If you are visiting Walt Disney World with little ones, character meet and greets will undoubtedly be a big part of your vacation. Unfortunately, most people equate these character greetings with long lines, and so they are seen as less than desirable experiences for the adult counterparts in the group. Once you go to WDW enough times, you begin to learn where to go and when to avoid the lines and the crowds, and enjoyably secure the autographs and hugs of your children's beloved friends. This week's column will focus on one such tip.
This tip brings us to Epcot. Do you remember the one stand-out message in all of my park touring advice posts? It is, above all, to arrive at the park of choice early! This tip is no exception. If you are willing to wake up early and get to the turnstiles in time for park opening, you will have a great chance of meeting Mickey and his gang all at once, getting their undivided attention, and capturing this magical moment on camera (see my photo above*)!
The key here is to stay ahead of the pack! This means to be among the first at the turnstiles and in the front row at the rope! If you have younger children in tow, you will most likely be skipping Soarin'. Or, if you plan to child swap, have one adult member of your party be prepared to head to Soarin' to grab FASTPASSes - because you and your kiddies will be cutting through the Soarin'-bound crowd, heading right into Character Spot! Of course, there are times (like our past trip in January) when there is no rope. In this case, you would keep walking (very briskly!) from the turnstiles right to Character Spot! Make sure to get a park map ahead of time if you are unsure of where it is, but it is basically right in front of the rope.
When you arrive, if you are lucky enough to be the FIRST people through the doors, you will be greeted by all of Mickey and his gang as the FIRST FAMILY! We have been lucky enough to have this honour three times now. Each time the characters have entered differently. Sometimes they have all been there waiting, sometimes Mickey and Minnie are outside and lead you in, and last time, Mickey greeted us, then all of the other friends popped out from behind the props! Either way, it's a magical experience that your children will never forget. They spend a nice amount of time interacting with your little ones, playing peek-a-boo with babies, or giving high-fives and hugs to the older ones. Then it's time for the highly coveted group photo! After the photo, the characters disperse to their usual spots and you get to go visit each character AGAIN! This is where you would collect their autographs, and .... don't forget: more hugs!
The amount of undivided attention that your child receives makes them feel like a movie star. It really is a memorable experience, because it is so rare to get all of the gang in one spot! Attempting to be the first family at Character Spot is definitely one of our family's MUST-DOs at Epcot, and once you do it once, I'm sure it will be one of your family's, too!
* Pluto was absent from this photograph, because, as the Cast Member explained, he was having "issues" that morning. He is normally present!