One day while planning our trip to Disneyland, my friend and I had this crazy idea: what if we went to the Disneyland Resort in costume? Well, earlier this month, our idea came to fruition when I visited Disneyland and California Adventure dressed as Marty McFly from Back to the Future, accompanied by several friends who were in and out of costume.

After hearing horror stories about costumed guests being kicked out of the park or denied entry, I was understandably as nervous as I was excited about jumping on Space Mountain as my favorite DeLorean-driving time traveler. 

But once we got in the park, I discovered that I had nothing to fear, and was in fact complimented by both park guests and employees (my favorite was the cast member running Star Tours who quoted Back to the Future over the ride’s intercom).

If you’re planning to cosplay in The Happiest Place on Earth, you might want to plan carefully how you go about doing so, as it isn’t always smooth sailing Peter Pan-style.

Many people assume that because Disney parks feature costumed characters, they are quick to accept costumed guests. However, many sources point to the opposite being the case. On the official Disneyland website, “adult costumes or clothing that can be viewed as representative of an actual Disney character” are not permissible, and technically, no one above the age of nine is allowed to enter the parks in costume.

This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to dress up, although you would do well to follow some basic guidelines to minimize your chances of being sent to the proverbial Disney Jail.

An example of what is NOT okay.
An example of what is NOT okay.

Don’t Dress Up As Disney Characters

It seems a bit hypocritical that Disney doesn’t allow guests to dress up as the characters on which their parks are based. But it’s understandable that they might be leery of visitors dressed in accurate costumes, as other guests might confuse them with costumed Disney employees.

Last year, a young woman dressed as Tinkerbell was denied entry into Disney World after having spent hours preparing, because her costume was deemed too accurate and elaborate. There are ways to get around this, such as those utilized by the popular blog “Disneybound,” that creates Disney character-inspired outfits while staying within the park’s dress code guidelines.

I have also heard of people dressing up as Kingdom Hearts characters (which is a brilliant idea) and getting away with it, so perhaps Disney knows that these characters will not be recognized by enough people to be worth prohibiting.

But if you want to play it safe, plan to dress as a character that isn’t associated with the multi-billion dollar corporation.

Ditch the Masks and Face Paint

The reason I don’t think we had a problem was because even though we were recognizable, there was nothing about our costumes that would qualify as “costume” material. All of my clothes could be deemed as “normal” clothes, and even though I probably looked strange dressed in five layers in 90-degree weather, it was only the combination of the clothes that made me look like Marty.

Had I, for example, dressed as a character who dons horns, wings, a tail, or any other accessories that would make it immediately recognizable as a costume, my luck may not have been so good.

In addition, Disney explicitly prohibits any kind of masks or significant face paint, so keep that in mind when planning your costume.

Limit the Self-Advertising

If a cast member sees you taking pictures and posing with other guests, or partaking in any kind of behavior that might make others associate you with Disneyland (or take away from its business and the “Disney” experience), chances are you’ll be talked to (unless you pull an Aladdin and hightail it out of there).

Disneyland is not a convention, and most visitors just want to mind their own business and go about their vacation. Play it cool and be casual. Be in character, but keep it reined in.

If there was anything that needed to get under control it was the ridiculousness of my mom jeans.
If there was anything that needed to get under control it was the ridiculousness of my mom jeans.

If People Do Recognize You, Make Their Day

My friends and I went to the “Pacific Wharf” area in California Adventure for lunch, and as I was ordering my soup, the employee at the counter stared at me for a second before he started geeking out over my costume. So I had a bit of fun with it, and broke into my best Marty McFly impression, asking if he’d seen Doc or my DeLorean around.

Surprisingly enough, I received several passing comments from cast members (“Come with me, Marty!”), as well as compliments from park guests, although most of them were directed toward Lauren’s Punk!Eleventh Doctor and Ashley as her accompanying TARDIS (“Bowties are cool, and so are you.”).

When it’s all said and done, dressing up at Disneyland was an incredibly fun and rewarding experience, and I ran into significantly fewer problems than I had originally expected to face. Given the reaction I received from the park’s employees and the amount of fun I had with my friends, I would absolutely do it again (Kingdom Hearts, anyone?).

As long as you play it safe and have a positive attitude, you will undoubtedly have the time of your life. In Disneyland, how can you not?

Have you ever cosplayed in a Disney park? Are you planning to dress up during your next trip to the Magic Kingdom? Share your thoughts and experiences in a comment below!

26 thoughts on “Cosplaying in Disneyland: Costume Do’s and Don’ts”

  1. I was just thinking about cosplaying at my next trip to walt disney world! At first, I wanted to be Madam Mim but, after reading this article… I don’t think it is the best choice. I would love to cosplay as a kingdom hearts characters though, can I join?

  2. Hey its really amazing to see the adventure you experience in Disneyland….I’ll also plan the same trip to Disneyland with my friends…Thanks for the tips which will really gonna help me during my visit…Thanks for the post also…

  3. I’m going to Disneyland this year and I plan on dressing up as a modern Disney character everyday. Would you say that all of the outfits on the Disney Bound site are safe to wear? I wanted to use it as my guidelines.

  4. Hey Faith! The outfits on Disney Bound’s actual site are all safe to wear at Disneyland. I would definitely use those as a guideline! Disney-Bounding isn’t about being 100% faithful to the character, it’s about paying homage!

    As for full on cosplay, Barry, the rules at Disneyland state that only children ages 9 and under are allowed to wear costumes to the park. I know many people who have worn their wigs though without a problem (except while on the rides)! I think Amy did a really good job of writing on how to cosplay in Disneyland, and I’d follow her guide.

  5. I dressed up like Cinderella (no wig) to Disneyworld last year. I didn’t have a problem getting in. In fact I got to the magic kingdom REALLY early to watch the opening of the park ceremony and I happened to meet the sweetest little girl who was so excited that a princess was watching the opening of the park with her. I took pics with her and we watched the ceremony while holding hands. When I got into the park the first thing I wanted to do was get in line for be our guest and they gave me a “magical moment” which is a dinner reservation so I wouldn’t have to stand in line. Then when I walked back to the front of the park a nice man gave me a ride to the front of the park where they put me in the front of the line to meet Mickey. All day everyone was super nice to me and I took tons of pictures with people who came up to me .. I even had a line at one point. I’m going to Disney land in a week and I’ll be Ariel (with a wig) we will see how it goes!

    1. Hi Jackie! Your costume isn’t identical to Belle’s costume in the park, but it’s close enough to where it might be considered too obvious by Disney staff. You can try your luck, but keep in mind that others have been turned away who have tried the same thing. If I were you, I’d try Disneybounding if you’re worried about being denied entry to the park.

  6. Hi! I’m planning to go to Disneyworld in Florida and I was wondering if you think it would be okay for me and my friend to cosplay as Dipper and Mabel. (We are both 12 years old.) Thank you.

  7. Hi! I have been wanting to visit disneyland in my cosplay for Maka Albarn but I’m afraid that I might not be allowed.i am planning on wearing a wig but not planning on bringing my scythe. Do you think they would allow this?

  8. Is wearing a wig allowed? I’ll be going to Disneyworld wearing a wig of Merida from Brave ((It’s the pic below)) wearing casual clothes? Is that fine?

  9. Hello! I’m planning to go to Disneyworld wearing a wig of Merida from Brave ((pic below)), But I’m not wearing the dress/gown, I’ll be wearing normal clothes. Is that fine?

  10. If denied, make a huge scene, say any character that isn’t Disney should be allowed, and threaten to sue them. ESPECIALLY if you are not in costume but merely a Lolita.

  11. Kingdom Hearts characters are NOT allowed. The group from Demyx Time cosplaying as Organization XIII was kicked out

    1. Really? Wow. I haven’t been to Disneyland in so many years, but do they have something KH related there or do they just not accept KH characters?

  12. I think one of the only exceptions is at Star War’s weekends at WDW. We saw tons of people in full authentic star wars gear without any issues.

  13. hi i’m doing several cosplays from steven universe and i’m wondering since i’m doing it in the halloween season they would let me off the hook? here are pictures of the characters i’m going to cosplay: and possibly a casual version of the last one

  14. I want to do a hetalia cosplay with my friends, and I was wondering if the actual uniforms would be okay, (e.g. Nyo! Prussia’s Austrian Sucession uniform, Hungary’s normal outfit) or if we’d have to go casual.

  15. If I understand correctly, I could come with my Waluigi cosplay, minus the face paints of course, have to act casual most of the time like the rest of the guests unless someone recognizes me and at that’s when I can get into character. That’s right?

  16. i cosplayed as Dipper Pines last month to Disneyland resort and california and well no one said anything or batted and eye and on that same day i saw a girl with a sailormoon cosplay dress so its safe to say if its not fully distracting you should be fine! tomorrow im wearing my jack skellington dress it wont be full cosplay but i am planning to go as link for sure for sure so look for me 😉

  17. You know there more reason to why adults can’t dress as Disney character or princess. It for a child’s safety there could. Be someone that lis a child molester looking to take a child. These the main reason adults can’t dress as Disney characters or Disney princess. This was an issue in the past at the Disney parks had several child molesters using Disney characters to to get to the children. We don’t hear about because Disney like keep things like this Hash Hash because it bad for business.

  18. Im thinking of cosplaying as Mabel from gravity falls or A sailor moon version of Ariel which one would I be better with

  19. Hmmm…I’m lucky enough to be a Florida resident, and to have become WDW annual passholder this year.

    I just got back from a four day excursion wherein we went to each park.
    While standing in line for Mission Space in Epcot, I immediately recognized two teenaged girls (about 15-18) as casual-cosplaying — one was wearing a lilac tank top with a high-waisted green fish-scale print skirt, with a bow in her brushed-back hair (Ariel), and the other had on a satiny, yellow, off-the-shoulder blouse with her brunette hair in a high-bun (Belle). I highly complimented their outfits…
    .. and decided that I totally wanted to do the same!

    I had been thinking that I would really like to be:
    Russell from UP! (with my boyfriend potentially being Mr. Frederickson).
    Or, Belle in her blue peasant dress (with my boyfriend being casual Gaston – red V-neck T-shirt, khakis, closed-toed black shoes.)

    I thought those might be acceptable because they all consist of “regular” clothes, and would not use any licensed costume pieces — it would be typical clothing just cherry picked for the ensemble. No hair dye, wigs, or masks.

    Having read the Disney rules, and then this article, I’m even less sure if it would be allowed or not.

    What do you think, OP/commenters? 🙂

  20. Are colored contacts allowed in the parks? I was going to go as a certain character who has… Uh… Strange colored eyes to say the least. It would be really cool to go to the happiest place on earth as him, but not sure if it would work. Also, is there like a rule for wigs? I’ll be wearing a blue wig (heavily pinned to my head so it doesn’t go anywhere, of course lol)the rest will be normal clothes. It’s only the contacts and the wig.

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