However, those who want to not only get an early character interaction, but also a chance to enter the parks before other guests, reservations at an in-park character breakfast, before rope drop, can give guests a great start to their day. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tusker House offers an excellent in-park character breakfast, and has the bonus of being directly adjacent to one of the few attractions in all of Walt Disney World where experiencing first thing in the morning can offer a significantly better experience than later in the day. Tusker House is located in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom near the new Festival of the Lion King Theater and just a short walk from the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Guests with pre-park-opening reservations at Tusker House are allowed into the park before opening by providing their name to a cast member with a reservation list near the front of the park. Guests then walk to the restaurant in the virtually empty park, past cast members preparing for the day. I’ve always found it interesting to walk through a nearly deserted park, particularly in early morning hours as you can feel the quiet and slow build as the park “wakes up.” At Animal Kingdom, it's even cooler because not only are rides and people quietly preparing for the day, but the unpredictable animals are as well.
Once crossing the bridge into Africa, Tusker House is located to the left, and guests check in at the host stand. After just a few minutes, our family was called to be seated. Like many character meals, guests can take a photo just before entering the dining room, which can be immediately linked to you PhotoPass account with a quick tap of your Magic Band. Once seated, guests are greeted by their server who takes the drink order and explains how the buffet and character interaction works. Drinks include a special “Jungle Juice,” which is a mixture of orange, guava, and passion fruit juices, and reminded me of a juice mixture that is a common breakfast drink in Hawaii. Like virtually every Disney character meal, guests stay at their table and the characters rotate around the room. Depending upon how full the dining room is, and the time you’re seated, it typically does not take more than 30-45 minutes to see all of the characters. At Tusker House, the characters are Mickey and his friends in their safari outfits. The dining room is not overly large and is divided into smaller seating areas that make the character interaction seem more intimate.
The food is where Tusker House shines. The selection includes many of the expected selections like eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, and fruit.
However, if your family is willing to be a bit more adventurous, the buffet will provide a cornucopia of options. There’s an amazing collection of breads, cheeses, and spreads along with two varieties of bread pudding.
There’s a full station devoted to yogurt and every imaginable topping. If that’s not enough, there’s another section of the buffet devoted to more unusual items like yam casserole, bobotie, corned beef hash, and blintzes.
Guests could easily fill four or more plates with a small portion of each item and still have a dozen or more selections to try. As with many buffets, food quality can vary depending upon how fresh the item is. I felt that the bobotie (similar to a Shepherd’s pie but with a cornbread crust and more spices like cumin, cardamom, and nutmeg) was not as good as what is served at Boma, a non-character African-inspired buffet restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge. However, the blintzes were particularly tasty, and the fresh mini-donuts were addictive.
As you would expect, service at Tusker House is brisk and efficient, and we were able to get our fill and meet all of the characters at a comfortable place in under an hour, which got us onto Kilimanjaro Safaris just before the huge rush of guests as the park opened. For an attraction that is best experienced first thing in the morning, our pre-park opening Tusker House reservation gave us a chance to ride the attraction without a much of a wait (about 3 minutes to load, including walking through the queue). However, not only does the pre-park opening reservation at Tusker House get you in the park early, but the food really stands up, and I would recommend the restaurant for breakfast even if you’re not trying to get into the park early. As with most character meals, it can be a bit pricey (about $30 for adults and about $16 for kids, depending upon season), but the costly price can be marginalized a bit through the use of the Disney Dining Plan. If I were to choose between Chef Mickey’s and Tusker House for breakfast, I would choose Tusker House every time.
Editor's Note: As of last week, Tusker House now also offers character dining at dinner, as well as breakfast and lunch, with "Donald’s Safari Dinner."
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