Some of the most magical moments that are created at Disney World happen when a kid (or a kid-at-heart) gets to meet their favorite Disney character. But most first-time Disney vacationers don't realize that there are several different ways to meet these characters. Don't worry though! I've broken down the three ways for you and your family to have that magical Disney character encounter that you've always dreamed of!
1. Character Meet and Greet Spots
This is probably the most common way that people meet characters, since these designated character spots are listed as attractions on the park map.
When you go to one of these character spots, you'll have to wait in line (but most are indoors so it's not that bad of a wait!) Then you'll be led into the room with the character and you're free to get autographs and photos with them. There's also usually a photographer that will take several great photos of you with the character that you can buy with your memory maker package.
And they have characters like this in every park! In
- Magic Kingom: Ariel, Tiana, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Elena, Mickey, or Tinkerbell
- Epcot: Baymax, Anna and Elsa, Joy and Sadness, and the classic Mickey gang
- Hollywood Studios: Buzz Lightyear and Woody, Chewbacca, BB-8, Kylo Ren, and Olaf
- Animal Kingdom: Doug and Russell from Up (Make sure you check the times guide though, because Russell and Doug come and go throughout the day.)
Also be sure to check out my post about the best kept secret of Hollywood Studios to see how you can meet extra rare characters this way!
I really like these types of character meetings because you really have time to interact with the characters and the cast member photographers are very good at snapping candid photos, as well as posed ones.
But don't worry if you don't want to dish out a crazy amount of money for Memory Maker! They still let you take your own photos, and you can even hand your own camera or phone to the cast member and they'll take the photos with that instead! For free!
2. Character Meals
Another very reliable way to meet characters is through character meals. You can schedule these through your dining plan and they happen in restaurants throughout the disney parks and hotels.
At a character meal, while you're eating, the characters will circulate from table to table to take photographs and sign autographs. Usually each meal has 4-5 characters so it's a great way to meet them all at once. Plus, you don't have to wait! Well... I guess you still do, but you get to eat while you wait!
My favorite character meal by far is at The Crystal Palace. For starters, it's an all-you-can eat buffet with really good turkey and mashed potatoes, plus you get to meet the adorable Winnie the Pooh characters, plus it sits right at the end of Main Street, so if you're lucky you'll get a table with a view of the castle!
Also, I love that it really hasn't changed in years. Below is a picture of my sister and I with Pooh from 2005 and the place still looks exactly the same!
3. Random Character Encounters
Okay... well they're not really random. Nothing at Disney is. But unlike the designated character meet and greet spots mentioned above, these characters come and go at scheduled times. Also, they don't have their own rooms or buildings dedicated to meeting them. So you could be walking around and then suddenly boom! A bunch of the green army men from Toy Story come out of nowhere!
Since these are technically scheduled, there are many lists and unofficial maps of where you can find these characters. WDWinfo has several great posts that break down where you can meet these characters in each of the parks, so check out their posts for Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Their lists are getting a bit dated, but they're still very good and thorough.
This is probably my favorite type of character encounter because it's the perfect example of Disney magic. Sometimes I worry that Disney trips are becoming too scheduled and it makes the whole experience super hectic and stressful, so it's great to have spontaneous character meetings like this to keep the magic alive.
Bonus: Parades and Shows
While you might not be able to actually meet your favorite character or get their autograph this way, it is also worth noting that you can still see many characters at the parades and shows throughout the park.
So, what are your favorite characters to meet in the parks? Let me know in the comments below!
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