If you've got a Disney Princess fan in your family, then dining with Disney Princesses is probably at the top of your child's To Do List when visiting a Disney Park (right behind getting hair and make-up done in the princess style.)
I've done a few dining with Disney characters in the past year and am about to do it again tomorrow, but the first one we ever did was Ariel's Grotto at California Adventure in Disneyland. And it was so. much. fun. Absolutely worth the money, especially since, unlike anywhere on the Disneyland side, they serve booze here. #margtime
If you're considering this particular dining experience, here's what you should know before you go (I'll do my best to round-up the others as well.)
Make a Reservation: You don't want to take the risk of the restaurant being sold-out. While there are several seating times, they do book up fast, especially on holidays, themed seasons, and weekends. You can make a rezzie online, but you will need a Disney Parks account to do so. Having an account is actually quite useful. You can link up your annual passes, make reservations, book hotels, etc. It's really a no-brainer to get one.
Arrive Early: Once the seating time "opens", you're actually going to have to wait in line down the spiral (carpeted) staircase that descends into Ariel's Grotto. That's because before everyone enters the dining room, they take their pictures with Ariel. Awww. Still, it's a pain to wait on the staircase with crazy toddlers, so get there early.
You'll Have No Control Over Your Seating: Where you sit is first and foremost based on how many people are in your party, but if you arrive way late, chances are you'll get the seats outside. And while the princesses make the rounds to all tables, inside seating is best. Because....
During the Meal, Several Princesses Will Be Royally Announced: We happened to get seated right up near where the princesses would first appear and my girls went crazy each time. All the big ones came out--Belle, Rapunzel, Cindy, and Aurora. This made for a very frenetic lunch experience since everytime I went to take a bite, a princess came out and I had to restrain my children from hugging her immediately. But eventually, the princesses stopped coming out and we could force the girls to finish their meals, and most importantly, drink our margs.
The Food is Good, Better Than Most Places at Disneyland: But still nothing you could crave or want to seek out another time. (Peep the menu here.) The kids meals are cute, especially Usurla Octo-dog, a hot dog cut up to resemble an octopus. And they serve an adorable little cupcake for dessert. Kids also receive a little crown decorating kit to work on while they wait for food and princesses. That's a great little touch.
Be Prepared to Spend: No Disney experience would be complete without spending more money than you initially hoped. The meal prices for lunch start at $42.10 for adults and $22.60 for children ages 3-9, plus an automatically added on 15 percent service charge. Specialty cocktails and other booze options are at least $10 a piece. Dinner meal prices are a few dollars more while breakfast is a few dollars less than lunch. There are discounts for Annual Pass members so be sure to use those.
Also, you will have to pay for the photos they took of your children with Ariel. These are pretty professional photos and they come in a printed paper frame but they also throw in extra copies. I actually can't remember how much those cost, but probably upwards of $25. I did get an Annual Pass discount on these too.
Yet despite the total bill, it was so worth it to see my kids literally lose their minds with happiness every time a princess came out. See, I couldn't even get a shot of them with Ariel because one kept jumping with joy. And did I mention they serve booze here?
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