Walt Disney World is not just for kids. It can make you feel like a kid again. You can enjoy grown-up fun like Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival or step back in time at It’s A Small World. However, there is 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 in the know – what follows are some great ways to have a character experience that is not to be missed 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 Disney trip!
1. Garden grill
Living with the Land, Epcot Center
One of the most mentioned places for the ultimate nature experience is the Garden Grill, located in Living With The Land at Epcot Center. Travel agency owner and Disney vacation expert Chris Cook-Litz says the Garden Grill is an outstanding place to meet characters while enjoying a meal. A revolving dining experience, Garden Grill moves through several scenes of the Living With The Land attraction.
“The icing on the cake is that Chip, Dale, Farmer Mickey and Pluto greet you as you dine on a delicious meal of whatever you care to enjoy, family style,” Cook-Litz said. “Garden Grill’s menu offers lunch and dinner and features fresh items grown or greenhouse-grown at Epcot. Chip and Dale (know who’s which?) love to welcome guests to their feast, and as always, they’re full of antics. You just never know when One will do a trick on the other.”
With a chance to see Mickey in his overalls and plaid shirt with Pluto by his side, Cook-Litz noted that because this character eatery is smaller than others, guests rarely seem to want more time and photos with the characters.
Sarah Armbruster, an annual pass holder and travel planner, advocates the concept of the Garden Grill. She enjoys the family meal of roast chicken and beef, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and berry pie for dessert.
“I like Garden Grill, for lunch or dinner in Epcot. To go to this restaurant, you would have to book a ticket and reserve parking for the same day or a ticket to Park Hopper and order food after 2 p.m.,” she said. “It’s such a quirky restaurant and it has such a cozy feel. Usually, you’ll see the characters come more than once, which is especially fun for fans of those characters.”
Professional tip: Garden Grill is usually pretty easy to make a reservation for, especially at the last minute, which is another reason to love it so much. Lunch is usually available from 11:30 to 15:40 and dinner is usually available from 15:45 to 20:00
2. Topolino’s balcony
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. This is another place where Armbruster says you can have a great character experience.
“I love Topolino’s terrace for a great character breakfast. It’s a reservation that’s hard to get for some 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 unique French-inspired artist costumes on the terrace of Topolino!”
The menu is another great reason to come to this popular spot, with breakfast starting with fresh pastries and bread. “Absolutely delicious,” added Armbruster, who noted that your choice of dishes includes: gruyere quiche with house-made pancetta, sour cream waffle, smoked salmon, two eggs any style and more. “No matter which one you choose, it’s a breakfast that’s worth the extra effort,” she noted.
Professional tip: To get an invitation, you’ll want to be ready bright and early when your 60-day window opens. If you can’t get a reservation, check a few days from when you want to dine – there are almost always last-minute cancellations that open up more reservations for you to try to secure. Remember – characters are only available at this location for breakfast – not dinner.
Laura Lyden, a travel consultant and former intern at the Walt Disney World College Program, echoed those sentiments.
“This is Walt Disney World’s newest dining experience and has quickly become 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 a spirited sculptor, and Daisy as a beautiful ballerina, mingling among the tables.”
Liden also noted that things here might be less hectic than elsewhere. “It’s a much less chaotic place and the characters spend a fair amount of time at each table for pictures. This location is a set menu with breakfast only notes and is one of the hardest places to order (and it’s a must) but it’s so worth it,” she said. “And the a la carte menu is delicious with my favorite being the wood steak with a side of chantilly waffle (yes, you can get both for the same price).”
Professional tip: Make your reservation 60 days from the point of travel. Stayers can also make same-day bookings for their entire stay (up to 10 days out), so it’s best to try to finish the trip.
3. Epcot Center
Event planner, Disney aficionado and expert Sienna Bird says Epcot Center cannot be dismissed as a great place to have amazing character experiences. “Epcot is a fantastic place to tick a lot of characters off your bucket list,” she said. “My favorite character location is in Mexico. I never pass up the chance to meet Donald in his sombrero and poncho!”
Cook-Litz agrees with Byrd’s assessment. “Many guests share that they don’t want to visit Epcot because it’s more educational than fun. I couldn’t agree more! Not only are there so many great features at Epcot, but it’s a fantastic place to meet characters,” said Cook-Litz. “You can meet Belle in France, Joy (from Inside Out) inside ImageWorks, Alice in the UK, Princess Jasmine in Morocco, Snow White in Germany, Mulan in China, Anna and Elsa in Royal Sommerhus in Norway, Vanellope (from Wreck-It Ralph) in ImageWorks, and so much more!”
Professional tip: Don’t ignore the consensus thoughts of our experts – plan to include Epcot for great character experience opportunities.
4. Eats stories
Artist point with Snow White and friends
For fans of Snow White – or rather Dopi the Dwarf – you’ll want to go to Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White and Friends – the only place where you’ll have a regular chance to meet Dopi the Dwarf! You will also meet Snow White, Grumpy and even the Evil Queen!
“It’s a playful meal and wonderful motifs. Snow White, Grumpy and Doffy greet guests at their tables while you get an audience with the Evil Queen on your way out,” Lyden said. “This location is dinner only and the food is more upscale than any other character dinner on site, which to me is worth the high price per person”
Professional tip: Due to popularity, reservations are required and can be made 60 days prior to arrival.
5. The city square
City Square Theater
Start your day off 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 the town square,” Armbruster said. “The best way to see Mickey here is to get Genie+ for the day and use one of your Lightning Lane picks to ensure you don’t wait too long in line. Trust me on this one – the line is usually at least half an hour to see the mouse host.”
Professional tip: Mickey is usually available for meet and greets here from the open park until one hour before the park closes for the day. He will also take short breaks during the day.
6. Chef Mickey
Disney’s contemporary resort
Further proof that some great chances to meet characters can come while enjoying a great meal, Byrd says a trip to Chef Mickey at Disney’s Contemporary Resort won’t disappoint. According to Bird, it’s a great place to go for memorable character encounters.
“Character meals provide amazing opportunities to interact with your favorite mouse or princess! I love starting a vacation with a visit to Chef Mickey’s to see what fun the Fab 5 have cooked up,” she said. “If you’ve eaten at Chef Mickey’s, try to catch Mickey and friends elsewhere like Topolino’s Terrace or Tusker House. You can find them wearing creative themed costumes based on the theme of the restaurant.”
Professional tip: Although they require additional tickets, holiday parties bring fun characters that are sometimes hard to find. Some enjoy the parties for the themes, snacks and shorter wait times for rides, but others go solely for the chance to catch rare appearances by favorite characters. That means the Jack and Sally queue will stay pretty full, and so will the queues for your favorites in their Halloween costumes!