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Are you heading to Disneyland with a toddler? Visiting Disneyland with kids aged 1 to 3 years old is very different from visiting with older kids or teens. Rather than thrill rides and non-stop action, you need to switch things up to suit your toddler. But thankfully Disneyland with toddlers is made easier with these simple tips!
Disneyland is one of the best theme parks for tiny travellers because people of all heights can ride the vast majority of the rides making it a great time to introduce them to your favourite theme park.
Whether this is your first visit to Disneyland or you’re heading back to the happiest place on earth for the 100th time, visiting with toddlers needs a little extra special planning!
General Disneyland Planning Tips With Toddlers
Both Disneyland and California Adventure Park cater to visitors of all ages, even young children, making it easy to plan your Disneyland for toddlers itinerary before you go.
In addition to rides, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park have character meet and greets, parades, and impressive fireworks displays (if your kids can stay up that late) to appeal to all ages.
Plus many of the popular thrill rides offer a ride swap so parents can take turns on the roller coaster while the other minds the kids!
Disneyland, while magical, can cost you a small fortune if you stay for a few days. And let’s face it, there’s so much to see and do that one day is rarely enough!
If you want to minimise your Disney park costs, travel before your child turns three.
Children under three years old are FREE at Disneyland.
This is the best age to go to Disneyland if you want to save money! But it likely won’t be the last time you visit since there’s so much fun to discover when kids are older too.
Visit the Baby Care Centres
Disneyland goes above and beyond to make it easy to travel with the whole family. A great example of this is the complimentary Baby Care Centres.
Baby Care Centers include nursing rooms with chairs, changing rooms, small toilets, a feeding area with highchairs, a kitchen with bottle warmers and microwave.
They even have vending machines that sell things such as formula and baby food.
This area allows parents to care for their small children without worrying about finding a private, comfortable space.
Utilise Rider Switch
Rider Switch has to be one of the best initiatives at Disney parks for parents!
A toddler will be able to ride most rides, but there are some that are going to be a no go.
If you want to ride the rides they cannot, and clearly don’t want to leave your toddler unsupervised on Main Street, take advantage of Disneyland’s Rider Switch program.
Rider Switch allows an adult to wait with a child who is either too short or doesn’t wish to ride while the rest of the party rides, then switch.
This means no lining up at the back of the line twice, saving you loads of time queuing!
For a cool Disneyland hack, if there is an older child in the party, that child can ride with each adult, so he or she can actually ride twice.
As of the time of writing, Rider Switch is offered for the following rides:
Indiana Jones Adventure
Gadget’s Go Coaster
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Top 5 Must-Dos for Toddlers at Disneyland
There is no shortage of things for toddlers to enjoy at Disneyland. If you have limited time, make sure you hit some of these highlights as part of your Disneyland itinerary.
1. Character Dining – Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park
Disneyland isn’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but some meals are more expensive than others. If you are willing to make a big splurge, consider a character meal.
Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park is a character breakfast with Minnie Mouse and other characters (which are subject to change) at the Plaza Inn. The location has views of Sleeping Beauty Castle in the background.
The buffet features things such as Mickey waffles, made to order omelettes, meats, pastries and fruit.
The price ranges from $35 to $60US per adult at the time of writing, depending on when you visit. Children under 3 are free.
The prices are steep, but it makes for some great pictures and a more intimate opportunity for your toddler to meet a favourite character.
2. Mickey’s Toontown
Mickey’s Toontown is a toddler’s dream.
The area contains several “homes” of Disney characters you can explore. You can also meet the characters in this area.
Older siblings can ride Gadget’s Go Coaster and your toddler will love Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, with no height requirement.
The following homes are in Mickey’s Toontown:
Chip ‘N Dale Treehouse
3. Afternoon Parade
Disneyland offers a daily afternoon parade. The show varies by the season, but all of them are bright, fun, and high energy.
There are tons of characters to wave to. You can usually get a good spot if you prepare at least a few minutes before the parade.
Bring snacks so your toddler will be happy to wait for the parade to start.
If you don’t want to fight the crowds, consider a dining package that includes priority seating for the parade at the Plaza Inn.
These meals do not include character interaction but they allow you to watch in comfort. At the time of writing, packages are $40US per adult, $25US per child ages 3 through 9 and free for kids under 3.
If your toddler has enough energy left past 8:00 PM, do not miss Fantasmic.
Fantasmic is an action-packed evening show starring Mickey Mouse and about a million other characters. The show is almost a half-hour long, and the entire thing is impressive.
It features water effects, projections, and fireworks.
You can arrive early to stake out a spot. You can also purchase a dining package that includes preferred viewing.
For table service meals, you can visit Blue Bayou starting at $62 per adult and $29 per child ages 3 through 9, or River Belle Terrace for $45 per adult and $25 per child ages 3 through 9. Children under age 3 are free for both.
Fantasmic on the Go offers a quick service option at Hungry Bear Restaurant for $30 per adult and $20 per child ages 3 through 9.
Fantasmic is loud. Consider bringing noise-cancelling headphones if your toddler is sensitive to loud noises.
5. The Rides
The best part of Disneyland is definitely the rides. Disney parks are unique in that they offer more for the entire family to enjoy together than any other theme park.
Some rides can be a little dark and scary, so consider whether your child is ready even if he or she is tall enough to ride.
Consider making a touring plan before you arrive to minimise waiting times when visiting Disneyland with a toddler.
If you’re looking for the best Disneyland rides with little kids, the following rides have no height restrictions at Disneyland Park, although some may not be suited to your toddler. Make your own assessment upon arrival:
Alice in Wonderland – An adorable slow-moving ride through the story of Alice in Wonderland. This ride is suitable for everyone.
Astro Orbiter – This ride spins about as fast as your local carnival’s Gravitron. This may be too much for some kids, but you can watch it before you get on to decide for yourself.
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters – A fun, slow-moving ride where you shoot at targets. This ride should work for everyone.
Casey Jr. Circus Train – A very slow-moving train that has been at Disneyland since its 1955 opening. It is perfect for toddlers.
Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes – These canoes need to be rowed, so they are basically manual labour. Since your toddler is probably deadweight in this department, you may want to pass.
Disneyland Monorail – Get around the park and give small tired legs a break on the slow-moving monorail.
Disneyland Railroad – A train that acts as both a ride for amusement and a mode of transportation throughout the park. Toddlers should like this ride.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant – This iconic ride was made for toddlers. The slow-moving spin is easy for everyone to handle.
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage – This is a slow-moving, submarine ride where you watch things outside your personal window. The stairs to enter the ride are steep and it is a little dark, but other than that, everyone should be fine.
Haunted Mansion – Haunted Mansion is dark and spooky. If your kid is OK with that, it is slow-moving and there is a ton to see. Most toddlers won’t enjoy this ride though!
“It’s a small world” – This iconic indoor boat ride is perfect for toddlers. There is a lot to see and the music is fun, even if the theme song of the classic ride sticks in your head for the rest of the day.
Jungle Cruise – This is a slow-moving, outdoor boat ride that takes you through a jungle with several animatronic animals. A skipper tells jokes that will fly right over the toddler’s head, but they will likely be entertained by spotting animals.
King Arthur Carousel – A typical carousel with an amazing view of the Disney castle.
Mad Tea Party – These spinning teacups can go fast, but you can largely control how fast they turn. Most toddlers will enjoy this ride.
Main Street Vehicles – This is a trolley being pulled by horses down Main Street. A toddler will be fine on this attraction.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – This ride sounds toddler appropriate because of Winnie the Pooh. It might be, but it has a bit of a trippy vibe. It kind of jerks you around and has a couple of sections that toddlers might find scary. Decide if your child is ready. Ours hated it!
Mark Twain Riverboat – This is a giant boat that slowly circles the theme park. A toddler can easily handle this ride.
Mr Toad’s Wild Ride – Like Winnie the Pooh, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is probably toddler appropriate, but the ride does jerk around and has a couple of sections that might make them uncomfortable.
Peter Pan’s Flight – This ride is amazing for toddlers. You slowly fly above the story of Peter Pan, which is very well created.
Pinocchio’s Daring Journey – This is another ride that toddlers can handle in theory, but may make them nervous.
Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island – You ride on a raft to Tom Sawyer Island, another section of the park, where kids can run around and explore. If you don’t mind following your toddler around, this is a great way to burn energy.
Pirates of the Caribbean – This is an iconic, slow-moving boat ride. It is a little dark and might seem loud or scary to some. Our kids both hated it at 2 and 4 years old.
Roger Rabbit’s Toon Car Spin – This dark ride also has some elements that may be scary, but most toddlers will be okay.
Sailing Ship Columbia – This is a slow-moving, outdoor boat ride on a large ship. Toddlers should do well on this ride.
Snow White’s Scary Adventure – Yet another slow-moving dark ride that is usually fine with some scary elements.
Storybook Land Canal Boats – This is a toddler’s dream. It is a slow-moving, outdoor boat ride through scenes from several famous stories.
Best Rides At California Adventure Park For Toddlers
The following rides have no age or height limit at California Adventure Park, although some may not be suited to your toddler, they do include some of the most popular rides for kids. Make your own assessment upon arrival:
Golden Zephyr – This elevated, spinning ride won’t suit all toddlers while others will love it.
Jessie’s Critter Carousel – Always a safe option for younger children to ride the carousel.
Ariel’s Undersea Adventure – A slow-moving ride that will have your toddler feeling like they stepped into The Little Mermaid. A favourite for our toddler.
Monsters Inc Mike & Scully To The Rescue – The ride itself moves slowly however the dark sets and flashing lights may frighten some children.
Pixar Pal-A-Round – This Ferris wheel ride swings, however, you can choose a non-swinging carriage to suit younger riders.
Toy Story Midway Mania – This popular attraction is like an interactive, moving arcade game that you plan as you move between rooms. It can be a little fast-moving but loads of fun for the whole family. This was by far one of our favourite rides during our visit with a toddler.
How Do I Keep My Toddler Entertained In Line At Disneyland?
Keeping kids entertained while waiting in line is never an easy task and it’s even more difficult with a toddler.
Have a few simple tricks up your sleeve for these wait times to make your time pass easier, since ride lines can sometimes be long.
Snacks are always a great option for toddlers. Having a compact travel toy or activity can be helpful too.
Final Thoughts – Disneyland With Toddlers
Disneyland is an amazing park for toddlers. They can enjoy the vast majority of the park, which is an unusual find at a theme park.
Try to make a touring plan before you visit to maximise your day and minimise wait times.
Also, consider splurging on a character meal if your child will be excited about it. Visit Disneyland with your toddler. You will not regret it!