Disneyland is one of the best places to take your family at least once in their childhood. The characters, scenery, the authentic music and the literal magic… Disneyland just brings out the best of your own childhood memories to life. If you plan to take a large group to Disneyland and need tips on making your trip affordable- check out these other two posts here and here.
Taking an entire family to Disneyland parks can be tricky, especially when you have children in your party that cannot ride the big kid rides or are infants. The last time I went to Disneyland with my family (November 2018), I had children at the ages of nine and six as well as a toddler (2) and my baby (8 months) and they were a little challenging! Hence the reason I have compiled this list of rides and things to do at each Disneyland park. Hoping, this list will make your stay in the Happiest Place on Earth remain magical for the whole family- including the person with the babies. Without further adieu… here’s the list for Disneyland California.
***This list is accurate as of December 2018** I will try to keep this article current to the best of my ability, but Disneyland changes a lot! So if you dear reader find something to add to my list, or a suggestion- let me know! I’d love to update the list with other people’s experience.***
Mom’s Guide to Enjoying Disneyland California with a Toddler
The general rule for a lap-riding passenger: is the baby/toddler needs to be seated on your lap and forward facing. For the record- this means the baby can remain in the baby carrier, as long as they are forward facing.
Disney California Adventure:
According to Disneyland’s website there are 15 attractions catered to the preschooler or any size passenger. But remember these two rules:
- Baby wearing: baby must be forward facing to go on the rides inside the baby carrier. Cast members will ask you to flip the baby to sitting and forward facing even if they are asleep- which is stinky.
- Rider Switch: Take the entire party to the fast pass entrance to get your rider switch pass. Rider switch *usually means the adult staying behind and one other person can ride with them when it’s their turn to ride the ride. However, each cast member may give more or less according to their mood… soo my suggestion with a big group or multiple families- split yourself into families- each with a rider that can not ride. DO NOT say you’re related or together. Approach cast members separately . By doing this- you make sure at least two *maybe four people can return on the ride for a second time. The kids tall enough love being able to return on the ride going through the “fast pass” entrance now, instead of the original and long ride line.
All Height Rides:
- Red Car Trolley- Buena Vista Street
- Monsters, Inc: Mike and Sulley to the Rescue! (Hollywood Land)
- Little Mermaid- Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (Paradise Garden Park)
- Golden Zephyr (Paradise Gardens Park)
- Jessie’s Critter Carousel (under construction until summer 2019)
- Toy Story Midway Mania (Pixar Pier)
- Pixar Pal-A Round Ferris Wheel– (Pixar Pier)
**TIP** There are two options for the Ferris Wheel the swinging and non swinging. I’ve heard both sides are enjoyable. Be prepared for this ride to take a long time (30 minutes) so it’s a great place to rest the legs and corral the kids! If you are trying to force naptime, or nurse for awhile- I would suggest this ride. However- they do pack the space with lots of people- so go with your party if you don’t want to nurse in close quarters with strangers.
In Carsland– they have:
- Luigi’s Rollickin’ roadsters and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree- each of these rides you must be 32” or taller to ride.
**TIP** While waiting for the big kids to finish their ride at Radiator Springs Racers– head to the Cozy Cone Motel to meet one or more of the Cars characters. They are huge in person and talk! Fun for even the big kids.
Activities and Events Toddler’s Enjoy:
- Disney Jr. Live– I would highly suggest this show if your kids like Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, Vamperina and of course- Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Very interactive, bubbles to pop, lots of loud singing- perfect place to get wiggles out with the kids.
- Turtle Talk with Crush
- Meeting Anna and Elsa- the royal reception– basically waiting in one line for two characters is a total win!
- Drawing lessons in the Animation Academy is fun for the artists too.
***TIP*** If you decide to split from your group while they ride “Guardian’s of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout” take your toddler to any of these above mentioned activities while you wait for the rest of your party.
Throughout the park- you can meet all sorts of characters from: Disney Junior, Super Heroes, and Pixar Pals. Parades and shows are available throughout the park according to the time and season. Check the Disneyland website once you’ve decided on a date- plug in your date and you’ll see their current shows and times.
Get the Wiggles Out At:
- Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (Next to Grizzly Rapids)- this place is amazing and well worth your time!
- At the base of Guardian’s of the Galaxy- they have a “Dance off” with Star Lord and Gamora- it was quite fun to dance with the characters and participate in their show.
- Disney Jr. Live was also perfect for little kids to be loud, dance and sing, and be confined to a building.
- Outside the Games of Pixar Pier is the adorable Pixar ball water fountain. Kids can press their hands against the ball and get wet and cool down on a hot day.
- Don’t forget to bring a spare blanket for your little one to sit on, or if they’re crawling- make a safe space for them to crawl.
Need more tips on what you should pack to an amusement park? Have you seen our packing list? Download our Ultimate Disney Vacation Packing List1.
Since Bugs Land was removed from Disneyland California Adventure, unfortunately there was a very limited amount of things a toddler and baby could do at this park. I’m hoping in the future with Pixar Pier creating Inside Out attractions and with the first phase of Marvel’s Superhero section of the park opening in 2020- there will be more attractions for the smallest members of the family to enjoy.
Until such time, my biggest suggestion for the parents with little kids is this: go with the mindset that Cali Adventure is to entertain the big kids and you’ll find yourself less frustrated. Do one section of the park at a time before moving onto the next and utilize the Rider Switch system for the big rides. Become familiar with the park and pick the top three rides you as the adult would like to ride with your family and be willing to sacrifice the rest. Here are your three tips to enjoy your day with a baby or toddler:
1.) Rider Switch
If you aren’t familiar with the Rider Switch system head to the site for Disneyland’s website here–
- What we learned about the program is this- it’s useful, but in essence- the adult returning to the ride still has to wait in line. Therefore your party ends up waiting for the same ride twice with only the reward of riding it once. My personal experience was frustrating since some cast members asked that the babies were present for the “rider switch” pass. And if the babies were asleep in the stroller, they had to be woken up to arrive at the “fast pass” entrance as proof. Not to mention, some cast members weren’t too thrilled to give a Rider Switch pass to two adults staying with multiple babies. If you’d like more details on how to manage the Rider Switch pass with a large group- head to the blog post here.
2.) Get the Free Disneyland App
Download the app on your smart phone before arriving to the park. Become familiar with the park and understand where you’d like to spend your time best.
- Everything works through this app. You can see the ride wait times, parade/event information and character meetings- saving you time and energy walking around. Now, IF you make the additional purchase of the Maxpass- you can reserve your group fast passes on the phone and download all the professional pictures in this app too.
- Don’t forget to take advantage with the app and order food through your phone! Save yourself the headache of waiting in line for food by ordering ahead.
- My suggestion is to do one section of the park at a time and to do everything in it. We spent most of our time in Hollywood Land with our busy toddler and sent our evening all over Pixar Pier. Lots of characters to meet, sights to see, activities to do and arcade games to play at the Pier.
3.) Split Up
If you don’t like wasting your time waiting for others in your group or if you have a toddler that can’t hold still- split up. Doing your own thing for a couple of hours with your toddler might be the next best option. You and the toddler can spend time doing the things they can do and you won’t stress about catching up with everyone. HOWEVER, if you split up- you’ll miss out on what everyone else did- which can be sad.
Option 2: The person left with the babies- is now the runner and collects fast passes to the next big kid ride while the rest of the group enjoys the other ride. If you are the one always running to get fast passes for your party- you will be worn out quick. You won’t be able to wander through gift shops or take in the sights and your phone battery will die- because you’re always calling to catching up to your party. So- make sure you take turns with the group being the runner. OR plan to spend the extra $15 per ticket to get the Maxpass for everyone and save yourself the trouble!
Well my friends if this post doesn’t encourage you consider visiting Disneyland soon, head to this post to learn about all the Halloween fun at Disneyland. If you’d like to know how you could make your Disneyland trip affordable with fairy gifts head to this blog post here. Or heading to Disneyland on a budget with a large group- head here. Don’t forget to sang our amusement park packing list that every mother needs when packing for a trip as big as Disneyland.
Also, 2019 is the year to visit Disneyland- head to this post to learn all the juicy details.
Have you taken your toddler to Disneyland California Adventure? What did you do? Did I miss anything? Let us know in the comments what you like to see while visiting Disneyland California Adventure.
Happy dreaming, planning, booking and hopefully traveling soon!