Trips to Disney World are known for being toadally magical, in large part due to the characters that spread a little pixie dust wherever they go. When Disney World reopened and we heard that character meet and greets would be unavailable, we were disappointed but understanding. (We'll miss them, but also want to keep everyone safe!) But guess what? The all-new character experiences around the parks that have replaced the traditional meet-and-greet are just as special! In fact, we encountered more characters during this initial reopening time than we did before.
These days, you may not be able to meet characters individually, hug them and ask them for an autograph due to social distancing measures in place. But Disney World's brand-new character experiences are unlike anything before! Each park offers unique ways to see the characters in action, and we love the spontaneity of the sightings. Just because the Disney World characters aren't close doesn’t mean the interactions are impersonal. Sure, the experiences hoppen more quickly, but tell that to Aladdin who looked directly into my eyes and asked, “Do you trust me?” from the balcony of the train station, or the evil stepsisters who made fun of our matching T-shirts from Cinderella Castle. It’s fun to see a mix of characters who would not usually interact with each other … Aladdin and Winnie the Pooh are new #friendshipgoals.
Here’s everything you need to know about seeing Disney World characters during this time of social distancing, including tips on where and how to spot them.
Ways to See Disney World Characters
Cavalcades, Motorcades, Promenades and Boat Cruises
Instead of traditional character greetings and grand parades, your favorite Disney pals continue to march down Magic Kingdom’s Main Street in mini cavalcades. Disney World characters also strut their stuff along Hollywood Boulevard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, travel around World Showcase at EPCOT and cruise down the Discovery River at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In order to prevent large crowds from forming, these special processions appear randomly but frequently throughout the day, creating plenty of opportunities for classic Disney magic!
Pop-Up Character Appearances
We love that Disney is keeping us on our toes by surprising us with pop-up character appearances around the parks. With the exception of Animal Kingdom, these characters safely greet guests from afar in select locations, such as atop Cinderella Castle or while frolicking around the Imagination Pavilion’s gardens. PhotoPass photographers aren’t available, so you’ll need to practice your best selfie skills.
Most character dining locations are temporarily unavailable, but a couple of restaurants have modified character dining experiences. Garden Grill at EPCOT and Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort offer these socially distanced character dining experiences. The characters still roam around the restaurant but stay a safe distance from guests. At Garden Grill, we sat on the lower level of tables while Mickey, Pluto and Chip ‘n’ Dale walked along the upper level. They all stopped briefly for photos at each table. At the end of the meal, we received a special card with their autographs.
While many of the shows still remain temporarily closed around Disney World, Disney Junior Play & Dance! recently premiered at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (It replaces Disney Junior Dance Party! and is held at the same location.) Hosted by a live DJ, the show stars Vampirina, Doc McStuffins, Timon from "The Lion Guard" and Mickey himself, donning his racing outfit from "Mickey and the Roadster Racers." The characters show off their best moves individually, and then join together for one big dancing finale. Hollywood Studios has also debuted The Disney Society Orchestra and Friends, replacing Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage. (It does feature some "Beauty and the Beast" characters during the grand finale.)
Where to Find Disney World Characters by Theme Park
Largest Variety of Characters: Magic Kingdom Park
If your motto is “the more, the merrier!” Magic Kingdom is the place to be. We spotted so many characters who appeared in the cavalcades and popped up around the park when we least expected it.
Magic Kingdom has six different cavalcades that rotate throughout the day:
- The Royal Princess Processional: Merida & Angus, Rapunzel, Tiana, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Elena, Jasmine, Snow White, Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother
- Mickey & Friends Cavalcade: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, Daisy and parade dancers
- Fantasyland Friends Cavalcade: Gaston, Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Aladdin, Mary Poppins and Tigger
- A Goofy Cavalcade: Goofy, Max, Clarabelle Cow, José Carioca, Panchito and parade dancers
- Tinker Bell & the Lost Treasure: Tinker Bell
- Main Street Philharmonic
Each cavalcade moves along the normal parade route, beginning in Frontierland and ending at Town Square. If you wait in Town Square after the conclusion of a cavalcade, select characters may appear above the crowd at the Walt Disney World Railroad train station. We’ve seen the princesses, Mickey and his friends and the Fantasyland characters wave to guests below. Some characters even chatted amongst themselves and exchanged witty remarks with guests. Gaston sure does love to show off his muscles …
While not considered its own cavalcade, Eeyore, Rabbit and Piglet travel in a trolley down Main Street, circle around the Cinderella Castle hub and end up back in Town Square. Chip ‘n’ Dale also cruise on a raft down the Rivers of America (you can spot them in Frontierland and Liberty Square while walking along the pathways next to the river).
Over in Tomorrowland, Buzz Lightyear and Stitch sporadically take turns standing on top of the Rockettower Plaza Stage. Stitch posed for a photo as he played his air guitar for us! The Country Bears wave hello from the balcony of the Country Bear Jamboree theater, and Jack Sparrow may be seen hiding out in Adventureland. Anastasia and Drizella, the evil stepsisters, bicker at each other and banter with guests from above on the backside of Cinderella Castle.
If you’re a "Beauty and the Beast" fan, catch Belle in her blue dress at the Enchanted Tales with Belle attraction (Note: the attraction itself is unavailable). We saw her hanging out in the queue, away from the main pathway where guests remain. If you’re lucky enough to snag a reservation or catch walk-in availability at Be Our Guest, the Beast still formally greets each of the dining rooms, now during lunch and dinner.
Most Unique Character Appearances: Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Unlike the other parks where characters travel on land, the characters float around Discovery River on boats. Due to the size of the boats, each one usually features a pair or trio of Disney World characters.
Animal Kingdom has four different boat cruises that rotate throughout the day:
- Discovery River Character Cruise
- Timon and Rafiki
- Pocahontas with John Smith or Meeko
- Donald’s Dino Boat Bash!
- Donald, Daisy and Launchpad McQuack
- Goofy and Chip 'N' Dale
- Mickey & Friends Flotilla
- Mickey, Minnie and Pluto
- Discovery Island Drummers
The boats circle around Discovery Island one by one, moving in a clockwise direction. In most spots around the park, you can only see one boat pass by at a time. However, if you stand on the bridge between Expedition Everest and the Finding Nemo - The Musical theater, you may see one boat going out to begin its trip around Discovery Island and another returning from its voyage. The bridge is high, so it may be harder to see the characters, but you can see them for a longer period of time as they come down the river toward you. If you want to get closer to the characters, our other favorite viewing spot is the long boardwalk bridge that connects Pandora to the Port of Harambe. That bridge gets low and close to the water’s edge — plus, it’s not super crowded!
Currently, the boat cruises are the only way to interact with the characters. They go by just a tad faster than the cavalcades, promenades and motorcades, so have your camera ready. (You’ll know one’s coming if you can hear the music blasting from the boat.) Because you’re not always close to the boat depending on where you see it, it can be harder to get that selfie with them.
Easiest to Spot the Characters: EPCOT
I’ve always loved the meet-and-greets at EPCOT because you’d be able to meet some of the characters in their home countries (around World Showcase, that is!) ... Mulan in China, Anna and Elsa in Norway, Mary Poppins in the U.K. Well, bad news first: There are less characters out and about in the park. But good news: The characters are now traveling around the world!
EPCOT has three different promenades that rotate throughout the day:
- Frozen Promenade: Anna and Elsa
- Mickey & Friends World Tour: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Goofy
- Princess Promenade: Snow White, Jasmine, Belle and Aurora
The promenades go entirely around World Showcase, making their route much longer than the other parks — thus, increasing the chances of seeing them while you’re hopping from one country to the next. We’ve noticed that the Frozen Promenade starts and ends between Norway and China, while the Mickey & Friends World Tour and the Princess Promenade start and end between Morocco and France. If you look super closely, you may even be able to see them from across the lagoon. During one visit, we were able to pinpoint Queen Anna’s carriage in Norway all the way from France.
EPCOT also has a few pop-up appearances by Joy, Winnie the Pooh, Alice and Mary Poppins. Joy and Winnie the Pooh take turns catching butterflies and skipping through the gardens at the Imagination pavilion. Meanwhile, Alice and Mary Poppins switch off at the gazebo in the middle of the miniature hedge maze at the U.K. pavilion.
Garden Grill is one of the few character dining locations offering a modified experience. Mickey, Pluto and Chip ‘n’ Dale make their rounds around the restaurant, physically separated by the lower and upper levels of tables. They stop briefly for photos at each table. It’s hard to see them coming, but a character attendant lets you know when they’re passing by.
Most Entertaining Interactions: Disney's Hollywood Studios
Following Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios has quite an ensemble of Disney World characters. All of the motorcades are super fun and high-energy! The cars have fun designs (we wish we could take a spin in Buzz Lightyear’s ride), and the music makes you want to dance.
Disney's Hollywood Studios has three different motorcades that rotate throughout the day:
- Disney Junior Stars Motorcade: Fancy Nancy, Doc McStuffins and Vampirina
- Mickey & Friends Motorcade: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Chip 'n' Dale
- Pixar Motorcade: Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Edna Mode, Sulley, Green Army Soldiers, Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear
The motorcades begin near the park entrance, travel down Hollywood Boulevard and end over by the Jedi Training Academy stage. Warning: “A Disney Junior Party” will get stuck in your head … until you hear “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” or “Nothing Can Stop Us Now.” The motorcade songs are all extremely catchy! The Green Army Soldiers help out by marching to the beat of their drums. It’s best to watch the Mickey & Friends motorcade in front of the Chinese Theater, while you listen to the theme song of their new ride as they pass by it.
Traveling to Batuu? You’ll still be able to see your favorite Resistance and First Order characters. They may not be roaming around Black Spire Outpost as usual, but both sides are still actively taking recruits to join their causes. Chewbacca, Rey and Vi Moradi are hiding out by the speeder garage across from Droid Depot, while Kylo Ren and his stormtroopers interrogate Batuu citizens and intergalactic travelers by the First Order’s TIE Echelon (across from the Milk Stand).
As mentioned before, the new shows, Disney Junior Play and Dance! and The Disney Society Orchestra and Friends, feature Disney Junior pals and" Beauty and the Beast" characters.
Tips for Getting Your Disney World Character Fix
- Listen for a sudden change in music. Usually, you’ll be able to hear the characters coming before you see them! Music is piped into the speakers around each of the parks, and it will change when a cavalcade, motorcade, boat cruise or promenade is approaching the area.
- If there is inclement weather in the area, the cavalcades, boat cruises, motorcades, promenades and pop-up appearances will not hoppen. (That’s something we miss about traditional indoor greeting locations such as Princess Fairytale Hall.) However, if it’s only rain (with no lightning or thunder), Magic Kingdom will run its special Rainy Day Cavalcade. We’ve also seen Elsa walk around World Showcase with an umbrella — the rain never bothered her anyway.
- If you want photos, you’re going to need to take them yourself. PhotoPass photographers and character attendants are not allowed to touch guests’ personal devices.
- Because most character appearances are truly random, it’s hard to predict exactly when they will show up. (Generally, it’s about once an hour.) Trust us, we’ve tried keeping track of the time in between cavalcades and noting when the characters pop up, but the timing has varied. As we’ve hopped back for repeat visits, we’ll sometimes see characters that we previously missed. On the other hand, we may not spot characters that we’ve already seen. We’re still waiting to see Winnie the Pooh at EPCOT, even though we’ve visited three times! Unfrogtunately, there is no guarantee that you’ll see your favorites while you’re there. That said, character appearances are frequent, so we can promise that you’ll cross paths at some point during the day.
- After a cavalcade passes by, we suggest waiting in the same area for about 10 minutes. If another one were to follow it immediately, we’ve noticed there is usually 10 minutes in between them. But if you wait any longer, you’re using up time that you could spend on rides. Just check back later!
Are you loving these new Disney World character experiences as much as we are?! Who are you most excited to see once again? Let us know if you have any questions — or see any characters we haven't spotted yet — in the comments below!