If you are planning a Walt Disney World vacation, especially with younger kids, you’ll probably want to see some of the Disney World characters. While the parks offer lots of attractions, shows, rides, food, and festivals, the characters can often be the highlight of a kid’s trip.
Before you head out on your trip, you’ll want to make sure you are maximizing your time and can find all of the characters that you want to see. Here is our guide to seeing Walt Disney World characters.
Disclosure: I am a former member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel and have been on some complimentary press trips at Walt Disney World, but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us.
A Guide to Seeing Walt Disney World Characters
Please note, character experiences can always change, so it’s important that you check the My Disney Experience app and the park Times Guides for the latest information. Sometimes, the characters are at a specific location for only a short time, so you’ll need to know the hours before your trip. If your child is especially excited about a specific character, definitely set expectations. This information below is accurate at the time of writing this post, but may have changed since then.
Before visiting the parks, you may want to purchase an autograph book. These are sold in the Disney gift shops, but it might be easier to buy it in advance and bring it with you. You can find them here on the Disney store website. The characters at the character dining locations and meet and greets all sign autographs.
Disney Character Dining
One of the easiest ways to see characters is to book Disney character dining. When you attend a character meal, the characters will walk through the venue visiting every table. You’ll be able to get pictures with each character as well as autographs. We have a full guide to Disney character dining, but here are a few of our favorite experiences.
Character dining is extremely popular, so you’ll want to book any of these as soon as you can. Guests can book dining reservations 180 days in advance.
Located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Chef Mickey is a vibrant and fun buffet restaurant. It features Mickey and friends, and is probably the best overall dining experience if you want to see Mickey. As a buffet, there are lots of options for everyone in your group.
If you’ve got Disney Princess lovers in your group, you may want to book a princess meal. Of the offerings, we like Akershus Royal Banquet Hall the best. It’s located in the Norway Pavilion in the World Showcase at Epcot. It’s still very popular, but because there is more seating than in Cinderella’s Royal Table, it’s slightly easier to get a reservation there.
When my daughter was younger, she loved the princesses. Our very first character meal was at Akershus, and my daughter loved it.
This has regularly been my kids’ favorite character dining experiences. Even though they are older now, it’s the one character dining that they still ask about visiting. The Crystal Palace is located in the Magic Kingdom, and is a beautiful restaurant featuring Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet.
Parades and Shows With Disney World Characters
If your kids just want to see the Disney World characters, and don’t want to meet them, get pictures, or autographs, you may want to see the various parades and shows at the theme parks featuring Disney World characters.
There’s something fun at every park – check the My Disney Experience app or the printed paper Times Guide to get specifics. Be sure to arrive early to get a good spot, or book a FastPass for access to special viewing areas.
FastPasses for Character Encounters
When booking your FastPass+ allocations at Walt Disney World, you’ll also see the option to book a time for various character encounters at the theme parks. These will count toward your three daily advance allocations, however, so you’ll have a choice to make.
If there’s a specific character experience you absolutely have to do during your trip, I’d definitely recommend getting a FastPass for it. That way, you’ll know that you’ll definitely be able to see those characters during your vacation.
Disney World Characters in the Parks
Most of the Disney World Character experiences you’ll encounter are at specific locations within the park, on a set daily schedule. These can be found on the app or in the Times Guides, and are always subject to change. You will need valid park admission and you’ll usually need to wait in lines. In many cases, Disney PhotoPass photographers will be on hand to capture the moment as it happens.
As you’d expect, you’ll find many of the traditional Disney characters at the Magic Kingdom. In most cases, you’ll find these characters near the attraction that best fits them. It’s rare to just see characters in random places off schedule.
Here are some of the characters you’ll find at the Magic Kingdom:
- Characters from Alice in Wonderland can be found by the Mad Tea Party ride. I’ve seen Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the White Rabbit by the teacups. In a few instances, I’ve even see the characters ON the ride.
- Buzz Lightyear is often located in Tomorrowland by the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin ride. I’ve also seen Stitch in Tomorrowland, but I’m not sure if he’s still there now that his ride has closed.
- Characters from Disney’s Aladdin greet guests by the Magic Carpets ride in Adventureland.
- As you’d expect, Ariel can always be found at Ariel’s Grotto in the New Fantasyland section of the park.
- Cinderella and Elena, and Tiana and Rapunzel are located in the Princess Fairyland Hall. They are in two separate sections, with two separate lines.
- Gaston flexes his muscles by his namesake tavern in New Fantasyland.
- In Storybook Circus, you’ll find Donald Duck and Goofy, and Daisy Duck and Pluto, in two separate lines.
- Merida, from Brave, is located in Fairytale Garden by the entrance of Tomorrowland near the castle.
- Peter Pan is often in Fantasyland.
- Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse greet their fans by the entrance of the park, at the Town Square.. Tinkerbell is also in the theater.
During my first visit to Epcot, I was so surprised to see how many characters were located there – especially in the World Showcase.
- Alice in Wonderland (England), Jasmine (Morocco), Elsa and Anna (Norway), Belle (France), Donald Duck from the Three Caballeros (Mexico), Snow White (Germany), and Mulan (China) all greet guests in the World Showcase.
- Baymax (Big Hero 6), Joy and Sadness (Inside Out), Ralph and Vanellope (Wreck it Ralph, Ralph Breaks the Internet) can also be found in Epcot.
- Epcot is also home to the Character Spot, located in Future World. There, you can meet Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, and Goofy. This has always been one of our favorite places to meet the characters.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
If you’ve got younger kids who love Disney Junior, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is definitely where you’ll need go there. It’s the only place where kids can meet their favorite characters from Disney Junior.
Characters at Disney’s Hollywood Studios include:
- Disney Junior characters at the Animation Courtyard by the Disney Junior Live on Stage show. You can also book a character meal at the Hollywood and Vine to see Disney Junior characters.
- Woody, Jessie and friends meet their guests at the new Toy Story Land.
- Kylo Ren, BB8, and Chewbacca can be found at the Star Wars Launch Bay.
- Mike and Sully and Olaf also have their own greeting areas in the park.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
While you’ll definitely be able to see a variety of live animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there are also some character greetings at the theme park.
- Mickey and Minnie greet guests at the Adventurers Outpost
- You can find Pocahontas and Russell and Dug (from Disney Pixar’s Up) at Discovery Island.
There are also a few shows at Animal Kingdom featuring popular Disney characters. These include Finding Nemo, the Musical, the Festival of the Lion King, and the Hakuna Matata Dance Party.
Who are your kids’ favorite characters?