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Maximizing your Character experience at Disneyland









by Tiggerific Diva

For young ones and those young at heart, meeting your favorite Disney character is a thrilling and memorable experience. My daughters are at the age where they love taking pictures with the characters and getting their autographs. The only drawback is the lines for popular characters such as the original fabulous six or the Princesses can be extremely long. We have learned a few tips and tricks over the years that have helped us reduce wait times, capture those special moments and provide us with lasting memories.

Find Characters using the Disneyland app

No more carrying around the paper map of Disneyland with all the park information. Thanks to the Disneyland app (available for Android and iPhone) you now have all things Disneyland related at your fingertips. From the drop down menu on the park map you can select characters and see not only where each character will be located in the park that day but also what times they will be there. This is extremely helpful if you’re trying to get a picture with a character that is only out and about on certain days or times of the year. I’ve found it helpful to get over to the area where the character will be five to 10 minutes before the character is due to arrive. Not only do you snag a spot at the front of the line but your child may get the opportunity to walk along holding hands with the character on their way to the location.

Meet characters during non-peak times

Maximizing your Character experience

Star Wars Launch Bay

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received about meeting characters came from a Cast Member at California Adventure. For high demand characters, go during meal times. When most park goers are getting breakfast, lunch and dinner the lines for characters are much shorter. We met Anna, Elsa and Olaf during lunchtime and there was only one family in front of us when we arrived. The same is true for meeting Mickey and Minnie at their houses in Toontown or the Princesses at the Royal Hall.

Arrive early

If deviating from your normal meal routine isn’t an option, consider skipping the rides when you first arrive to the park and meet the characters first. The fabulous six (eight if you count Chip and Dale) tend to be out and about on Main Street as the park opens and then off and on throughout the day. When morning lines are too long for you or your little one, try Toontown when it opens. Mickey and friends will be there as well and you can explore their houses while you wait. The Royal Hall opens up a little later in the morning, so you could ride a few rides and then hop in line before it gets too long. Some characters will show on the map being in multiple spots at the same time such as Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Alice and the Mad Hatter. They roam about the different areas between Fantasyland and the Small World ride greeting guests and taking pictures. Character Diva has some great tips for meeting characters in California Adventure!

Pictures and Autographs

Maximizing your Character experience at Disneyland

A practically perfect encounter

I personally love the way the characters interact with guests. Seeing a child have a conversation with Ariel about proper hair brushing using a Dinglehopper or Chip and Dale playing keep away with an autograph book makes for a memorable day. Once Pluto tried to steal popcorn from my youngest when she was 2. The look on her face was priceless and she still talks about it.

Disneyland sells autograph books with and without a spot for a corresponding character picture. You can find them in the shops on Main Street and the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney. If you’re looking for a different way to collect autographs, I have also seen characters sign shirts, hats, paper mats from photo frames and the Disney Encyclopedia (the book about all the Disney characters).

Quick Tip: Pack Sharpie markers instead of pens for autographs. They are easier for gloved characters like Mickey to hold.



Character Dining

Maximizing your Character experience at Disneyland

Minnie and Friends Character Breakfast

To maximize your character experiences without spending your day in line, consider booking a Character Dining experience at Disneyland or one of the Disneyland resorts. There are numerous Character Dining options at Disneyland. Character Diva provides an in depth comparison to help you decide which Character Meal option works best for you. We book the Minnie and Friends breakfast at the Plaza Inn every year and it’s a great opportunity to meet characters without feeling rushed.

On average we meet 7 characters; a few of them you won’t find anywhere else in the park. Goofys son Max, Rafiki from the Lion King and Geppetto from Pinocchio have all made appearances. You can also take a photo with Minnie before being seated. All the characters roam about while guests are having breakfast and stop at each table to interact, take photos and sign autographs.

Quick Tip: Dining reservations can be made 60 days in advance by calling Disney Dining, booking online or through the app. It is advisable to book your reservation as soon as possible. They fill up quickly!

PhotoPass cards

A lot of the character locations will have a Cast Member present who is a Photographer. This is a great opportunity to get the whole family in the picture without trying to take a selfie or missing that perfect moment. Photographers can capture the sweet moments you may miss if you’re juggling autograph books, pens and digging for your cell phone to take a picture.

When the Photographer takes the pictures they will ask if you have a PhotoPass card. If you don’t have one, they will scan a card and give one to you. The PhotoPass card is a way to keep track of all your pictures taken by Disney Photographers. Keep the card in a safe place and give it to the Photographer each time you have a picture taken. They will scan the code on the card and the picture will be uploaded to that card number.

After you arrive home from your trip, you can sign into the Disney PhotoPass website and view all the pictures. From there you can customize and order any prints you may want. Using Disneyland app on your phone, you can link the PhotoPass card and view the pictures that way as well. If you’re not interested in the PhotoPass option, the Photographer or another Cast Member will take pictures using your phone as well. All you have to do is ask.

Disney MaxPass and Disney PhotoPass+ One Week

Disney offers two digital options for guests who want to download all their photos taken by Photographers in the parks; Disney MaxPass and Disney PhotoPass+ One Week.

Maximizing your Character experience at Disneyland

Radiator Springs Racers Finish Line

With the Disney MaxPass you can download all the photos that were taken during one single day at the park. This includes any Character Dining experiences or rides such as Splash Mountain that take a picture at the end.

Once you have purchased the MaxPass and linked it to your account through the Disneyland app you can scan the QR code at the bottom of the picture displayed after the ride and download the photo. The MaxPass option will also let you book a digital FASTPASS right from the mobile app. Our very own Superhero Diva gives us all the details in her article MaxPass at Disneyland.

Park goers who are spending multiple days Disneyland would benefit from the PhotoPass+ One Week option. This option allows you to download all your pictures taken during seven consecutive days at the park. PhotoPass+ One Week includes Character Dining and ride photos. It does not include the FASTPASS option.

For both options you must link it to your Disney account in order to download photos. There is an expiration date on the photos. Be sure to download them before you lose them!

Quick Tip: If you purchase a digital option you will be given a QR code in the Disney app. Take a screen shot of the QR code and save it as the lock screen picture on your phone. That way it’s readily available for a photographer to scan and you’re not trying to unlock your phone and open the app every time.

Do you have any tips for maximizing Character experiences? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your tips in the comments.

If you would like information on planning your first or 50th trip to Disneyland be sure to contact Patricia at All For Dreams Travel for a free vacation quote.