Doing Disneyland with Kids
Tips and Tricks about Disneyland from my experience (no rhyme or reason to the order of these categories!) Enjoy!!
Current as of January 2017
I have never had a problem with our stroller. Every once in awhile a cast member might move it just to line it up better and keep it more orderly with other strollers that are also parked. Just glance around and you’ll find it again if that happens. Watch for stroller parking signs near rides because if you are parked it a stroller parking zone then you are less likely to get moved at all. Some people say that they put a balloon or something on their stroller so it is easy to find in the crowd but we’ve never really gone that far because it’s never been a huge problem for us. And I’m always cautious to not leave anything really valuable in case someone does steal something…but we’ve never had anything happen to us in that regard either. Just be smart about what you leave behind knowing there is risk but not likely.
Food is SUPER expensive in the park. I believe Churros are about $4 or $5 each now. Meals then are going to be around $10 per meal at least and not always tons of food. My family growing up (and our little family now) tend to buy one meal in the park per day and maybe a treat but not always. We eat breakfast before we head to the park and we pack backpacks full of snacks and a lunch to just eat whenever we are hungry during the day. (snacks have included anything like fruit snacks, granola bars, hummus, sandwiches, apples, carrots, trail mix, chips, etc.) With a stroller this is WAY easy to do because you have stroller storage. Otherwise you’re hauling food around all day which can get heavy. There are drinking fountains around the park to fill up water bottles. The only rule about bringing food into Disneyland is no glass containers and don’t bring in a ton of McDonald’s bags or other name brand company food…you’ll get some heads turning. I’m thinking they don’t allow large coolers either…Some people have talked about taking coolers and storing them in lockers but I think that is super inconvenient and not necessary. Especially because the lockers are way out of the way and they are expensive as well. :)
Some restaurants in the parks that we like are:
- Bengal Barbeque — meat skewers, veggie skewers, bacon wrapped asparagus
- Carnation Cafe — more a sit down place. May need a reservation for it. Their baked potato soup is delish.
- corn dog stand on main street
- Rancho Del Zocolo — Mexican food in frontierland (probably the MOST food for the money in the park)
- Hungry Bear — Burgers, fries, etc.
- Plaza Inn — Fried chicken dinner and other more homestyle foods
- Stage Door Cafe — Chicken fingers, fries other kinds of “to-go” foods
- Pizza Port — Pizza, Salads, Pasta, etc.
- Pacific Wharf Cafe — Soup in bread bowls and other things
- Taste Pilot’s Grill — Burgers and salads (it’s ok…not the greatest but decent)
(as you can tell, we’re still looking for a favorite at California Adventure) :)
Find out more on each restaurant at https://disneyland.disney.go.com/au/dining/list/
Always ask if there is a discount with Annual Pass or Disney VISA on food. Each restaurant varies.
If you are going with a baby — you should know that there is a baby station at the end of Main Street on the right hand side if you are facing the Castle. I think the First Aid station is also there. They have rooms to nurse in, to change babies and all sorts of baby things if you accidentally forget something or if you need warm water or microwave or anything like that. It’s really nice. I’ve never actually gone in there to feed or change babies (there are also changing tables in every bathroom) but it is a nice thing to know that it is there. I had to replace a bottle once there because we lost one at Disneyland. Expensive but nice that I didn’t have to go out of the park last minute.
Are you still nursing? I was only at Disney for one trip while I was still nursing a baby and I found it easiest to just find a bench or a wall and nurse while other family members went on rides. HOWEVER, I also nursed on It’s a Small World and on Pirates of the Caribbean because they are long and slow and dark rides. :) haha! So…just throwing that out there. :)
Measure how tall your kids are before you go so that you know what you should expect when you are there. (see here for requirements https://disneyland.disney.go.com/au/plan/guest-services/height-requirements/). My oldest is just at 48" now and she loves everything she can go on … for the most part. I don’t know that she’ll ever go on Splash mountain again with me (she wasn’t so thrilled!) :) but she likes that she is a “big kid” now and can go on most everything. :) Space mountain and Tower of Terror are both 40” rides but still too mature for my 5 year old who is tall enough.
Some of our favorite rides are:
- Star Tours
- Space Mountain
- Thunder Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- It’s a Small World
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Midway Mania (Toy Story ride in California Adventure. It is usually at least a 45 minute wait no matter what but it keeps moving so it doesn’t always feel too bad.)
- Soarin over California (California Adventure)
So, fastpasses are passes you can get at some rides (usually rides with long lines). You insert your park ticket into a kiosk at the entrance of the ride, and it gives you a fastpass with a return time on it for you to come ride that ride at that time. It’s nice because you can skip 1–2 hour long lines. Just make sure you get back to the ride within your return time hour. they won’t let you in if you are late for that return time.
Some rides that are good to get fastpasses for generally are: Space Mountain, Star Tours, Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Indiana Jones at Disneyland.
California Adventure you will want to get fastpasses for Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin over California, California Screamin’ and possibly Tower of Terror. Grizzly rapids also has a fastpass but off season you might not have a problem. When we were there in December, there was never a line because it’s just not hot enough.
(Note: Get Fastpasses to Radiator Springs Racers first thing in the morning at California Adventure. the Fastpass kiosks are on the way to cars land but not actually in cars land. Ask a cast member where to get them when you go to California Adventure so that you don’t miss it. The line for the fastpasses wraps all the way to the entrance of the park almost, because it is such a new ride still. It is way fun and you don’t want to have to stand in line for hours later in order to ride it.)
The catch with fastpasses: You can only have 1 fastpass per ticket at a time. So if you go to Space mountain at the beginning of the day and your return time on your fastpass is 10:10–11:10, then you can’t get another fastpass within Disneyland until 10:10.
Same goes for California Adventure Fastpasses.
However, you CAN have a fastpass from each park at the same time if you needed to. You can even send a runner for fastpasses to the other park if you wanted to…however make sure that each person has entered that park already that day. If you haven’t had each ticket scanned, it won’t give you a fastpass for that ticket. Does that make sense?
Rider Switch Passes
Another thing you can use because you have a baby/a child that is too short is “rider switch pass”. This is a pass that you can use to not have to stand in line twice when you have a child who can’t go on that ride. Here’s how it works:
Let’s say you want to all go on Star Tours. Dad and the kids who can ride will get in line (with or without a fastpass) and you stay off with the baby. But you still would like to ride it when they get back but you don’t want to stand in line forever again. Ask the cast member at the front of the ride for a rider switch pass. They will give you a pass that allows 3 people to go on the ride anytime during the day after your family gets off the ride the first time. Some rides the cast member will give it to you right there after they see the baby who can’t go on the ride, and other times they’ll instruct you to talk to the cast member at the front of the line after Dad and the kids already stood in line. My kids love this because it means they get to ride with dad and then they get to ride again with mom and don’t have to stand in line again for very long. It’s nice.
The nighttime shows are World of Color (in California Adventure), Fantasmic (in Disneyland) (CLOSED CURRENTLY),and fireworks. I would say try to go to all if you can (some may be closed right now…look at closures on the schedule when you get to the park)! :) They are all awesome!
World of Color
Best way to see World of Color: Go to the Grizzly Rapids ride in the morning of the day you want to do WoC. They will be distributing passes for seating in World of Color. Get the tickets the same way you get a fastpass — enter your park tickets into the kiosks. The ticket will assign you a section (either yellow, Blue or red) and tell you what time to go to the show. If you have any questions about it, ask a cast member. It’s a very organized system and people are happy to help.
When it is time for World of Color at night, everyone stands to watch the show(no sitting) so try to get in front of a section but don’t be in the very front section by the water because you will get wet. It helps to have a stroller to kinda block off an area where you are going to view the show.
(closed currently because they are building Star Wars land)
Fantasmic is a fun water and music show in Disneyland at night. It’s a fun story and my kids are finally old enough this year to stay awake for it and they love it. Lots of characters and magic.
To get seating, go get fastpasses at the beginning of the day. The Fastpass distribution for this is in FRONTIERLAND behind Thunder Mountain. Ask the cast member there for instructions if you are confused.
best viewing area is in front of the castle. Can get a little squishy but it’s fun to see. You can also see the fireworks from where you watch fantasmic or anywhere down main street. If you are planning on leaving the park right after fireworks, I’d suggest being down mainstreet closer to the entrance of the park than the castle because HUGE crowds leave after fireworks and it can take forever to get out. But if you aren’t in a hurry after the fireworks, then go ahead and get down by the castle. Just watch out for trees that could potentially be in the way for little kids. Everyone stands to watch fireworks. Not sitting. (though they may be sitting on the ground until it starts)..
Look up the times for the shows before you go and kinda plan on which to do which day. It makes it easier when you have a plan. :)
The 2 parades are fun. Just find a spot on the parade route.
Jedi Training Academy
Are your kids into Star Wars? There is a Jedi Training Academy show that is fun and your boys could potentially get picked to learn to be a Jedi and then fight Darth Vader. It’s pretty fun. :)
Storytelling in the Royal Theater
To the left of the castle, There’s a great Frozen show that is fun that we did this last trip. Ask a cast member the best way to see it. They have fastpasses that they distribute in front of the castle by the Walt Disney statue. It was a hilarious show.
Rides that will be closed the week you go
Look it up on the Disneyland website just so you know beforehand
I love love love planning for Disneyland trips! I love going with little kids. It’s such a fun magical experience! I’m so glad you get to go! :)