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You should never take a preschooler or toddler to Disneyland, they won’t remember it, it’s too expensive and on and on . . . but I’ve got the secrets for taking a toddler to Disneyland and we’re gonna prove the nay-sayers wrong. You with me?
This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated throughout the years as I’ve taken all my kids to Disneyland in the baby stages, toddler stages and now into big kid and even teen years. I’ve got your back and we’re going to navigate this thing together with success secrets to taking a toddler to Disneyland.
P.S. Thanks to my sister, brother-in-law and my two adorable nephews for allowing me to show off their toddler Disneyland trip in all these photos!
Secrets for taking a Toddler to Disneyland: Free Tickets
Are two year olds free at Disneyland? Yes, children under 3 are free at Disneyland and California Adventure park, making the baby and toddler years the perfect time to visit Disneyland and save some money. Ages 3 and up will need a ticket, but they still qualify for kid prices through age 9. I’ve got all your discount ticket needs right here, because nobody needs to pay full price for Disneyland tickets.
Secrets for taking a Toddler to Disneyland: Perfect Hotel
When you have a toddler at Disneyland, it’s no secret—you might need a place to crash for nap time. Picking the perfect hotel means you want something clean, comfortable and close by. The Disneyland Resort hotels are on-property, and the Grand Californian is the closest one to the parks, even offering a private entrance to California Adventure to their guests.
If a Disneyland Resort hotel is out of your price range, I’ve got tons of other hotel suggestions that are just as close as the Disneyland Hotel or Paradise Pier Hotel, including ones with fun splash pads and pools that preschoolers and toddlers love:
- Howard Johnson Waterpark hotel has a pirate themed splash zone perfect for toddlers at Disneyland and is a quick walk to Disneyland.
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites ups the money-saving factor with hot onsite breakfast and plenty of space in the large rooms, all within walking distance.
- Grand Legacy at the Park is another favorite, with a beach-entry pool and splash zone within a quick walk to Disneyland.
Secrets for taking a Toddler to Disneyland: Best Rides
What can toddlers ride at Disneyland? A ton of things, actually! Here’s a quick list of toddler approved rides at Disneyland Park. I’ve omitted some attractions that little ones can ride, but might make them scared like Pirates of the Caribbean, Snow White’s Scary Adventure, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Best Rides for Toddlers at Disneyland:
- Alice in Wonderland
- Astro Orbitor
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
- Casey Jr. Circus Train
- Disneyland Monorail
- Disneyland Railroad
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
- “it’s a small world”
- Jungle Cruise
- King Arthur Carrousel
- Mad Tea Party
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
- Storybook Land Canal Boats
Best Rides for Toddlers at California Adventure:
- Golden Zephyr
- Pixar Pal-A-Round (non-swinging)
- Toy Story Midway Mania!
- The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
- Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue!
- Red Car Trolley
Remember, there’s no reason for you to miss out on the big kids rides, with Disneyland’s Rider Switch pass, everyone who wants to ride can have a turn. Want a Disneyland Plan for your day at Disneyland Resort? Our Disneyland Plans can help! We map out what to ride and when to make it even easier on parents. Secrets for taking a Toddler to Disneyland: Best Play Spots
One thing we know about toddlers is they are always on the go. Sometimes they don’t want to wait in line and just need some free space to roam at Disneyland. That can be tough when you’re worried about losing your kids in a crowded place. One secret for taking a toddler to Disneyland that we have to share is the best play spots at Disneyland.
Take your toddler to these Disneyland play spots:
- Chip ‘n Dale Treehouse in Mickey’s Toontown
- Donald’s Boat in Mickey’s Toontown
- Goofy’s Playhouse in Mickey’s Toontown
- Mickey’s House in Mickey’s Toontown
- Minnie’s House in Mickey’s Toontown
- Tarzan’s Treehouse in Adventureland
Reader Gina points out some places we missed, “Two places I noticed weren’t listed in the article are Tom Sawyer Island and Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. When my little one was 2 she loved running around both places. Both were areas I didn’t have to worry as much since there weren’t a lot of people. It allowed her to run and play without her harness nor be strapped in a stroller. We are going end of March and I know my daughter who will be 5 will enjoy playing there again and show her 2 year old brother what to do.” Please note I purposely left those out because parents do need to keep a closer eye on kids in these areas to keep from children from getting lost. Tom Sawyer has lack of amenities like shade, food carts, drinks, etc. and Redwood Creek has height requirements for the actual activities.
Secrets for taking a Toddler to Disneyland: Don’t Wait in Line
In addition to the play places listed about like Goofy’s Playhouse in Mickey’s Toontown and Tarzan’s Treehouse in Adventureland, there’s a handful of attractions Disneyland toddlers and their parents will enjoy because there is little to no wait time:
- Beat’s Library and other offerings inside the Animation Building at California Adventure has room to explore at your own pace.
- Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland. Shows begin every 20 minutes or so and you can bring your Disneyland Dole Whip inside.
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, yes the ride wait may be long but did you know you can ask to go to the “Marine Observation Outpost” mostly intended for handicap accessible viewing of the attraction on screen in a stationary room. Approach as cast member near the exit for access.
- Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is a small wait if any, but toddlers may get bored during this presentation.
- Main Street Cinema plays a continuous loop of old Disney cartoons.
- Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough. Inside Fantasyland you’ll find a door marked on the backside of the castle. Go inside and explore together.
Secrets for taking a Toddler to Disneyland: Shows
Disneyland has done such an amazing job creating shows and parades that toddlers and preschoolers will love. In the case that they can’t hang throughout the duration, don’t stress—just look for the nearest exit and head out quietly. Talk to your group beforehand about where you’ll meet afterward just in case.
Check out these top toddler shows and parades at Disneyland:
- Disney Junior Dance Party in Hollywood Land
- Storytelling at Royal Theatre in Fantasyland
- Mickey and the Magical Map in Fantasyland
- Turtle Talk with Crush in Hollywood Land
- Frozen—Live at the Hyperion in Hollywood Land
Secrets for taking a Toddler to Disneyland: Meet Characters
You may have seen Mickey Mouse as you walked into Disneyland on your first day. Give your toddler a chance to wave hello and see what his reaction is . . . some toddlers are scared of Disney characters, but others are all in! The best way to meet Disney characters is through a character meal experience. Plus, toddlers under 3 can dine for free at every character meal. My favorite character meals are outlined right here.
You can also meet Disney characters throughout the Disneyland Resort. Check the Disneyland mobile app for times and locations, including Toy Story friends meet and greet on Pixar Pier and friends from the Cars movies in Cars Land.
Secrets for taking a Toddler to Disneyland: Best Spots to Nap
Are you tired already just reading all these tips? Your toddler will certainly be busy at Disneyland and if you can’t get back to your hotel for a nap, a stroller nap or nap in arms might be your best option. There are lots of benches throughout Disneyland and California Adventure for naps, but I have a few other ideas that might work too!
Toddler nap time at Disneyland:
- If your toddler can zone out with distractions around him, see if he’ll fall asleep on rides like Disneyland Railroad (take the full loop), Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, “it’s a small world”, Pirates of the Caribbean (if it’s not scary), Storybook Land Canal Boats, Red Car Trolley or during Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
- The upstairs of Golden Horseshoe there are plush couches where it tends to be pretty quiet when a show isn’t happening.
- Inside the handicap access point for Sleeping Beauty Castle which shows a video of Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough
- Inside various “lounges” at Disneyland Resort like Carthay Circle, Heathstone Lounge or Mendocito Terrace. Order a drink for yourself and rock the toddler to sleep. Note that many diners in these areas are also looking for a quiet retreat so if your toddler is in melt-down mode, try the other options instead.
- Baby Care Center located at both parks.
Secrets for taking a Toddler to Disneyland: More Tips
We’re back tracking here a bit, but that’s kinda like life with a toddler. Happy one minute, crying the next. Wait, we are still talking about toddlers right? Ok then let’s keep moving.
- You’re going to need a stroller. Plain and simple. I’ve got all the details on where to rent a stroller, where to park a stroller and how to keep your stroller from getting lost in the sea of strollers at Disneyland.
- Will you need a locker? It depends on how much gear you have. Be sure to bring a fully stocked diaper bag and don’t leave any valuables in your stroller.
- Potty training during your vacation? Even for those potty trained little ones, some Disney pull ups might put you more at ease during your Disneyland trip. Be sure to include a change of clothes for your toddler as well as ziploc baggies for any accidents.
- Snacks are a must! Disneyland lets guests bring in food and drinks. Even if you plan to buy food in the park, it’s still a good idea to have a few standbys on hand. Snack while waiting in line or when your toddler is approaching hunger meltdown status. I like to get a few Disney-themed snacks like these.
- If your toddler likes to run around on their own, I suggest workin’ that toddler
leashsafety harness with a smile.
Our last tip should go without saying, but being at Disneyland, having saved and spent lots of money and maybe having too high of an expectation can be stressful. It’s important to remember your main goal is to have fun and make memories. Keeping that in mind is number one. How did your trip to Disneyland with a toddler go? We’d love to hear what other parents need to know when bringing a toddler to the Disneyland Resort.
Disneyland expert who also loves the beach, flip flops and pink nail polish.