One of the things we like best at Disneyland is watching children meeting the characters. It's obvious that many of them think those costumed people are real, and the shining little eyes will tell you all you need to know about how cool they think the experience is.
If you're traveling to Disneyland with kids, a little advance planning will help you make sure they have the most fun they can, and don't forget to bring your camera, so you can save the moment for them (and you).
Tips for Meeting the Disneyland Characters in the Theme Park
- Pick up the daily schedule at the gate when you enter the park. It lists where the characters will be and when. The most popular characters appear on a pre-published schedule, but others like the Queen of Hearts just show up, entering the park through the cast member gate next to the Opera House or it's a small world.
- Be prepared with an autograph book and pen. The souvenir shops in the park sell special autograph books, but any book that's about 6 inches wide or larger will work just fine. Once you see the over-sized gloves these characters wear, you'll understand why a larger, felt-tipped pen works best. If you wonder why they hold the book up to their face, remember that they can only see straight ahead through the eye holes.
- A Disney photographer will usually be on hand to take pictures of the characters and their pals. You'd be surprised how many things can go wrong - people stepping in front of the lens, your own finger in the corner, lighting issues that make faces come out so dark you can't tell who's who or even worse, equipment trouble - so it's a good precaution to pick up a free Photo Pass and even if you take your own photos, too, it's good insurance.
- Lots of kids come to Disneyland in costume, especially little girls. Not only do they seem to enjoy it, but pictures of them all dressed up and posing with a character are priceless. At Disneyland, children are classified as adults at a young age, and only those under 9 years old are permitted to wear costumes into the park.
Disney Character Dining
If you wait to reserve a character meal until you arrive at the park, you're likely to have a disappointed child on your hands. Call 714-781-3463 to make your reservations, up to 30 days and at least two weeks in advance. The least expensive of the Disneyland character dining options are inside the parks: Minnie and Friends at Disneyland and Ariel's Disney Princess Celebration at California Adventure. Character dining in any of the Disney hotels will cost you almost twice as much.
At any of these places, the characters will stop by your table, so have cameras and autograph books ready when you sit down.
Minnie and Friends Breakfast in the Park: Served at Disneyland's Plaza Inn, this all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast ends at 11 a.m. Less expensive than the hotel breakfasts, it also has more characters, including Minnie Mouse.
Ariel's Disney Princess Celebration: Head to California Adventure's Ariel's Grotto for a sit-down lunch or dinner with table service and a chance to meet the Disney princesses.
Chip 'n Dale Critter Breakfast: An all-you-can-eat buffet and menu items are served at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel Storytellers Cafe. It's the most low-key of the character breakfasts, but we find the goofy ranger character more than annoying.
Goofy's Kitchen Breakfast: The most fun, food-wise (peanut butter pizza, mac'n'cheese - for breakfast!) with lots of dancing and quite a few characters on hand. It's located at the Disneyland Hotel.
- Surf's Up! Breakfast with Mickey & Friends: All-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at the PCH Grill in Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. This is the only character breakfast outside the park where Mickey puts in an appearance.
Meeting the Characters in Disneyland
Eating with the characters is fun, but you'll find characters all over the park, too.
For a special treat (at extra cost), try the Discover the Magic Tour, a family-oriented tour where you all interact and work with Disney characters while hunting for hidden treasure and dodging dastardly villains. Recommended for kids between 5 and 9, it includes lunch and a souvenir gift. Strollers are not recommended and if the young'uns are under 18, an adult has to come along, too. To avoid disappointment, reserve up to 30 days in advance at 714-781-4400.
Most of the time, Minnie and Mickey are meeting visitors in their Tootown houses, but because you're guaranteed to find them there, lines can be nerve-wrackingly long, especially with an impatient little one holding your hand. Other places where the characters regularly hang out:
- Fantasy Faire: If you're looking for the princesses, they're all at this meet and greet spot, near the entrance to Adventureland
- Pixie Hollow: Tinker Bell and friends (next to Tomorrowland)
- Toontown: Minnie and Mickey
- Frontierland: Captain Jack Sparrow (on Tom Sawyer's Island)
- Critter Country: Winnie the Pooh and Friends
- Innoventions: Characters and exhibits from the Marvel comics series like Iron Man and Captain America can sometimes be found here
Other characters, especially those from newer Disney films have themed greeting areas. If you're looking for a specific character, try asking the cast members who are near the wait times boards.
Meeting the Characters in California Adventure
- Lightning McQueen and Mater from Cars appear at the Cozy Cone Motel in Cars Land
- Hollywood Land: An assortment of characters show up here on the main street, and Mickey often pops out just as this section opens in the morning.
POLL: What character you want to see most at Disneyland?