Story Book Dining at Artist Point in Wilderness Lodge reopened as Walt Disney World’s first modified princess meal! In this WDW dining review, we’ll share photos & video of the modified experience, commentary as to whether it’s worth your time and money, pros & cons, food pics, and info. The question for us is whether princess dining is still worth the money in modified form–and how much the changes impact enjoyment of the experience.
For the last several months, Artist Point has been the Walt Disney World restaurant that readers have been most “eager” to see reopen. We’ve gotten more questions about it than anywhere else–even Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is a distant #2. Fans have been very excited for the return of any princess meals, but mostly Storybook Dining.
This should be unsurprising. With its conversion from Signature to character dining, Artist Point went from being an easy-to-book Advance Dining Reservation to one of the most difficult in all of Walt Disney World. Although still relatively new when it closed, it was clear that Storybook Dining was going to be a perennially tough-to-score ADR. That proved true when reservations opened last week, and the entire two months booking up in a matter of minutes.
Before we delve into the particulars of the modified princess dinner, let’s quickly recap what Storybook Dining at Artist Point entails. (For more details, some of which have changed, see our Storybook Dining at Artist Point Dinner Review.) This is one of Walt Disney World’s new premium character meals, replacing the flagship Signature Restaurant at Wilderness Lodge.
Story Book Dining at Artist Point is a trio of upscale new character meals (the others being Bon Voyage Adventure at Trattoria al Forno and Breakfast à la Art with Mickey & Friends at Topolino’s Terrace), that offer ‘elevated’ prix fixe menus instead of standard all-you-can-eat fare. It’s a quality over quantity approach, which we generally prefer. While the dining style is not entirely why, this trio all rank among the top of our Best Character Meals at Walt Disney World List.
For those who missed it, Walt Disney World temporarily suspended character meet & greets back when the parks reopened. In their place, physically distanced greetings were utilized, with the characters separated by barriers. It wasn’t until this Christmas season that Walt Disney World brought back modified indoor meet & greets, including ones with princesses.
Character dining has similarly changed. There is no stopping for posed photos with characters, much less hugging or autographs. Instead, the characters do a smile & wave character cavalcade through the restaurant before returning for one-on-one time that’s physically distanced. Posed photos are possible during this.
Still, many meals remain on hiatus. Popular princess dining–like Akershus and Cinderella’s Royal Table–are among the key locations missing. Storybook Dining at Artist Point is the first face character location to return–up until now, it had been all fur characters.
We’ve done a few modified character meals since last summer and have mixed thoughts on them. While we very much enjoyed the experiences, our circumstances are also unique. You can see what these are like in our Topolino’s Terrace Modified Character Meal Review or our Good Morning with Goofy & Pals Modified Character Meal Review.
More recently, we did Tusker House Restaurant shortly after that reopened. Despite that occurring during the brief window when virtually all health safety protocol was dropped at Walt Disney World (including indoor masks), Tusker House Restaurant was far and away our worst modified character meal. Other modified character meals at Walt Disney World include:
Up until now, if we were going to recommend any character meal at Walt Disney World right now, it definitely would’ve been Topolino’s Terrace. Let’s see whether that changes with the return of Story Book Dining at Artist Point…
We’ll start outside Artist Point, which is where you’ll find the check-in podium for Artist Point, nestled between the back of Whispering Canyon Cafe and Territory Lounge.
You can bypass this by checking in on My Disney Experience once you’re near the restaurant, but you’ll want to stop here to purchase some Snow White fine art to commemorate your meal, right? Right?!
When booking your Advance Dining Reservation time, it’s worth thinking about lighting. Earlier seatings are going to have a lot of natural light thanks to the floor to ceiling windows all around the restaurant. This will make for markedly better photos, but an arguably diminished ‘show’ experience.
During later seatings, there’s a variety of lighting effects in leaves, projected down from the tree branches, and in the traditional lanterns throughout the restaurant. This makes for fun and dramatic atmosphere that enhances the experience but wreaks havoc on photos.
You’ll get a taste of that in the character photos of us to follow, which are heavily edited just to make us look marginally presentable. In the raw photos, we look like we could be villains in the next Disney Channel original.
With that said, we were seated in a dark spot with clashing lighting back and front lighting us–not every table is going to be this bad. Some, particularly those in the middle of the restaurant, will be more evenly lit and will just have a color cast from the atmospheric tree lights. This is both an “excuse” for my photos being so bad and a warning.
While late seatings offer moodiness and a better overall experience, your photos will suffer for it. The lighting team seems to have deliberately tried to make the conditions as challenging as possible, bathing the restaurant in heavy, uneven and clashing lighting wherever possible. To that, I say: challenge accepted…but also, failed.
Beyond the dilemma of early v. late seating and the tradeoffs of each (given the limited ADR availability, you might be stuck with what you can get, making all of that moot), we’ve covered the theme of the restaurant in our previous Storybook Dining at Artist Point Princess Dining Review.
That also reviews the menu, much of which has not changed. If you’re looking for a thorough food review, you might want to check that out. With that said, we’ll turn to what we ordered from this visit to the newly-reopened Snow White princess dinner…
The meal starts with the “And So The Story Begins…” Shared Appetizers. This consists of Wild Mushroom Bisque Soup, Hunter’s Pie (Turkey and Chicken, Black Truffle, Cranberry Preserve and Crispy Sauerkraut), and Wicked Shrimp Cocktail (Bloody Mary Vinaigrette, Seaweed Salad and Spiced House-made Seasoning).
Individual servings of each are brought to the whimsical tree serving platform in the center of each table.
All of these were fantastic, but the standout was the Wild Mushroom Bisque, which very closely resembles the iconic Smokey Portobello Mushroom Soup that used to be served at Artist Point. I don’t think the recipe is quite the same–it’s been a while–but it was excellent. Rich, creamy, and with a distinct mushroom flavor.
We also both really liked the Hunter’s Pie, which had distinct truffle and cranberry flavors to pair with the turkey and chicken meatball and a tasty crust. There seems to be a “movement” to cram all of Thanksgiving dinner into a single dish, and this is a good (inadvertent?) entry into that.
For her entree, Sarah ordered the “Cottage” Beef Stroganoff: Tender Beef, Preserved Vegetables, Spätzle, Mushrooms and Aged Cow’s Milk Cheese.
She debated ordering the Plant-Based Sorceress Spell of “Tricken” Chicken: Herb-crushed Potatoes, Snap Peas and Vegetable Jus. However, she’s had mixed results with plant-based “meat” and didn’t want to gamble on it at such an expensive meal. (In general, she favors vegetarian or vegan dishes that get there via the natural route.)
In any case, this Beef Stroganoff was fantastic.
Although the vegetables on top were straightforward and unimpressive, everything else about the dish delivered. The spätzle was the perfect consistency and paired well with the tender and hearty beef. The cheese enhanced both, making it a filling and delicious dish. (I thought this was excellent, but I also couldn’t care less about the vegetable component of any entree.)
For my entree, I ordered the Magic Mirror’s Slow-braised Pork Shank: Horseradish-Mashed Potato, Wilted Greens and Jus.
I also debated going for the Brother’s Grimm Herb Chicken or Royal Prime Rib Roast. I loved the chicken last time and although the prime rib was a bit fatty, I’m always a sucker for that. However, the shank changed the most, so I figured that was the ‘best’ choice from a review perspective.
I was very happy with my decision to order the Magic Mirror’s Slow-braised Pork Shank.
Somehow, this was even better than the “Cottage” Beef Stroganoff. The meat was juicy, flavorful, and fall-off-the-bone tender. In addition to that, the mashed potatoes were an all-star, with a pungent horseradish quality that made my mouth water with each bite. I’ve had horseradish mashed potatoes before, but never executed in such an addictively-good manner. This whole entree was like something worthy of an actual Signature Restaurant. If this were served to me for dinner at Topolino’s Terrace, I would’ve left happy.
Finally, we have the Sweet Endings Shared Desserts.
These consist of the Miner’s Treasures (Cookies ‘n Cream Panna Cotta and Chocolate Gems), Fairy Tale Gooseberry Tart (Meringue and Gooseberry), and “Poison” Apple (Dark Chocolate-Apple Mousse and Sour Center).
The shared desserts are also individual portions served on the spinning tree thing in the center of the table. That’s a really nice touch–I don’t want to ignore or dismiss that lovely presentation. It’s just that the lighting on our tree was hellacious, and almost all of my photos of it are awful.
Like an actual poison apple (I assume), the sweet exterior lures you in, and gives way to a sour punch inside. It’s a good contrast, and one we both enjoyed.
Our favorite of the trio was the Miner’s Treasures. It was nothing revolutionary or inventive, just a delectable cookies and cream flavor with a good mix of textures and nothing overly artificial.
The Fairy Tale Gooseberry Tart was also quite good, with some mild sweet and sour contrast and the berries paired well with the delicious crust. None of these were on par with standalone desserts at a Signature Restaurant, but all were considerably better than the spread you’d find on a buffet.
With that out of the way, let’s turn to the character component of Story Book Dining at Artist Point…
As with several other modified character restaurants at Walt Disney World, there is a “second row” of tables at Artist Point. Effectively, there is a large lane where characters roam the restaurant, a first row with an unobstructed view of that, and another row closer to the windows around the restaurant.
If you’re seated by the windows, there’s a row of tables between you and the characters at all times. Since the characters wouldn’t come within ~6 feet of guests in the front row, there was no space for them to pass to get anywhere near tables that are by the windows. These window tables are almost all for parties of 2-4.
Basically, your distance from the characters will hinge upon whether you’re seated near the character path or by the window. Ironically enough, those more desirable ‘character path’ spots used to be undesirable middle seats sandwiched between other guests and the windows used to be the best spots. Now, the tables have turned…literally!
This was our biggest criticism of Tusker House, and a large portion of that review is a diatribe about the poor and uneven guest experience of that character meal. Our time at Tusker House left a lot to be desired, to put it mildly. When we were seated by a window and behind a beam (see above) at Artist Point, we feared a repeat of that.
Thankfully, that wasn’t even remotely the case. Characters, their attendants, and managers were all incredibly diligent about making sure all guests had an equal experience. Cast Members ensured that everyone was able to get photos with the characters, and perfectly positioned guests for physically distanced photos. This wasn’t just special treatment for us, either. We saw Cast Members orchestrating photos for every table around us in the second row.
For their part, Snow White, Evil Queen, and the Dwarfs all spent a good amount of time posing and trying to engage with guests in the second row–it wasn’t just a passing cavalcade. The two face characters purposefully singled out guests seated at more distant tables, and coaxed kids to get up from their table and approach them–while still keeping a distance.
This may seem relatively minor, but it’s really not. I cannot overstate just how attentive the Cast Members were; the effort characters and their teams put into this made the experience memorable and special for everyone.
Our server, who was wonderful, made a point of asking how character greetings were going. She said the restaurant wanted to make sure everyone had individualized time and got photos with them.
Story Book Dining is obviously still “compromised” character dining given the modifications, which will be a nonstarter for many families who want autographs, hugs, and photos with characters. However, from our perspective, Disney did everything possible to make the most of the situation.
This was a night and day difference from what we experienced at Tusker House. That’s not too surprising–several of the busiest and biggest character meals have always been a bit more focused on churning through a high volume of guests and turning over tables. The less chaotic resort options always have put personalized and quality interactions first. This is just a continuation of Artist Point’s high quality service; nonetheless, it’s refreshing after Tusker House.
Although the end results don’t always bear it out, Cast Members did a great job taking photos of us, too. They made every effort to get good, well-framed photos of us and had us review the results before moving on. Whatever shortcomings exist in these photos are a result of that crazy lighting and our inability to pose for photos like normal humans.
I’m not even sure what’s going on in the one above. Hard to tell whether we’re going for the Elsa pose, or recreating the poster for Lethal Weapon. Maybe we’re giving you a sneak peek of Disney’s next live action reboot, a buddy cop film pairing Elsa and Evil Queen. I’d watch that.
Finally, to give you an idea of what Story Book Dining at Artist Point’s character cavalcade is like, Sarah shot the above video. After this ends, the characters interact with one another in the middle of the restaurant, by the backdrop where the Evil Queen previously greeted guests.
This is the one point of the meal where we would’ve benefited from better seats. That’s not simply a front v. back row thing–the far ‘wings’ of Artist Point aren’t as good as the middle. However, they are quieter and less-trafficked, so as with the day and night seatings, it’s all about tradeoffs.
Ultimately, our dinner with Snow White, Evil Queen, and the Dwarfs at Story Book Dining was nearly flawless. While it could’ve been a bit better if we were seated in a middle spot closer to the characters and with better lighting, I have zero regrets or complaints about this. From the food to atmosphere to the service, everything was firing on all cylinders and made Artist Point worth the high price.
If anything, the way Cast Members went out of their way to ensure our experience was good, elevated it even further, and made us feel special. Maybe it’s weird to savor that, but it was nice “redemption” after Tusker House that made us once again feel valued as guests.
Sarah gushed about what a great time she was having throughout the meal, so at the end, I asked her how Story Book Dining compares to Breakfast à la Art with Mickey & Friends. That’s her favorite character meal at Walt Disney World, and one of her overall top dining picks. “This was fantastic in every way–food, atmosphere, and interactions–and they did a great job with the modifications,” she said before pausing. “But you know me, and at the end of the day, I’m a furry.” (Note: Sarah does not know what a furry is and doesn’t define it the same way as the internet does.)
Unfortunate word choice aside, I’d agree with Sarah’s assessment. As it stands, Storybook Dining at Artist Point is the best possible version of a modified meal with Snow White and company. We both just prefer Mickey and friends, especially in their unique costumes at Topolino’s Terrace. That’s simply more to our tastes when it comes to characters, but we recognize everything about Story Book Dining is top-notch and an objectively better value for money given the cuisine quality of dinner.
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Does the modified princess meal at Story Book Dining seem like it’s worth the money to you? Will you be booking an ADR here or dining elsewhere? Is not being able to take photos with each character be a dealbreaker for you? Are you a fan of Story Book Dining, or still bitter that Artist Point was converted to a princess meal and Wilderness Lodge lost its Signature Restaurant? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!