Seeing Disneyland characters is one of the most magical parts of visiting Disneyland Resort, especially when they pop up when you least expect it or go marching down the street. It really makes you feel like you've stepped into their world. Not all character sightings appear on the Disneyland entertainment calendar though. You don’t have to rely on the luck of being in the right place at the right time if you want to capture these moments for your family. What if we told you how to plan these seemingly spontaneous interactions into your day? Here are a few character viewings you don’t want to miss.
Before we dive in, keep in mind that character interactions have been changing back to normal. Character meet and greets have returned. Plus all nighttime entertainment is back! If you aren't sure what time something hoppens, ask the cast members in the area. They may know or consult a schedule not visible to guests. Also, keep an ear out for announcements. Sometimes the announcer will tell you what's coming so you know to hang around.
How to Spot Disneyland Characters in Action
The "Today's Showtimes" section of the Disneyland app is not the best source of finding all the entertainment in the parks. There is so much more than is listed there, and the information for one performance may be there one day but not the next. You might see a big parade listed (such as the Main Street Electrical Parade) but not a smaller cavalcade. The Entertainment Schedule on the Disneyland site is a better source. But even that does not tell you everything you need to know about seeing characters in action. For example, it will tell you the Disneyland Band performance times, but not if characters are joining in. But we can tell you!
Disneyland Characters with the Disneyland Band
The Disneyland Band performs at different locations around the park. Sometimes you can catch them in Tomorrowland or in front of the Main Street Train Station. A few times a day, the band marches down Main Street, U.S.A. For some of those times, the Disneyland characters join in. Lately it's been noon but that can change. The times can vary, so you’ll want to double check with cast members in the park, who always have the most current information. More specifically, ask cast members along the parade route. They are always in the know!
Generally speaking, though, try to catch them at:
- Noon-ish - When they are joined by Mickey, Minnie and pals such as Goofy, Donald, Pluto, Chip and Dale — maybe even Cruella and Alice. You might see them head from the castle to the front of the park. get in place about 11:45 (but check the band schedule first).
- Other times - When they are joined by Mickey Mouse.
Pre-pandemic, there was a band performance with characters at Sleeping Beauty Castle. Then guests could hop in the street and follow the characters to the train station for a performance. We loved to surprise our friends and family with that surprising engagement by putting them in the procession behind the characters. We are always on alert for these experiences to return.
There are generally two character cavalcades a day at Disneyland. You don't need to save a spot. Just hop on a curb on the parade route a few minutes before it comes by. You can usually hear the music, and that's your cue to stop and pick a spot.
Mickey and Friends Cavalcade
This larger cavalcade is like a mini-parade that you do not have to invest any time in seeing. It's a big character bang for your buck. Look up "Mickey and Friends Cavalcade" in the app. Times can change seasonally or due to other park events, but generally, this takes place at:
- 1:15 p.m. - From "it's a small world" to Town Square
- 2:30 - From Town Square to "it's a small world"
You'll catch Mickey and pals, princesses and other characters from stories such as Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Aladdin and more. The song is catchy, and we've seen different versions for Halloween and Christmas.
Frozen Friends Cavalcade (unavailable at the moment)
This smaller cavalcade is not running, and we do not know if it will return. But "Frozen" fans will love seeing Anna and Elsa pass by in the Mickey and Friends Cavalcade.
You can usually spot them in the Omnibus. Sometimes it's mainly princesses on the bus, but other days, the princesses hit the street and walk while some costumed characters ride the bus. You never know what to expect! We have recently caught Anna by the Wishing Well in the morning, so keep an eye out for her in Disneyland Park!
Throughout the year, there are surprise cavalcades. We've seen rainy day cavalcades when a cavalcade replaces a major parade due to weather. Sometimes after the Super Bowl, there is a celebration cavalcade. We caught the 2022 Rams victory cavalcade! Disney characters in sports clothes joined in.
There is also Disneyland's birthday cavalcade each year on July 17. You'll see so many popular and rare characters joining in for that one. On Mickey and Minnie's birthday Nov. 18, you might get treated to a special cavalcade then too. Always keep an ear out for surprises in the park!
Other Fun Character Sightings
Here are a few places you might catch some Disney entertainment that the characters can play off of or join in as they like.
Appearances with the Pearly Band
Oh, it's a jolly holiday indeed when we catch Mary Poppins with Bert in unexpected places. Sometimes they hop aboard King Arthur's Carrousel! They also used to perform in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle together.
Cruella on the Fire Engine
Sometimes, if you're lucky, you might catch Cruella in the morning. She has been known to circle Main Street, U.S.A. on the back of the fire engine early in the day. She loves to insult our fashion sense and make fun of Mommy Frog's ear headbands as she goes by. We frogs are evidently not runway ready. The villains at Disneyland are the best (at being the worst)!
Stitch's Interplanetary Beach Party Blast
This dance party, has a cast of characters in out-of-this-world costumes showing off their dance moves this summer. Hop by Tomorrowland between 7 and 11 p.m. (but not during fireworks) to dance along with the characters to music from a DJ. Your tadpoles will love it. Lily jumped around to the beat and followed character's dance moves all night long!
Mirabel from "Encanto"
We love to talk about meeting Mirabel. She greets guests in Frontierland near Rancho Del Zocalo and Big Thunder Mountain. She also is back in her casita in Disney California Adventure's Paradise Gardens Park. She is very popular, which means the cast members may close the line for her often. If possible, try to meet her in the morning before the line grows and confirm her meeting times with the cast members at the end of the line.
How to Spot Characters at Disney California Adventure
Disney California Adventure does not have as many of these experiences, but there are a few we'd like to point out.
Carthay Circle Fountain
You can usually see several characters around the Carthay Circle Fountain but they are often spread out in front of the shops and restaurants as well. But try to stop by for a performance by Five and Dime (about once an hour in the afternoons). Besides being treated to music, you'll likely catch the characters dancing around to the tunes.
The characters spring into action in small shows throughout the day. Hop over to our Avengers Campus characters guide to learn more about these scheduled shows. You can type the name of the performance into the app to see showtimes since they do not always appear in the list of shows in the Disneyland app. We can never get enough of watching Spider-Man leap from rooftop to rooftop. Here are shows to put on your must-see list:
- The Amazing Spider-Man!
- Warriors of Wakanda: The Disciplines of the Dora Milaje
- Avengers Assemble!
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance Off!
- Dr. Strange: Mysteries of the Mystic Arts
You can meet Spider-Man after his leap, but generally, there is no published schedule of character appearances. You can usually meet the Eternals or Dr. Strange in the Sanctum during the morning or early afternoon hours since Dr. Strange shows are in the afternoon and evening. As for the other Avengers, you have to keep hopping by the campus to see if they are out.
Raya from "Raya and the Last Dragon" was so popular that she agreed to stick around long after Lunar New Year has ended. You can meet her in the afternoon and evening at Disney California Adventure. You can follow the colorful lanterns in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail to find her. She loves to chat and show off her powerful moves.
I am often the planner for the family, so I keep track of all these character opportunities. I just make sure we are in the right place at the right time, and the family can "ooh" and "ahh" over the "seamless Disney magic" and "surprise" character sightings. Now you can plan this for your family, too!
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Related: Disneyland Character Dining