Lightning McQueen in Cars area in Disney's Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World Resort

8 Ways to See Disney World Characters at the Resort Hotels

Guests young and old love seeing their favorite Disney characters during a Walt Disney World vacation. Whether posing for a picture next to a regal Disney Princess or the Big Cheese himself, Mickey Mouse, starting the day with a delicious character breakfast and some beloved Disney friends, watching them take to the stage during a character-filled show or stepping into their story on a ride inspired by a Disney movie, there are tons of opportunities for Disney character interactions both inside and outside the theme parks.

In fact, some characters even hang out at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels. So, if you’re looking for a reason to book that Disney resort reservation for your family, here’s your sign! Of course, unlike the theme parks where you can pretty much find Disney characters around every corner, knowing how to see them at the Disney World hotels can be a little bit trickier. Luckily, we’re here to help demystify the magic and give you even more fun ways to come face-to-face with your favorites. Let’s get started!

Decor in lobby area in Disney's Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World Resort

FAQs About Finding Disney Characters at Walt Disney World Resort Hotels

Disney character spotting isn’t as straightforward at the Walt Disney World resorts as it is at the theme parks. Still, if you know where to go and what to look for, there are plenty of ways to add some Disney character magic to your Disney World hotel stay. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Can you see characters at Disney resorts?

Yes! So much of the magic of Disney World takes inspiration from the characters and stories of Disney’s movies and shows, and the Walt Disney World hotels are no exception. As we’ll get to in a little bit, characters pop up in all sorts of ways at the Disney resorts, from in-the-fur appearances like Disney character meals and surprise meet-and-greets to more artistic expressions like character-inspired design details and immersive theming.

When it comes to characters, some hotels at Disney World are more pixie-dusted than others. Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and Disney’s Contemporary Resort both come to mind as being prime destinations for character spotters but for very different reasons. Places like Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, meanwhile, are on the opposite end of the spectrum, with far fewer nods to Disney characters than what you’ll find at many of the other Disney hotels. This is definitely something to consider when deciding which Disney World resort hotel is right for you and your party, especially for families traveling with kids.

Roger Rabbit statue at Pop Century Resort

Do characters walk around Disney resorts?

Usually not. Just like at the Walt Disney World theme parks, where characters typically greet their adoring fans from dedicated meet-and-greet locations, characters greeting guests at the Disney resorts tend to be confined to a specific spot. Keep in mind that this “spot” could actually be relatively large. Think the dining room at Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, where characters like Mickey and Minnie mill about from table to table, or around the Meadow Trading Post area of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, which plays host to Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long.

Still, will you see Cinderella roaming the hallways at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort in search of her glass slipper or Moana strolling the beach at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, dreaming about how far she’ll go? As cool as that would undoubtedly be (talk about a magical moment!), we’re sorry to report that that is almost certainly never going to happen.

Which Disney resort has the most characters?

That depends on what kind of character experience you’re interested in. If it’s meet-and-greets and character dining we’re talking about, then your best bet is to go to a character meal with a more expansive guest list. Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort has the most to offer in terms of characters, with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto all typically in attendance. In contrast, if you are looking to immerse yourself in Disney character magic all throughout your hotel stay—whether walking to your room, cuddled up in bed or swimming in the pool—then you can’t beat the Art of Animation Resort. After all, it’s an entire hotel dedicated to the colorful worlds and characters created by Disney animators.

Pool featuring Disney characters

How to See Characters at Disney World Hotels

Hoping to see some Disney characters during your next Walt Disney World hotel stay or while doing some resort hopping? Although there are a few traditional character encounters to be had, sometimes you need to get a little, well, creative. Fortunately, we know just where to look to bring a sprinkle of pixie dust to your Disney resort visit.

Hang Out with Your Favorites Tableside During Disney Character Dining

Without a doubt, the best way to see characters at Disney World hotels is by doing a character dining experience. Not only do you get to enjoy lots of tasty food, but you’re also treated to tableside visits by a cast of characters. It’s a win-win! And, as an added bonus, it can even save you some time in the long haul since you won’t have to wait in line after line to have quality time with your favorites.

Remember that character meals can be among the most popular dining experiences at Disney World. So, be sure to make an advance dining reservation ahead of time if you know that this is something you want to squeeze into your visit. Tables can be booked up to 60 days ahead of time, with new time slots dropping at approximately 6:00 AM daily. Once it’s time to eat, be prepared for the big moment by bringing your camera and an autograph book.

Resort restaurants with Disney character dining experiences include (characters in attendance are subject to change):

At the time of writing, some character meals have yet to return following the pandemic and remain listed as “temporarily unavailable” on the My Disney Experience app and the Walt Disney World website. They include:

  • 1900 Park Fare in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa with the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast (featuring Alice and The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger) and the Happily Ever After Dinner (featuring Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella)
  • Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk with Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, Ariel and Prince Eric
  • Disney’s Perfectly Princess Tea at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa with Princess Aurora

Mowgli and Baloo in The Jungle Book area at Disney's Pop Century Resort in Walt Disney Word Resort

Be Surprised by Pop-Up Character Appearances

Although there aren’t typically Disney character meet-and-greets at the Disney World hotels, every once in a while, a Disney friend pops up and surprises you. Don’t believe us? It’s true! On my most recent visit to Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, I was equal parts shocked and delighted to see Alice from Alice in Wonderland hanging around greeting guests. (Does it seem like a bit of a random resort for a quintessentially British character? Yup! We would have expected somewhere like the Grand Floridian or even the nostalgic BoardWalk Inn instead, but we digress.)

Since you won’t find these pop-up meet-and-greets posted anywhere, including on the My Disney Experience app, there’s no way to prepare for when or if these surprise moments might happen. And, if you ask us, that’s part of the fun! All you can do is make some space for vacation serendipity, always have your autograph book and camera with you and sit back and let the Disney magic happen.

Go Nuts at Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground

Would you believe us if we told you that you don’t need to pay a penny to meet characters at Disney World? Considering the high cost of park tickets and character dining experiences, you would probably think that a free character meet-and-greet was next to impossible. If that’s true, then Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is proof that vacation miracles do happen.

Offered nightly before the evening’s Movie Under the Stars, weather permitting, this Fort Wilderness tradition is completely complimentary for all Walt Disney World guests. You don’t even need to be camping onsite or staying at one of the Fort Wilderness cabins to participate. The only thing to keep in mind is that getting to this nutty campfire, which takes place at the Meadow Trading Post recreation area, can be a little complicated. Unless you’re a resort guest or have a dining reservation or other activity booked, you’re most likely going to have to take a bus from one of the theme parks, or if you’re coming from Magic Kingdom, a water taxi is also available.

Once you arrive, you’ll be treated to campfire songs and shenanigans starring everyone’s favorite chipmunks, Chip ‘n’ Dale, as well as a campfire for roasting marshmallows and making s’mores (ingredients are available for purchase). The fun officially starts around 7:00 PM during the fall and winter and around 8:00 PM over spring and summer. However, Chip ‘n’ Dale usually show up around 30 to 45 minutes earlier to play games and hang out with guests.

Fantasia Mickey water fountain

See Them Take to the Screen During Disney Movies Under the Stars

Whether you decide to stick around after Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long or you’re relaxing back at your own Disney World hotel, another character-inspired experience you can enjoy is a Movie Under the Stars. We say “character-inspired experience” because there aren’t actually any Disney characters stopping by for photos and autographs. Rather, you’ll see them splashed across the screen during a Disney film.

Sure, it isn’t quite as magical as actually rubbing elbows with your favorite Disney characters, but these al fresco movie screenings are still a wonderful way to cap off a day in the parks with a dash of pixie dust. Best of all, they’re completely complimentary! Showtimes and featured flicks vary from resort to resort, so be sure to check with the front desk if you’d like to take advantage.

Sebastian and King statues outside Little Mermaid building

Pose for a Photo During a Virtual Character Meet-and-Greet with Disney Character Clicks

Wish you could take a photo with your favorite characters without having to stand in a ridiculously long line or spend a whole bunch of money for a character meal? Well, now you can, sort of, with the all-new Disney Character Clicks. Available in the lobbies of Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort and Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort for a limited time, these high-tech photo booths offer a virtual meet-and-greet experience starring classic Disney friends like Mickey, Minnie and Pluto in their snazzy D100 duds.

All you need to do is unlock the experience with your Disney MagicMobile Pass, MagicBand or Key to the World card, select which characters you’d like a photo with, then strike a pose and wait for the photographic magic to happen. Afterward, your complimentary pics can be downloaded directly from the My Disney Experience app. So, can Disney PhotoPass Character Clicks match the magic of a regular meet-and-greet? Nope, not even close. However, the technology is pretty nifty. Plus, we think it’s a great alternative for those who want to take photos with Disney characters without committing a chunk of time to an in-person interaction.

Big dalmations sitting outside of All-Star Movies Hotel

Look for Disney Character-Inspired Design Details Big and Small

As we hinted at earlier, many hotels at Disney World have elements inspired by the beloved Disney characters. Many of them are subtle, like art or motifs in the carpeting or curtains, while others are big, bold and brash, like the larger-than-life character icons at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort or Disney’s Pop Century Resort. As a result, there is a Disney resort to suit whatever kind of vibe you’re after, no matter if you’re a group of Disney adults or a family with kids.

While picking out those hidden details can be a lot of fun all on its own, for those who are hoping to really immerse themselves in character magic, we have some suggestions. To add some more magical moments to your photo roll, be sure to take advantage of the awesome photo ops available at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Pop Century Resort, All-Star Music Resort, All-Star Movies Resort and All-Star Sports Resort. Here, stories-tall Disney characters like Crush from Finding Nemo make ideal backdrops for vacation photos.

Want to feel the pixie dust from the minute you wake up in the morning until the time you fall asleep at night? You’re in luck! Several resorts at Disney World have immersive, character-themed rooms that allow you to feel like royalty with Princess Tiana, stay under the sea with Ariel, party it up with Lightning McQueen and more. Character-themed Disney World hotel rooms, ranked from highly immersive to slightly more subtle, include:

Crush and Dory at Finding Nemo area in Disney's Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World Resort

Search for Hidden Mickeys and Other Disney Pals During a Scavenger Hunt

Want to make your merry quest for characters a little more official? Embark on one of the resorts’ character-inspired scavenger hunts. Completely free and lots of fun, Disney hotel scavenger hunts aren’t only a great way to admire all of the incredible character-themed design (oh, you crafty Disney Imagineers!), but they can also be excellent for killing time as you wait for a dining reservation, your room to be ready or after checking out. Availability for these character scavenger hunts can change depending on the day of the week or the season. So, talk to a Front Desk cast member to see what’s available. Walt Disney World Resort hotels to offer scavenger hunts inspired by the Disney characters include:

Greet the Morning with a Wake-Up Call from Mickey Mouse or One of His Character Pals

Ok, you can’t actually see any Disney characters with this last suggestion, but you can hear them! Rather than just setting the alarm on your phone to get up for your day in the parks, get a wake-up call from Mickey Mouse or another Disney character instead. Yup, you heard us! We don’t know about you but we can’t imagine a better way to start a Disney day.

To request a Disney character wake-up call, all you need to do is call the Front Desk and request one or simply press the wake-up call button on your in-room phone. Alternatively, in rooms with the all-new “Hey, Disney!” assistant, you can also set an alarm with a message from a character to wake you up in the morning as well. Then, just head to bed and let Mickey or one of his pals take it from there. Keep in mind that the character you hear during your wake-up call is completely random, but you’ll usually hear Mickey or one of the other Fab Five.

Life-size Foosball Players Outside The Pop Century Resort

Well, Disney character fans, what’s your favorite way to see your favorites at the Disney World hotels? Is there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments! Then, find out how you can save some cash on your next Disney vacation with our discount theme park tickets.