Last year around this time, we were enjoying my oldest daughter’s first trip to Disneyland. She had turned 2 a few months before our trip – an age where some people might say it’s a waste of time to bring a toddler to Disneyland. But I love Disneyland and I had already learned from other amusement park trips that she absolutely loves dressed up characters, so I suspected she would have a great time…which she did. We then made several trips to Disneyland after that first vacation – up until right before she turned 3. I think the age 2-3 is perfect for kids to visit Disneyland, since their admission is free! I had a fabulous time on all those trips – and here is my list of things that helped make it an enjoyable time for all.
1) NO selfie sticks allowed! The parks will absolutely not allow them in, so don’t even try…
2) Check crowd calendars (many different websites have variations of these) to figure out the best time of year for you to go, considering the anticipated crowds. If you’re going at a busy time – be prepared for it to take a long time to get through the parks and be careful scheduling yourself for things that you might end up being late for because of time to get around the parks.
3) Disneyland app – the official Disneyland version is incredibly helpful. It provides info for both parks – Disneyland and California Adventure. Its many features include ride wait times AND the schedule and location of character appearances, as well as important ride information like height requirements. There are so many rides at both Disneyland and California Adventure that allows kids of all ages and heights, but a few do have height restrictions, so make sure to check before you stand in line.
4) Food/snacks – although the official park rules might not state this, you can usually bring in your own food and snacks. You can’t carry around a cooler, but bringing some of your own edible items into the park reduces some of the cost and time involved in purchasing all your food items from Disney.
5) Water – many restaurants will provide a free cup of ice and water if you ask for it- no additional purchase required.
6) Fast passes and single rider lines – definitely important to grab a fast pass for certain rides VERY early in the day; Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure is one example. Single rider lines are also a great option to reduce your line wait time, if you are OK with your party being broken up and not going on the ride together. There are limits on how many fast passes you can have; here is a good run down of the rules.
7) Rides with consistently short lines – certain rides like Winnie the Pooh and the Little Mermaid usually have very short wait times and are a great way to enjoy a ride without waiting too long.
8) Playgrounds – a great place for kids to run around and burn off some energy. There are fabulous play areas in Mickey’s Toon Town in Disneyland and at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail in California Adventure.
9) Photo Pass- even if you don’t purchase a Photo Pass, the photographers are usually more than happy to take a photo of your family if you hand them your camera or phone.
10) Meeting Mickey and Minnie – my favorite places for this are in Mickey’s House and Minnie’s House in Toon Town. The line for meeting each of them goes winds through their respective “houses” which features some fun interactive features for young kids.
11) Character meals – one of the most efficient ways of meeting characters! The characters come around to each table while you enjoy your meal. Kids under 3 eat free! I like to do the character breakfasts, as a nice way to start the day and by doing it in the morning, we don’t have to scramble mid-day to get to lunch or dinner reservations.
12) Quiet spots – whether it’s the adults or the kids in your group who need to get away from the crowds, it’s good to have an idea of places to go where there aren’t so many people. My favorite quieter and less crowded spots tend to be Critter Country and the Hungry Bear Restaurant at Disneyland (although the previous great view onto the river is gone because of Star Wars construction.) However, at Christmas time, Santa Clause can often be found in Critter Country – so it’s possible it could be a bit more crowded in that area than usual. There are also some indoor venues that can offer a bit of respite from outdoor crowds. These include the Animation building in California Adventure (also the spot to go see Turtle Talk with Crush- a great attraction!), and Star Wars Launch Bay at Disneyland (where often you can meet characters like Chewbacca.)
13) Ride selections – keep in mind that some rides do have height requirements and other rides like Snow White’s Scary Adventures can be a bit scary for some younger kids.
14) Must eat food – turkey legs, Dole Whips, beignets….the list goes on and on.
15) Mickey’s Fun Wheel- this is the beautiful ferris wheel at California Adventure, and it’s a great ride – but most people will want to choose the regular/stationary line, not the “swinging” line when going on this attraction. The swinging gondolas can make many people VERY queasy. The regular line provides a wonderful trip around the ferris wheel with great views of the parks.
16) Tower of Terror – still open at California Adventure through the end of December – absolute MUST do (for people who enjoy thrill rides), since the ride is being closed in January and re-vamped to a Guardians of the Galaxy theme. Best time to go on this attraction is at night, in my opinion!
17) Meeting characters – there are so many to meet at each park; be selective about which ones you want to stand in line for. If you’re asking for an autograph, make sure to have your pen and paper out and ready for the character when you are in the front of the line.
Those are just a few of my tips for enjoying a fabulous trip to Disney. Have a great time!