If your child is not scared of the characters, meeting them can provide your family with memories for years to come.
Character meals are one way to meet characters, and they come to you. Another way to meet them is while they are roaming Disneyland or Disney's California Adventure.
No matter how it looks when you see a character, there is a line. It usually isn't real straight, and many times people try to cut in by lining up on the side. It is important to note that there is never a character out and about without a character manager. This person is usually quite adept at catching these people, and telling them where they can find the end of the line.
Once in line the character manager will set a stopping point where the queue closes and no other people will see the character. The timing on this really depends on how hot it is when you see the character. If it is really hot they are out for a shorter time period. When you do get in line, be sure to have your camera ready and the autograph book opened to a page with a pen ready. A sharpie works very well as a pen in the Disney autograph books. The character manager will remind everyone to be ready so that a maximum of guests can see the character.
There are several places where you might run into characters out and about at Disneyland. Town Square is the location you enter when you go under the train tunnels after you enter Disneyland. There are often characters here so when you enter the park keep a look out. If you are coming in at opening with the intent of riding Peter Pan, go do that first and catch the characters later. At Town Square the characters are there frequently. You can see Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Mary Poppins and Bert, and other much loved characters hanging out in Town Square.
Coke Corner at the end of Main Street is a great place to see Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter playing musical chairs with a group of children. Occasionally Mary and Bert will talk to guests there and sometimes you can even see Peter Pan and Wendy. There are frequent character sightings in the afternoon.
New Orleans Square frequently has Pirates out and about, and from October through December, Jack and Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas will pose for pictures and autographs together.
In Critter Country right near the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh exit you will find a round queue. This is for the characters from that attraction. Usually by getting in line you will see at least one, but possibly two or even three characters. The ones that appear here are Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore. Sometimes Rabbit and Piglet come out for a few minutes, but they never get into this area, they are right by the cast member you see collecting Fastpasses at Splash Mountain.
In Frontierland you may run into Woody or Jesse near the Golden Horseshoe. Even Pluto can be found there sometimes. The barbeque on the trail to Fantasyland is also known to have a few characters, such as Chip and Dale appear.
Princess Fantasy Fair is the place to go for Princesses. You can go for storytelling, or just for a meet and greet but this is a must do for a Princess loving little girl.
Alice, Mad Hatter, White Rabbit and Queen of Hearts have been known to appear near the restrooms across from the Matterhorn. Once in a while they even do skits there.
Tinker Bell and her friends can be seen in Pixie Hollow.
ToonTown is the place to see Mickey and Minnie in their houses. They will not be there during a parade because they can't be two places at once though. Chip and Dale, Pluto and Goofy are often playing around here.
At Disney's California Adventure the hot spot for characters is at Sun Plaza (Buena Vista Street when the changes are complete). Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Max and Pluto use this area to greet guests.
Outside Playhouse Disney Live on Stage you may see characters from the Little Einstein's hanging around. Leo and June love coming out to say hi to the kids.
The Animation Building is a hot spot for Princesses out front and inside in the meet and greet area. If you watch Drawn to the Magic you can meet one of the characters in that show. The characters are usually Mickey, Cinderella and Woody and you will only have time for one line. If your child volunteers when they ask and gets picked, then your child will get a picture of the character they help with and the character will sign the picture. This is a drawn picture outline of the character.
On the corner facing the Hyperion Theater you may see characters from the Incredibles.
Near Tower of Terror you can frequently see Pluto or other characters who will pose with the attraction in the background.
Parades are another great way to see the characters at both Disneyland and California Adventure. While they can't stop to pose for pictures or sign those books, you can still get some great pictures from the parades.
If you have the Disney Visa, you can do a Character Meet and Greet at Disney's California Adventure. This is from 10-11am by the Monster's Inc. Attraction. This location can change at any time, so be sure to check the Disney Visa Rewards page to verify the meeting place before your trip. In addition to the meet and greet you will also get a voucher for a free 5 x 7 photo.