If you have ever been to Disneyland with kids, then you know what it’s like to stand in LONG lines just waiting for your child to get a 10 second meet-and-greet with Mickey Mouse. You smile, snap a quick picture, and you’re on your way to the next long character line.
That was NOT our experience AT ALL with meeting Disney characters in Hawaii at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa. Our two year old son, Austin, got to repeatedly see character after character, and he had minutes (not seconds) of time to interact and “hang out” with them!
He left Hawaii thinking that Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, and Moana were his best friends! When we saw Mickey Mouse again in Disneyland a month later, Austin walked up to him and started casually chatting with him about several things they “did together” in Hawaii.
Needless to say, Aulani provided one of the best overall character experiences that we have ever encountered. For Austin, it was a total dream come true!
Places to meet Mickey Mouse
There are so many opportunities to meet Mickey Mouse and other fan favorite Disney characters all around Aulani. Some characters we just happened to bump into, while other meet and greets were scheduled or part of a coordinated activity. With all the ways to see your favorite characters, your child will feel like best buds with them all before your trip is over!
Seeing Characters Out and About
On our trip, we spent the majority of our time each day enjoying all the resort had to offer. Some mornings we walked down to Ulu Cafe for a delicious acai bowl and would run into Donald Duck. In the afternoons, Austin would be playing on the Menehune Bridge and spot Moana walking down the path.
The characters are dressed in their Hawaiian attire, adding to the overall Disney Hawaiian vibe at the resort. One of our favorites was when Goofy appeared by the Waikolohe Stream wearing his board shorts and snorkel gear. He was ready to dive into the ocean for a swim with the tropical fish!
Planned Aulani Character Experiences
If simply running into characters on occasion isn’t enough for you (or your Pluto obsessed child), then there are ways you can make it a priority.
Aulani makes it easy on you and provides a ToonFinder phone number that you can call each day from 8am-8pm. You will hear the specific times and locations for each scheduled character appearance that day.
I called and got this information a few days during our stay. Make sure you have a pen and paper ready because the information comes and it comes fast! I swear they were on 2x speed! I even had to call back and listen to the information a few times in order to write all the details down.
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Pro Tip: Have your resort map beside you to reference as you listen to the daily times and locations for the character appearances. If you are not familiar with the lovely Hawaiian language, it will be helpful to hear the location and read it on the map at the same time.
Additional Character Appearances
Additionally, you can still plan to see characters without having to call a number and give yourself a hand cramp from speed writing. Each day there is a selection of activities that happen all around the resort, and it’s pretty common for Mickey, Minnie, Moana, and some of their pals to be a part of the fun!
- Ka Wa’a, A Lū‘au at Aulani, also gives you an opportunity to see Moana and maybe another character or two, both on stage and up close for pictures.
- If your kids are three years old and up, they can spend time at Aunty’s Beach House, where characters like to drop by unannounced. As parents, you will miss out on this fun, so if you can handle waiting to give Pluto a high five until later…this could be a fun interaction for your KIDS to enjoy.
If you are wanting to have a more private and exclusive meet and greet with the Disney characters, there are opportunities for that too.
- Are you a Disney Vacation Club member? If so, there are exclusive meet-and-greets made available only to members!
- Do you love unlimited breakfast food? (Who wouldn’t?!) Then schedule a reservation at the Disney Character Breakfast at Makahiki. It’s a fabulous chance to get tons of playful interaction with multiple Disney characters at once. I’ll talk more in detail later about our experience with the character breakfast at Aulani.
PRO TIP: It is a good idea to make a reservation for the character breakfast at Aulani ahead of time, as their availability does fill up. We made our reservation over the phone shortly after we booked our trip.
Our FAVORITE Aulani Character Experience
We personally saw Disney characters in almost every way previously mentioned, but there was one experience that takes the cake! This is the experience that we still tell others about. Hopefully, Austin will be telling the story for years to come!
Location. Location. Location.
I called the character line number in the morning so we could plan out which character times would fit into our schedule. Most of the character meet-and-greet locations were in spots around the Waikolohe Valley (the central outdoor area of Aulani with all the pools).
But there were a couple of meet-and-greets taking place on the Hālāwai Lawn. Minnie, Pluto, and Mickey were all supposed to be in that same location back-to-back-to-back. It felt like a perfect opportunity– efficiency at its finest (and I am ALL ABOUT being efficient).
I was a little unsure of where the Hālāwai Lawn was…so…I had to do some in person verification to locate it and establish my optimal point of access. NOBODY wants to be the clueless parent wandering around aimlessly trying to find Mickey only to never arrive and end up with a child in tears.
As I was trying to find the lawn, I kept thinking, “Why in the world would you have the characters in a spot that was so hard to find?!” Little did I know…the isolated location would set us up for the best character experience ever!
When we showed up, there were MAYBE two or three other families on this HUGE palm scattered lawn. Austin decided to say hi to Minnie first. He proceeded to give her a hug and blow her kisses–such a boy. Minnie swooned as he batted his adorable eyelashes and gave her a look that said, “Do you have dinner plans later?” Why do they grow up so fast?!
The other families left, so we were the only ones talking with Minnie. Austin continued with the hugs, the eyelashes, the smiles, and the endless attempts to woo his wannabe mouse friend. Minnie’s undivided attention was all on Austin, and he was soaking up every little piece of it!
A few minutes later, Pluto showed up! Again there were MAYBE two or three other families that showed up to see him, took their pictures, and left. We stayed. Austin got to have yet another few minutes of undivided attention from Pluto. There was less flirting (he saves it for the ladies) and more playful interaction with high fives, hugs, and licking (by Pluto the dog–not Austin the toddler) Although, I am now realizing we missed a golden picture opportunity…next time!
Bo and I kept looking around and waiting for another family to come, but no one did. At this point, our experience shifted from a meet-and-greet with Pluto into a one-on-one playdate.
Pluto and Austin started playing every two-year-old’s favorite game–hide-and-seek! Pluto covered his eyes and turned around as Austin started looking for a good hiding spot. You wouldn’t think it would be too difficult to hide from a person wearing a giant dog head costume, but it is not as easy as it sounds when you are standing on a wide-open lawn, with nothing more than skinny palm trees for cover. Luckily, Austin spotted a rock his little body could fit behind.
After a few dramatic seconds of searching the area, sniffing the ground, and doing what dogs do, Pluto found Austin, grinning from ear to ear. Now it was Austin’s turn to seek.
Pluto chose to “hide” behind a tall skinny palm tree. The trunk couldn’t have been much more than 12 inches wide, so “hiding” is a generous term since he was more exposed than hidden. But it was adorable!
As Austin started to make his way across the lawn to find Pluto, Mickey showed up. He realized they were playing hide-and-seek, so he crouched down and hid behind another nearby palm tree. It was at this moment I realized, my kid was LIVING THE DREAM! He was playing hide-and-seek with Pluto and Mickey as if they were a trio of best pals!
The only thing that could make his experience any better was if Minnie returned to continue her doting on Austin…About five minutes later that dream came true as well.
Austin miraculously found Pluto and Mickey, who were so surprised. Austin was full of giggles. He was having the time of his life, so he shared a few more hugs with his new “best friends.”
This was the absolute best character experience, and one of the reasons Aulani is an incredible place to see Disney characters! Now, Austin talks about Disney characters as if they are his real-life friends.
When he sees them in Disneyland, he doesn’t pose for a picture or give a quick hug. Instead, he strikes up a conversation about what he ate for breakfast and asks what they have done with their day so far.
The cast members always get a kick out of it because he is so comfortable and casual with the characters. But hey, isn’t that the way you act around your friends?
PRO TIP: The best way to turn a photo op into an interaction your child won’t forget is to prepare your child with a few questions/topics to discuss with the character prior to meeting (ie complimenting their outfit, asking where another character is, asking if they like to dance, etc). The characters don’t talk, but they will interact with your child as long as you continue in conversation.
Character Breakfast at Aulani
While it is pretty difficult (dare I say, impossible) to top our hide-and-seek experience, Aulani’s Disney Character Breakfast at Makahiki truly was a close(ish) second. You pay a little extra for this breakfast experience, but you will get to see lots of characters and enjoy good ol’ Disney fun!
What to Expect at the Character Breakfast at Aulani
Immediately after arriving, they placed us in a line to meet Mickey Mouse before being seated. We got our own official photo op surrounded by the lush tropical plants providing a gorgeous backdrop for the photo.
After we were seated, we kept an eye out for the Disney characters and tried to be strategic about how much time we thought we had before they visited our table. Characters will work their way around the restaurant, trying to stop at each table for pictures and laughs.
Pro Tip: Go to the buffet in shifts and leave your kids at the table the entire time. That way you won’t run the risk of being gone when Goofy comes over. Sometimes the characters only have enough time to stop at each table once and can’t circle back, so you don’t want to miss them.
Throughout your breakfast, the characters come to your table and interact with your party. We fell victim to the classic “tap you on one shoulder and you turn around…only to see nobody” trick from Goofy multiple times. Donald tried to sneak a bite of our food, and Minnie swooned at our waffles in the shape of her love, Austin…I mean…Mickey Mouse.
There is entertainment throughout your meal in addition to the character interactions. Aunty and the characters will sing and dance around the restaurant. They even let the little ones join in the fun! Be alert and ready to wipe off those jelly smeared faces in 0.2 seconds flat so they can run out to dance with maracas and Minnie!
Pro Tip: Keep your camera ready at all times! (Unless you want to pay through the nose for the overpriced photo package.) You never know when a character will show up and do something cute that you want to capture on film.
Is the Character Breakfast at Aulani Worth it?
People are always asking, “Is it worth the money to go to a character breakfast at Aulani?” I think it depends on you and your kids. Is it something that your kids would be THRILLED about and soak it all in? Or is it something that your kids would not be phased by because they would rather fly down the water slide ten times?
You know your kids best and whether or not it is an experience they would enjoy. Although, the food is pretty delicious, and I’m sure Bo would say it is worth it just for the endless POG (Pineapple-Orange-Guava juice).
Austin LOVES the Disney characters and any chance to see them, so for us, it was ABSOLUTELY worth it! We embraced the experience, and it was a blast! Make sure you plan for the additional cost ahead of time in your budget, then you will avoid sticker shock when you get the receipt.
PRO TIP: If you have younger kids, it’s a good idea to do this breakfast later in your trip like we did. Your kids will have plenty of time to get comfortable with the characters around the resort and build excitement each time they see them (for free) before spending the money on this breakfast experience.
Whether you focus on the planned encounters with Disney Characters or you just wait to see who you will see throughout your trip, you will have many opportunities to enjoy meeting your favorite characters without crazy long lines or much of a hassle.
Aulani provides unique opportunities to meet your favorite characters in multiple ways. Choose what works best for your family and roll with it! Maybe you too can have an extra special experience like ours that will remain a highlight for the whole family for years to come!