats," a hallway filled with pictures of Walt Disney and his family on vacations in the French riviera, and a small dark library filled with old artifacts from The Walt Disney Company. Once we got to the elevator, he pressed the call button and the floor button for us so we didn't have to touch anything until we got to breakfast.

Once up to the rooftop restaurant, I noticed I had a push notification from the Walt Disney World app saying I could mobile check-in for our reservation. To mobile check-in at any restaurant all you have to do is open the push notification and go through the prompts. Some of the prompts include how big your party is, if you need handicapped accessible seating, dietary restrictions, if you're celebrating anything, and adding your phone number so Disney can text you when your table is ready. The thing I liked most about mobile check-in was that it could be done on the way to the restaurant, up to 30 minutes in advance of your reservation, so your table is ready when you get there. This was a great addition to the guest experience, and I hope it stays after Disney is able to relax some of their social distancing rules.

Photo credit: Megan duBois
Photo credit: Megan duBois

Once we were called to be seated, the hostess took us by the wine and pasta displays and noted that, at dinner, Topolino's Terrace is known for their hand rolled pasta dishes, which I really want to go back and try now. We were seated in the interior of the restaurant, where we had a panoramic view of Walt Disney World thanks to floor to ceiling windows. From our vantage point we could see Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park, Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, and quite a few resorts.

Our waitress came by to introduce herself and drop off a super cute pastry basket that looked like a paint bucket that was filled with muffins, croissants, and maple danishes. She also took our drink order and mentioned how the QR code menu worked. All of the restaurants at Disney are using a QR code on a small sheet of paper to pull up menus instead of handing out standard menus to make your service mostly contactless. Using the QR code was easy, and it can be pulled up by almost any smartphone. I have an iPhone 11, and all I had to do was open the camera app on my phone and hold it over the code. In moments, a Safari drop down notification came up to press so I could view the menu. If you have an Android device, you're going to want to download a QR code reader before heading to Walt Disney World since some Android phones don't have the camera QR code reader capability.

After our coffee and juice arrived, we were ready to order our entrees. One great thing at Breakfast à la Art with Mickey and Friends is that it's a base price of $42 for adults and $27 for kids. That price includes coffee and juice and your entree. But the secret to this type of "base price" dining is that you can order a second entree without an additional fee. The secondary entree will be somewhat modified to be a smaller portion and not include a side, which increases the value of breakfast exponentially. All you need to do is confirm with your waitstaff what you want as your primary entree and what you want as your secondary entree so the kitchen will know how to plate everything.

Photo credit: Megan duBois
Photo credit: Megan duBois

My mom and I both ended up ordering the quiche gruyère for our main entree, which comes with house-made pancetta, roasted potatoes, and field greens that are tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. We decided to share a secondary entree, which had to be the sour cream waffles that are topped with roasted apples, chantilly cream, and orange maple syrup! Typically this comes with a side of breakfast meat, but if it's your secondary entree you will need to request the side of bacon or sausage, which our waitress was more than happy to accommodate.

After we were done ordering, a restaurant-wide announcement came in saying Mickey was taking a break from being a painter to come see everyone. This is the part of our breakfast that I was most nervous about. How would this modified character dining work when I couldn't actually get up to hug Mickey or take the perfect Instagram-worthy photo with him? All of those apprehensions left as soon as Mickey made his way over to our side of the restaurant.

All of the characters at breakfast walked the same path on the outside of the restaurant, and would stop briefly to take a socially distant selfie with guests. Once I figured this out, I was prepared for the next character to bound around the room. Characters that appear at Breakfast à la Art with Mickey and Friends include painter Mickey, writer Minnie, sculptor Donald, and ballerina Daisy. Each character's new costumes are worth the trip to Topolino's Terrace, even if you are missing park time. Mickey and his pals make their way around the room about every five to seven minutes so it's super easy to see everyone even before you get your breakfast plates.

Photo credit: Megan duBois
Photo credit: Megan duBois

One thing I always hated about character dining before coronavirus was how long it took to see each character, then having to abruptly stop my meal to hop up and take a picture every so often. At Breakfast à la Art with Mickey and Friends we were able to see all four characters before our breakfast even arrived, making our actual eating time much more relaxed.

Speaking of our breakfast, it was fantastic, really. It arrived at our table within 15-20 minutes after ordering, it was piping hot, and plated with care. My mom and I loved both of the entrees we picked out. (P.s. Right now at Disney World, everyone from chefs to food runners at a restaurant are still getting used to the new procedures just like we were as guests.)

While we ate our breakfast, we continued to see all of the characters, but since we already had our selfies, my mom and I just waved as they paraded by so other tables could have a few extra prized seconds with Donald or Mickey. Near the end of our breakfast, an announcement was made that all four characters would be coming out to celebrate with everyone. In each corner of the room a different character was stationed while a fun celebration song played overhead. I thought this was a great way to make anyone with a birthday, anniversary, or other big milestone feel important while still maintaining Disney's social distancing standards.

Our meal was done and before we left, our waitress brought an autograph card that looked similar to a postcard with all of the characters signatures. Since autograph books aren't able to be used right now, this was a fun alternative to something most people look forward to at a character dining experience.

Photo credit: Megan duBois
Photo credit: Megan duBois

Disney did take the time to think about how they could still have character dining experiences and still make those special moments for guests even if the experience isn't exactly the same as when we did it pre-covid. One thing I want to make sure everyone knows is that going to Walt Disney World right now is a very personal decision you have to make on your own, and that includes any type of dining you might want to enjoy. Menus are pared down because of the meat shortage and cost-effectiveness of running a restaurant right now. Taking time to look at those before you go will help you to make a better decision on where to dine.

If you do decide you want to try character dining, you really should consider Breakfast à la Art with Mickey and Friends. This is the only character dining at a Walt Disney World-owned hotel right now making it a must-get reservation for many guests. When Epcot opens on July 15, the Garden Grill restaurant inside The Land pavilion will also host character dining but you must have an Epcot park pass to dine there. There is one other character dining experience at Disney at the Four Season Orlando located inside the exclusive Golden Oak community. Revello has started their Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy and Pals again. This character dining experience is only available on Saturdays, and you must have a reservation to attend.

I'm glad I went to Topolino's Terrace for Breakfast à la Art with Mickey and Friends. My very honest opinion is that I like this modified character dining even more than I liked character dining how it was before coronavirus. Our service was impeccable, and the food was top-notch. Eating at any Disney restaurant is always a highlight of my trips to the parks. Doing so at such a beautiful restaurant where I can see my favorite characters makes this experience skyrocket to the top of my must-eat list.

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