Character Meet and Greet Tips at Walt Disney World
One of the best parts about going to Disney World resorts is meeting all the characters. With the increase of crowds, it’s becoming harder and harder to walk right up to them. I
n some cases meeting your favorite character, includes a whole theatrical production. Disney has become a master at distracting you in line, adding to the suspense. Here are the best character meet and greet tips at Disney World.
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Meet and Greets Tips at Disney World
The Roaming Characters
Back in the day, if you wanted to see Mickey Mouse, it was usually by chance. You’d find him randomly in the park somewhere with a helper. These experiences still exist but the bigger names have moved inside.
Supporting characters like the Fairy Godmother and the Evil Step Sisters can be found outside in different coves of the park.
Wait times for these experiences can be anywhere from a couple of minutes to an hour. The characters only stay around for a short time. They also may change on you while you are in line.
We were supposed to be meeting with the evil stepsisters, but by the time we reached the front, they switched over to the fairy godmother. Thankfully Disney cast members are good about letting the people in line know what’s going on. If you get in a line, make sure you are up for anything!
These smaller encounters are some of my best experiences. I will never forget the look on my kid’s face when Marry Poppins called them out for not cleaning their rooms. Depending on the day, you might stumble upon some amazing experiences.
The Primary Characters
The bigger characters all have their own private meeting space. They include Mikey, Minney, all of the Processes, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and many others. Space is indoors, away from the elements. This is a great opportunity to get out of the sun for a while, plus you get to interact with your favorite people in a more controlled environment. Some also have fast passes associated with them, like Elsa and Mickey. I like this experience because it seems more personal.
Mickey’s Extra Magic
Mickey so far is the only character we’ve come across that speaks to kids. What I loved most about meeting Mickey was my son who was so nervous, and Mickey did a little march to get him to warm up to him. Otherwise, I didn’t think I’d ever get him to let go of my hand.
On my second visit, meeting Mickey he wasn’t talking. I’m not sure if it was a change, but its something to think about when you have young kids.
We quickly told them that Mickey had a sore throat and couldn’t talk today. Anything to keep the magic going. As with all character encounters, and seeing duplicate, you have to have your parent excuses handy. Like WOW, Mickey’s over here now!
An unexpected treat was when the characters come back from breaks. Usually near the outside areas of character experiences. Every 25 minutes, characters need to take a few minute breaks.
When they return, they walk through the park on a mini-parade and it’s a perfect way for your kids to get a quick wave in.
Depending on the moods and timing, they like to dance and have fun. Some will even sign a quick autograph if they have time. Most of the time, it’s all about the wave.
Those not in Character
Disney characters sometimes play double duty. I haven’t verified this one yet, but I’m 99% percent confident that the security guard with the Fairy Godmother doubled as Gaston based on his hair, bone structure, and abnormally muscular arm. Either that, or he was biding his time until a prince tripped and he could swoop in to save the day.
Member Only Special Experiences
Character dining is one way you can get guaranteed meet and greets. You can select the meal, location and character-themed event you want to go to. These are a lot of fun for little ones and can take some stress out of trying to find them all over the park.
These encounters are reserved on the Disney Dining website. If there is someone you really want to meet, I highly recommend making a reservation. Otherwise, you might stumble into one at your hotel like we did when we were looking for breakfast.
While it is very magical, expect to pay premium prices for your buffet or plate of food. Another bus rider and I were joking bout the prices. I paid $40 for my omelet and he paid about $50 for his spaghetti.
In the end, the excitement on the kid’s faces and our enjoyment of getting a one on one meeting with Goofy, Pluto and the Chip and Dales made it all worth it. Never have we had a meal where we were all laughing as much as we did.
Chase Card Members
What to know about some hidden character experience? The Chase Disney Credit Card allows you into two character experiences, one at Disney Hollywood Studios and one of Disney’s Epcot Park.
These are exclusive for the cardholders. Most of the time, there is a very small line, if not no line at all. The line to Meet Vader was 45 minutes, but the cardholder’s line allowed us to walk right up.
The areas are kind of hidden. I asked the staff at Hollywood Studios multiple times if I was in the right area and they kept filtering me into the primary queue. Look for the sign that says CHASE on it before getting in line. We finally found it at the Star Wars building. At Hollywood Studios, it was an encounter with Darth Vader.
At Epcot, it was with random characters. The staff letting people in didn’t know who was there. It also had a line that looked to be a 30+ minute wait. We had done the Character Meet and Greet Breakfast earlier in the date, so we skipped this encounter.
The other benefit is that you get a copy of the picture for free! The credit card has no annual fee and can also get you discounts on Dinning and Merchandise at the park. They also offer a statement of credit of $200 if you spend $500. Even if you never use the credit card, it’s worth it to be able to walk up to Darth Vader.
Disney World Character Encounter Tips
The Size of Mickey
Before you meet anyone, remind your little kids that Mickey is a Big Mouse. About Daddy and Mommy’s size. This is a little intimidating for many younger kids. As excited as my son was both times meeting Mickey, he was so nervous.
Let Disney Cast Members take a picture for you. Their goal is to get the best picture possible. So when your little one refuses to look at the camera, they will do their best to get them to pay attention. When I was with my nine-month-old, she was so interested in Tigger, she didn’t know to look at the camera. If this happens, remember to keep posing. Tigger was actually trying to get my daughter to look at the camera for me. And he’s got the added benefit of not worry about his photogenic abilities.
If you have your own camera, ask a cast member, even the ones holding cameras to take your picture for you. I have never had one turn me down. After each encounter, they will scan your magic band or give you a card to view your pictures online. Trusting a family member to take pictures for you may end up with something like this…
If you have a video camera, consider recording the encounter. My favorite video is of my two kids meeting Mickey for the first time. Both were a mix of excitement and nerves all wrapped into one. It’s a memory that I will treasure forever.
Not all characters will sign autographs. The ones in the more complex suites or the most popular ones don’t do it at all. Make sure your kids know this beforehand, to avoid any disappointments.
If you have younger kids, and an inexpensive autograph book, consider putting some packing tape on the front and back pages to prevent it from ripping in board hands.
Avoid Line Boardom
Even if you have planned everything perfectly, you are bound to find a line or two. Consider having small candy on hand to keep the kids engaged. Or have a parent and kids run out of line to do a quick Pin Trade. This will depend on the type of line you are in, but it’s a great time killer.
Don’t forget about you
Don’t forget that this is your experience too. As tempting as it is to let them push you through the line as quickly as possible, ask for the group picture you wanted. As you wait there, you’ll see how much time everyone takes up there and it feels like forever. And when it’s your turn, it seems like a fraction of the time.
Get your kids up there, then ask for your own experience too. They won’t say no as long as you are considerate of time. Seriously, if you are taking 5 minutes because you are trying to do 12 poses with each person, you’ll have a group of angry people behind you.
If you can only do one, Which Should You Do?
When time is tight, you may think to skip meet and greets altogether. That would be a big mistake. The magic of Disney has more to do with our emotional connection to these characters. Pick your favorite, and make sure you stand in line to do it. For me, it was Chewbacca. Not sure why this time, but he was my man. We were lucky enough to get see multiple on our last trip. You can never imagine how much they make your hearts melt. If you cant meet them in person, there is always the stage shows. With these character meet and greet tips at Disney World, you’ll be sure to see a few.