Category Archives: Magic Kingdom

Character Meet and Greets

In continuing with the theme of the “basics” of a Walt Disney World vacation, today’s topic is Character Meet and Greets.  Disney has a lot of characters and a lot of visitors want to meet those characters.  In my opinion, Disney has developed three ways for guests to meet their favorite characters:

1) Character Meals: Table-service meals where Disney characters rotate through the dining hall for pictures with the guests.

2) Formal In-Park Meet and Greets: Pre-established areas, with set design, where guests can go and meet the characters.

3) Informal In-Park Meet and Greets: These are spontaneous or known areas where guest can go and meet the characters.

Each type of meet-and-greet has its own pluses and minuses.

Character Meals:

At Walt Disney World, there are plenty of opportunities to get a meal and autographs/pictures with your favorite characters.

In the four parks:

Animal Kingdom: Donald’s Dining Safari at Tusker House (breakfast and lunch only) – Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy

EPCOT: Chip N’ Dale’s Harvest Feast at Garden Grill (dinner only) – Chip N’ Dale, Pluto, Mickey

Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Banquet Hall (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) – Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Princess Aurora, Ariel, Mary Poppins

Note about this meal: All characters listed are not guaranteed to appear at your meal.  They rotate based on the day and meal.

Guests also receive a professional photo package which includes: 4 prints (4″x6″) and 1 6″x8″ print with one of the princesses.  The package is delivered to the table during the meal.

Hollywood Studios: Disney’s Play N’ Dine at Hollywood and Vine (breakfast and lunch only) – Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Handy Mandy, Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates

Magic Kingdom: A Buffet with Character at The Crystal Palace (breakfast, lunch and dinner) – Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger

Fairytale Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) – Cinderella, Ariel, Aurora, Snow White; The Fairy Godmother appears at dinner.  This is a TWO table-credit dining experience.

Guests also receive a professional photo package which includes: 4 prints (4″x6″), 1 6″x8″ print, 1 6″x8″ print of Cinderella’s Castle, and a Cinderella Themed Photo Folder

Children (ages 3-9) also receive a special gift: a princess wand for girls and prince’s sword for boys

Meals at the Resorts:

Contemporary Resort: Chef Mickey’s Fun Time Buffet at Chef Mickey’s (breakfast and dinner only) – Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto

Grand Floridan Resort and Spa: Supercalifragilistic Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare (breakfast only) – Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, and The Mad Hatter

Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare (dinner only) – Cinderella and Prince Charming, The Fairy Godmother, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella,  Some characters may only be seen in the lobby for pictures.

Polynesian Resort: ‘Ohana’s Best Friends Breakfast featuring Lilo and Stitch (breakfast only) – Lilo and Stitch.  Often Mickey Mouse and Pluto appear but are not guaranteed.

Yacht and Beach Club Resort: Beach Club Breakfast Buffet at Cape May Cafe (breakfast only) – Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy

 

My family has gone to every character meal on this list except the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare.  We love going to character meals.  It has many advantages.   First, a guest can meet a lot of characters in a short period of time since most of the meals take about 60 to 90 minutes.  Second, a guest can see the characters in “non-traditional” attire.  For example, Mickey Mouse is dressed as Farmer Mickey at Garden Grill, Safari Mickey at Tusker House and Chef Mickey at Chef Mickey’s.  Third, it gives the guest a chance to relax, sit down in an air-conditioned environment while the characters come to them as opposed to the other way around.

The major drawback to the character meals, guests are taking away time in the parks to spend time at a meal.  Another drawback is if a guest is not on the Disney Dining Plan, these meals can be a bit pricey.  Most of them are buffets and not true sit down meals.

That being said, you can get some great pictures and some quality character interaction.

My daughter at Chef Mickey's with Minnie Mouse
My daughter at Chef Mickey’s with Minnie Mouse
And with Donald Duck at Chef Mickey's
And with Donald Duck at Chef Mickey’s
Daughter with Cinderella at 1900 Park Fare
Daughter with Cinderella at 1900 Park Fare

Sometimes if you get seated at the right place, you can get some good panoramic pictures of the resort.

View from our table at Chef Mickey's
View from our table at Chef Mickey’s

Formal In-Park Meet and Greets:

This group of meet and greets is set only in the parks.  When Disney, first opened, almost all the meet and greets were informal.  If you saw a character walking through the resort, you could stop and take pictures.  As more and more people wanted to meet the characters, Disney made the meet and greet more formalized.  They set up permanent locations where people can go and meet the characters.  There are many locations where guests can do this.  Another way to determine if a meet and greet is formal or informal is to ask this question: Is there a wait time listed for the meet and greet?  If the answer is yes, then it’s a formal meet and greet.

Animal Kingdom: Currently there are no formal meet and greets anymore.  Disney is in the process of creating Avatar Land which is scheduled to open in 2017.  In the process of creating this land, they had to eliminate the Camp Minnie-Mickey.  Camp Minnie-Mickey was a place was guests could meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and a rotating set of characters.  There were also informal meet and greets that would spring up when the lines for the other characters go too long.  My daughter got the chance to meet Thumper and Miss Bunny at one of the informal meet and greets.

EPCOT: The EPCOT Character Spot – Mickey, Pluto, and Minnie Mouse

EPCOT is also the best place for informal in-park meet and greets.

Hollywood Studios: Hollywood Studios doesn’t have a meet and greets which meet the “wait time listed” criteria.  However, they do have four meet and greets where guests can meet characters in a formal setting with themed backdrops:

Outside of Disney Junior Live – Disney Junior Characters on a rotating basis

Phineas and Ferb Meet and Greet outside of Muppetvision

Monsters University in Pixar Place

The Animation Courtyard – Typically Sorcerer Mickey, Winnie the Pooh, and characters from non-princess Movies

Magic Kingdom: Magic Kingdom has the most formal character meet and greets.

Ariel’s Grotto – Ariel as a mermaid

Pete’s Silly Sideshow (2 queues) – Donald Duck and Goofy in one queue; Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse in the other.

Princess Hall (2 queues) – Cinderella and Rapunzel  in one queue; Anna and Elsa from the movie Frozen in the other.

Note: the wait times for Anna and Elsa can approach the four hour range.  As I’m writing, the listed expected wait time is 300 minutes (5 hours).  Two tips: either get in line right away or use a Fastpass+ experience for this.  The Fastpass+ should cut the wait time down to “only” 30 minutes.

Tinker Bell’s Nook – Tinker Bell and the other Disney Fairies

Town Square Mickey – Magician Mickey Mouse

These meet and greets are a good way to meet characters but have the drawback of potentially long wait times to meet one, maybe, two characters and waiting, for a portion of the time, outside.  Still the pictures can be good:

The family with Phineas and Ferb
The family with Phineas and Ferb

 

My daughter with Mike and Sulley from Monsters University
My daughter with Mike and Sulley from Monsters University
My daughter meeting Sorcerer Mickey in the Animation Studio.
My daughter meeting Sorcerer Mickey in the Animation Studio.

Informal In-Park Meet and Greets:

These meet and greets vary in location and/or time of day.  There is no set schedule when this type of meet and greet takes place.  The best thing to do is to ask a Cast Member or Guest Relations when a guest arrives at the park.  Some of the same meet and greets take place every day (for example: Princesses like Snow White and Mulan in EPCOT have a set schedule) , however, not all of them do which is why it is best to ask upon arrival.  This is also a good chance to see rarely seen characters.  Typically, the lines for this type of meet and greet is shorter than the formal meet and greet given there is no set schedule.

Meeting Minnie Mouse at EPCOT
Meeting Minnie Mouse at EPCOT

This is a rarity – meeting one of the “Big Five” characters at an informal meet and greet.  My daughter and I were walking through EPCOT during the Food and Wine Festival, last year, as I was taking her picture in front of every booth and Minnie came walking out.  We, immediately, stopped her for a picture before a line could form.  She came out with this guy:

My daughter with King Louie from Jungle Book
My daughter with King Louie from Jungle Book

As we continued to walk through the World Showcase, we passed into China and Mulan was out for pictures and autographs.  This was the first time we had seen Mulan in our travels.  As a result, she was one of the few princesses that daughter didn’t have her picture taken with.  So, we stopped for a picture.

My daughter with Mulan in the China Pavilion.
My daughter with Mulan in the China Pavilion.

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Halloween and Christmas Parties

Walt Disney World, every year, hosts two parties: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, in September and October, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in November and December.  Both parties take place at the Magic Kingdom.  Today’s blog is going briefly discuss what goes on at these parties and when we get closer to the events, I’ll go into more detail about tips and strategies to maximize the enjoyment of going to these parties.

First, both of these parties are “hard ticket” items which means that guests have to purchase tickets IN ADDITION to any park tickets already purchased.  Also, these events only take place on select nights.  On these nights, guests who have tickets to party may enter the Magic Kingdom starting at 4 pm where they will be given a wrist band for Cast Members to see in order to gain access to attractions and meet-and-greets.  The party officially starts at 7 pm and Cast Members start moving non-ticket holders out of the park and the party comes to a close at midnight.

Starting with the Halloween Party, these are the nights when it will take place:

September 1, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26 and 28

October 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 21, 23 24, 26, 28, 30, and 31

Advance Sales Ticket Pricing

September Dates: $62.00+tax ages 10 & up; $57.00+tax ages 3-9

October Dates: $67.00+tax ages 10 & up; $62.00+tax ages 3-9

Advance Sales are available for all the dates in October except the 10th, 17th, 24th, 30th, and 31st where same day ticket pricing is available.

Day of Event Ticket Pricing

September Dates: $68.00+tax ages 10&up; $63.00+tax ages 3-9

October Dates: $71.00+ tax ages 10&up; $66.00+tax ages 3-9

October 31st: $77.00+tax ages 10&up; $72.00+tax ages 3-9

Annual Passholder and DVC Member Discounts

Ticket discounts are available for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members for all the September and select October Dates (October 3, 10, 17, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, and 31 are excluded from the discount) $58.00+tax ages 10 and up; $53.00+tax ages 3-9

With the dates and ticketing out of the way, what does a guest for their $60+ dollars.  Let’s start with the map:

Not So Scary Party Map
Not So Scary Party Map

There is something for everybody: trick or treat trails for the kids and kids at heart, spectacular themeing, specialty food and drink treats, a Halloween Parade and a special showing of Halloween themed version of the Wishes Fireworks Show, and appearances by rarely seen characters.

My family meeting the Seven Dwarfs
My family meeting the Seven Dwarfs

Two of the most popular meet and greets are the Seven Dwarfs (as seen above) and Jack Skellington and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas.  This is also one of the nights where the Disney Villains are out in the parks (seen below).

Disney Villains
Disney Villains

The villains are seen mainly in the parade and one of the many dance parties that occur throughout the evening.  The usual suspects (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, etc.) are also out in the parks available for meet-and-greets in costume and at dance parties during the event.

My family has gone to the Halloween Party twice during our visits to Walt Disney World and we have enjoyed both visits.  We learned a lot from that first time.  The most important thing we learned is lightweight costumes that are breathable are a must.  It is still hot AND humid in Florida during September and October.  The last thing a guest wants to do is start shedding layers of a costume off and trying to find a place to store it while in the parks.   The other thing we learned is: If there a certain character that a member of your party wants to meet, find where the meet-and-greet is going to take place and get in line early.  The wait time will only grow throughout the night and the characters may only be out for a short time.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Timing of the Christmas party is the same as the Halloween party: ticket holders can enter the park starting at 4, non-ticket holders are ushered out starting at 7, and the party is over at midnight.

Very Merry Christmas Party Dates:

November 7, 10, 13, 14, 16, 20, 21, and 30

December 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, and 19

Advanced Sales Ticket Pricing

Advanced Sales Pricing is available for all dates EXCEPT: November 21 and 30; December 5, 12, 18, and 19

All dates except those listed above: $67.00+tax ages 10 and up; $62.00+tax ages 3-9

Day of Event Pricing

All dates (except December 19): $71.00+tax ages 10 and up; $66.00+tax ages 3-9

December 19: $74.00+tax ages 10 and up; $69.00+tax ages 3-9

Annual Passholder and Disney Vacation Club Members Pricing

All dates except the dates listed above in the advanced sales ticket pricing: $62.00+tax ages 10 and up; $57.00+tax ages 3-9

Like the Halloween Party, here’s the map for the Christmas Party:

Christmas Party Map
Christmas Party Map

The Christmas Party is very similar to the Halloween Party in terms of what takes place. They both have a special parade and version of Wishes, holiday treats are available throughout the park, the characters are dressed up in Christmas attire, and there are rarely seen characters out in the parks.

There are two main differences between the Halloween Party and Christmas Party are: 1) Cinderella’s Castle is covered in Christmas lights and it snows on Main Street during the party.  Both can be seen below.

Snow on Main Street
Snow on Main Street
Cinderella's Castle Lit Up for Christmas
Cinderella’s Castle Lit Up for Christmas

The most well-known character that appears during the Christmas Party is Scrooge McDuck.  Like in the story, he’s not giving out any of his money….sorry!

Scrooge McDuck
Scrooge McDuck

The Seven Dwarfs also make an appearance at the Christmas Party.

Seven Dwarfs Dressed Up For Christmas
Seven Dwarfs Dressed Up For Christmas

The same rules, from the Halloween Party, apply for meeting these characters: find out from a Cast Member where the special meet-and-greets are taking place and get in line early.

The parade that takes place during the evening is one of the must-see events of the party.

Opening Float of the Christmas Parade
Opening Float of the Christmas Parade

The parade proudly announces that this is Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade.  The parade continues with floats showing the various Disney characters in Christmas attire.  And the parade wouldn’t be complete with an appearance by the “Big Guy.”  No, not Santa.  But MICKEY!

End of Christmas Parade
End of Christmas Parade

 

If a person is planning a trip in the second half of the calendar year and asked me which of the two parties is better party to attend, I would answer the Christmas Party.  Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Halloween.  The combination of heat, humidity, and getting dressed in a costume makes it even less appealing.  Now, November and December when the weather is a little cooler, the humidity isn’t as oppressive, and I get to celebrate Christmas.  That’s a home run!  My best tip for the Christmas Party is to bring extra layers of clothing.  It can get chilly in November/December at night in Florida and packing a jacket or sweatshirt to keep you warm can go a long way in making your party more enjoyable.

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What’s New

Just this week, Disney has announced the completion of a new ride and three new items around Walt Disney World.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train has been completed and will open to the public starting on May 28, 2014.  There could be soft openings between now and the 28th but nothing is guaranteed.  The Mine Train completes the New Fantasyland construction project.  The project added a second Dumbo ride, Under the Sea – a Journey of the Little Mermaid, Ariel’s Grotto (an Ariel meet and Greet), Enchanted Tales with Belle, the ever popular Be Our Guest Restaurant, the Barnstormer roller coaster, Pete’s Silly Sideshow where guests can meet Donald, Goofy, Minnie and Daisy in vintage county fair attire, and the Princess Fairytale Hall where guests can currently meet Anna and Elsa from Frozen, Cinderella, and a rotating fourth princess (usually Rapunzel).  It was quite the expansion project and took over two years complete and attractions opened in three different stages.

A preview of the Mine Train ride can be found here (courtesy of Theme Park Review): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9A4vjeYLcXw

 

If you are a Disney Visa cardholder, you are eligible for Free Disney Dining on a select dates in the fall.  This promotion will be available to the general public starting on May 7, 2014 for stays booked before August 8, 2014.  Since it’s a new blog and I haven’t talked about it yet, here’s the scoop on Disney Dining.

First of there are three levels of Disney Dining Plans:

Quick Service Disney Dining Plan: 2 counter service meals (per night), 1 snack (per night), 1 refillable mug (per stay)

Price per night in 2014: $41.99/adult, $16.03/child aged 3-9

Standard Disney Dining Plan: 1 counter service (per night), 1 table service (per night), 1 snack (per night), 1 refillable mug (per stay)

Price per night in 2014: $60.64/adult, $19.23/child aged 3-9

Deluxe Disney Dining Plan: 3 meals at your choice of counter or table service (per night), 2 snacks (per night), 1 refillable mug (per stay)

Price per night in 2014: $109.53/adult, $29.86/child aged 3-9

If you stay in a Value resort like the All-Star Resorts or Pop Century, your stay qualifies for Free Quick Service Dining.  For stays in Moderate, Deluxe, or Villa Resorts, your stay qualifies for the Standard Dining Plan.  This promotion is what made my family take their first Disney vacation.  For a family of four (2 adults, 2 kids) that stay for six nights at a Moderate resort, it can save that family $958.44 using this promotion.  That’s quite a savings.    This is Disney’s most popular promotions and each resort that is eligible (All Star Movies, Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, and 3-bedroom villa are not eligible) only has a select night of “Free Dining” rooms are they fill up quickly.

Disney is bringing some nightlife to the Animal Kingdom park with the introduction of “Harambe Nights” for the summer.  This show will run from June 7, 2014 to August 9, 2014.  The evening starts with a reception featuring appetizers, wines, beers, and soft drinks.  After the receptions, guests will be brought into the new Harambe Theater for a new show, “The Lion King in the Wild.”  This show will feature celebrity narrators, a live orchestra, along with dancing and sings in a 55-minute stage show.  After the show, the night moves back to Harambe Village for a street party where the guests can participate.  The night ends with dessert.  The event runs from 7:00-10:30 pm.  General admission tickets are $119 for ages 10 and up and $79 for ages 9 and under.  Floor seats are $134 for ages 10 and up and $94 for ages 9 and under.

The last bit of new information is a nod to Disney’s past.  Disney’s Polynesian Resort will be reverting to its original name Polynesian Village Resort Hotel.  The name change is part of multi-year reimagining project which includes the addition of Disney Vacation Club villa and bungalows, guest room renovations, renovations to the pool and the Grand Ceremonial House.  The resort will also see the addition of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto which will feature tiki-styled drinks and polynesian-themed small plates.

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading.