One of the greatest things about Disneyland is getting to meet the characters, and the best way to do this, is through a Character Dining Experience. Within the Disneyland Resort, there are multiple opportunities, both in the parks and at each of the hotels:
Disney's California Adventure: Ariel's Grotto
Disneyland: Plaza Inn
Disneyland Hotel: Goofy's Kitchen
Paradise Pier Hotel: PCH Grill
Grand Californian Hotel: Storyteller's Cafe
My mother started a tradition with Cooper's first birthday to take him to Goofy's Kitchen, a Character dining Experience at the Disneyland Hotel, where you join Chef Goofy, and a whole cast of other characters (this changes daily). This was our third year visiting, and we all had a fabulous time.
As you enter the restaurant, you're greeted by Pluto and have a chance for a few photos with your whole party (make sure to have them take photos with your camera, as well as theirs). Later, during your meal, get your cameras ready as you are visited by several different characters, including Chef Goofy!
The great thing about character dining experiences is that each of the characters (there are usually five) comes to your table and interacts with children and adults alike, signing autograph books, and posing for pictures. We had a few that spent quite a lot of time with us.
The buffet style food was A-MA-ZING! From prime rib, to Pork Loin, to Leg of Lamb, Rock Shrimp Pasta, Pot Stickers, a fabulous salad bar and amazing desserts, the food certainly did not disappoint. The kids food buffet consisted of Peanut Butter Pizza, Macaroni & Cheese Pizza, as well as other traditional pizza flavors, Hot Dogs, Macaroni and Cheese, Popcorn Shrimp, and Spaghetti & Meatballs. They were busy so I didn't get any photos of the food.
Birthdays are celebrated almost every ten minutes it seems, as this is the perfect place for a celebration! Adults and children alike all were sporting "Happy Birthday" buttons.
Free of charge, the birthday boy or girl receives a birthday button, a card signed by many of their favorite characters, and a cupcake. Some of the wait staff and one or two characters will also join your table to sing happy birthday.
Each of the characters in the restaurant that night came around and spent several minutes with us, playing with the kids and posing for photo ops. We met Chef Goofy, Minnie, Snow White, Jasmine and Chip!
At $31.99 for adults and $13.99 for children, it's a little pricey, but you're getting great food and a truly unique dining experience. I just love this tradition, it gives Cooper a chance to celebrate his birthday with the people he loves the most, and a chance for a more intimate party before the big blow-out (read all about his carnival birthday party here). Life should be celebrated, and when this family celebrates, we go all out!
Goofy's Kitchen is the only one of the five character dining experiences that offers lunch and dinner. the other restaurants offer a Brunch and prices are roughly $24-$25 per person, and $12-$13 for children. Children under three years are free.
When planning your visit to the Disneyland Resort, remember to make Priority Seating requests by calling Disney Dining (714-781-DINE). You can call up to 60+ days in advance.