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Disney World Character Sightings- How to Avoid Long Lines in the Heat
For some children, finding their beloved Disney character is more important than any ride. If you are a parent of a child intent on filling her autograph book (I was), then follow these tips to get the most of out of your character sightings. If you are in Disney from April through October, it wil be hot. Avoid the long lines in the blazing sun by finding the lesser known character spots and learning alternative ways to meet and greet.
Mickey Mouse & friends
He is the pinnacle of characters. The one that you must have an autograph for. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to get a picture with him (and his posse- Minne, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto).
If you book a reservation at a restaurant that has character dining, double check to make sure Mickey makes an appearance. He will be dressed in themed outfits depending on where you are.
- Polynesian Resort- Ohana Character Breakfast- You'll see Mickey in a Hawaiian shirt and lei for sure!
- Beach Club Resort- Cape May Cafe Character Breakfast- He only appears sometimes, and if he does- he'll be in a beach outfit.
- Animal Kingdom Park- Tusker House Breakfast- Mickey will be dressed and ready for a safari.
- Epcot Park- Garden Grill Restaurant- Mickey will be in farming overalls! This is my personal favorite for character dining. The restaurant is delicious and not as crowded as other places. The restaurant slowly rotates throughout your meal giving you a sneak peek of the ride Living with the Land.
- The Contemporary Resort- Chef Mickey- The gang whips up a meal at this popular restaurant. Make reservations way in advance.
Air conditioned spots
- Magic Kingdom- Right as you enter the park on your right will be the Magic House of Mickey Mouse (as of June 2012, this is still where he is). The upside to this place? It has a fastpass and the line is in the air conditioning. The downside is that it is a more popular spot and you will be waiting.
- Epcot- In between the Innoventions plaza, there is an air conditioned character spot where Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Minnie, and Pluto all hang out. The line moves fairly quickly and there are TV's for your kids to stare at while waiting.
- Hollywood Studios- In the animations studio, there is a whole area for character meet and greet. When we traveled in the summer of 2011, Mickey (in his traditional outfit) was at this location. It was a nice way to cool off, and the queue lines had interesting things to look at while we waited.
- Animal Kingdom- As far as I know, there are no air-conditioned areas for character sightings at the Animal Kingdom park unless you do the Tusker House breakfast.
Your little girl needs to see every princess she can. Most people think the princesses are in the Magic Kingdom. It is true, but Disney has scattered meet & greets in other locations as well. If you can't get into the popular Cinderella's Castle for a meal with the princesses, check out these other locations.
- Grand Floridian- 1900 Park Fare Restaurant- You'll get to see Cinderella, her evil step-sisters, and the Prince himself!
- Epcot Park- Akhersus Restaurant in Norway- The restaurant in Norway hosts a Story book Princess dining meal. It is expensive (and the food isn't great), but you'll get one on one time with Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella, Belle, and Arielle. You'll also receive a complimentary photo to take home with you.
- Magic Kingdom- Cinderella's Castle- This restaurant books almost six months in advance, so plan accordingly.
World Showcase Epcot Park
Most people don't realize that princesses are scattered across the World Showcase in Epcot. Most of the lines are outside, so there will be some heat, but lines are significantly shorter than other places in Disney World. You just might see:
- Mary Poppins or Alice in Wonderland in the UK
- Jasmine and Aladdin in Morocco
- Belle and Beast in France
- Snow White and the Dwarfs in Germany
She's popular and you need to make a whole plan just to see her. I won't cover it here, but you can get some insider tips from the Chip & Company.
Meeting the Fairies
They are located at the Magic Kingdom in their own spot, so be sure to check out your map for exact times.
The best place to find Woody, Jesse, Buzz, the Incredibles, and Monster's Inc. characters is in Hollywood Studios. The animation studio has an airconditioned area for a lot of these characters, as well as locations near the rides themselves. Be forewarned, many of these lines are long.
- Hollywood Studios- Hollywood and Vine- This restaurant offers Disney Jr. characters for breakfast and lunch.
Pooh is at Hollywood Studios!
Take advantage of rope drop and parades
These options don't necessarily give you one on one time with the characters, but your children will love it all the same.
In every park, there is a little show at the beginning of the day. If you make it to the park before opening, you will get to see Mickey and the gang show up to open up the park. They usually sing, dance, and wave to park guests, so be sure to make one rope drop ceremony during your vacation.
Every park has parades daily. All of them are chalked full of characters, so don't miss out. The Animal Kingdom parade is safari themed, the Hollywood Studios parade will have a lot of Disney Jr. characters and Pixar favorites, and the Magic Kingdom parade will cover all the classic characters. Epcot currently doesn't have a parade.
Check your daily map and times!
In a few spots, the characters are stationed all day long. But for most other spots, there are specific times that the characters make an appearance. Be sure to get updated times so you aren't running to a location to find a long line and no character.
If you aren't picky about who you see, these spots will have characters all day:
- Magic Kingdom- Enter the park and turn to your right. The Magic House of Mickey (with a fastpass option).
- Epcot- The air-conditioned character greeting spot between the Innoventions plazas.
- Hollywood Studios- The animation studio with air-conditioned queue lines will have characters all day (Winnie the Pooh is found there).
- Animal Kingdom- Camp Minnie Mickey should have characters most of the day, but it is outdoors and hot.
Early morning magic hours
If you are staying on the property, Disney offers an extra hour in the morning for resort guests at a particular park. Oftentimes, there will be characters scattered about in that early morning with very few lines. We managed to get Daffy Duck's signature at the Magic Kingdom during the extra magic hours.
Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
Every year in April and May, Epcot transforms into a garden of wonders. Scattered throughout the park are unbelievable topiaries of all the Disney favorites. Yes, these characters aren't real people, but your child will love trying to spot her favorites all throughout the park. It is truly a magical time to visit Epcot and your little ones will be almost as mesmerized by the topiaries as the real characters.
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- Packing for Disney World- What to Bring Into the Parks
The important part about packing for a day in Disney? Pack LIGHT and be prepared. It seems like competing goals right? Fill your backpack with the right gear and you'll be set.
Sometimes, it just happens magically
After all the planning and strategizing, it may just happen that you land in the right place at the right time. We arrived in France at Epcot just as Marie (from the Aristocats) was coming out. We snapped a photo, got an autograph, and we were on our way.
If your child is obsessed with the characters, remind her that she will get to see plenty of them in shows, parades, and around the parks. Disney is excellent with character sightings, and you'll be sure to see many of your beloved characters throughout your stay.