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How to Meet Your Favorite Characters at Walt Disney World
For kids of almost any age, but definitely for those between 6 and 13, one of the best things about being at Walt Disney World (or at Disneyland or on a Disney cruise) is meeting the characters from their favorite Disney movie or show. From Mickey Mouse himself to the Green Army Man from Toy Story, they are all over the different parks and relatively easy to catch, if you’re willing to do a little planning and a lot of standing in line.
What You’ll Need to Be Ready to Meet the Characters
Even though Disney has the PhotoPass service (a professional photographer snaps a pic of your child alone or with the entire family at all the Character Meet and Greets you attend or on Main Street or at the Sorcerer’s Hat in Hollywood Studios, etc. and hands you a PhotoPass card – but, if the photographer doesn’t, be sure to ask for it!; then all you need do is go online when you return home, check out the photos and purchase them before they expire), it’s still a good idea to bring your own camera and snap pics yourself. Of course, your child(ren) will also need a special pen and an autograph book to collect all the characters’ autographs! Actually, if you’d rather not carry more than you absolutely have to, the Birnbaum Guides’ Walt Disney World for Kids is not only a great advance planning tool, written for kids by “kid experts,” but it has an autograph section at the back. Of course, last, but definitely not least, you will need to make sure you have that day’s Times Guides for each of the parks you plan to visit. You can get them at your hotel if you’re staying at a Disney resort or on your way in to any of the parks. On the back, at the foot of the Times Guide, you will see “Character Greeting Times” where the available characters are listed, along with their schedules.
The first time we visited WDW, my daughter was five and, since we were going with family, we just winged it. I had no idea we were going to meet Belle after the show at her castle and I didn’t have a paper napkin in my bag, let alone a more formal autograph book. What did we do? We had her sign our Times Guide! Now it’s one of my daughter’s most prized mementos, because it reminds her of our spontaneity and it also reminds her of the other activities we did in the Magic Kingdom that day.
Where to Meet Your Favorites and Make New Disney Pals!
Ariel can only be found in Ariel’s Grotto in Fantasyland and Mickey Mouse is in the Judge’s Tent in Mickey’s Toontown Fair all day long. Belle from Beauty and the Beast reads stories and signs autographs in the Fairytale Garden, near Cinderella’s Castle, and Merida from Brave has been known to do the same.
As stated earlier, the Times Guide for the park you are visiting that day will list the Character Greeting Times. When we were at Hollywood Studios, Phineas and Ferb, for example, were scheduled “continuously” from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and again from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. But, you still want to get in line as early as possible because the wait times are made a little longer since during their “continuous” stint the Disney pals also take quite a few breaks (and who can blame them!).
Sometimes, all you’ll see listed are “Disney Friends” or “Toy Story Friends” or simply “Monsters, Inc.” There is no way to know which “friend(s)” you will be meeting until you get up close to them. So, if your child really wants to meet Woody or Buzz, chances are pretty high that they will be among the “Toy Story Friends,” since they are the stars of those movies, after all. However, it might also be one of the minor characters and you might wind up feeling as though you’d waited for over an hour for nothing. Many of my Disney-savvy friends recommend going to the meet and greets later in the day. My advice, however, is to get to any of the meet and greets well before the end of their stint. At about 3:30 one afternoon, my daughter and I chanced upon Aladdin’s meet and greet as we ambled through Adventureland. It was scheduled until 4 p.m. but the cast members had already closed the line and wouldn’t allow anyone else in. The same thing happened to us as we chanced upon Merida’s meet and greet about 15 minutes before her 6 p.m cutoff; there was no one in line so Merida had decided to call it a day and the gatekeeper cast member wouldn’t call her back out for any child.
But, don’t fret! Characters are not simply on duty during their officially scheduled meet and greets; they are always roaming the parks, spontaneously delighting all visitors, big and small. According to theBirnbaum Official Guide, Mickey’s Toontown Fair (“the newest land in the Magic Kingdom”) is “a great place to meet the characters” and near the Mad Tea Party you can sometimes spot characters from Alice in Wonderland. In Frontierland you will definitely see the Country Bear and his clan wandering around and you may even get to see Woody, Jessie and Bullseye from Toy Story, while you’ll see Buzz in Tomorrowland. At Epcot, the Epcot Character Spot in Future World is the place to see your Disney friends. At Hollywood Studios, the Streets of America is where you might just bump into Kim Possible or Mater from Cars and in Animal Kingdom, you just hit the Camp Minnie-Mickey trails to track down your favorites.
Oh! Oh! The Characters You’ll Meet!
No matter where you go throughout WDW you are bound to bump into one familiar character or another. Whether you actually get an autograph or simply snag a picture together, the memories your child makes will last a lifetime!