My daughter’s absolute favorite place to eat at the Disneyland Resort is Ariel’s Grotto at Disney’s California Adventure. A wonderful combination of both great food and character dining, this is probably the best place to eat for any child who loves the Disney Princesses. Most character experiences are with Disney’s “silent” characters. They come to the table, mime for a bit, hug the kids, pose for pics, and move on. But since the princesses are all “face” characters, the kids get a chance to interact with them in a way they don’t always get to with the others. Each of the princesses take their time with the kids, often bending down to their level and treating them like royalty. They pose for photographs, sign autographs, and really talk to each child. Is the meal more pricey? Sure. But for a good sit-down meal with a chance to meet the princesses without waiting in a long line – it’s WORTH it!
Of course, each group gets to meet the main attraction herself – Ariel! The beginning of your meal actually starts with an encounter with Disney’s mermaid-turned-princess herself. And the folks here are great about letting you take whatever pictures you want. They not only will take pics of your party, but will also take pics with your camera, too. They do offer photo packages which they come by and present while you eat (amazing how they can do that), but you are never under any obligation to purchase. If you do, it just gets added to your meal ticket. Ariel will spend time talking to your child while signing their autograph book, and if they don’t have one, will talk to them anyway. After taking a pic, you are escorted to your table and already the excitement begins as you notice the princesses wandering around the dining room.
Your meal begins with an antipasto trio of plates. The bottom tier is a wonderfully light salad, the middle tier is filled with fruits and a small Jello treat, while the top tier is laden with deli meats, cheeses, and olives. You are also served a pinwheel bread basket with a trio of different toppings to lather on top. Unlike other character experiences which are mostly buffets, this one is all table service. There is a broad selection to choose from including Santa Maria tri-tip, pasta with Italian sausage, cioppino, herb-crusted chicken breast with cheddar mashed potatoes, and spinach and ricotta agnolotti (like ravioli soup). Kids have an equally varied menu of choices including seashell pasta, meatball lollipops, chicken on a stick, and kid’s version of tri-tip. I’ve had the tri-tip which was excellent and the agnolotti which admittedly was only okay. Ravioli soup just isn’t my thing, but it was still filling and tasty. Emma has had the seashell pasta both times and wiped it out she loved it so much. The end of the meal comes with a dessert plate – not a dessert, but a dessert PLATE. An assortment of goodies comes out to you and all are yummy. The first time we came there was a white chocolate conch shell which was out of this world along with other treats. This time, there was a lava cake with colorful cupcakes, cookies, and fresh berries. Still quite yummy, but we did miss the themed white chocolate conch shell.
Now be warned that the Princesses only come out in the day. The menus remain the same, but the experience changes between lunch and dinner. At night it becomes a premium World of Color meal location (at a higher rate also) with no Princesses. So if that is important to you, come for lunch. They do offer a Princess breakfast but with a different menu and style. The food is high quality, the service is great, and the meet-and-greet time with the Princesses is priceless. Oh, and everyone gets a button! Come to Ariel’s Grotto for a great in-park dining experience!
Disney tip: Make reservations early! But if you don’t, show up right when they open and they will take stand-by diners. You may have to wait a little bit, but the wait is reasonable and worth it!