Meeting Disney characters 101! (a Disneyland tip sheet)

Meeting Disney Characters at Disneyland tips!

your guide to interacting with the Disney characters in the parks!

Want some insider advice on how to meet all of your favorite Disney characters? Since it’s summertime, and I know lots of people have some “1st Disney” trips planned for the next few months, I thought I’d write up a little tip post on something that is near and dear to my heart.

These guys…

Meeting Disney Characters at Disneyland tips!

Yup! Your favorite loveable characters at Disneyland! Now, I’d love to say that all of the information that I provide here is universally applicable to all Disney Parks around the globe, but I can’t guarantee that. But I promise that if you stick to the spirit of these tips, you’ll come out ahead!

Tip #1: Characters are always on time for their appearances!

Use your Disneyland guide to check and see where the scheduled character appearances are for the day throughout the park. There are designated areas and times listed daily.

But, when you’re looking for your favorite pals, be mindful of what time is on the second-hand of the clock. These guys have a busy schedule to make sure they keep up their appearances everywhere, and they also need to check their e-mail/phone messages backstage. You’ll find them playing around in the park starting at :00 or :30 of each hour. And don’t be surprised if they seem in a rush to get somewhere around :25 or :55 they’re just heading backstage for a bit and will pop back in either 5 minutes or in 30 minutes.

Tip #2: Make autograph hunting a secondary objective

Autograph books make a great memory of a special trip, but in order to maximize your experience with the characters, make the autograph-getting a secondary objective for your kids. Instead, have them think of questions they’d like to ask each character before they meet them!

Like, “What’s your favorite thing to do in the summer?”  Or… “What’s your favorite food?” Or… “What’s your favorite ride at Disneyland?”  You get the picture…

Make it a game! Then add those questions and answers to the book, and take a picture of your child asking rather than simply posing with for a smiling picture!

And make it a fun activity instead of just a quest to get autographs from everyone you see. All collections should have a purpose, and autographs are no exception!

Tip #3: Characters hate lines as much as you do!

You’ve stood in line for food, rides, and shopping. Now you’ve got to do the same thing for Goofy! Trust me, it can get really old really fast for the little ones. But here’s the secret tip: there are no lines for characters when they’re playing around in the park. Unless you see a rope up or there’s an actual queue for a “character spot” … then you’re encouraged to circle around the character and make enjoy the experience rather than waiting in the line. The biggest problem with those lines comes when Goofy needs to hop backstage… and would hate to leave people that think their turn will eventually come up because they’ve waited patiently. Sadly, he has to leave, and you just stood in line for nada. Instead, walk up to him and enjoy watching others interact as well while you wait for your turn! Talk to the character host and make the whole thing less tedious than it needs to be!

Tip #4: When in doubt… Mickey is always in Toontown!!

You’ve scoured the park high and low, and despite all of your “hang-out” time on Main Street, you still haven’t seen the Mouse of the house that Disney built. Well, hop on the train or walk up to Toontown and you’ll be treated as guests of honor in his actual house! The queue is covered, indoors, air-conditioned, and if you hang out in the back of your group you’ll get plenty of one-one-one mouse time. There’s even a pro-photog in there to take a picture of everyone in the family!

Just one special note… sometimes Toontown opens late or closes early (especially with the fireworks schedule).

[Walt Disney World has a great “Character Spot” in Epcot where you can wait in line and meet multiple characters in front of cute little sets. It’s also indoor, air-conditioned, and allows you a bit more ease and control for the situation. There are also dedicated spots in the other parks.]

Meeting Disney Characters at Disneyland tips!

Tip #5: Not adventurous enough to meet them in the parks? Eat with the characters instead!

Sometimes your little one might be intimidated to meet the characters on their own. Or maybe they don’t have the patience. Or it’s too cool for them to do it as they get older (but you know they still want to). Well, your easy solution is having a meal with them instead!

At Disneyland, you can have breakfast with Pooh & Friends at the Plaza Inn, or with the Princesses at Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure (lunch too!). And, even if you’re not visiting a park that day, you can head to the resort hotels and have breakfast with Chip N’ Dale at Storytellers at the Grand Californian or Stitch and pals at the PCH Grill at the Paradise Pier Hotel. And all day long (brunch only on weekends) you can hang out at Goofy’s Kitchen with lots and lots of characters. [hint: call (714) 781-3463 to make reservations!]

If you stick around for at least an hour, I guarantee that you’ll meet all of the characters that will be there that day!  If, for some reason, you haven’t had a chance to meet one of the characters one-on-one while you’re there, just tell your waiter and that problem will go away!

Tip #6: Characters take vacations too…

You’ll be certain to see lots of characters hanging around the park. But sometimes, some characters are on vacation and won’t be hanging out for you to say “Hi” to them. Prepare your kids for this and make sure they know that everyone they spot is like seeing a celebrity! How lucky are you that you actually got to see them in person!

Unfortunately, asking cast members if certain characters are in the park that day may or may not lead you to a definite answer. And it’s not their fault… it’s hard to know if Baloo woke up from his nap or if the Queen of Hearts has ended her croquet match for the day. The best person to ask, if you want to, is a Character Host. They stand with the characters and would have the best ability to find the answer for you.

Tip #7: Characters fear is real.

You may think that your child is the only one who is scared by the characters and may even get a little annoyed. But trust that it’s a real phenomenon and your child isn’t the first to be afflicted.

Most of the fear pops up when you get too close to the characters… because they look small and ok from a distance and become HUGE for little ones up close. If that’s the case, just stand back and watch them from afar until they become comfortable.

Also try meeting some of the wonderful human characters instead! They don’t seem huge and giant and weird, and they can talk!

Meeting Disney Characters at Disneyland tips!

Tip #8: Live in the moment!

You’re at Disneyland! Be a kid! Let your kids be kids! Just hang out and have a blast and don’t worry that you don’t have the perfect picture with Minnie. Instead, cherish the memory of Alice stopping in the parade to talk to you… and the Queen of Hearts calling for your head to be chopped off (true story circa 1985).

My favorite character memories are full of people having lots and lots of fun. Like a little boy who spent his entire morning in Frontierland hanging out with his best pals Woody and Jessie… and the hugs he gave them when Jessie presented him with his very own Jessie doll to accompany his well loved Woody. Or the family from Papau New Guinea that couldn’t stop smiling, hugging and dancing with Goofy at Goofy’s Kitchen on their first trip to the United States.

And this one is pretty priceless too… all from people who just put aside their theme park agendas and planners and just took a moment to enjoy the fun in front of them.

p.s. if you have any more questions… ask in the comments and I’ll answer to the best of my knowledge/ability!


  • Michelle

    I remember leaving Disneyland and walking past Cruella De Vil near the front of the park. I had a bag full of taffy in hand when I went to say hello to her. She said something about me not giving her any taffy which I thought was really funny so I was cracking up. My sister asked me what she said and when I told her, my sister insisted that I go back and offer her a piece of taffy, just for fun. I went back and reached a piece out to her and at first she seemed confused but then totally laughed and I think she might have broke character for a minute when she said she couldn’t take it. It was really a fun, real life moment with a character.

    Also, this happened when I was 19 years old, not 5. :)

  • serena

    What a great post! My 2.5 year old nephew has been to Disney World several times already (his cousins live down there) and these tips are really handy both now and as he gets older :)

  • stacey

    Totally agree with Tip #8! We rode the tea cups with the March Hare on our honeymoon at WDW when he just showed up at the ride, and that was an extremely cool memory. It’s easier to do when you have annual passes, but we approach every day at Disneyland as “a bad day at Disneyland is still a pretty good day in general.” No matter what we get to do, it’s still a fun day, and I think attitude makes all the difference.

  • alycia

    i <3 this post. and i <3 the video- it totally encompasses what Disney was meant to be. Losing yourself in the moment and hanging out with someone larger than life. great post!

  • EP

    Thanks for #7! I can’t stand to see parents shoving their poor screaming child at a character! :( But I love how all the Disney cast is so fabulous at recognizing when kids are not overly thrilled with the prospect of them approaching…and they’ll try other things like high fives or just waving from a distance. Another reason Disney rocks! :D

    • Kim

      As a close friend to the former cowboy, I can’t begin to imagine how that would be possible to pull off EVER… because there are certain logistics involved with … um… his hat.

      I used to know lots of folks who wanted to see the bottom of his boot, and pull on his pull string. There’s no “ANDY” on his fancy Disneyland boots (he switched them for Mickey), and the pull string got stuck a long time ago.