When planning our Disney vacations, making dining reservations (or ADR’s in Disney lingo) is a big part of the process. From character meals to romantic venues, Disney has something for everyone visiting.
And while Disney Parks in California can’t offer you the chance to dine inside a royal castle, Ariel’s Grotto invites you to dine Under the Sea!
“Under the Sea….Under the Sea….”
Located within Disney’s California Adventure theme park, Ariel’s Grotto “Under the Sea” Character Dining is not only a character meal, but one that features amazing food. I dare say it’s the best character dining meal I’ve had – and that’s saying a lot. But more on that later.
The entrance, complete with King Tritan’s statue, welcomes you into the Grotto where you’ll have the option of eating indoors or outdoors, something that can be done year-round thanks to the beautiful southern California weather.
You enter Ariel’s Grotto from above and wind down a spiral staircase where you will meet the hostess herself, Ariel. The featured princess has a special area for meet and greets before you are seated at your table. Seahorses. Starfish. Turtles. Seashells. If it wasn’t for Ariel’s beautiful gown making it clear that we were in fact on land, I might think we were under the sea. 🙂
NOTE: This is the one opportunity you have to meet Ariel and take photos and/or get autographs. She will not make the rounds to the tables like the other princesses do. There will be a Disney Photopass photographer there to take photos with Ariel, but the photos are NOT included in the meal price.
While someday I would love to dine indoors just to experience the jellyfish chandeliers up close, the lure of the water outside was something we couldn’t pass up.
The weather was gorgeous.
The breeze was pleasant.
But to be honest, it was the next thing that blew me away. It was this next reason why I implore you to request outdoor seating.
It’s simply stunning.
This was the view of Paradise Bay from our table. Great family photo opportunity and the staff there will be more than happy to take one for you.
You’ll spy the Paradise Pier attractions like Mickeys Fun Wheel (Ferris Wheel) and California Screamin’ Roller Coaster, in addition to the fountains that will entertain you.
Oh, but there’s more……….
Here’s my little princess wearing her very own crown.
Crowns are given out along with stickers for children to decorate while at the table.
TIP: There is a treasure box filled with both crowns and sticker sheets at the front of the restaurant. Ask for a couple more sticker sheets on your way out for your scrapbook or memory book. They were more than happy to help me out.
SPECIAL: Special Ariel’s Grotto buttons (pictured above) are given out to everyone who dines here. We have these still and collect them from all the character dining restaurants at Disneyland and California Adventure. I am thinking this is exclusive to California because I don’t have any from Florida.
But I promised you food. Most character meals I have experienced involve buffets. While I’ve always enjoy them, Ariel’s Grotto takes the character meal to another level. It’s a culinary experience and character experience all in one – something not even I expected.
Here’s a recap –
Chilled Antipasti Tower for the Table
- Shrimp and Lobster Salad, Prosciutto, Dried Fruit Pieces, Manchego Cheese, and Chef’s blend of Marinated Olives.
- Fresh Fruit, Baby Carrots, Celery Sticks, String Cheese, and “Jewels of the Sea” Fruit Gelatin
- Mixed Greens Salad served with Ariel’s Grotto House Vinaigrette
The First Course also included this beautiful Sourdough Pull-apart Flower.
My Fave – the Shrimp and Lobster salad, but it was simply wonderful to be able to take a bite of everything.
BRING YOUR APPETITE!
There were six main course options to choose among. I chose the Herb-crusted Chicken Breast pictured above served with Herb Mashed Potatoes and a medley of Seasonal Vegetables. The summer squash and chicken were incredible.
My husband selected the Cioppino, which featured Lobster Tail, Scallops, Sustainable Fish, Green-lip Mussels, Shrimp and Bilbao Chorizo in a Fire-Roasted Tomato Broth. It was devoured.
As for my little princess, she was served in royal style.
But a surprise – Ariel herself apparently made this royal dish. Someone was impressed with this sea-themed kids meal.
But there was more!
The last course, and perhaps most impressive – DESSERT!
The tray of goodies arrived on our table for us to share and included: Lava Cake, Mini Cookies, Assorted Petite Cupcakes, and a White Chocolate Conch Shell of fresh Berries. Do I have to tell you how much we loved this tray? I didn’t think so. 🙂
TIP: Take the cookies with you to snack on later. They won’t melt and are easy to stick in your bag inside a napkin.
Now you didn’t think Ariel was the only Disney princess we got to meet during this feast did you?
We also met:
- Snow White
IMPORTANT: Disney Princesses do not appear during dinner. Ariel’s Grotto is only a character dining experience for breakfast and lunch, but you can still eat dinner here and enjoy the amazing view and cuisine.
PRINCESS TIP: While you can meet various princesses throughout both Disneyland and California Adventure, Ariel’s Grotto Character Dining provided the most princesses in one location during our trip.
Here’s what I noticed: While we met Ariel, Snow White, Belle, Mulan and Jasmine here during the character dining, we had to go to Disneyland and visit the Fantasy Faire location to meet Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. So, they might rotate a bit.
Best of all, Ariel’s Grotto provided some unforgettable memories. And did I mention the view? 🙂
(NOTE: Disney did provide complimentary park tickets during this visit, but I paid for all meals and Ariel’s Grotto Character Dining. Disney did not ask me to write this post, but as a life-long fan, I happily do it. All opinions are my own.)
You might be interested in my other Disneyland posts (for Disney World in Florida, check out my travel tab above):
Other Disney Character Meal Experiences:
- Surf’s Up with Mickey & Friends Character Breakfast
- Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table – in the Castle
- Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Character Meal
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Great info!! Thank you! Do the princesses walk around to each table? thank you!
Yes Diana, the princesses come to each table so you get individual attention and don’t have to stand in line for photos and autographs!
Of the couple of times we’ve been to Disney World, we’ve never had the chance to do a character dining meal. Looks like so much fun!
A Frugal Friend says
Oh Scott, you really should look into it. We tend do to at least 1 character meal per trip, and each one is so completely different. Let me know if you want recs!
Kelly Hutchinson says
Wow! What a fun place to eat and the food selections are amazing. The chicken you chose would be my choice as well.
I almost ate here when we were in Disney land, area… Perhaps next time… it does look delicious.
What a beautiful setting for that restaurant. I love the ceiling inside too. The Sourdough Pull-apart Flower looks so good – I want some right now!
So true! And it’s nice that you had your very own little princess with you. She is the cutest princess ever!
Wholeheartedly agree with your excellent assessment of Ariel’s Grotto. The decor, the ambiance … all magical; the food … a feast! And what better place to meet a princess … or 2 or 3 or more! And all this with … you guessed it: A view!
A Frugal Friend says
Thanks David! I imagine you’ve been to Ariel’s Grotto a time or two. It really was a treat and you just can’t beat that view!