(A version of this article was shared with Pirates & Princesses and published on November 27, 2023.)
The holidays are upon us here at Walt Disney World. Plenty of festive decor adorns the theme parks, both water parks, Disney Springs, and all the resorts (if you want a peek behind the curtain to see how the decorating is done, check out Decorating Disney: Holiday Magic on Disney+).
The most magical time of year also brings holiday parties, and crowds of guests looking to get a little face time with their favorite Disney characters in their holiday finest. Most of the more rare character appearances happen at Walt Disney World’s two holiday parties – Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom and Disney Jollywood Nights at Hollywood Studios. However, a few treats also exist outside the two event parties.
Without further ado, here are the top characters to meet at Walt Disney World during the holidays (note: this is not meant to be a complete list of all characters you can meet during the holidays – it’s just the best of the best)! You can find a listing of all published characters on Disney’s website or by using My Disney Experience.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t see Mickey and friends all throughout this list. It’s not that the top mouse isn’t super special, but he and his closest friends are available most everywhere, and this list is reserved for more unique character experiences. That being said, there are a few Fab Five character experiences that will pop up here.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – Magic Kingdom
Unsurprisingly, the lion’s share of the hot holiday characters can be found at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Here are the most rare or unique you can meet.
Sandy Claws and Sally
What’s this? Sandy Claws and Sally have brought their signature brand of holiday charm to Town Square Theater at the heart of Main Street, U.S.A. This multi-festive pair usually commands a long line, so get there early, or find them during the fireworks to minimize your wait time.
Remember what I said about not including Mickey and friends throughout this list? Well, this is one of those exceptions I mentioned. Santa Goofy is a perennial fan favorite, and he’s meeting guests this year outside Pete’s Silly Sideshow. Aside from the Christmas Party, you can find Santa Goofy meeting in place of Santa Claus beginning December 25th (when Santa has other duties to fulfill). You can also meet Santa Goofy at Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine in Hollywood Studios.
The Seven Dwarfs
Another huge draw for fans at the Christmas Party gives the most bang for your yuletide buck. Meet all seven dwarfs in one shot inside Pete’s Silly Sideshow. Keep your phone snapping pics – those dwarfs are full of cheerful shenanigans.
Scrooge McDuck and Donald
Yet another fan favorite at the Christmas Party is everyone’s favorite miser – Scrooge McDuck. He and his nephew Donald meet guests near Dumbo the Flying Elephant – alternating the space with Minnie and Daisy.
One of those adorable toy soldiers who march in Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas Parade cheerfully greets guests on Market Street (the entrance for the Christmas Party) from 4-8 PM. This meet and greet is new this year, and it’s a fun way to start the evening.
Guests can see and meet Belle in numerous places throughout Walt Disney World. But what makes this experience special is her holiday festive gown. Belle has long been famous for her classic holiday style, and this year is no exception. You can meet her in Maurice’s Cottage (by Enchanted Tales with Belle).
You didn’t think I’d leave the “big red man with the long white beard” off the list, did you? Santa Claus himself meets guests throughout the Christmas Party – as well as during regular park hours – in Liberty Square, at the Gazebo behind Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe (one of my favorite shops in all of Walt Disney World).
Disney Jollywood Nights – Disney’s Hollywood Studios
New this year at Walt Disney World – Jollywood Nights offers a glitzy, yet traditional, spin on the yuletide season. This hard ticket event opened with a handful of unique character meets, and quickly added more after the first night, due to guest demand. With the details and performance of this holiday party in flux as it finds its groove, I can’t offer a guarantee that all of these characters will continue to appear. But let’s take a look at a few of the best we’ve seen.
This 1990s sensation has been a favorite among millennials who grew up loving 1995’s A Goofy Movie. Powerline Max only makes occasional special appearances, and Jollywood Nights suits him just fine. You can find Max by Echo Lake.
Phineas and Ferb
Perhaps the single biggest character draw at Jollywood Nights is the dynamic duo of Phineas and Ferb. This zany pair meets guests by Echo Lake, and commands quite a long line. Strategize accordingly, if you want to meet them without burning too much of your party time.
Edna Mode and Frozone
“Happy Holidays, Darling.” Edna Mode – Disney’s most elite fashion maven – makes a rare appearance during Jollywood Nights. She greets guests alongside Frozone – Pixar’s “coolest” character – at Pixar Plaza. Bring your best runway look for this greeting.
The following characters were added to Jollywood Nights after opening night, and may (or may not) continue to greet guests throughout the remainder of the season.
Duffy fans, rejoice! The Disney bear who once resided at EPCOT has been all but absent from Walt Disney World in recent years, with the exception of exclusive Disney Vacation Club member parties at EPCOT. Not only is Duffy back – he’s sporting the most adorable Santa outfit. Duffy the Disney Bear has a cult following, and fans can find him in the Mickey Short Film Theater.
Mary Poppins (and One of Her Famous Penguins)
We can always count on Mary Poppins to save the day, and she was brought in to do just that, greeting guests on night two of Jollywood Nights. Seeing Mary herself is not particularly unique – she routinely meets guests in EPCOT’s U.K. pavilion, and also seasonally at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. But here at Jollywood Nights, she has brought along one of her precious penguin pals. Perfection! The pair meet guests at Grande Avenue (alternating with Snow White and Dopey).
O’hana means family. It also means Stitch is nearby! Experiment 626 has donned a festive Santa suit to meet guests by Echo Lake. In addition to Jollywood Nights, guests can meet Stitch at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in tropical attire. But for my money (and my time waiting in line) I’ll choose this adorable Santa version.
Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio
“Give a little whistle!” Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio – two of the rarest characters to meet in all of Walt Disney World – are greeting guests at Center Stage near the Chinese Theater. Note that this pair alternate with each other at the location, so guests will not be able to meet both at one time.
“Ho Ho Ho!” Not going to Jollywood Nights? During regular park hours, you can meet Santa at It’s a Wonderful Shop on Grand Avenue.
Magic Kingdom and Hollywood studios may be hogging the holiday character spotlight, but EPCOT offers quite a bit of festive cheer as well – especially in World Showcase.
Meet the Santas
EPCOT’s International Festival of the Holidays features seasonal tales and traditions from around the world. Several of the biggest draws around World Showcase are the European Santas. Père Noël performs for guests in the France pavilion, Barn Santa demonstrates his signature hijinks in the Norway pavilion, and Father Christmas elegantly spins his yuletide tales in the U.K. pavilion. While these legendary holiday figures may not specifically meet and greet with guests, you may be able to get a quick pic with them after they finish their story.
The big man himself is back in EPCOT this year, meeting with every good girl and boy (of any age) at the Odyssey pavilion, located between Test Track and the Mexico pavilion.
Disney Springs is not to be left out of the fun. Before you wander the famous Christmas Tree Stroll, stop and make a couple visits first.
Image: WDW News Today
Walt Disney World has a new holiday celebrity, and his name is…Douglas Fir! This potted miniature fir tree wanders his way through Disney Springs striking up conversations with guests when he feels the whim. Douglas doesn’t stay in one place for too long, so it may take a little effort (and some luck) to find him. But he’s well worth the quest!
It seems Kris Kringle is pretty much everywhere around Walt Disney World, and Disney Springs is no exception. You can meet Santa at Once Upon a Toy (near Earl of Sandwich). In addition to this meeting spot, hungry guests can meet Santa (and his elves) at Maria & Enzo’s, by attending the “Breakfast with Santa” meal.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this list is by no means meant to be a complete listing of characters you can meet during the holidays. But these are the most unique you’ll find. Even those characters that are relatively easy to find throughout the year dress up in their holiday finest for a festive experience.
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