Most families headed to Disneyland schedule at least one character meal during a vacation. My family visits Disneyland often enough that we finally hit a Disneyland milestone – dining at every Disneyland character dining location in the resort with at least one child in tow. Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey and Friends (held daily at the PCH Grill in Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel) was the only character meal at Disneyland that my family had not yet experienced. On the last morning of our spring break vacation before the long drive home to the San Francisco Bay Area, it was our final stop.
(Editor’s Note: As of summer 2018, Surf’s Up has had a bit of a facelift and is now Donald Duck’s Seaside Breakfast. The experience is very similar to the old Surf’s Up. Minor decor changes were made and Donald Duck is now the feature character rather than Mickey, but almost all the other experiences are the same).
It turns out we saved the best for last. After dining at all 5 options with at least one child each time, I can confidently say that Surf’s Up! is my favorite Disneyland character meal with younger kids. The food choices are kid-friendly and plentiful on the buffet and the theming is whimsical for little ones and their parents.
Here are 7 things to know to help you decide if Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey and Friends is the right character meal choice for your family too.
Surf’s Up! Character Breakfast Review & Tips
1. It’s the only character meal at Disneyland with a guaranteed Mickey sighting.
At Disneyland character meals, the only guaranteed character meet-and-greet is the character “hosting” the meal. Since Surf’s Up is on Mickey’s turf, you won’t miss the Mouse. In fact, all guests get a photo opportunity with Mickey upon entering and being seated. Photo packages cost extra but can be added to the newest $39 per day Photopass+ service at Disneyland.
While Mickey can certainly be found in the parks, lines there to meet him are often long. For quality time with the Mouse himself without a wait, Surf’s Up is the place to be.
2. Other characters that toddlers and young kids know and love regularly appear.
Your kids will likely know every character that makes a regular appearance at Surf’s Up. Several members of Disney’s “Fab 5” visit, along with other popular Disney heavy-hitters. During our meal, we saw Pluto and Minnie as well as Daisy and Stitch. My almost 7 year old daughter couldn’t have been happier getting autographs from every single one.
3. You’ll likely have more time with characters.
Surf’s Up is one of the smallest of the character meals offered at Disneyland. This means the characters don’t have nearly the kind of ground to cover as at other breakfasts. We found that this translated into fewer tables skipped and more time for us to interact with characters.
We were at breakfast for about an hour and 40 minutes from start to finish, and each of the 5 characters had made two complete rounds during that time. Consequently, our kids had 10 character interactions and plenty of time for photos and autographs. I’ve been at a lot of meals where you see a character across the room but that character never makes it to you before break time. So much less kid disappointment here.
4. Be ready for dance parties!
Breakfast with Mickey and Friends at PCH Grill is meant to be a beach party and party they do! About every half hour, a character comes out to the tune of classic surfing anthems and encourages the kids to dance along. Even my toddler got in on the action and then got me on the dance floor.
5. Out-0f-park location can be a real value.
One of the major reasons to do a character breakfast outside of the parks at a location like the Surf’s Up! Breakfast at PCH Grill is to save on a day of park tickets. Who doesn’t like saving money at Disneyland?
I often schedule a character meal on the morning of my departure day when my family isn’t planning to go into the parks because the day is too short. We are still able to have a Disney experience without paying for an extra day of theme park tickets. Surf’s Up and other hotel character meals are also a great value for locals looking for a relatively inexpensive Disney experience.
6. Logistics couldn’t be easier.
Located on the first floor just through the lobby at Paradise Pier, the logistics of a visit to the PCH Grill for the Surf’s Up! Breakfast really couldn’t be any easier. Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel is easy walking distance from either of the other two Disney resort hotels (the Disneyland Hotel or Disney’s Grand Californian) as well as from Downtown Disney or the parks.
Because we were staying off-property on the other side of Disneyland this trip, we chose to drive to our meal. Parking was a breeze in an attached garage with minimal walking. As a bonus, the restaurant will even validate hotel parking for up to three hours when dining.
7. Toddlers Eat Free!
Disneyland character dining can be a relative value for families with younger kids because toddlers under age 3 can eat off a parent’s plate for no extra charge. My 2.5 year old ate Mickey waffles for free at Surf’s Up.
For the rest of the family, character dining is – of course – never cheap. However, I found prices to be a good value for the variety of food offered and the (priceless!) character experiences. Adults dine at the buffet for $33 and kids ages 3-9 are $17.
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Disclosure: Disney graciously hosted my family for our meal at Surf’s Up. As always, all opinions are my own!
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