Tips for Bringing Kids to Disneyland | Creative Living
It’s no secret that we are big fans of Disney in our home. I grew up in Orange County and I had the privilege of frequent trips to Disneyland as a part of my childhood. I certainly never imagined when I moved to Arizona to marry Shane that visiting the park would continue to be a part of our life, but when my mom landed her dream job there a few years ago it was inevitable that we kept this childhood tradition of mine alive as our kids grew up. We’ve been going with our kids since our oldest was one, which is hard to believe we’ve been doing this for a decade now!
I fully realize how much of a gift it is that we get to do this with our family and I don’t take that for granted one bit. I also know how much joy and beauty and life getting to experience a day at Disneyland can bring to your world, especially as you experience it through the eyes of your kids. There’s nothing quite like it.
As I’ve shared about our trips here and there on Instagram it never fails that I get asked how we do it, what our favorite things to do there are, and what makes being at Disneyland for a day with little ones smooth-ish. While I won’t be turning this space into a Disney blog (sorry!) this is a big part of our life that people have been well interested in and I’m not opposed to talking about Disneyland any chance I can! :)
So I pulled together our top favorite things to do and some things we’ve done as our family has grown to hopefully help you think creatively if ever you decide to take your family too--which I highly recommend you do!
There is certainly more to share since we also go into California Adventure Park too (another theme park across from Disneyland) which I can share in another post, but here are the top things we came up with for now. I hope this helps you next time you go or your first time experiencing it so you can make the most out of your time together.
Best Tips for the Day:
- Pack lots of snacks in a backpack for the day. It’s helpful to have these on the go as you’re walking around or waiting in line and helps not waste more time trying to find a quick snack.
- Pack extra clothes. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but we usually pack a light sweater or jacket for when the temp drops at nighttime. I always have extra pants, underwear, or shorts for the kids for those just in case moments too!
- Go straight to the bathroom once you get into the park or long lines! We’ve learned the hard way many times (and it doesn’t always go this smoothly) but making everyone go at the same time before going on a ride or walking across the park will help not having to make 27 bathroom stops in a day for different kids.
- Hit your favorite rides first. We’ve found that if you’re there early in the morning the lines are usually less crowded. So if you have bigger kids that can go on the faster rides going on those first thing is best. The lines tend to get longer later into the day/evening.
- Staying until midnight? It’s become our tradition to ride as many as we can within the last hour of the park being open. Sometimes we’ve made it in as many as 4 rides within the hour. The trick is to get into the last right before midnight (or closing time) strikes. If you make it even a minute before then you’re still allowed to get in line. We've made Space Mountain our tradition to end our day with our bigger kiddos and makes for fun and memorable way to end the long day together.
- Bring another adult when your kids are little for baby swap. We’ve done the park with as little as 3 kids and now as many as 7. Sometimes we’ve had my parents with us and sometimes it has been just me and Shane. When you have babies, it’s always helpful to have at least one more adult with you so you can do a baby swap with the other adult. All you have to do is tell the cast member at the front of the line that you’re doing a baby swap and they’ll scan your ticket so when you’re off the ride, the other adult can take one person along and go right onto the ride without having to wait in line again.
- Plan to buy one meal if you can and pack the rest. We usually go into the park planning to buy dinner. We’ll eat breakfast before going in and pack lunches and snacks in a backpack. This gives us more time to walk around, do rides, and parades and other things not using our time sitting at more than one restaurant in a day.
- Play games while you wait in line. Make up silly games, play 20 questions. Do something together while you wait. It not only makes the time in line go a little faster, but also makes connections and memories while you’re hanging out together.
- Download the Disney park app to know how long lines are. This is probably no news to anyone who has been before, but if you haven’t yet this will save you lots of time and energy trying to figure out how long lines are and where to go next.
- Be efficient. Having the app for this also helps. We try to use our time in the park as efficiently as possible, meaning, we’ll spend a chunk of time in one area of the park at a time instead of trying to walk back and forth to rides all day long. For instance, if we’re in Fantasyland we’ll ride all the rides we can or want to in that area before heading over to another land to ride others.
- Avoid these rides to make the most of your time. It’s hard to get in everything there is to do in just one day, so if you want to make the best use of your time riding rides and seeing sights, here are some rides, in my opinion, I’d avoid-- meaning the wait line isn’t worth the experience you get: Finding Nemo Submarine ride, Autopia, Star Tours (Star Wars land is 100x better and far more worth it, Tiki Room.
- Bring a stroller. If you have little kids, this is something you probably already thought of, but the last couple times we've brought an extra one along and its super helpful to just have a spot for kids to rest, or throw your backpack in. Disneyland makes it super easy to park your strollers all around the park near the rides you go on.
Best Rides/Things to do for Little Ones (no height requirements):
- Winnie the Pooh
- Anything inside Fantasyland: Alice in wonderland, Teacups (usually the shortest line), Storybook Island (usually the shortest line and more magical to go on at night, in my opinion), It’s a Small World, Peter Pan (usually the longest line), Mary Poppins Carousel, Snow White, Pinnochio (might be a little scary for ages 5 and under)
- Toon Town: Goofy’s Play area, Minnie & Mickey’s Houses, Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway (maybe our new favorite ride to do as a family in the park!)
- Jungle Cruise
- Swiss Family Robinson TreeHouse (tucked between Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones)
- Watch a Parade. There are new parades all the time depending on the time of year it is and each one we’ve experienced has been amazing. You won’t regret it–even if you’re sitting in the sweltering heat dripping sweat as you watch or bundled up sipping hot chocolate just to keep warm (we have watched them in both settings and loved it each time).
Best Rides for Big Kids:
- Thunder Mountain
- Space Mountain
- Star Wars rides (both inside star wars land)
- Splash Mountain – which was always my childhood favorite, but unfortunately, is no longer Splash Mountain, but is turning into Princess Tianna’s Bayou Palace coming out in 2025 and we are pretty excited about this. So once it opens up I'd put this at the top of your list!
Must Do Things:
Eat a churro (or FOUR!-- my favorite)
Fireworks on Mainstreet (best seat in the house) but if you can’t get to Main St. watching in front of It’s a Small World is the next best spot.
Meeting Mickey in Mickey's house. Usually the line for this dies down in the evening, if it’s still open (another reason to get the app to check). You’ll take a fun tour through Mickey’s house and before leaving you’ll get to meet Mickey in his studio at the end. I always LOVED going through the houses as a kid and paying attention to all the fun details. I still love it as an adult and going through it with my own kids and seeing their eyes light up in wonder and awe!
Toon town. Everything in here is fun and magical for the kiddos and adults too! I still love it even just as much as when I was a kid.
Star Wars for older kids (I’m not a Star Wars fan, but the land and rides that they created here are seriously incredible!)
Visit the Penny Arcade and walk through stores on Main Street. I especially love it at night time, just walking through the shops and browsing or up and down the street makes it feel so nostalgic, magical and fun!
- Take a ride in the trolley or old cars down Main Street. There are never lines for this and you just have to wait for a car to pull up at the end of either side of Main Street and hop right in. Fun fact: Walt Disney himself drove these cars around when the park was being built and they still work today!
Fantasmic water show in the Adventure land area. It's pretty spectacular to watch. Our favorite spot is right in front of Pirates of the Carribean.
Skip down Main Street! My girls and I have been doing this since they were little as soon as we walk into the park. I’m pretty certain that it makes starting the day inside Disney a whole lot more magical and fun. I dare you to try it and not smile. 😀
Best Places to Eat (Easy and Quick):
- Rancho del Zocalo Mexican restaurant behind Thunder Mountain. For some reason this seems like the best kept “secret” inside the park, but each time we’ve eaten here it is quick and we always find a seat. The food doesn’t disappoint either.
- The Plaza Inn restaurant off Main Street. This is usually a little more crowded and is buffet style so it goes through the line quickly. The fried chicken is our favorite and the atmosphere is even more fun with it’s old fashion nostalgic feel.
- Corn Dogs cart off of Main Street. Our family loves the giant pickle stand on main street too. If you’re a pickle person, they won’t disappoint!
(Tired eyes and legs taken right after finishing up our last ride on Space Mountain)
I may update this post as I think of new things! Leave a comment and ask me any more questions you have and I could write up a new post for more ways to be creative on doing Disney with your family.
I hope this brought lots of ideas for you to do and make it even just a bit more fun and smooth for you to spend a day at the happiest place on Earth!