One of the biggest attractions vacationers at Disney World often overlook is the characters themselves. While not exactly a traditional attraction, character meet and greets are a huge draw for both children and adults alike. That’s right, you don’t need to be a kid to enjoy the fun interactions and get a picture with a favorite Disney personality. What does set meet and greets apart from other items on the to do list is the vast number of ways you’ll encounter characters in the theme parks and resorts. This guide will make it easy to find your favorites and also explain how to get the most out of the meet and greet experience.
The Meet and Greet Basics
For those unfamiliar with the meet and greet process at Walt Disney World, it’s a bit different than other theme parks. Instead of randomly wandering across characters, in Disney World you’ll find that characters are staged in different areas. You’ll find a variety of characters in outdoor areas set aside for meets, or at certain restaurants. Some of the most popular, such as Anna & Elsa or Cinderella, get their own building to handle the lines.
No matter where you find them, the meet and greet process is very similar. When it’s your turn for a visit you’ll be welcomed by the character and have the opportunity to get a picture and typically an autograph. Of course, this all depends on who you are visiting. If they are fully costumed, such as Mickey Mouse, they won’t speak, but will use pantomime for interaction. While meeting a face character, such as our favorite princess Rapunzel, expect some great conversation while she signs your book and poses for some pictures. The exception to this routine is the special dining options where multiple characters will wander the room to meet with you.
So basically we have: meet, banter, autograph, pictures. The big question now will be how to get the most out of this process, but first you need to know where to seek out the characters we want to meet.
How and Where to Find Meet and Greets
As mentioned before, there are several different places to encounter characters at Disney World. The most common will be their specific meet and greet spots scattered throughout the Parks. The trick with some of those is knowing what times they are scheduled to be around. There are also meals at the Parks and resorts, meet and greet buildings, and the occasional roaming characters. Luckily, there are some tools to make finding your favorites easy.
The first place to start is the Walt Disney World website. Here you can pull up the whole list of character interactions available, from meet and greets to interactive stage shows, with their locations and daily schedule. The variety can be overwhelming; princesses, classic cartoon and movie characters, and even Star Wars personalities are available. Use the filters to narrow down the list by park, type of interaction, or character realm.
Some experiences will have FastPass+ tickets available. FP+ is a system at Disney World which basically saves you a spot in line and gives you an hour long window in which you show up and enjoy a dramatically shorter wait time. This brings us to the next tool: the My Disney Experience, or MDE, mobile app. FP+ attractions can be booked either through the website or the MDE app. Use the MDE app while on vacation to keep track of or modify your FastPasses, keep an eye on meet and greet times, and even see wait times for the more popular attractions. Don’t worry, even the trusty park maps will have location and schedule information available.
In addition to the meet and greets, you’ll want to decide if any character meals or stage shows fit into your travel plans and make reservations ahead of time. Certain meals, such as Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort, are insanely difficult to get reservations. Our favorite is meeting Mickey and his friends at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom for lunch. Great food, a good time to take a break from the heat, and plenty of character interaction. Read more about Disney character dining from our fellow Travel Mom experts.
There are also bonus character encounters. Sometimes characters will be found randomly around the Parks. Typically at opening there will be some personalities near the entrance, which can be a great time for pictures with rare characters. There are also interactions with an odd assortment of characters that pop up frequently, such as near the Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios, before Fantasmic shows, or at the International Gateway and World Showcase entrances in Epcot.
How to Get the Most out of Meet and Greets
Once you know where you’re going, who you’ll meet, and when, the next step is being prepared for a meet and greet. There are three items that make character meet and greets one of the most memorable and exciting attractions at Disney World; interactions, autographs, and pictures.
Interacting with the characters at Disney World is like no other theme park experience. The actors are well trained and will always stay in character, even when talking to adults. As a father, watching my daughter interact with Rapunzel every time we’ve visited over the years has been a joy. On a solo trip last year I asked Rapunzel to record a quick video message on my phone and my daughter was so excited to hear from her favorite princess.
Even as an adult, I’ve had my own fun talking to characters. On our last trip, Anna recognized my evident Scandinavian heritage and asked a few questions about my ice business while we were waiting in line. My advice; know your characters and give your kids some ideas for ways to interact with their favorites.
In my opinion, autograph books are the ultimate Disney World vacation souvenir. For around $10 you get to record a special moment in time that will bring back memories more than a cheap plastic toy. It can also be a fun challenge to see how many autographs everyone can get, or maybe come up with a theme to which meet and greets you want to do. Some guests like to bring back their books each visit, though I like to play it safe and bring a new book each time. Tip: keep a large and smooth writing pen with your book so characters with gloves can handle them easily. Sharpie markers also work, but don’t always turn out as well. Characters, especially the princesses, often have an ornate signature that really stands out.
What better way to remember a meet and greet than pictures? Whether it’s your child’s first time meeting Cinderella or grabbing a selfie with Mickey, pictures are another great souvenir. At Disney World there are often two options. PhotoPass photographers are on hand for most meet and greets. They will take professional pictures, which can be linked to your Magic Band or a PhotoPass card. Later, you can decide if you want to purchase any. There is also a prepaid Memory maker option which gets you downloads of all your vacation pictures, even from some rides. Using the photographers is a great way to get the whole family in the picture and they also know the best poses and angles.
In addition to professional photos, the Photopass photographers or their assistant will take pictures using your camera or phone. Be sure to have it set up and ready before it’s your turn. The photogs are also great about shooting pics in tandem with you, so you both can get great angles and not overlap with camera flashes. And, of course, you can get up close take a selfie with your favorite character.
Character Meet and Greet Tips
Here are a few time tested tips from the dozens of meet and greets we’ve done on our Disney World vacations.
- Prepare some ideas to make the most of your interactions. Think about what characters would want to talk about and be ready for some surprises.
- Kids may want to dress in costume for a specific meet and greet. It doesn’t have to be overboard, even a movie t-shirt or matching hairstyle will trigger a conversation. Adults can have fun ‘Disneybounding,’ or matching the style and color of character’s outfits without being in a costume.
- You may want to practice posing with younger kids so they are ready to smile for the camera when it’s picture time. They may get overwhelmed when meeting a character.
- Don’t want to make a fuss about seeking out specific characters or keeping to a schedule? Catch the exciting Festival of Fantasy parade in the afternoon at Magic Kingdom. There are plenty of characters to see and the floats are amazing. Grab a snack and find a shady spot before the parade starts.
- Visiting the immensely popular Princess Fairytale Hall in Cinderella Castle is a breeze during the nightly fireworks show. A word of warning, it can get pretty loud back there with the fireworks going off and younger kids may get scared.
- Are you a Chase Disney Visa card member? You can get a free downloadable picture with Mickey and friends at Epcot’s Character Experience building.
- Love princesses? Head for Epcot’s International pavilions for more low key photo ops and shorter wait times. You’ll also find Anna and Elsa at their Royal Sommerhaus in Norway. See my Ultimate Disney Princess Meet and Greet Guide for more great tips.