The Essential Guide to Finding Rare Characters at Walt Disney World

Meeting Disney characters is one of the best parts of a magical vacation at Walt Disney World; after all, the magic and memories that they bring to each meet-and-greet is unparalleled and it’s fun to have a new conversation with them with each visit! Although Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse and Cinderella are characters that offer regular meet-and-greets at Walt Disney World, there are also RARE characters that are hardly ever seen, such as Hercules and Meg, Mr. Smee, Pinocchio, and more. This guide highlights how and where to find rare characters at Walt Disney World in order to increase your chance of seeing or meeting a rare Disney character during your vacation!

What are “Rare Characters” at Walt Disney World?

At Walt Disney World, a “rare character” refers to a character that is not frequently spotted and/or rarely does meet-and-greets in the parks and/or resorts. In essence, these characters may only pop up at holiday parties, “character palooza” events, or other events, as they are often off doing other adventures! Because of this, it’s impossible to guarantee that a meet-and-greet with a rare character will happen, but if you know when and where rare characters more frequently make appearances, you can increase your chances!

Related Post: The Essential Guide to Finding and Meeting Characters at Walt Disney World

Where to Find Rare Characters at Walt Disney World

While finding rare characters at Walt Disney World is almost never a 100% guarantee, there are some ways to increase your chances, especially if you attend during certain times of the year or know where rare “pop-up events” frequently happen. These are where you are most likely to find rare characters at Walt Disney World!

Character Palooza Events

“Character Palooza” is a term for an unannounced pop-up character meet-and-greet event that usually features multiple Disney characters; while these events may include characters that regularly meet in the parks, there are usually also some RARE characters, such as Mr. Smee, Pinnochio, Baloo, and more. Character Paloozas are unannounced and unadvertised (you won’t find them listed on the My Disney Experience app!), so it’s just a matter of stumbling upon them at the right time. 

It is also important to note that (in my experience) there are sometimes NO LINES for the characters at these events; they only meet for a short period of time, so even if you see a character, there’s no guarantee for a photo or autograph with them. However, you can approach and ask the character attendant if there is time for a photo and/or autograph!

I met Pinocchio at a Character Palooza event at International Gateway!

From my experience visiting Walt Disney World, the majority of Character Palooza events happen at EPCOT in one of three locations:

  1. International Gateway: I’ve seen multiple Character Palooza events happen at International Gateway (the back entrance of EPCOT between the UK and France pavilions), ranging from as little as 1 character to multiple characters. From what I can tell, this is where they most frequently happen, so I highly recommend taking a peak at International Gateway during your visit to see if any Character Paloozas are happening there! (I’ve met Pinocchio here!)
  2. American Adventure Pavilion: The walkway to the left of the American Adventure Pavilion (next to Regal Eagle Smokehouse) is another frequent Character Palooza location. (I met Mr. Smee here!) 
  3. Pathway near World ShowPlace Events Pavilion: The World ShowPlace Events Pavilion is usually blocked off by a gate, but the walkway near it is open. I met Minnie Mouse here in a pop-up character event, but this is the only time I’ve spotted a character meeting at this location.

In addition to EPCOT, Character Palooza events have also happened at Hollywood Studios; however, I’ve never personally seen an event there, so I can’t speak as to how they work at that park or their frequency.

Character Dining

Character dining is the BEST way to meet characters! After all, there are no lines and you get to sit comfortably at your table, eating delicious food, while the characters come to you!

There are approximately a dozen character dining locations at Walt Disney World, but only a few offer the opportunity to meet RARE characters*, including:

  • Story Book Dining at Artist Point with Snow White: Although Snow White is a frequent character at the parks, this character dining experience also offers meet-and-greets with rare characters Dopey, Grumpy, and The Queen!
  • ‘Ohana: The Best Friends Breakfast offers meet-and-greets with Stitch and Lilo (a rare character!).
  • The Crystal Palace: This character dining spot offers 4 meet-and-greets with Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and Eeyore. (Although Winnie the Pooh and Tigger are regular characters in the parks, the other two are not.)

*PLEASE NOTE: This list was last checked and updated in March 2024. Always check character offerings for your meal before booking! Character appearances are also subject to change, so a certain character may be missing from the experience or a new one may appear!

Character Cavalcade

Character Cavalcades are more of a “character sighting”, as they are essentially a brief parade where you can spot characters but can’t get an autograph or photo with them. However, they are an amazing way to see rare characters in-person without standing in a line!

Genie waving during a Cavalcade in Magic Kingdom

As of March 2024, Walt Disney World currently offers two character cavalcades:

  • Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade: Essentially a brief parade in Magic Kingdom starting in Frontierland and ending on Main Street, the Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade is a mini parade that offers the chance to see multiple rare characters, including Miguel, Raya, Bruno, and more. Some of the characters do walk around (instead of being on a float), so if you’re in the front row, there is always a chance that they could approach you for a brief interaction.
  • Flotilla and Character Cruises: Animal Kingdom has 4 flotillas and character cruises, in which characters from different movies (including rare characters) are on boats and cruise around Discovery River, waving to guests on the side paths and bridges. I’ve seen a variety of rare characters this way, including Scrooge McDuck, Meeko, and more. 
Russell and Doug float by on a Flotilla at Animal Kingdom

runDisney Events

Walt Disney World offers runDisney events each year, which not only offer early morning runs throughout the parks, but also the chance to meet rare characters for those participating in the events! Although character location spots are always subject to change, past character spots have been at the runDisney Health & Fitness Expo, as well as before the start line, various points throughout the race, and the finish line. Needless to say, there are plenty of opportunities to meet characters during these exciting events!

In 2024, Walt Disney World runDisney events include:

  • Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (January 3-7)
  • Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend (February 22-26)
  • runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend (April 18-21)
  • Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend (October 31-November 3)

Holiday Events and Parties

One of the biggest reasons to attend a party or other holiday event at Walt Disney World is the plethora of RARE characters that make guest appearances! This is especially true of the well-known Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, although other holiday events can also occur. (Such as Disney Jollywood Nights that took place at Hollywood Studios in 2023.) 

These well-known holiday parties have had a plethora of rare characters available for meet-and-greets, including Cruella DeVil, Jack Skellington and Sally, Queen of Hearts, the Seven Dwarfs, and more. However, regularly-meeting characters (Winnie the Pooh, Stitch, etc.) are also at the parties, but usually have festive outfits on. (Stitch in his Elvis outfit is the best!) 

Some not as well known holiday events and parties that happen throughout the year that increase the chance of meeting rare characters include:

  • Valentine’s Day: Valentine’s Day frequently sees the princes (who typically only appear in parades) do meet-and-greets with their princesses. However, the lines get long for these meet-and-greets and the character line-up is NOT announced in advance of the holiday. 
  • Mardi Gras Celebration: Disney’s Port Orleans Resort throws an annual Mardi Gras Celebration, which features a parade, block party, and (you guessed it!) characters! Princess Tiana is a frequent character in attendance, but past years have also had appearances from Louis and Prince Naveen. (I stayed at Port Orleans – French Quarter during Mardi Gras in 2024! Don’t miss my full breakdown of the Mardi Gras Celebration, as well as a room and resort tour of Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter.)
  • Disney PhotoPass Day: This “holiday” event hasn’t happened at the parks in recent years (the last occurrence was in 2018), but it’s worth keeping an eye out in case it makes a resurgence. Essentially, Disney PhotoPass Day was a way of celebrating “World Photo Day”, which occurs annually on August 19, in which rare characters would make one-day appearances across various Walt Disney World Parks. In the past, rare characters included Bolt, Jafar, Mushu, Captain Hook, and more. The character line-up and the parks they would be at were typically announced anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks in advance on the Disney Parks Blog.
Louis made an appearance at the 2024 Mardi Gras Celebration at Port Orleans Resort!

Bonus Tip: During events and parties, I highly recommend utilizing the My Disney Experience app to look at which characters are meeting, the times, and the location of the character meet-and-greet. Not all characters meet throughout the entire day, something I found to be especially true on Valentine’s Day!

Daily Parades

The Disney parades are host to many rare characters that don’t regularly participate in meet-and-greets; at Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom’s daily “Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade” includes rare characters such as Flynn Rider, Captain Hook, Prince Phillip, Pinocchio, and more. However, the parades only offer you the opportunity to see the character, not meet them. 

There is a small chance that a non-float character (i.e. a character that is not on a float and is walking around during the parade) may approach you, especially if you are in the front row of the parade. While you won’t be able to get a photo or autograph, it may be possible to have a brief interaction with the character if they approach you. This is why I highly recommend sitting in the front row of the parade, if possible. 

Bonus Tip: In the past, Disney has also had “Street Parties”, which included parade floats with characters that stop and have dance parties. As of March 2024, there aren’t any of these currently happening (or announced to be happening in the future), but it’s worth keeping an eye out for when planning a trip, as these have included rare characters in the past!

As a former Cast Member and current Annual Passholder, rare characters have created some of the most memorable interactions for me and it’s always special when I see them in the parks! Be sure to check out these posts for more character tips and info for making the most of your vacation to Walt Disney World. 

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