Character Dining at the Garden Grove Restaurant

Experience the magic of Disney by going to a character dining restaurant at the Garden Grove restaurant at the WDW Swan and Dolphin Resort in FL.

I have been a Disney fan for as long as I can remember.  I have so many happy memories of watching Disney movies with my sisters, my first trip to Disneyland as a kid and our first trip as a family to Disneyland with our own kids.  One thing I remember clearly from my first trip to Disneyland was standing in line to get the autographs and pictures of the different characters all over the park.  My sisters and I loved this almost as much as the rides because it made the experience so much more real to us.  So when we were booking our trip to Orlando at the Swan and Dolphin Resort and I found out they had a character dining experience, I knew I wanted to go.

This post is sponsored by the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.  All opinions are 100% mine.

After a long day of walking around Hollywood Studios, my husband and I were starving.  We took the short walk back to our hotel where we picked up our luggage from the bell hop and checked into our room for our final night.  (Read more about our stay at the hotel HERE.)  We deposited our stuff, freshened up and walked downstairs to the Garden Grove Restaurant.  Our plan was to show up soon after the restaurant opened at 5pm so we didn’t have to wait in any long lines.  This worked to our advantage and we were one of the first people seated.  (You can find more information on menus and reservations by clicking HERE.)

In the middle of the dining area, there is a large 25′ oak tree that is stunning.  The entire atmosphere of the restaurant is set up so that you feel as though you’ve stepped into Central Park.  The tree itself is covered in lights and lanterns that add a special ambiance.  All the tables in the restaurant surround the tree and it’s visible from every table.  At night the lights are dimmed in the restaurant and the tree is lit up.

Experience the magic of Disney by going to a character dining restaurant at the Garden Grove restaurant at the WDW Swan and Dolphin Resort in FL.

The Garden Grove is set up as a buffet style restaurant and they are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  They do the character dining experience in the evenings all week, and at breakfast on Saturday and Sunday only.  I had checked out the menu ahead of time and everything looked amazing.  When we were seated, our waiter, Gaven, informed us that because it was Friday night, the menu was their seafood buffet. 

As soon as he said that, my mouth literally started to water.  I absolutely LOVE seafood, but living in Utah I don’t get to enjoy much of it that is really fresh.  When he left, I scooted on over to the buffet and piled it on.  I did try to balance things out by getting some mashed potatoes, salad and a slice of prime rib, but let’s be honest: I really just at the seafood, especially the crab.  Oh. my. goodness.  Steaming, freshly cooked crab dipped in melted butter is absolutely in my top 5 favorite foods in this entire world.  I was in heaven.  My husband was laughing at me until he tried some too and then he couldn’t get enough either!

Experience the magic of Disney by going to a character dining restaurant at the Garden Grove restaurant at the WDW Swan and Dolphin Resort in FL.

Experience the magic of Disney by going to a character dining restaurant at the Garden Grove restaurant at the WDW Swan and Dolphin Resort in FL.

We hadn’t been there for long before the characters started showing up.  Goofy stopped by our table first and after we’d gotten a picture with him, he tried to walk off with me.  It made everyone around laugh and then he let me get back to my food. 

Experience the magic of Disney by going to a character dining restaurant at the Garden Grove restaurant at the WDW Swan and Dolphin Resort in FL.

Next up was Pluto who begged for scraps and was his usual doggy self.  He actually stopped by our table a couple of times since the restaurant wasn’t overly crowded so we got some fun pictures with him. 

Experience the magic of Disney by going to a character dining restaurant at the Garden Grove restaurant at the WDW Swan and Dolphin Resort in FL.

Experience the magic of Disney by going to a character dining restaurant at the Garden Grove restaurant at the WDW Swan and Dolphin Resort in FL.

After that, Chip and Dale came out together.  They kept making kissing noises at me and they were just like how they are in the cartoons.  It was also fun to see the characters interact with the other guests there, especially the ones with kids.  It made me miss our kids and wish they could experience the dinner with us.  They would have loved it so much!

Experience the magic of Disney by going to a character dining restaurant at the Garden Grove restaurant at the WDW Swan and Dolphin Resort in FL.

After I’d stuffed myself silly with crab, I had to check out their dessert table.  Our waiter had told us that there was a chocolate bomb that was amazing and I wanted to try it out.  I grabbed one of those, as well as a chocolate tart, a mini carrot cake cupcake and a pots de creme (pronounced: po de krehm) with a raspberry sauce on top.  I started with the cupcake and it was delicious.  It had a cream cheese filling and a marshmallow texture type frosting with a fancy disk of white chocolate on top.  Next up was the chocolate tart.  The filling was rich and decadent, the crust was flaky and there was a dollop of cream on top.  After that, I tried the pots de creme.  Oh my word.  It had a vanilla bean custard on the bottom that was so creamy and smooth it literally made me groan.  Add the raspberry sauce on top and it was a match made in heaven.  Finally, I had reached the final dessert: the chocolate bomb.  It had a chocolate disk on the bottom with a piece of cake on top and then chocolate mousse, all covered in dark chocolate and topped with a small bit of edible gold leaf.  I seriously felt like I was on an episode of some dessert baking competition on Food Network after eating these desserts.  They were SO good.

Experience the magic of Disney by going to a character dining restaurant at the Garden Grove restaurant at the WDW Swan and Dolphin Resort in FL.

I absolutely think that the character dining experience was one of my favorite parts of our trip to Orlando.  It brought some of that unique Disney magic right to our table and created some fun memories.  I liked that the characters took the time to visit each table and it didn’t feel rushed at all, which I really appreciated.  Our experience at Garden Grove was amazing and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

Have you ever done a character dining experience? 

My Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

A little less than two months ago, my husband sent me a message that he’d been invited to go to a training event in Orlando.  Jokingly I replied, “Can I come?”  His response: “I can ask.”  As it turned out, I could come and the minute I heard ‘yes’, I was searching online for the best flights, calling family members to ask if they could watch our kids and dreaming of sunny Florida.  (I’m a planner, remember?)  Midway through the day I asked my husband if he knew the name of the hotel they were putting everyone up at: “Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort“.  Um, what?!  That’s right my friends.  We were going to be staying at a WDW hotel and I was doing a happy dance in my living room.

This post is sponsored by the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.  All opinions are 100% my own.

When I first pulled up to the hotel, it was nighttime and everything was lit up.  The hotel has 11 floors and has huge swan statues on the top of each wing of the hotel.  With the lights shining on the swans as well as the beautiful fountain out front, I knew I was in for a treat.  Walking into the lobby, it is bright and welcoming.  You can see straight through to the other end of the building where it opens out onto the grounds.  When I first was looking at the hotel’s website, I realized that the hotel is actually two hotels on the same property: the Swan and the Dolphin.  They share many of the amenities, such as the pools and other entertainment, but each one has different restaurants and dining options to offer.

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

For the first two nights, I stayed in the west wing of the hotel in a grand deluxe king room.  It turns out that we were originally booked into a queen room, but we were able to switch to a king room that also happened to be wheelchair accessible so the bathroom was bigger and there wasn’t a sofa.  Our room had a balcony that looked out onto the grounds behind the hotel (facing the back of the Dolphin).  I had a great view of the little lake (Crescent Lake) and one of the pools and there were lots of palm trees close by as well.  The room was clean and bright, with a desk, TV and a mini fridge that included two complimentary waters (great for drinking and refilling at the parks!).

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

Our third night, we changed rooms and stayed in the east wing of the hotel.  Our view wasn’t as nice in terms of being able to see the grounds, however, we were able to look down into the courtyard area and it was a little more shaded.  We stayed in another grand deluxe king room that was almost identical to our first room but the bathroom was smaller and it had a sofa.

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

Each morning for breakfast, we headed down to the Java Bar.  We don’t drink coffee, but there were really good muffins and pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants) as well as fresh fruit, cereal, bottled smoothies and a few other basic breakfast items.  It was located towards the back of the hotel near the exit to the grounds and the water taxi, which made it really convenient to grab something and get on our way.  The only other place we ate at on the Swan hotel property was The Garden Grove Restaurant for a character dining experience, which I’ll be posting about later this week.  For now, suffice it to say that it was amazing!

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

The grounds of the hotel are absolutely beautiful.  When you walk out the back doors of the Swan, directly in front of you is a large walkway that leads to the Dolphin.  It is open in the middle with flowers and palm trees and flanked on either side with a covered walkway.  The walkway spans a portion of Crescent Lake where a water taxi comes by every 20 minutes or so to take you to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios.  On one side of the property are three different pools: two lap pools and one larger grotto pool with a waterfall and water slide.  There are also a few hammocks near the pools and on the beach.  We relaxed on the hammocks a couple of different times and it was soooo nice.  On the beach, they had a playground for kids and two or three volleyball courts, along with some loungers.

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

On the opposite side of the pools was a bridge over the waterway and a path that led to Hollywood Studios or the Boardwalk.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to explore the boardwalk but we took the walking path to and from Hollywood Studios a couple of times and it was about a 12 minute walk.  I loved the option to walk or take the water taxi, especially at night when the park had closed and everyone was trying to get back to their hotel.

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

An overview of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Buena Vista, FL

One amenity that I found extremely helpful at the Swan was the option to have the hotel hold our luggage for us.  Because we had to change rooms for our third night, we didn’t have a place to put our luggage while we were at Hollywood Studios.  So in between when we had to check out at 11:00am and when we could check back into our new room later that afternoon, they held our stuff for us until our new check in.

All in all, our stay at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort was amazing.  Their proximity to the parks, especially Hollywood Studios and Epcot, made its location ideal.  The rooms were large and welcoming.  We loved the grounds and their list of amenities and services made our stay comfortable and hassle-free.  I would absolutely recommend this hotel for both families and couples.
 
If you are going to be traveling to Florida to visit any of their Disney theme parks or Universal Studios, definitely consider looking into the Swan and Dolphin to see if it’s the right fit for your family.