Walt Disney World isn’t just for kids. It can make you feel like a kid again. You can enjoy adult fun like Epcot’s Food And Wine Festival or go back in time on It’s A Small World. However, there’s still something magical about seeing your favorite Disney characters.
We asked our Disney experts for some helpful tips on how to have the best experience with Disney’s most beloved characters. Take it from those that are in the know — what follows are some great ways to have a can’t-miss character experience at Disney. These interactions can be the highlight of any Disney trip — so take it from the experts and hit these spots on your next trip to Disney!
1. Garden Grill
Living With The Land, Epcot Center
One of the most mentioned places to be for the ultimate character experience is the Garden Grill, located in Living With The Land at Epcot Center. Travel agency owner and Disney vacation specialist, Chris Cook-Leitz, says Garden Grill is an outstanding place to meet characters while enjoying your meal. A revolving dining experience, Garden Grill goes through several scenes of the Living With The Land attraction.
“The cherry on top is that Chip, Dale, Farmer Mickey, and Pluto greet you while you are feasting on a delicious all-you-care-to-enjoy, family-style meal,” said Cook-Leitz. “Offering lunch and dinner, Garden Grill’s menu features fresh items grown or raised in the greenhouses at Epcot. Chip and Dale (do you know which is which?) love welcoming guests to their feast, and as always, they are full of antics. You just never know when one is going to play a trick on the other.”
With a chance to see Mickey in his overalls and plaid shirt with Pluto by his side, Cook-Leitz noted that because this character dining location is smaller than others, it seems guests rarely are wanting for more time and photos with the characters.
Sarah Armbruster, an annual passholder and travel planner, seconds the Garden Grill notion. She enjoys the family-style meal of roasted chicken and beef, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and berry shortcake for dessert.
“I like Garden Grill, for lunch or dinner at Epcot. To go to this restaurant, you will need to have a ticket and park reservation for the day or have a park hopper ticket and have a dining reservation after 2 p.m.,” she said. “This is such a quaint restaurant and has such a cozy feel to it. Usually, you will see the characters come around more than once, which is extra fun for those character fans.”
Pro Tip: It is generally pretty easy to get a reservation to Garden Grill, especially at the last minute, which is another reason to like it so much. Lunch is usually available from 11:30 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. and dinner is usually available from 3:45 p.m. to 8 p.m.
2. Topolino’s Terrace
Disney’s Riviera Resort
Another popular spot to catch some Disney characters is Topolino’s Terrace, located at Disney’s Riviera Resort along the Skyliner route. This is another spot where Armbruster says you can have a great character experience.
“I love Topolino’s Terrace for a great character breakfast. This is a tough reservation to get for a reason,” she said. “While enjoying this wonderful breakfast and view, meet some of your favorite Disney friends for a perfect photo and autograph opportunity! You can find Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Daisy Duck — stylishly dressed from head to toe in French-inspired artist outfits unique to Topolino’s Terrace!”
The menu is another great reason to hit this popular spot, with a breakfast that starts with fresh pastries and bread. “Absolutely delicious,” added Armbruster, who noted that your choice of entrées include: quiche gruyère with house-made pancetta, sour cream waffle, smoked salmon, two eggs any style, and more. “No matter which one you choose, this is a breakfast worth the extra effort,” she noted.
Pro Tip: To get a reservation, you will want to be ready bright and early when your 60-day window opens. If you aren’t able to get a reservation, check a couple of days out from when you want to dine — there are almost always last-minute cancellations that open more reservations for you to try and secure. Remember — characters are only available at this location for breakfast — not dinner.
Laura Liden, a travel advisor and former intern with the Walt Disney World College Program, echoed these sentiments.
“This is Walt Disney World’s newest character dining experience and quickly became one of my all-time favorites,” she said. “Guests can dine in the rooftop restaurant where you’ll find Mickey in his artist attire, Minnie dressed as a poet, Donald as an energetic sculptor, and Daisy as a beautiful ballerina, mingling amongst the tables.”
Liden also noted that things at this spot may be less hectic than in other spots. “It’s a much less chaotic location and the characters spend a fair amount of time at each table for photos. This location is a prix-fixe menu with characters for breakfast only and is one of the most difficult locations to secure a reservation (which is a must) but is so worth it,” she said. “And the a la carte menu is delicious with my favorite being the wood-fired steak with a side of the chantilly waffles (yes, you can get both for the same price).”
Pro Tip: Make your reservation on your 60-day from the travel mark. Those staying on the property can also make reservations on that day for their entire stay (up to 10 days out) so trying for the end of your trip is best.
3. Epcot Center
Seana Beard, an event planner, Disney lover, and expert, says you cannot dismiss Epcot Center as a great place to have amazing character experiences. “Epcot makes for a fantastic place to check lots of characters off your list,” she said. “My favorite character spot is in Mexico. I never pass up a chance to meet Donald in his sombrero and poncho!”
Cook-Leitz agrees with Beard’s assessment. “Many guests share that they don’t want to visit Epcot because it’s more educational than fun. I could not disagree more! Not only are there so many great features at Epcot, but it’s a fantastic place to meet characters,” said Cook-Leitz. “You can meet Belle in France, Joy (from Inside Out) inside ImageWorks, Alice in the United Kingdom, Princess Jasmine in Morocco, Snow White in Germany, Mulan in China, Anna and Elsa at their Royal Sommerhus in Norway, Vanellope (from Wreck-It Ralph) inside ImageWorks, and so many more!”
Pro Tip: Do not ignore the consensus thoughts from our experts — plan to include Epcot for great character experience opportunities.
4. Storybook Dining
Artist Point With Snow White And Friends
For fans of Snow White — or more specifically Dopey Dwarf — you’re going to want to head to Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White and Friends — the only place you will have a regular chance to meet Dopey Dwarf! You’ll also meet Snow White, Grumpy, and even the Evil Queen!
“This is a playful meal and wonderfully themed. Snow White, Grumpy, and Dopey greet guests at their tables while you get an audience with the Evil Queen on your way out,” said Liden. “This location is dinner only and the food is more upscale than any other character dinner on-site, which to me makes it worth the steep per person price”
Pro Tip: Due to popularity, reservations are a must and can be made 60 days before arrival.
5. Town Square
Town Square Theater
Start your day out right by meeting Mickey Mouse right inside the Magic Kingdom! This is the perfect place for you to find Mickey in his rehearsal room at the Town Square Theater and see props and posters from Mickey’s theater career.
“One of my favorite places to visit Mickey Mouse is in Town Square,” said Armbruster. “The best way to see Mickey here is to get Genie + for the day and use one of your Lightning Lane selections to ensure that you don’t wait too long in the line. Trust me on this one — the line is usually at least a half hour to see the mouse host.”
Pro Tip: Mickey is generally available for meet and greets here from the park open until an hour before the park closes for the day. He will take short breaks throughout the day too.
6. Chef Mickey’s
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Further evidence that some great chances to meet characters can come while enjoying a great meal, Beard says a trip to Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort will not disappoint. According to Beard, this is a great place to go for memorable character meetings.
“Character dining provides incredible opportunities to interact with your favorite mouse or princess! I love kicking off a vacation with a visit to Chef Mickey’s to see what fun the Fab 5 have cooked up,” she said. “If you have eaten at Chef Mickey’s, try catching Mickey and friends at other spots like Topolino’s Terrace or Tusker House. You can find them donning creatively themed costumes based on the theme of the restaurant.”
Pro Tip: Although they require additional tickets, holiday parties bring out fun characters that are sometimes hard to find. Some enjoy the parties for the themes, snacks, and shorter ride wait times, but others go solely for the chance to catch rare appearances of beloved characters. This means the line for Jack and Sally will stay pretty full, as will lines for your favorites in their Halloween costumes!