One of the BEST things about visiting Disney World is the chance to meet and greet Disney characters! They’re so fun. So amazing. So cute. So friendly. So classy. And so photogenic. If you have children or grandchildren of any age, you’ll definitely want to meet and greet as many Disney characters as you can. If you don’t have children or grandchildren? Well, you’ll still want to meet and greet as many Disney characters as you can. Perhaps someday I’ll grow out of my love for characters. But for now, keep ’em coming!
We’ve been on seven Disney vacations in our 17 1/2 years of marriage, so we’ve become fairly knowledgable about the art and science of meeting and greeting Disney characters. Today, I’d like to share some tips for meeting characters at Disney World!
Tip #1: Go to parades!
Parades are the best and most obvious place to see the biggest variety of Disney characters in a short period of time. Want to get a hearty dose of characters? Go to as many parades as you can during your Disney vacation. The cool thing about parades is that Disney pulls out a big mix of characters, old and new. Sure, you’ll see Elsa and Anna in any modern-day Disney parade, but you also might see Jiminy Cricket. If you have good luck and are loud and attention-getting with your voice like my daughter, you might also get the opportunity to GREET characters during parades. Many characters ride on floats. A bunch walk through the parade route performing, shaking hands and giving high fives. Get yourself a great seat for the parade; you’ll see a ton of characters all in one spot, and you might even get to shake hands with a few!
Tip #2: Go to dance party parades!
These parades are shorter and a little different than full-length Disney parades. Typically, these dance party parades operate within a shorter route. The floats and characters come through a high traffic area (e.g., Main Street in Magic Kingdom), then stop and put on a little show, which usually includes some sort of interactive dance party with Disney guests. These dance party parades are a GREAT opportunity for seeing AND spending time with Disney characters. During the dance parties, many characters will be ON the streets dancing and engaging with guests. Great opportunity for kids of all ages. Fun for adults. Great opportunity for photos as well!
Tip #3: Find official character meet and greet spots.
Throughout the Parks at Disney World, there are official “meet and greet” spots where you stand in a line and have an opportunity to meet Disney characters one-on-one. You should expect a line, but usually the lines aren’t too crazy long. You can expect a wait time of anywhere from 10-25 minutes, which isn’t bad to meet a character. Be prepared with your autograph book and camera! Meet and greets are fairly brief, but still substantial. You’ll know when you need to pass by. And you’ll have a good sense of when it’d be a good time to stop and wait in line. Some character sightings are more rare. In those cases, you might want to stop and take advantage of the opportunity. For example, we saw Princess Mulan in China at Epcot during our last visit. In seven trips, this was the FIRST time we’d seen Mulan (other than a parade or night show), so we waited in the 20-25 minute line to see her.
Tip #4: Use My Disney Experience app to find characters!
The My Disney Experience app has revolutionized guests’ opportunities to meet and greet Disney characters. Install the My Disney Experience app, and it’ll tell you ALL the characters that will be at the Disney Park of your choice for the day, where they’ll be, and what time frame. For example, on our way to Epcot on our last Disney World vacation, my son and I looked at the app and found out that Mary Poppins was going to be in the United Kingdom Promenade, so we planned our route around the park accordingly so we could be in line to meet her when she arrived for meet and greets at 11:00 a.m. This app works slick! It’s quite amazing. Sure, it creates a lot more lines in advance of characters’ arrivals, but it also gives you a better opportunity to see the characters you WANT to see vs. having it be happenstance. Highly recommend the app for meeting characters.
Tip #5: Meet characters as they’re roaming the streets, or catch them as they’re traveling to or leaving their official meet and greet locations.
Rarely will you find Disney characters just randomly roaming the streets. But occasionally, it still happens! For example, in Hollywood Studios, green army men will often be hanging out on the streets back by the “Toy Story Mania” ride. This is a GREAT opportunity to meet the green army guys, and engage with them as well. They do lots of fun army movements with the kids. Kids love it! Also, we’ve had some great run-ins with characters as they’re traveling to or leaving their official meet and greet locations. This doesn’t happen often, but keep your eye out for sure as it’s a rare treasure of an opportunity! One time, we met the Fairy Godmother right behind Cinderella’s Castle as she was coming out for meet and greets. Nobody else noticed Fairy Godmother was there, so we got some great time and photos with her. It was awesome. I saw two girls walking hand-in-hand along a sidewalk with Princess Tiana on our most recent trip; she was clearly moving with some pace from one location to another. What a special experience for those girls!
Tip #6: Use Fast Passes for Character Meet & Greets.
I highly recommend using your Fast Passes for character meet and greets! This is an amazing opportunity. In all cases, a Fast Pass for character meet and greets will get you in faster. (Obvious, right?!) In some cases, a Fast Pass for character meet and greets is the ONLY way you’ll ever be able to meet that character face to face. For example, on our recent trip to Disney World, we had three Fast Passes to meet Disney characters. My daughter and I had one to meet Mickey, Goofy & Minnie at Epcot. My daughters and I had one to meet Mickey & Minnie at Animal Kingdom. And our whole family had Fast Passes to meet Elsa and Anna at Magic Kingdom. We were able to reserve all of those Fast Passes two months in advance of our vacation because we were staying on Disney property. But even two months in advance, the Fast Passes to meet Elsa & Anna were already in short supply. So we grabbed them up fast while we could! In short, ANY time you have the opportunity to use Fast Passes to meet Disney characters, definitely do it!
Tip #7: Attend shows at Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom.
Morning and afternoon shows on the front stage of Cinderella’s Castle are always FANTASTIC for character sightings! They bring out a whole host of characters for a live, 15-20 minute performance. The show is great and fun for all ages. Highly recommend catching one of these if you want to see characters in action.
Tip #8: Go to stage shows and special attractions with characters.
There are a few unique opportunities at Disney World where you’re able to see and/or meet characters in a more intimate setting for a longer period of time. For example, I got Fast Passes to go to Enchanted Tales with Belle with my three-year-old daughter at Magic Kingdom. It was quite the hidden treasure of a Fast Pass. Highly recommended. The kids were actively engaged in a story with Belle, then they EACH had an opportunity to meet Belle and get a photograph. It was darling and got me teary eyed. At Hollywood Studios, there’s a live stage show called “Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage.” It’s one of my FAVORITE attractions of all Walt Disney World. Belle appears, of course, along with the Beast and a bunch of other characters from the movie. It’s great. Lovely. High quality. Enjoyable for the whole family. And a great opportunity to see characters in action for a good 20-25 minutes.
Tip #9: Definitely do character dining!
Character dining is a must do. We LOVE character dining in our family. So much so that we try to reserve as many character dining opportunities as possible as part of our Disney dining plan. Character dining experiences are typically associated with a sit-down buffet meal, or a sit-down full-service meal. Buffets are just as good as meals you’d order from the menu. (Believe me, the beef stew at Hollywood & Vine buffet was AMAZING!!! Two servings, baby!) After you get your food, a set of Disney characters come around to visit your table one at a time. You meet them, get their autograph and photograph, and engage with them a bit. It’s awesome, and hands down the best way to meet and greet characters at Disney World! If you have a Disney dining plan and children, I HIGHLY recommend character dining. Character dining is one of several reasons we purchase the Disney dining plan. So worth it. You can definitely do character dining without a Disney dining plan, it’s just a little pricey (as in $35-40/adult for buffet). I must say, though, on our most recent vacation, I saw plenty of people coming to make reservations at character dining locations that DIDN’T have a Disney dining plan. Character dining is so good, so worth it, that people are willing to pay for the unique experience.
Well, that’s it friends! That’s a wrap for today’s 31 Days of Disney post. After today, there are only FIVE days left in the series! I’ve left big posts for this week knowing it’s the end. Be sure to catch tomorrow’s post, Top 10 Rides and Attractions at Disney World.
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