Tips for Visiting Disneyland with a Little Girl

This post was written in August 2016. Although a few details have been updated, some of this information is no longer completely accurate. I’ll do a fact-check next time I spring for the pass!

I recently wrote an email to friends visiting Disneyland with their 2-year old, offering up a few suggestions based on my experiences visiting this year with my now 6-year old. I thought it might come in handy for someone else, so here you go.

The only things that cost extra on this list are the restaurant meals / dining packages and the special preshow package for Frozen Live at the Hyperion.

Meet Sophia the FirstWhat to carry into Disneyland

At a minimum:

  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Wipes/hand sanitizer
  • Portable phone charger
  • Toy, coloring book or other distraction in case you have to sit and wait, for example for the parade to start

 

 

Optional:

  • Cash. I find that I never need it there.
  • Stroller
  • Blanket to sit on
  • Light jacket for evening
  • Plastic poncho if rain is in the forecast, or you want to get up front to the World of Color show
  • Midday meal. We like to eat breakfast before entering the park, pack our own lunch, and then relax for a nice dinner on property in order to get the special viewing area at the after-dark show.

Before you go to Disneyland

Definitely put the Disneyland app on your phone. It will help you know wait times and the locations for everything you need.

Update: Consider purchasing the MaxPass, which will allow you to get FastPass tickets on your phone. You will need to load up the app and connect a MaxPass to each ticket. to Note that FastPasses are free if you choose to obtain them manually from the booths around the park.

Both parks

Meet Winnie the Pooh

Character meet-and-greets

Both parks, all over the place. If you know who she wants to meet, you can look up that character on the app or website in the morning and be ready at that location. There will always be a line.

Rides

Definitely do “It’s a Small World”!

In Disneyland the kids’ rides are all over the park, mixed with the adult stuff. We like the Finding Nemo submarine, and pretty much everything in Fantasyland and Critterland.

You’ll also find a ton of little kid rids in California Adventure. We love the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail – there’s a rock-climbing wall and zip line – and It’s Tough to be a Bug – that’s a 3D theater experience.

The height minimum will be noted for each ride on the app.

Fireworks

The fireworks are visible from inside Disneyland, the plaza outside the ticket booths, and from some nearby hotels.

Our favorite stuff at Disneyland

Meet Minnie MouseCharacter breakfast at Plaza Inn.(Reserve in advance). Buffet-style breakfast, made to order omelets, Mickey Mouse waffles, etc. The characters will come to your table, and you’ll be there long enough to meet at least a handful. One thing to note is that if you have an early reservation, you can get into the park before it opens. This is a good strategy if you want to get in early on a day that you DON’T have an early entry pass to Disneyland.

Fantasy FaireHere is where you’ll find princess to meet one on one for photos and autographs. Usually three princesses or more.

Storytelling at Royal Theater. This is an open air theater where they put on short, funny versions of Disney movies. No reservation. Open with showtimes all day.

Mickey’s House and Minnie’s House: If you want to do this, go early before the lines get long. The perceived wait time is very deceptive. You’ll walk straight into the house but then the line will snake through a gigantic property.

Mickey and the Magical Map. This is a really fantastic stage production starring who else? Mickey himself (along with a gaggle of singers and dancers).

Paint the Night Parade

Paint the Night parade dining package reservation (or whatever nighttime parade is on the schedule when you visit).

Update: The Christmastime 2017 parade is a daytime parade with no dining package available. It runs at 1:00 and 3:30pm down Main Street. I have always found good viewing near the Fire Station.

Once they open up reservations: You’ll get access to a special viewing area if you do a dining package. If you don’t do the package, people start claiming their spots on the curb in the afternoon and just sit there for hours.

For special viewing, you can get lunch at Aladdin’s Oasis (the viewing area is near Small World, and then it will take you a good half an hour to get out of the park), or you can get dinner at Blue Bayou (the viewing area is right inside the park entrance). Lunch is cheaper (maybe $35 for adults?), and the food is good. The dinner is quite nice but pricey (maybe $65 for adults?). The fireworks happen right after the parade ends, if you’re all still awake enough to watch!

Even with a dining package you should plan to line up to get into the special viewing area at least 1.5 hrs before show time if it is important to you to sit in the very front row.

Our favorite attractions in the California Adventure Park

Anna and Elsa's Royal Welcome

Anna and Elsa’s Royal Welcome. Same location as Turtle Talk (Hollywood Land). They are pretty much there all day.

Ariel’s Grotto Princess Lunch. This should be reserved ahead of time. A whole parade of princesses will make grand entrances into the restaurant and each one will stop at your table to chat for a minute. Not Anna and Elsa, though. Note that this restaurant also has a World of Color dining packages but there will be no princesses during those meals.

Disney Junior Live on Stage. In Hollywood land. This is a fabulous puppet show with several showings each day. The puppets are as big or bigger than a 2-year old. The show is free and it’s not possible to reserve. You’ll have to get on line.

Frozen at the Hyperion. This is a full stage production with some absolutely amazing special effects. You can line up (free) (not sure if FastPass is still available but if so, that is also free) or you can reserve it in advance (not free).

The cheapest reservation is $49/pp and it gets you a pre-show event with shaved ice, drinks, etc. and a special seating area for the show. The benefits you’re paying for are no waiting on line for the ticket, and the special seating area. There are two of these reserved events every day.

Meet TianaIf you get a FastPass, there are 3 show  times. You’ll get the next one that still has seats when you get to the front of the line. This was problematic for us when we got tickets for the last show of the day but already had dinner reservations at the same time. We gave the show tickets away, so our time spent on line getting the FastPass was wasted that day. It is possible to see the show without FastPass tickets but those seats [were in 2016] very limited.

You can do a reserved package with lunch for $89/$59 adults/children, which gets you the pre-show package plus a nice lunch, or a dinner for $300/pp, which gets you a character experience plus all the perks of the other packages.

Since character meet-and-greets are free and can be well-planned, and I prefer to use my dinner reservations to get the World of Color package instead, I didn’t see the value in paying $300 for the VIP package. We opted for the cheapest reservation for this show so we wouldn’t run into the dinner-hour conflict again. That said, if you go during a busy season, this could make for a pretty spectacular experience for a Frozen-devotee. Disney charges big bucks for everything but they go out of their way to make it worthwhile.

King Triton’s Carousel

Turtle Talk. Hollywood Land. This is a super cool theater experience where you get to talk to an animated turtle (Crush from Finding Nemo) on the screen.

The entire Bug’s Land neighborhood

Tuck and Roll's Drive 'Em BuggiesWorld of Color Dining Package. This is the after-dark show. The dining package gets you a very nice viewing area for the show. I really liked the Wine Country Trattoria and the viewing area is right down in front. The Carthay Circle dinner is excellent and the viewing area is up on the steps above the lake area and you’ll have a nice view above peoples’ heads.  [Note: they switch up the viewing areas often but the dining package customers always get a good view.]

World of Color was standing-room-only when we went. No sitting on the ground, like people do for the parades. We have been stuck behind adults in the past and my child couldn’t see well. So we either get to the Wine Country area early enough to be in the very, very front (bring a poncho or get wet), or we opt for the Carthay Circle’s higher viewing location.

This should get you started on picking your favorites!

Have a blast!

==========BONUS TIP=============

If your girl is at the age when she likes to get beautified, visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for a princess makeover! Reserve it in advance! They’ll do hair, makeup and nails (lots of sparkle all around), and the child will also get a princess sash and a bag with goodies to take home (makeup, comb, I don’t remember what else).

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique


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