Disneyland and California Adventure with Toddlers

A recap of our two magical days at Disneyland and California Adventure with our three young boys, including tips for taking toddlers and recommendations on food, rides and more!

Disneyland with Toddlers

What to know before you go & what to take with you:

  • We stayed at a Sheraton which was just a 10 minute walk to the parks and it worked out great. There’s also a hotel within the parks that would be really handy for going back to take a break, nap, etc. Although, we never found it necessary to leave the park.
  • A good stroller with trays, if possible, for feeding if you can’t find highchairs or need to eat/snack on the go

Disneyland with Toddlers

  • Lots of healthier snacks (fruit & veggie smoothie pouches, crackers, pretzels, grapes, apple slices, etc.) – try to save snacks for waiting in lines as a way to pass the time and distract them. The lines actually move pretty fast though.
  • Sunscreen, wipes, hand sanitizer
  • Strap on carrier, such as a Bjorn, if child is small enough (handy for standing in lines to keep them constrained)
  • Download the Disneyland Wait Time App before you go and use it to reference maps, ride wait times, height restrictions, ride closures, etc.
  • Have some games on your phone or find videos on youtube for your kids to watch while you’re in line. Again, the lines actually move pretty fast, but it definitely helps on the longer ones.
  • Changes of clothes for everyone, including adults (anyone could get sick on anyone!)
  • We just used our iphones for pics, but a lot of people had good cameras with them. I just didn’t want to risk breaking or losing it.
  • Put your name, their name, and phone number(s) on a piece of paper in your children’s pockets or write them somewhere on their clothes or put something around their wrists so if they happen to get lost, there would be contact info on them somewhere.
  • We did a full day at Disneyland and a full day at California Adventure. No park hopper. And we were there from open to close at both parks. Our 1-1/2 year old twins would just nap off and on in the stroller and our 3 year old just skipped napping those days, but was passed out on our shoulders on the way home. They all slept really really well both nights. And napping on the go and/or missing naps didn’t seem to throw them off since there was so much to see and do.
  • If it’s someone’s birthday that you’re celebrating, you can get a birthday sticker that I think comes with some perks and deals throughout both parks. It was Baker’s birthday week, so we got the stickers at both parks, but we failed to look into the perks and deals that came along with it. Just ask as you’re walking in.
  • Kids under 3 get in free! Yippee!

Disneyland – what to do and know once you get there:

  • Get there a few minutes after the park opens at 10am because there are really long lines before they open, but as soon as it opens they get people in there quickly so you won’t have to wait in a long line outside the park.
  • Start by going to get your picture taken by the statue of Walt Disney & Mickey with the castle in the background. Someone from Disneyland will be there to take your picture with their camera that you can then purchase online and they will take it with your camera too, which is what we did.

Disneyland with Toddlers

  • End the day with a picture on the other side of the castle at night when it’s all lit up. Very pretty!

Disneyland with Toddlers

  • As you’re walking out the gates at the end of the night, say goodbye and get a picture by the big lit-up Mickey in the grass. Baker loved it while the twins were already passed out! 😉

Disneyland with Toddlers

  • Visit Mickey and/or Minnie – worth the wait!

Disneyland with Toddlers

  • You can’t take strollers in the lines, so be prepared to leave them parked out with a million other strollers. Be sure to keep valuable items on you in a backpack or purse. If your child is small enough, bring along a strap on carrier that you can put them in while you wait in line. This will save you from having to hold them, hand them back and forth or chase them through the line.
  • For kids that are potty trained, make sure you take them often between rides. That way you’re not nearing the front of the line and all of sudden they need to use the bathroom. This happened to us, so I stepped to the side and let people go in front of us while Brandon took Baker to the bathroom and when they returned, we just got back in line. Not a huge deal, but we just made sure he went often from then on out. You can check the app for the closest restrooms.

Disneyland with Toddlers

Favorite Disneyland Rides for Toddlers:

  • Jungle cruise
  • Autopia – where they can drive cars
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Buzz Light Year
  • Peter Pan’s Flight

Disneyland Eats and Treats

Disneyland Eats & Treats:

  • Churros – several locations – yum yum!
  • Jolly Holiday Bakery Café – grilled cheese and tomato soup, great choices for kiddos too
  • Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor – ice cream and candy shop
  • Café Orleans – coffee and Micky-shaped beignets
  • Pooh’s Corner – chocolate-covered pb graham cracker, Micky-shaped rice krispie treats, cookies, etc.
  • Dole Whip – several locations, refreshing and so yummy!

California Adventure with Toddlers

California Adventure Tips:

  • Cars Land – all the cars parade around and take turns stopping for kids to get their picture taken with them. Super cute!
  • Definitely do the Pixar Parade that afternoon with all the popular movie characters
  • The World of Color water light show each night is awesome! Definitely worth staying for even if the kiddos are sleeping in strollers and on your shoulder.
  • Ride the ferris wheel, but get on the non-rocking ones because we made the mistake of thinking it would be fun to get on the ones that rock back and forth really fast and it freaked the boys out! Oops!
  • Go to the Aladdin Musical Show – fun and cute!

California Adventure with Toddlers

Favorite California Adventure Rides with Toddlers:

  • Mayters Junkyard Jamboree
  • Monsters Inc. ride
  • Toy Story Midway Mania
  • Luigi’s Flying Tires
  • The Mickey Ferris Wheel (non-rocking)

California Adventure Eats and Treats

California Adventure Eats & Treats:

  • Cars Land – mini churros with cinnamon-spiked chocolate for dipping
  • Cars Land Cozy Cone – chocolate dipped chocolate soft-serve cone, some of the best soft serve we’ve ever had!
  • Paradise Garden Grill – great Greek food for lunch or dinner, brownie fruit kabob was so yummy!
  • Ghirardelli Café – ice cream dreams come true!
  • Corn Dog Castle – long line, but so worth it!

Disneyland with Toddlers

We had so much fun and lots of yum at both parks! We can’t wait to go back! It was so amazing to experience the magic of Disney with our sweet boys! They still talk about it every day and wear their Mickey ears often!

If you have any questions, feel free to comment and ask! It’s a big trip and we’d love to help you make it as a smooth and special as possible. And if you have any other tips or recommendations from your experience at Disney, please comment below so others can read them too!

~Maegan

 

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Comments

  1. Marisol Sanou

    Did you feel like 2 days was enough or would you recommend a longer stay? We are going in December and we will do 2 days at the park and 1 day discovering LA with our 3 year old.

    Also did you end up eating all your meals at the park or do you have offsite recommendations for breakfast and dinner?

    • MaeganMaegan

      Hi Marisol! Yes, we felt a full day at Disneyland and a full day at California Adventure was plenty enough. We were at the parks from the time they opened to the time they closed. We ate breakfast at the hotel before we headed to the parks each morning and then ate all our meals at the park since we stayed until they closed. There are several restaurants down this cool street in between the parks that would be great if you wanted to leave the park to eat or grab something before you head into the parks or after you leave.

      We only spent 1 day in L.A. and it would have been nice to have some more time there to explore some of the attractions. Here is what we did: http://thebakermama.com/beyond-baking/travel/los-angeles-a-sweet-day-in-l-a/.

      Have so much fun and definitely let me know if you have any more questions!

  2. natashya summers

    Did you take a backpack with you to wait in line or leave it in the stroller? Can someone ride with a backpack on or is there some where to leave it before getting on?
    thanks!

    • MaeganMaegan

      Hi Natashya! I had a small bag with a long should strap that I could put over my shoulder or across my chest with some wipes, a few diapers and snacks just in case. I was able to take this on all the rides because it was about the size of a medium purse. Hope this helps!

  3. Jessica

    Thanks for the tips!! We are going in 2 weeks with our 4 year old (he will turn 5 while we are there!) and our 2 year old twin girls and a giant group of family but I’ve been worrying about how the twins will do, it’s nice to see a family with a similar situation! We haven’t been since our oldest was 1 so it will be a interesting trip this time!

  4. sam

    Hi I have a 2 year old and I was wondering what park do you think is better for his age? & is he able to sit on my lap for most rides? Do rides fit 3? (Me him and his dad)

    • MaeganMaegan

      Hi Sam! I think the Disneyland park is best for younger ones. He could ride the majority of the rides on your lap or between you and his dad. Almost all of the rides will fit all 3 of you together. You’ll be surprised how magical it is even for a 2 year old. Have so much fun!

  5. Hilary

    Hi! I came across your post when I was googling Disneyland trips with toddlers. We might be going soon and we have a almost 5 year old and an almost 2 year old. I know you said you kept a small bag with you at all times, but what about the other stuff, like changes of clothes for everyone? I’m assuming you kept that stuff in the stroller? Were you worried that people would steal your stuff? Did you do anything to keep it secure? Your post was very helpful! Thank you!

    • MaeganMaegan

      Hi Hilary! No, I wasn’t worried about the stuff in the stroller. I just made sure we kept anything valuable with us. There are tons of strollers parked outside each ride and there is usually someone from the park standing there monitoring the strollers and directing people where to park them. Hope this helps. Have so much fun! 🙂

  6. Suni

    OMG Maegan! I live in SF now working as a pediatrician and just brought my son down to LA for his first trip to Disneyland. I was searching for advice and read through this whole page. Then is saw your pics with your kids and recognized you!!! What a crazy small world. I hope all is well with you!

    • MaeganMaegan

      Awwe, Suni! This makes my day! 🙂 I hope y’all had (or are having) so much fun at Disneyland. Such a magical place! San Fran is one of our favorite cities so I’ll have to let you know next time we’re there as I would love to see you! Hope all is great with you too! xoxo

      • Suni Kaiser

        Yes! Please do! Would love to see you and our boys would get along famously I’m sure;) please email anytime you are planning a trip

  7. Monica Sekho

    Hi! This is so incredibly helpful. Thanks so much for the great info! I had a question I was hoping you might be able to help me with. We will be in CA later this month. We have a 10 month old and a 2.5 year old. We have two days allotted for Disney. I was wondering if you thought it would be best to do both days at Disneyland or one day at Disneyland and one day at California Adventure Park? Thanks so much!

    • MaeganMaegan

      Hi Monica! How fun! Disneyland is definitely more little kid friendly and you could certainly spend two very relaxed and enjoyable days there. It’s a full day to cover all of Disneyland. If your little ones are into some of the movies and characters, CA Adventure is so fun for them to experience. We really enjoyed doing both! Hope this helps. Have a great trip!

  8. Summer

    Hi! I love this post! So helpful! But I was wondering, we will be going on a Disney, California Adventures, and Universal Studios trip sometime in April 2017. We are doing two days at Disney, one day at California Adventures and two days at Universal Studios. We have two sets of a twins, the oldest will be 5 and the youngest will be just about two by then. Are there rides that the two year olds would enjoy and are able to ride? And do you have an idea of how my husband and I would manage to take all four kiddos on those rides? What would seating positions be like? Or would we have to take one set, and then take the second set? There will be lots of family with us so it’s not like either set would ever be alone of course. Thanks in Advance!

    • MaeganMaegan

      Hi Summer! How fun! You could definitely ride most of the rides (that are age and height appropriate for them) all together. When we would go on rides, we would either all sit together or one of us would have two and the other just one. Some benches on the rides will fit 3 across and most allow you to have a child on your lap. So if you all want to go together, you could each have one of your younger twins on your lap and let an older twin sit next to you. Or if you’re all in one ride together, you could put the older twins in between you and have the younger twins on the outside of each of you or on your laps. You’ll be able to make it work on most rides. Just plan to each have a younger twin and an older twin with you and the younger twin might be sitting on your lap for several of the rides. Most the rides where you have to buckle in individually will have enough space for each of you to buckle in or just your older twins will be able to ride that ride due to height and weight restrictions. I hope this helps. Definitely let me know if you have other questions or need clarification. Have so much fun planning! It’ll be amazing!

    • MaeganMaegan

      Hi Lauren! I would definitely recommend Disneyland more for 3 and 1 year olds. They can both ride most the rides and all of the characters they’ll see are more familiar to them. Definitely Disneyland! Have so much fun!!

  9. Lina

    Hello Maegan!
    I read all your post and it was really helpfull.
    I would like to make you a question.
    We are planning our visit to disneyland on september 2016 but we only have time for one park as it will be a stop on our trip from San Diego to San Francisco. I have 3 kids (9, 6 and 3 year old) 2 girls (big ones) and 1 boy (the smaller one). Which pack would you recommend??
    thank u
    Have a nice day
    Lina

    • MaeganMaegan

      Hi Lina! I’m so sorry for my delayed response. I would definitely recommend Disneyland for your kids’ ages. They say the ideal ages for Disneyland are 5-9. Your youngest will most certainly enjoy it more as he will be able to ride more rides and will get very excited about all the storybook character encounters. And if the girls are into princesses, they would be able to experience all the princesses. The girls can also ride both the smaller rides and a lot of the bigger rides. I hope this helps. Have a great time! 🙂

  10. Gabby

    Thanks for the tips!! We are going in 2 weeks with our 4 year old girl. First time to Disney was back when she was 2 and love it. But now that she is 4 , not sure if California Adventure will be appropriate. Are there any shows, rides, parades for her age.?

    • MaeganMaegan

      Hi Gabby! How fun! Yes, California Adventure will be so fun for your 4 year old. All the characters from her favorite Disney movies will be somewhere in the park as well as in the parade each afternoon. Our favorite rides at California Adventure were: Mayters Junkyard Jamboree, Monsters Inc. ride, Toy Story Midway Mania, Luigi’s Flying Tires & The Mickey Ferris Wheel (non-rocking). We went to the Aladdin Musical show and loved it! Our 3-year old (at the time we went) was able to ride a lot of the rides and recognized a lot of the characters. It was so much fun!

  11. Gina

    Thanks for the tips! I will be bringing my 5 and 2.5 year old girls. We are thinking 4 days. Do you think we should purchase a park hopper? And did you do any character dining? If so do you recommend one? We are going in Feb. thanks!

    • MaeganMaegan

      Hi Gina! Since you’ll be there 4 days, I think a park hopper pass would be great! You could spend 2 days in Disneyland and 2 days in California Adventure and have plenty of time to explore and experience both parks. We did not do any character dining so unfortunately I can’t recommend one. Enjoy your trip!

  12. Kim

    We will be going to Disneyland between Christmas & New Years with an almost 7 year old and a 2 1/2 year old. We are debating between buying 4 or 5 day passes, and also trying to decide whether we should do park hopper passes. It will probably be at least 10 years before we make it back there, so we want to make the most of the trip.

    • MaeganMaegan

      Hi Kim! So fun! I think if you do 2 days at Disneyland and 2 days at California Adventure you will have a great experience with plenty of time in both parks. Hope this helps! Enjoy!

  13. Maurie

    Thanks so much for being available for questions. We’re heading to Disneyland later this month for 2 days with our soon-to-be 4yr old son (Disney is an early bday present for him:) and 14wks old infant. Yay. We haven’t exposed him to very much Disney so a lot of it will be news to him. He’ll recognize the main characters and would love to see the Cars I’m sure, but we’re debating between spending both days at Disneyland versus spending one at CA adventure… is CA Adventure really not to be missed (not that our guy would know he was missing anything but I’m feeling some FOMO)? Would 2 days at Disneyland be fulfilling and leisurely or could it get repetitive? Could visiting both be overload or is one day at each really doable at a relaxed pace if we go from open to close? I’ll be wearing our infant, taking breaks to nurse and change diapers, and just hoping he doesn’t get too fussy… so also have a little fear of exhaustion. Also we’ll have a stroller for the babe with a skateboard attachment for our older son. Do you think it’s also a good idea to bring an umbrella stroller or rent one for him so he can have a place to sit ?

    Thanks so much!

    • MaeganMaegan

      Hi Maurie! So fun! I think you can’t go wrong either way. Both parks are great! Disneyland is definitely more toddler friendly overall, but there’s still so much to see and do at CA Adventure. With a newborn and wanting to really soak it all in, I’d probably recommend spending both days at Disneyland. You could definitely take your time, ride all the rides, see all the shows, visit with characters, etc. That way you wouldn’t feel rushed and could even go back to some of your favorites the next day. The skateboard attachment should be great if your son is full of energy and likes walking. If he tends to get tired or still takes regular afternoon naps, I might suggest a double stroller or an umbrella stroller where he could rest if he wants to. Otherwise, there are plenty of places to sit down and take a break. And if you’ll have someone else with you that he could ride on their shoulders when he does get tired, that’s what our oldest did toward the end of each day. Your trip is sure to be magical! Enjoy!

  14. Valeria Martin Del Campo

    This is the cutest most sweetest blog ive read , and so helpful i save everything , im taking my toddler for his 2nd bday and im a little nervous but no so much after reading this thank you and the pictures are to die for (so cute!!)

  15. Jodell

    Maegan, My boys are 2 and 4. From what I’ve read Monsters Inc, Cars, Toy Story experience is best at CA Adventure? I’m just concerned that there will be few rides for them at this park. We are doing one day, one park. Will we completely miss these characters if we choose Disneyland instead?
    Thanks so much!

    • MaeganMaegan

      Hi Jodell! Yes, you’re right. All of those characters/rides are at CA Adventure with little to no exposure to them in the Disneyland park. They will definitely be able to ride more rides at Disneyland given their ages so it sounds like you have a tough decision. Yikes! They’re sure to have a blast no matter what you decide. Have a great trip!

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