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A character meal is a more intimate way of meeting the characters. The characters make sure to spend quality time with each table so you don’t feel rushed. The downside is the expense. Meals at Disney aren’t cheap to begin with and you will pay even more than that to eat it with a princess or a mouse.
I won’t give you a list of the many character meal options here (instead I’ll give you a link) but I will tell you my suggestion would be to check out the meals outside of the parks as they will probably be less crowded (again, this is Disney so “less crowded” is a relative concept).
Another fun way to meet characters is to go to one of the meet and greet areas. More and more, Disney is just using a space for a meet and greet, but creating a meet and greet area. Meeting Buzz and Woody in Pixar Place at the Studios is a good example of this. The Town Square Theater where you can meet Mickey and Minnie is another example. A less extravagant example is the Phineas and Ferb meet and greet area at the Studios.
The Studios is also a great place to meet characters from the latest Disney movies. The Magic of Disney Animation has an area especially for new characters. On our honeymoon, my wife and I went to see Up in theaters on opening night. The next day at Hollywood Studios we stumbled upon this area and were able to get pictures with Carl and Dug.
There is also a great place to meet Mickey in this place too. Also, because this is kind of out of the way and because The Magic of Disney Animation isn’t a gate buster attraction, the lines don’t get too long, even the one for Mickey.
The last piece of advice is to not underestimate Epcot as a great place to meet your favorite characters. Innoventions West is home to the Epcot Character Spot is a great place to meet the Fab Five plus a few more classic characters like Chip N’ Dale. World Showcase is another hidden gem when searching for characters. On our honeymoon, we stumbled upon Pooh and his friends in a back room in the UK.
What stories do you have in your searching for various characters? Where have you seen that one that you couldn’t wait to meet?