There is just something magical about meeting Disney characters like Mickey at Disneyland during your vacation. Fortunately Disney gives you lots of different opportunities to Meet n’ Greet with all your familiar pals from television and the movies! How can you be sure that you’ll be able to meet your favorites during your trip? Follow Day Trips TravelingMom’s helpful tips on how to meet Mickey and other Disney characters at Disneyland during your next visit.

Meeting Disney characters top on your vacation wishlist? Here's the complete guide to meeting Disney characters in (and outside) of the Parks!

Meeting Mickey’s main squeeze, Minnie Mouse – Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy / Day Trips TravelingMom

How to Meet Your Favorite Disney Characters

I’ll happily admit to sheer giddiness when I give my favorite Disney characters a hug during each trip! When visiting Disneyland with kids, they may have it in mind to meet certain favorites during the trip. Some characters can be a “sure thing”. Other characters might be a bit harder to find. Some characters may be positively elusive (as in, they don’t currently appear in the Parks). Follow these tips to guide you in the right direction and increase the chances you and your kids will see the Disney characters you want to meet.

Meeting Disney characters top on your vacation wishlist? Here's the complete guide to meeting Disney characters in (and outside) of the Parks!

Grab a Times Guide at the Disneyland gate so you will know where characters will be available – Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy / Day Trips TravelingMom

1. Grab a Times Guide

When entering the Parks each day, pick up a Times Guide that lists show times, special events and Disney Character Meet n’ Greet locations and times.

2. Meet n’ Greet in the Hub

If meeting the Fab 5 is a must, I highly recommend arriving 30 minutes before Park opening. A certain number of guests will be admitted early onto Main Street U.S.A. before official “rope drop”. This is a great way to minimize wait times and to meet with the many different characters that are stationed in this area.

Be sure to have your tickets pre-purchased to avoid having to wait in line at the gate (TravelingMom recommends buying your tickets through Get Away Today). Depending upon the season, the characters will be dressed in different costumes which is a special touch. Line up and have your autograph book and camera ready!

Meeting Disney characters top on your vacation wishlist? Here's the complete guide to meeting Disney characters in (and outside) of the Parks!

Meet n’ Greet at “rope drop” in the morning for the best chance to see lots of Disney characters – Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy / Day Trips TravelingMom

Sometimes the character needs to take a break and the “character handler” will let you know when you get in line if the character will be leaving. Many times the character will return after a few minutes so you can hang tight in your place.

Over at Disney California Adventure Park, you’ll be able to meet these characters (including the rarely seen Oswald), dressed in their dapper period-costumes.

3. Princess Fantasy Faire

Just to the left of Sleeping Beauty Castle is a quaint village that houses the Royal Hall, official Meet n’ Greet location for a variety of Disney princesses. Up to three lovely ladies will be available inside.

There is also a live-show that takes place in this area to watch a princess-themed show. If you have a princess-lover in your midst, be sure to make this your first stop of the day as line waits can be lengthy.

If you’re looking for priority entrance (and skip the line), purchase a Castle package at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. After getting all dolled up, your little lady will be escorted straight into the Royal Hall for the Meet n’ Greet.

Meeting Disney characters top on your vacation wishlist? Here's the complete guide to meeting Disney characters in (and outside) of the Parks!

Booking a reservation for a Disney Character Dining experience is a sure-fire way to meet lots of characters – Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy / Day Trips TravelingMom

4. Reserve Character Dining

Want to be certain of a visit from a character favorite? Character dining is the way to do that. You’ll receive a delightful meal as well!

If a character’s name is in the title of the dining experience you can be sure to see that character. For example a meeting with Mickey at Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey and Friends at Disney’s PCH Grill is a sure-thing. So is meeting Ariel at Ariel’s Disney Princess Celebration at Ariel’s Grotto and Minnie at Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at Plaza Inn.

Depending upon the length of your meal and how many characters are available, you’ll be able to meet with between 4 to 8 characters. They will come to your table to there is no queue and you’ll still be able to pause your meal to take photos and acquire autographs.

5. Disney Chase Visa Card Members

If you happen to possess a Disney Chase Visa card, you are allowed access to an exclusive Meet n’ Greet area. The wait time is minimal (we waited less than 10 minutes last time) but the pay off of a private meeting is huge. We met Minnie Mouse here on one of our visits and the photo we have of the meeting is one of our favorite family pictures ever.

Meeting Disney characters top on your vacation wishlist? Here's the complete guide to meeting Disney characters in (and outside) of the Parks!

Our family photo, taken during the Disney Chase Visa meet n’ greet – Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy / Day Trips TravelingMom

At Disney California Adventure Park the private location is in Hollywood Land, next to Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! At Disneyland, you can feel the force at the Imperial Meet n’ Greet with Star Wars characters in Tomorrowland.

6. Parades and Shows

OK, so you aren’t technically “meeting” Disney characters but for many little ones, just seeing their favorites and being able to wave and blow kisses is good enough.

This is also an acceptable method if your child is too anxious or nervous for an up-close Meet n’ Greet with characters. While my 3-year old was slightly uncomfortable to meet Anna from Frozen in person, he was thrilled to wave at her from the sidewalk when she was perched on her parade float.

Watching parades and shows is also a nice way to see characters that you don’t usually get to meet in the Parks. Mickey’s Magical Map features Pocahontas and King Louie from Jungle Book, two characters I’ve never seen available for meeting at Disneyland. Not up for the super long lines to meet the Frozen princesses at Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome? You can still spot them at the For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration show and in the Paint the Night parade.

Meeting Disney characters top on your vacation wishlist? Here's the complete guide to meeting Disney characters in (and outside) of the Parks!

Meeting Red, Mater and Lightning McQueen in Cars Land is a unique Disney character experience – Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy / Day Trips TravelingMom

7. Visit the Lands

Each of the Lands has their own themed Disney characters. Looking for Mickey and Minnie? They’ll be at home in Toontown. Stop by the Cozy Cone Motel in Cars Land and you’ll find a rotation of favorite vehicles to Meet n’ Greet. Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater and Red the Firetruck take turns revving their engines for guests.

Tinker Bell and her friends are in Pixie Hollow. You can even meet a “virtual” character in the entertaining Turtle Talk with Crush, from the movie Finding Nemo. Again, check your Times Guide to see if other characters will be out and about that day (like Buzz Lightyear in Tomorrowland, Mary Poppins and Bert at the Jolly Holiday Bakery & Cafe or Winnie the Pooh and Tigger in Critter Country).

Meeting Disney characters top on your vacation wishlist? Here's the complete guide to meeting Disney characters in (and outside) of the Parks!

So many fun Disney character interactions – Photo Credit: Julie Bigboy / Day Trips TravelingMom

8. Other Things to Keep in Mind

  • Characters can sign autographs. Just have your book open to a blank page, your pen uncapped and ready to go!
  • Feel free to take photographs. You can even hand your camera over to the PhotoPass photographer and he or she will shoot with your camera or cell phone (just have it turned on and the settings ready to go).
  • Be courteous. If there is a line a mile long waiting to meet Mickey, now is not the time for everyone in your group to grab a selfie. Take a few photos, get the autograph book signed and move along so the next family can have their time.
  • Some kids may be very hesitant to approach characters. Disney days should be fun and filled with fond memories so keep the pressure low. Check out this article for more helpful tips when dealing with nervous kids.
  • Overly exuberant? Please don’t tackle Goofy around the knees, hit Tigger on the head or kick Donald in the feathers! If you have kids that are rambunctious remind them to be gentle with the characters. A gentle hug is always appropriate.
  • Be sure to order your free Disney Vacation Planning DVD to get the kids familiar with the characters before your trip.

What are your favorite ways to meet characters at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Parks? Please share with us in the comments!

Meeting Disney characters top on your vacation wishlist? Here's the complete guide to meeting Disney characters in (and outside) of the Parks!