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Heading to Florida’s Disney World in 2021 or 2022? Some of the most asked questions we get have to do with Disney World characters. People want to know where to meet them, when character meet and greets take place, what character breakfasts are available, and whether character autographs and hugs are back. We lay it all out for you here, including a park by park Disney World character guide.
In October 2021 Disney made the announcement a lot of us were waiting for. Disney Character meet and greets are coming back. They’ll be socially distanced still but you’ll be able to head to fixed locations in all four Disney parks to meet up with your favorite Disney characters. As of late October, this option has started. Be aware, it’s definitely not all characters but some favorite characters will be back. Here’s where you can meet Disney characters at Walt Disney World Resort.
Things to Know About Character Experiences at Disney: 2021
For the majority of 2021 character experiences at Orlando’s Disney World were limited to flotillas, motorcades, cavalcades, pop-up sightings and a limited number of character breakfasts due to the pandemic. As characters make their way back into Disney daily life with the relaunch of character meet and greets, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Experiences are still socially distanced.
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You may be asking, “Can Disney characters give hugs”? At this point in time there is still no physical contact so there will be no hugging princesses. Characters and guests will interact from a distance. It’s time to practice your pre-visit selfie game. One thing I’ll say is that Disney has always done a great job of making meet and greets magical, even for the shyest kiddos. Their performers are skilled at staying in character and drawing people in. I have no doubt that these socially-distanced meet and greets will still be magical.
Can I get character autographs?
No to this one as well. With socially distanced greetings, we still aren’t back to autographs yet. Study up on your creative posing, maybe bring a small prop for fun (dinglehopper for your Ariel pic?), and make the most of the pictures for now.
Will I need to wear a mask?
While no official guidance has been released yet Disney’s current mask policy states that all guests 2 and up regardless of vaccination status must wear masks indoors. Several of the meet and greet sites are indoors so at this time I’d expect to be wearing a mask in these pictures. You can always check for the most up to date mask guidance here.
How do I make a reservation for a Disney World characters Meet and Greet?
At this time we don’t have specifics on whether this will be available. Disney’s FastPass+ replacement Disney Genie Service and Lightning Lanes launches on October 19th, 2021. However, meet and greets are not listed as included rides and attractions at this time. There are a few strategies for getting a jump on the meet and greet lines.
- Stay on property. Not only do on property guests get into the parks a little bit earlier, but once Genie Service/Lightning Lanes launch they get an earlier start time to pick options than those staying off property. While meet and greets aren’t included yet, we suspect they’ll be added.
- Make early dining reservations. This is one of the most talked about “secrets” for getting into the park early. Dining reservations can be made at Cinderella’s Royal Table for an hour before the park opens. You’ll enter the theme park through a special line. Keep in mind though that this is a pretty pricey way to get in early and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be done eating in time to get to the attraction before others entering at rope drop.
- Lines tend to die down a bit during nighttime shows. If you’re already seen the fireworks or can park hop, this can be a good time to visit characters. It’s a better bet for those with older kiddos as some little ones may be pretty tired by this point in the day.
- Be sure to utilize the My Disney Experience app to its potential. Disney’s Genie Service launches on October 19th. With that comes free vacation planning! Even if you don’t pay for Genie+ you can put in your priorities and Genie will help you fit them in at the most opportune times.
How to Use MyDisneyExperience to Find Characters
The MyDisneyExperience App is going to be vital in locating characters. In addition to the timed meet and greets that are returning, there are numerous other pop up sightings, cavalcades and more. A lot of folks have said that they’re a bit confused about how to know what is happening when and where. You’ll find them listed in the app under the entertainment section. Here’s how to find that:
- On your app look at the icons along the bottom of your phone. Next to the home button is a location pin button. Click on that.
- In the top left corner apply filters for the Disney park you’d like to look at.
- Click the middle drop down menu and select Entertainment.
- It will automatically show you the map version of the results. Click the top right hand corner on Show List to see them in list format. It’s much easier to browse. Flotillas, character cruises, cavalcades, motorcades, distanced meets and more will show up here.
TravelingMom Tip: You’ll probably laugh but we recommend practicing some selfies. Yes, we said practice taking selfies. We all want those great Disney character pictures but the set up is definitely different. Selfie sticks still aren’t allowed at Disney World or Disneyland so do a quick photo shoot at home to figure out the best way to hold your phone for a good shot! We highly recommend a Pop Socket or similar item so you can prop your phone up or get a good grip.
Disney World Characters at EPCOT
While EPCOT currently has some character “meets” running, they’re pop up sightings. This means they won’t be listed in the My Disney Experience app. These are honestly luck of the draw at this point in time. Keep your eyes peeled as you head around for these unique photo opportunities.
Characters in the World Showcase
The following characters can pop up in different countries of the World Showcase: Alice in Wonderland and Mary Poppins in the United Kingdom, Belle in France, Jasmine in Morocco, Mulan in China, Snow White in Germany and Anna and Elsa in Norway. While some of these greetings existed pre-pandemic, they’ve changed. For instance Jasmine’s Morocco character meet used to be indoors during specific times. Now she pops up in the Morocco pavilion outside. You can also spot Winnie the Pooh and other friends in the forward section of EPCOT (usually frolicking on the lawns).
Where to Find Characters at Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Hollywood Studios will have two opportunities for character meet and greets coming back in November. Unfortunately, Chewbacca and other Star Wars favorites won’t be returning just yet.
Red Carpet Dreams
Located on Commissary Lane, this Disney World character meet traditionally included both Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. However, now Minnie will be going it solo at Red Carpet Dreams.
Animation Courtyard Character Meets
Kids can see some of their favorite Disney Junior characters in the Animation Courtyard, located on the right after you walk down Sunset Boulevard in front of the Disney Junior Dance Party building. The courtyard has cute little sets for some favorite Disney Junior characters including Vampirina in her Scare B&B, Doc McStuffins in her backyard playhouse clinic and Fancy Nancy at her play palace.
Pixar Pals Motorcade and Mickey and Friends Motorcade
Other character interaction opportunities exist at Hollywood Studios. The Pixar Pals Motorcades heads down Hollywood Blvd roughly once an hour and includes Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, Edna Mode, Sully and Toy Story friends Woody and Buzz Lightyear. The Mickey and Friends motorcade follows the same route and features some classic characters.
TravelingMom Tip: While the Star Wars characters aren’t available for photos, if you’re a Disney Visa Cardmember you can stop by the Animation Courtyard daily for a special photo opportunity. The characters will be digitally added to free photos they take of you.
Character Meet and Greets at Animal Kingdom
At this time no character meet and greets have been announced for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We’re hoping that the return of Pocahontas to Discovery Island is coming shortly. This popular meet and greet already has an outdoor setting so we’re a little surprised it wasn’t in Disney’s announcement to begin with.
Be sure to check on the MyDisneyExperience app for character sighting opportunities like Mickey and Friends Flotilla (Mickey, Minnie and Pluto), Goofy & Pals Set Sail (Chip, Dale, and Goofy) and Discovery River Character Cruise (either Pocahontas or Lion King characters), Donald’s Dino Bash Flotilla (Donald, Daisy and Launchpad McQuack).
Disney Princess Meet and Greets and More at Magic Kingdom
Princess Fairytale Hall at Magic Kingdom
You’ll find the Disney Princess character meet and greets back at the Princess Fairytale Hall. This experience is located in Fantasyland just behind the castle, across from the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (currently unavailable) and the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. In pre-Covid times the waits for this meet and greet could be extensive. Some returning Disney attractions have been listed on the new Genie+ options for Lightning Lane (ex. the Indiana Jones Show at Hollywood Studios). Princess visits are not on that list – yet. We recommend having a strategy for these meet and greets if you don’t want to wait for 2 hours to see Jasmine and friends.
Our recommendations for right now are:
- Book an early Magic Kingdom breakfast. You’ll get in before rope drop. Eat fast. Head over as soon as you’re done. Not worth it if you’re a resort guest because you’re only buying yourself 30 minutes to eat before you’d be able to exercise early entry.
- Stay in a Disney resort. Arrive for early entry (30 minutes before the park opens). Be there early, line up and be ready to hustle. It’s not on the early attraction list but we expect it to be added once it officially launches. Worse case scenario you stand in line for 30 minutes until it opens. Still less than the 1-3 hour wait times we’re used to seeing.
- If you’re visiting MK more than once and have seen the nighttime show, go during it. Lines should be significantly shorter if you line up while folks are hunting down fireworks seating.
Which Princesses are at Princess Fairytale Hall in Magic Kingdom?
If you’re wondering which princesses you may be able to meet at Princess Fairytale Hall, we’ve got the list for you. While an official lineup hasn’t been released for when the characters return, the normal rotation of princesses includes- Cinderella, Elena of Avalor, Tiana and Rapunzel. Sleeping Beauty (Aurora) has also been featured there on occasion. If you’re looking for Disney World characters Anna and Elsa, they’ve moved over to EPCOT.
Important to Note: Disney has renamed these “meets” sightings on their web site. We knew they wouldn’t be traditional meet and greets but with the name change we’re curious to see how this will work for socially distanced pictures.
Town Square Theater at Magic Kingdom
We covered the princesses first because we get the most questions about their meet and greets, but let us be realistic, Mickey is still much loved and much visited. Mickey Mouse at the Town Square Theater will be a special character sighting opportunity during Disney’s 50th Anniversary Celebration because he’ll be in his EARidescent outfit. This character experience is located just inside the gates of Magic Kingdom on Main Street U.S.A. Look to the right after you go under the railroad. It’s a quick one to jump in line for the second you get in the gates.
Other Disney World Character Opportunities at Magic Kingdom
In addition to the newly returning meets Magic Kingdom has a lot of other opportunities to see characters. Princesses appear at the train station bridge near the front of the park to wave. We’ve spotted Mulan, Tiana and more there. Also look in the MDE app for A Royal Princess Processional times. These are great opportunities to see princesses and occur every few hours. Tinker Bell also heads out on some days to visit along the typical parade route. You can look up times for the day of your visit for the Mickey Celebration Cavalcade and Magic Kingdom Cavalcade. Look around the castle to spot the stepsisters everyone loves to hate. Anastasia and Drizella are absolutely hilarious. Buzz Lightyear hangs out on the stage in Tomorrowland sometimes.
Disney World Character Meals
One other way to ensure you see characters is to book a character breakfast or other meal. Please be sure to carefully read character experience descriptions ahead of time though. Character meals are limited right now. Available characters may be different within the same restaurant during different meal periods. Some meals that traditionally featured characters are open right now with no characters. For the most up to date feedback on Disney character meals, we recommend joining our Disney Facebook group where you can hear feedback from recent visitors.
TravelingMom Tip: Make sure that you’re aware that kids pricing for character meals is only for kids age 3-9. Kids 10+ are billed as adults. If you have a child under 3, they can eat off your plate or they’ll bring out something for them on request at no charge.
Currently the following character meals are available (October 2021):
Topolino’s Terrace- Flavors of the Riviera (Breakfast)
Topolino’s located at the Riviera Resort is one of the most sought after character dining experiences at Disney. This means that reservations can be hard to come by, especially right when the window opens up. Persistence is key here. Don’t worry if you don’t get the reservation right off. Many people snag them closer to their trip dates as people change their plans.
Pros of character meals at Topolino’s are the food (great), the ability for each family member to order their own meal and the Skyliner access to get to Disney parks afterwards.
Cons of character meals at Topolino’s include the dress code which can be a bit challenging for families (no tank tops or flip flops) and the need to move a car if you’ve driven and parked for a meal.
Characters at Topolino’s Terrace are Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Daisy. They are all dressed in unique, artsy costumes.
Cost of Topolino’s Character Meal: Breakfast a la Arte is $42/adults and $27/kids. Specialty drinks can add on to that cost.
Chef Mickey’s (Breakfast and Dinner)
Located at the Contemporary Resort, this popular character meal is another coveted reservation. As with Topolino’s, if you don’t get a reservation at first keep trying. More become available closer to the date as people’s plans change. You can also sign up for a Mousewatchers Dining Subscription. They’ll send you text alerts as reservations open up so that you can snag them. Chef Mickey’s used to be buffet style and has pivoted to family style due to Covid.
Pros of Chef Mickey’s include its location outside of the parks (no ticket needed), family style dining that keeps the food coming, dinner availability and accessibility to the monorail.
Cons of Chef Mickey’s include food quality (feedback consistently rates it below Topolino’s) and family style service (yes it can be a pro and a con) if you have kids who like to order their own food.
Characters at Chef Mickey’s the original fab five – Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto.
Garden Grill Restaurant (Lunch and Dinner)
I have a soft spot for Garden Grill. My first trip to Disney was in high school in the 90s. We ate at Garden Grill. I’m an avid gardener and Living with the Land is one of my favorite Disney rides. It’s a recipe for success for me. Reservations at Garden Grill are a bit easier to snag. Located in the World Nature neighborhood of EPCOT in the Land pavilion, you do need to have both a park ticket and park reservation to eat here.
Pros of Garden Grill are the availability of a lunch character meal, family style dining and changing scenery as the restaurant rotates through different scenes. I feel the need to say here that I’ve been unable to dine in other rotating restaurants. I can do a roller coaster but the slow rotation usually kicks off nausea for me. I’ve found Garden Grill tolerable. The rotation is slow.
TravelingMom Tip: One reason I’d recommend Garden Grill is the booth style. With social distancing requirements in place, I know some younger kiddos don’t understand that they can’t run up to characters. The booths at Garden Grill allow you to put kids on the inside so you can block their escape. At most other character meals they’re able to tuck and roll from their own seats to make a run for it.
Cons of Garden Grill are the cost. Since both meals are more substantial than eggs and waffle breakfast, you’ll pay a little bit more. Dining is family style which again can be a challenge for some families with pickier eaters. Of all the character meals this one is going to be challenging for pickier kids. The menu is vegetable and herb heavy. Even the meats are less familiar ones for little kiddos and you may spend your time begging them to eat the expensive food.
Characters at Garden Grill are Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Chip and Dale.
Hollywood & Vine (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner)
Located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Hollywood & Vine requires both a park ticket and a park reservation to access. Be aware Hollywood & Vine is one of the restaurants where the characters are different depending on the time of day. Many folks aren’t prepared for this and end up disappointed when the characters they see aren’t who they expected.
Pros at Hollywood & Vine are that all meals are available for character dining, shared appetizers with individual entree choice and character variety based on day part. You could eat breakfast and dinner here and it would be a totally different experience. We’ve also heard anecdotally that the character interaction at this meal is above and beyond others. There is a dance party theme for breakfast that kids love and the pictures from these meals are always super cute.
The only major con for this character meal is simply the amount of time spent dining in a park that has so many high wait time rides. With reservations starting 30 minutes before the park opens, you’re not going to be able to rope drop and beat anyone to rides here.
Characters at Hollywood & Vine are Disney Junior characters for breakfast. Breakfast includes Vampirina, Doc McStuffins, Fancy Nancy and Goofy. Lunch and Dinner characters are Minnie and friends. Most people have reported seeing Minnie, Mickey, Donald, Pluto and Goofy but we’ve heard a few Pluto or Goofy instead of both situations. The best part about Hollywood & Vine lunch and dinner is that the characters change costumes seasonally so you can see them dressed up for Halloween, Christmas and more.
Tusker House Restaurant (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner)
Located inside the Africa section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tusker House used to be a buffet style character meal. It has now pivoted to family style. All three meals are available as character meals. You do need to have both a park ticket and park reservation to eat here. This specific character meal is often mentioned as a favorite with diners calling out the fantastic cast members they interacted with.
Pros at Tusker House are the super cute safari style outfits of the characters, the ability to break up the day in a park that requires a lot of walking and the opportunity to try different foods.
Cons are food your kiddo may or may not eat if they’re picky. If you do have pickier eaters, we’d recommend breakfast.
Character at Tusker House are Mickey Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck and Goofy.
Do you have a favorite character experience? Let us know if we’ve missed one of your must do items!