My family and I recently enjoyed a visit to Epcot. The main purpose of our visit was to experience character dining at the Garden Grill restaurant in the Land Pavilion. We fit in some FP+ reservations before our 4:30 pm dinner reservations for the Epcot Character Spot character meet and the newly updated Soarin’ Around The World attraction.
At the Character Spot, we happily met Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Minnie Mouse. All the characters were very friendly and our son was excited and smiling from ear to ear when he met each of them.
Across the walkway, the two newest character meets of Baymax and Joy and Sadness (not accessible by Fastpass+ or the DAS) were busy and the wait was too long for our son. We decided to come back another day when we had more time for one of us to stand in the queue and text the others when it was time to meet the characters.
Our Soarin’ FP+ return time was scheduled just before our Garden Grill dinner reservations. We really liked the new Soarin’ film of majestic scenes and iconic landmarks from around the world. We noticed some screen distortion from our position on the far right side in the middle row but it wasn’t too distracting from the overall experience.
Although we have lived in the Orlando area for almost ten years, this character dinner was our first character meal at Walt Disney World. Our son experiences anxiety while eating in public restaurants and is very sound sensitive, especially with the sounds of kids crying and dishes clanking. We wanted the quietest atmosphere possible and many of my followers and friends advised that the Garden Grill was one of the quieter character meal restaurants on Disney property. We knew our son would love meeting the characters of Chip and Dale, Pluto and Mickey Mouse but we were unsure how he would do in between meeting the characters or how long he would last at the restaurant. We also knew he would eat a majority of the foods that were on the menu, so thankfully this was not a concern.
We were seated on the upper tier of the restaurant, where both levels rotate slowly with the scenery changing to include a portion of the Living with the Land scenery. Our server was pleasant and brought our drinks almost immediately.
I was very happy with how quickly the characters arrived at our table after we were seated. Mickey Mouse in his farmer’s outfit greeted us first and our son was thrilled to see him. Just a few minutes later, Pluto stopped by our table followed by Dale and Chip. Tip: You can tell the difference between Chip and Dale by the color of their noses: Chip’s nose is dark like a chocolate chip. The restaurant was relatively quiet this early and sounds that bothered our son were minimal.
Our first dinner course was a beautiful fresh salad served family-style in a serving bowl along with a basket of bread and creamy butter.
Our main course consisted of turkey and gravy, grilled sirloin beef fillet, and Italian sausage with peppers and onions.
The tasty side dishes consisted of macaroni and cheese, sweet potato fries, buttermilk mashed potatoes, green beans and bacon and leek stuffing. We could ask for more of any item if we wanted for no extra charge.
Dessert was a delicious shortcake with strawberry compote and vanilla bean whipped cream.
Throughout the meal the characters stopped at our table for interactions with our son and photo opportunities. We saw each character several times and they were very personable. Many guests also requested autographs from the characters when it was their turn to interact with them.
Our son did well throughout dinner and made it to dessert but he was ready to leave at that point in the meal. The restaurant and crowd noise had increased and he was becoming irritated even wearing noise canceling headphones. It wasn’t too noisy but as I said previously, our son is very sensitive to noises. My husband and son left the restaurant and rode Soarin’ using a DAS return time we obtained before dinner.
I finished my dessert, took a few selfie pictures with Mickey and Pluto (Dale sat down and joined me for a little while), and then paid for our meal. After Soarin’, our son was in a much better mood..
Overall, our adventure at the Garden Grill restaurant character meal was a success. Was it a favorite experience for our son? No. But our son heartily enjoyed the character interactions. My recommendation is it’s best to know what your family member’s limitations may be when preparing for your vacation but also be open to try new things. I hope that your next visit to Walt Disney World provides opportunities for magical moments for you and your family.
Maureen is married and has a son with autism. She and her family visit an Orlando Theme Park nearly every weekend. Maureen created AutismAtTheParks to help vacationers who have a family member with a developmental disability to better navigate and enjoy the theme parks. She is also a contributor to the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Periscope.
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