The Former Character Dining Experiences We Miss Most at Disney World

Alice and Mad Hatter at 1900 Park Fare Feature Image
Credit: Disney

Disney Character dining is undeniably magical. Nothing compares to sharing a memorable meal with some of your favorite friends from Walt Disney Entertainment. We all have our favorites, located throughout various Disney Parks and Resorts at Walt Disney World. Perhaps you’re a Chef Mickey’s fan or maybe Garden Grill over at EPCOT is more your thing. It may even be that your latest obsession in recent years is Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort. Whatever it is that directly satisfies your themed hankering in the way of Character Dining, we can all agree that we would feel incredible sadness if our favorites were ever suddenly discontinued for any reason. And perhaps that’s been the case for you personally in the past regarding specific dining experiences. Are there any now-gone Disney World Character Meals you miss terribly and are still lamenting over? For me, five such experiences come to mind instantly.

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The History of Character Dining at Disney World

Before diving into my top five discontinued Disney Character dining engagements, I feel it’s worth looking back to the history and evolution of Character Mealtimes throughout Walt Disney World Resort. Character Dining started in the late 1970s, inspired by the success of a limited-time holiday Breakfast with Santa offering on location at Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village (now Disney Springs). The idea was to cash in on that same popularity year-round by replacing the Santa component with beloved Disney Characters, allowing children and families an all-new special-themed mealtime experience. Such an offering was a hit, of course, with the Empress Lilly—that permanently stationed riverboat now serving as Paddlefish Restaurant—among one of the first Character Dining spots at Disney World.

Dining on Empress Lilly in the 1980s

Credit: Laura Catherine Hermoza

As the late 1970s transitioned into a new decade, Character Meal offerings grew and evolved, eventually making their way over to various Resorts and in-Park establishments. Over at the Polynesian Minnie’s Menehune Breakfast at the Papeete Bay Veranda (later transformed into ’Ohana) served as the ultimate Hawaiian breakfast engagement long before Lilo and Stitch ever came on the scene with their Best Friends Breakfast. Then in 1986, Fort Wilderness Resort welcomed Melvin the Moose of Country Bear Jamboree fame onto the scene for an all-new themed breakfast entertainment act, later featuring Chip ‘n’ Dale, up until 1991.

As the 1990s rolled in, many of the anchoring Disney Character Meals in traditional Meet and Greet format were established. These set the precedent for our current offerings, with many of the best-loved locations we continue to flock to, having come to fruition during this decade.

Former Disney Dining at Polynesian and Fort Wilderness

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Discontinued Dessert Parties

While these aren’t traditional Character Meals, they still constitute beloved discontinued opportunities to dine in the presence of Disney Characters. First is Tiana’s Ice Cream Social & Parade Viewing, which ran from November 2016 through January 2018. For this experience, Guests would gather along the Riverboat docking area at Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom, where they would join Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog (2009) for an ice cream party with all the works. Following that, Guests would board the Liberty Belle Riverboat for optimal viewing of that afternoon’s parade in Magic Kingdom Park.

Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen

Credit: Mealtrip

The Pirates and Pals Fireworks Dessert Voyage was another former folly that’s since been discontinued. This event led Guests to Disney’s Contemporary Resort for snacks, refreshments, and swashbuckling mingling prior to the nightly Fireworks Spectacular at Magic Kingdom Park. In a private area, Guests could fill up on various options, from ice cream bars to cookies, cupcakes, tea, coffee, chips, salsa, fruits, and more. But the real fun came with Captain Hook and Smee of Disney’s Peter Pan (1953) joining in, allowing for photo ops and autograph signings with Guests. Later on, everyone would be led out to a boast for evening fireworks viewing as the ultimate sendoff.

Captain Hook

Credit: Disney

Garden Grove

At the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, you can experience the delightful Central Park-themed Garden Grove Restaurant, highlighting traditional American fare. While it is still operating daily, the Character components that used to be showcased at this establishment have all been discontinued, as of 2020. It used to be that dinnertime featured various in-house Character appearances from such friends as Pluto and Goofy and/or Chip and Dale on a rolling basis. But such experiences ended suddenly in February 2020. Weekend breakfast buffet operations with the Characters continued up until the eventual mass closures in spring 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. Since reopening, though, Character Dining still hasn’t resumed, much to the disappointment of faithful fans.

Character Dining at Garden Grove

Credit: Amy Martz/Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ

This former, seasonal offering at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground allowed Guests to experience a toe-tapping hoedown alongside beloved Disney Characters while enjoying a buffet spread of traditional American picnic food staples. It was presented in an open-air pavilion, complete with a dance floor and all. In addition to cowboy rope tricks being performed and live music playing on the spot, it was a unique and personal way to dance along with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip, and Dale.

The last Mickey’s Backyard BBQ event was held on December 31, 2018, much to the disappointment of longtime Guests who loved it so. 

Mickey and Minnie at Mickey's Backyard BBQ

Credit: Disney

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Bon Voyage Breakfast 

Disney’s BoardWalk is home to many great dining venues, including that praiseworthy Italian establishment, Trattoria al Forno. And prior to closing during the COVID pandemic, they used to offer one of the arguably most unique Character Breakfasts—The Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast. Featuring two of Disney’s most adventurous power couples—Rapunzel and Flynn Rider of Tangled (2010) and Ariel and Eric of The Little Mermaid (1989), this offering remains suspended for the present time. But fans are eagerly anticipating its eventual return.

Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast

Credit: Disney

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1900 Park Fare

Once upon a time, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa was home to my favorite buffet in all of Walt Disney World. Moreover, it offered various Character Dining opportunities depending on the meal you attended. Starting the day off was the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast Buffet, featuring Character appearances by Mary Poppins, Alice and the Mad Hatter (from Alice in Wonderland, 1951), and even Tigger and Winnie the Pooh. There was also Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner every evening, with appearances by Cinderella and Prince Charming, stepsisters Drizella and Anastasia, and Lady Tremaine. Following all the Disney World Resort-wide closures back in 2020, this resident restaurant has yet to resume operations, Character-related or otherwise. What the future holds for this site, and whether or not Characters will be back at this location, is anyone’s guess.

Cinderella and Company at 1900 Park Fare

Credit: Disney

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Changes are forever eminent at Walt Disney World Resort. Sadly, that means some of our favorite establishments and Character-related experiences in conjunction may end up as unfortunate casualties in the process. But it’s important to remember that Disney is also always in the process of crafting new magical experiences. And it may just be that the very best Character Meal of all hasn’t even been imagined yet.

About Laura

Laura Catherine aka “LC” is a writer who resides in Maryland with her family and several pets. She visits Walt Disney World whenever she can. Additionally, she is a published author of three novels, a children’s book, and has a passion for gardening.