Hello. My Name is Cassi. And I am a recovering Disneyland Rookie. I have been to Disneyland twice. Both in my 30’s with my husband & small kiddos. I botched my first experience (easy to do when you are at Disneyland with toddlers). Recovered. And ROCKED my second! Here’s what you need to remember, and it will make ALL the difference.
1. Remember: There is MAGIC EVERYWHERE!
Definitely have a strategy in mind of how to make the most of your time in the park- but while getting there, don’t rush past the MAGIC all around you. I was a wind-up toy wound too tight on my first Disneyland trip. The gates opened and I wanted to see everything all at once. I wanted my whole family to run from one ride to the next- speed was my game. I basically went berserk! I missed so much of what Disneyland has to offer young families.
Disneyland with toddlers and pre-school aged kids is AMAZING! From the minute you enter, it’s a 5 senses experience. The cheerful music, detailed charm, greenery and bright flowers, smells and tastes of churros or other treats- Enjoy watching your family take it all in.
If you’re lucky, you may see little bubbles floating around in the air! Sure they came from bubble wands kids carried around, but they feel like pure Disneyland MAGIC!
2. Remember: Easily enhance the MAGIC with autograph books, buttons, or a simple map of the park
Pack along, or purchase at Disneyland, an autograph book. It adds excitement to meeting the many Disney characters that you may come across throughout your day. (Park employees helping direct characters will usually have a schedule of characters locations- just ask if you have someone particular you want to meet.)
Pins are a big thing to collect and trade at Disneyland. We stuck with the complimentary pins given out for things like: 1st visit, Goofy’s Kitchen, and “It’s your Birthday”, and grabbed a few other favorites along the way.
Snag a map! Maps of the park are at each entrance and information kiosk. Kids enjoy holding something and being little ‘navigators’. Secret tip: after the Jungle Cruise ask for a map – you may get lucky and score an exclusive treasure!
One added benefit of doing Disneyland with toddlers and pre-school aged kids is they are experts at collecting stuff! It makes for a little game during the day and it creates a super fun memento- bonus!
3. Remember: ‘Rides’ to kids may be different than rides to adults!
When lines got long, we hopped on a ‘ride’ my kids LOVED! The old timer fire trucks, horse drawn street cars, and double decker bses transport passengers in style down the thrill of Main Street to the Castle and back again. Best of all, NO LINES!
Even riding the Monorail from Downtown Disney into the park was an exciting ‘ride’!
My husband and I did Fast Passes & stroller swap for a few more mature rides that we wanted to get in. But priority went to what was best for the kids. Truly made it more fun because our kids were having a blast.
4. Remember: Don’t overlook Main Street entrance MAGIC!
Lots of entertainment is to be had near the round-about at the entrance of the park. Not only do many of the more classic characters (Mickey, Donald, Goofy, etc.) pop by regularly for a high five & autograph, but everything is cool and vintage- the fire house & railroad station were our favorites. Jazz bands, marching bands, and barbershop quartets electrify the air in a way only Disneyland can. Definitely worth the meander.
Grab a bench and have a seat. Disneyland is meticulously clean. I noticed this first hand when my four year old needed to sprawl out on a bench for 30 minutes. Nothing sticky or gross to take away from the moment.
5. Remember: Check the show schedule for the first class entertainment available in both parks
Schedules are usually located at the info booths next to the maps. Park employees will typically have a copy of the schedule as well. Just ask!
For a little youngster mid-day recharge when legs got tired, we were glad to know where to be. Disney offers amazing options for entertainment. We plopped down at the marvelous shows California Adventure has to offer- ‘Talk with Crush’ was very cute and even had the adults laughing. ‘Disney Junior Live’ was perfect for toddlers-elementary aged kids. And the show stopper is ‘Frozen Live’ at the Hyperion.
6. Remember: The Early Magic Hour really is a magical way to beat the crowds!
Hotel guests and Multi-Day pass purchasers can enjoy a whole extra hour in the parks before the parks open! If you have this option- make it count! Hop on the top “must-ride” rides in the land (s) of your choice and take the edge off the day! If you don’t have that option- I’d suggest to be on time for park opening.
On our California Adventure Extra Magic Hour we quickly tackled all of Cars Land (hitting Radiator Springs Racers first, of course!) before the park opened. It was AMAZING.
7. Remember: There are awesome magical extras you can schedule!
We took an early morning while staying at the Disneyland Hotel to dine at Goofy’s Kitchen before going to the park. The buffet was delicious, the characters come to you, and it’s a great way to score autographs, pins, and pictures in a relaxing but fun environment.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique rocked my daughter’s world- and may have brought a tear to my husband’s eye seeing his little princess! When it comes to Disneyland with toddlers and pre-schoolers, schedule earlier in the day, so she has longer to enjoy being all sparkly.
8. Remember: Disneyland sells healthy snacks, too.
In reference to the above picture, I have a message for my husband, I mean Dads! Nap time and cotton candy don’t mix well. Ask Mom before buying sugar crashing treats!
We loved the fresh cut fruit- giant watermelon or pineapple slices! The salads, turkey wraps, and the clementine or apple sauce that can come with kids meals were also great. I must admit, though, that my family was dying for a turkey leg. Boy, did we go for it. Delish.
Disneyland allows you to bring your own food into the park as well, so if you’re planning on vacationing Disneyland with toddlers and pre-schoolers, plan accordingly. You better believe I brought full water bottles and a few things to keep their energy up and tummies happy.
9. Remember: STARWARS! Need I say more?
While a huge remodel is currently taking place to create a Star Wars land, there are other awesome Star Wars options in Tomorrow Land. The top for young kids (4yrs-12yrs) would be Jedi Training. Super fun, free, first come first serve. Register early, in person, at the Star Wars launch bay.
10. Remember: Disney Hotels are super high class magic!
This past trip was my first time staying in a Disney Hotel. I wasn’t sure what to expect- thinking things may be cheesy. WRONG! Classy- including the light up musical carved wooden head board. The whole experience was really fancy and oh so special.
I LOVED how conveniently close the hotel was to the parks; when visiting Disneyland with toddlers and pre-schoolers, this is a no-brainer. We took the monorail from Down Town Disney into the park. Probably walked 100 yards to get there. Done.
Staying in a Disney Hotel got our family into the park with Extra Magic Hours every morning! Sweet!
No matter where you stay, you are in California, baby! We were there in February. When most of the northern hemisphere is freezing, California has palm tree sunsets and blossoms on its trees.
My family made memories that will last a lifetime. I’m glad we went while my kids are young. After learning a few tricks and feeling the wide spread magic of the moment, I can see why families keep coming back to Disneyland. We’ll be back, real soon!