Are you planning on visiting Disneyland with toddlers, preschoolers, or babies? We have visited Disneyland with toddlers and preschoolers several times, and I have great tips for your vacation.
But let's first make sure we are talking about the same place. Some people confuse Disneyland with Disney World, so let's clarify the difference.
The Disneyland Resort is Disney's Anaheim theme park in Anaheim, California. The resort contains Disney California Adventure Park and Disneyland Park.
But this article is specifically focused on Disneyland, California, and vacationing at Disneyland with toddlers and preschoolers or babies. Also, note these tips if you're flying with small kids to California. They will be a huge help to make your trip less stressful.
It is the original Disney theme park, and despite its smaller size (compared to Disney World), it is so much fun! In fact, some Disney fans prefer it to Walt Disney World. But, like all Disney vacations, it requires some advanced knowledge and some planning.
Let's get to my best Disneyland toddler tips (for babies and preschoolers too).
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About Your Disneyland Vacation: What You Need To Know
Disneyland has two theme parks, Disneyland Park and Disney's California Adventure Park. It also has three hotels and a Downtown Disney Experience.
Disneyland Park is similar to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Both theme parks share some similarities and have some differences. One notable one is the castle on Main Street, USA. Main Street has a lot of attractions and places to visit.
When you visit Disneyland with toddlers, you'll find Sleeping Beauty's Castle as opposed to Cinderella's Castle in Walt Disney World.
Disneyland Park has four sections:
- Tomorrowland (home to Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters)
Disney California Adventure
Disney's California Adventure Park is a unique park with a wide range of Disney-themed attractions that are so much fun. It has a bit more of a traditional theme park or a carnival feel with a range of rides and boardwalk-style games in some areas.
But it is also divided into eight distinct sections:
- Buena Vista Street
- Pixar Pier (many kids of all ages love the Silly Symphony Swings here)
- Paradise Gardens
- Pacific Wharf
- Grizzly Peak
- Hollywood Land
- Avengers Campus
- Cars Land
The Disney resorts are some of the best places for families to vacation because they accommodate children of all ages. And this Disneyland Resort is the perfect destination for a fun California vacation.
Also, you may want to consider getting a Disney Photopass as you get access to professional photos from your adventures in the park. I bring my own camera or use my phone, but I know many people love the Disney Photopass. The Disney Photopass is also great if you want to stick your phone and camera in a locker.
So, read this guide for everything you need to know about your visit to Disneyland with toddlers, preschoolers, and babies. It’s a trip all family members will love as they can experience their favorite rides, stay on site, and create lasting memories.
Why Visit Disneyland with Toddlers and Preschoolers (and Babies)
Let's quickly touch on WHY you should go to Disneyland with toddlers, preschoolers, and babies. One reason is that admittance to the park is totally free before your toddler's third birthday.
Families love the Disney experience as there is no other vacation like one at a Disney Resort. And you are never too young (or old for Disneyland.)
In fact, there are over 60 rides with no height restriction, making it a place perfect for toddlers, preschoolers, and babies! And for those ready for a bit more adventure, some rides DO have height restrictions, which are good for preschoolers and older kids. You can check out the height requirements for rides here.
If you are visiting Disneyland with toddlers, preschoolers, and babies, keep in mind the entire property is very kid-friendly, with a couple of baby care centers. Each baby care center Disneyland is fully staffed and offers privacy for changing diapers, nursing, feeding, and more. There is one baby care center in the Disney California Park and one in the Disneyland Park.
Another reason to go to Disneyland with toddlers and preschoolers is that even little kids love the magic of Disney, where they can see their favorite Disney characters come to life. They can fly on a flying elephant, soar the sky with Peter Pan, take a spin on the Junkyard Jamboree, or walk through Sleeping Beauty's Castle.
And best of all, kids below three don't require park tickets. So, if you can't spend all day at the park, you don't feel like you've lost money on a park ticket.
Children three and under can also eat for free at sit-down Disneyland restaurants on the property. And then, there are the Disney snacks. As toddlers snack a lot, they will find plenty of feasts for the eyes and the tummy at Disneyland!
Disneyland also has some of the best Disneyland parades, experiences, and shows for toddlers ( a Disneyland parade is the ultimate Disney experience). The whole family will love this vacation, too, as you are never too old or young for Disney!
What You Need to Know About Visiting Disneyland with Small Children
The reality is that when you visit Disney parks with smaller children, you can't ride as many rides as you can with older kids or adults. But, now you can experience the Disneyland Resort in a whole new way with the Disney Genie experience.
This digital service helps you create the perfect day and touring plan at Disney Resorts. This service helps you maximize your time at the park so you can get more activities in and find things the whole family will love. Available in the Disney app, the Disney Genie Service includes a personalized itinerary feature.
You can help guide it by answering questions about your interests, like your favorite ride, and it will create helpful recommendations. It's like your personalized touring plan of Disneyland attractions. It allows you can plan out your day from entertainment to food experiences to general interests and more.
Are your kids interested in Pixar, thrill rides, Peter Pan, Disney princesses, or Star Wars (You may not think young kids would like Star Wars, but many do)? Just tell the Genie what your family wants to do, and it does all the planning for you. You'll get itinerary updates day and night, and you can enjoy a more flexible vacation.
Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane
For the ultimate in flexibility and convenience, there are two other options that make enjoying the parks easier – the Disney Genie+ Service and the Lightning Lane. For just $20 a day per ticket to the resort, you can choose the next available timeslot to arrive at many of the experiences and attractions using the Lightning Lane entrance.
You can make these selections one attraction at a time. You do need to have Disneyland tickets or Disney California Adventure tickets to purchase the Disney Genie+ or Lightning Lane.
Individual attraction selections are available for purchase too. You can schedule a time to arrive for up to two popular attractions using the Lightning Lane entrance.
You can do all this from your smartphone by downloading the Disneyland app. Downloading this app is one of the best Disneyland tips for toddlers and kids of all ages.
Top Disneyland Tips for Toddlers, Babies, and Pre-Schoolers
Now, let's get to my best tips for Disneyland with toddlers, preschoolers, and babies. We have visited Disneyland multiple times when our kids were toddlers and preschoolers. So these are tips from personal experience.
1. Prepare in Advance
To have the best family Disney experience, plan your trip in advance. Prepare a flexible schedule with the Genie service or on your own, so you can hit the attractions your family doesn't want to miss.
Some experiences are more popular than others. So, if you have kids who want to attend a character breakfast or ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Galaxy's Edge, planning ensures they won't miss out.
I recommend starting to plan as SOON as you decide to take your Disney vacation.
You also may need to make park reservations, so be sure to check if reservations are available first before buying your ticket. Then book your off-property or Disneyland hotel, buy your tickets, and make your park reservations.
At 60 days out, if possible, start to make dining reservations (especially character breakfasts and character meals.) Some character breakfasts your toddler may love are Mickey's Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet and Donald Duck's Seaside Breakfast. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the parks and where things are.
2. Book a Disneyland Resort Hotels on the Property
There are three main onsite Disneyland hotels:
- Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
- Disneyland Resort Hotel
- Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel
Staying on the Disneyland Resort property makes the whole trip easier as you are within walking distance to everything, and it's easier to take breaks. It's better for kids to have nap time at the hotel than trying to sneak in a stroller nap.
Plus, you can pop back to your Disneyland hotel room before dinner if you need to change clothes or if you forget something. Disneyland Resort Hotels may be more expensive than some of the nearby hotels in Anaheim, but they have a lot of great perks for families.
That's why one of my favorite tips for going to Disneyland with toddlers is to stay onsite.
3. Book at Least Some Restaurants in Advance
It's also better to book some restaurants in advance, especially the character meals, so you can avoid the line and the kids won't miss out. Many dining experiences have limited availability, so booking them in advance ensures you don't miss out.
You can book them as far out as 60 days from your arrival date. I recommend making a note in your calendar as they will fill up, quickly.
You don't want the kids to miss events like eating breakfast with their favorite characters, and each character meal experience is different.
A character dining experience is also perfect for the days you won't be in the Disneyland Resort to extend the whole Disney experience. Then they won't cut into the time you spend in the park. Disney recommends advanced reservations for restaurants such as:
- Blue Bayou Merriest Nights
- Blue Bayou Restaurant
- Cafe Orleans
- Carthay Circle Lounge
- Carnation Cafe
- Catel Restaurant
- Goofy's Kitchen
And many more. Check out this page on the Disneyland website for a full list of restaurants you can make reservations for.
4. Use Mobile Ordering
Save time with mobile ordering at quick-service restaurants. The Disneyland app has a mobile ordering feature that makes ordering food on the go easy. It's a convenient way to plan your meals ahead of time. We love using the Disneyland app to save time.
In fact, I recommend deciding on where you want to have lunch or dinner in advance if you are choosing quick service, put your order in and select your pick-up time early in your park day. If you wait too long, by the time you are ready to eat, the pickup time might be later than you want to eat.
You can even use mobile ordering for snacks! This way, you can plan in advance and can be sure not to miss out on any of those special, themeatic treats at Disneyland!
5. Look for Toddler Meals on Menus
One of the best tips for getting around Disneyland with toddlers and young kids is to look for kid-friendly meals on menus. Some restaurants have more food for toddlers than others, but many have staples such as baked or fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, chicken tenders or nuggets, grilled cheese, and more. There are plenty of places to find food that younger kids love.
6. Bring a Stroller
One of the best Disneyland tips with toddlers is to bring a stroller to the theme park or rent one from Disneyland to make traveling around the park easier. You can use rented strollers throughout Disneyland, Disney California Adventure Park, and the Downtown Disney District, but you can’t take them into Disney hotels.
Stroller wagons are not allowed. You can learn more about stroller rentals at Guest Services on the Disneyland website. You can rent a single stroller or double stroller, which is very nice.
The Guest Services page has a lot of helpful information on all Disneyland services.
7. Get the Kids Excited for the Trip
Another great tip for vacationing at Disneyland with toddlers is to get them excited about the trip. Watch Disney movies or read books like Cars, Cinderella, the Little Mermaid, and Monsters Inc. in advance to help them anticipate the trip. You can even do a fun countdown visual.
8. Get to the Parks Early
Of all the great Disneyland for toddlers’ tips, getting to the parks early might be the best. There can be long lines (which get longer as the days go on) and wait times strat to build, so I recommend getting to the parks as soon as they open to maximize your Disney trip.
If you're staying onsite, you are within walking distance to the entrances of both Disneyland Park and Disney's California Adventure. This makes getting there early easier.
You want to take advantage of the time when park officials start letting people into the park 20 minutes before it officially opens. That way, you can get in line by the Walt Disney statue for the most popular rides as soon as possible.
Insiders call this the rope drop. I recommend doing the Magic Kingdom Park first as it has many toddler-friendly rides. Cars Land is also a kid-favorite located in the Disney California Adventure Park. If early entry is offered here, take advantage of it.
9. The Best Disneyland Rides for Toddlers
You'll find plenty of experiences and rides for toddlers at Disneyland and California Adventure. There are some great dark rides, too, as long as your little one doesn't scare easily (my kids love a good Disney dark ride). Some of our favorite Disneyland rides for toddlers at the Disney California Adventure Park include:
- Disney Junior Dance Party Live on Stage
- Toy Story Midway Mania
- Jessie's Critter Carousel
- King Triton's Carousel
- Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue
- Mater's Junkyard Jamboree
- The Little Mermaid – Ariel's Undersea Adventure (Dark Ride)
- Pixar Pier
- Tom Sawyer Island
Our favorite Disneyland rides for toddlers include:
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (a.ka. “Pooh Ride”)
- Alice in Wonderland
- King Arthur's Carrousel
- Mad Tea Party (young kids love the Mad Tea Party)
- It's a Small World
- Dumbo, the Flying Elephant
- Minnie's House and Toon Town
- Peter Pan's Flight
- Casey Jr Circus Train
- Snow White's Enchanted Wish (formerly Snow White's Scary Adventures – one of the dark rides)
One of the best rides for toddlers at Disneyland is the Disneyland Railroad. Take the 18-minute scenic ride around Disneyland on an authentic steam-powered train. There are several stops like Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square, Town Square, or ToonTown.
The Disneyland Big Thunder Mountain Railroad takes you on a grand journey around landscapes inspired by some of America's greatest rivers – the Grand Rio, the Mississippi, the Columbia, and Missouri.
Some rides may be a little too scary for babies and toddlers, like Toad's Wild Ride and Pirates of the Caribbean. These would be better for preschoolers.
The best toddler rides are often gentle and fun, but you know your children best. Most of the Fantasyland Rides will be toddler-friendly. And when in doubt, Dumbo, the Flying Elephant, and It's A Small World are both iconic and a favorite for everyone!
Young children and toddlers will also love the Storybook Land canal boats that have you cruising through the mouth of Monstroso the whale. You'll get a tour of classic Disney homes and villages for a whole different experience in the Storybook Land canal boats.
10. Try to Keep a Schedule
As you know, it's important to try to keep toddlers on schedule. But you still want to have some flexibility.
Take advantage of the baby care centers on the property, and be sure to take plenty of breaks, including going back to your Off-site or Disneyland Resort hotel if possible. Also, bring snacks like granola bars or something your hungry toddler and kids will love, and you won't have to pay for snacks inside the park.
However, if you choose to purchase a special Disney snack, there are many toddlers who will love! On hot days you can throw each water bottle in the freezer the night before.
Frozen water bottles ensure that your water stays cold longer. If your child needs a break from all of the stimulation, they can stretch their kid or toddler legs at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail in Disney California Adventure.
11. Pack a Day Bag
Of course, you need something like a day bag to pack your snacks, refillable water bottles, diapers, extra layers of clothing, or a change of clothes. You can take whatever type of bag you use day to day as long as everything you need fits in it.
It's also nice to take a bag you can wear several ways, depending on whether your child is in a baby carrier or stroller. Some people like to bring backpacks on Disney World and Disneyland trips. You can also use your stroller to store important items that you need to get to quickly as well.
12. Create a Flexible Itinerary in Advance
While careful planning ahead of time is important so you can be more efficient with your time, it should be flexible to maximize your Disneyland Vacation. It’s a good idea to have a loose itinerary in advance.
But this is also where the Disney Genie Service on the Disneyland app can help you. Be sure to familiarize yourself with it BEFORE your trip.
Unexpected things could pop up, wait times could be long, and other issues can occur that throw off your schedule.
That's why the Genie Disneyland app can help you plan your trip ahead of time, and you can familiarize yourself with it before your vacation, so using it will be easy.
13. Take Advantage of the Rider Switch Program
The Rider Switch Pass is another great guest service feature that lets guests take turns waiting with young kids unable to ride a Disneyland attraction. If several adults want to ride something, this program allows one supervising guest or adult to wait with non-riders while everyone else enjoys the bigger rides.
If you want to ride Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land, for example, and you have really young kids in tow, this is when Rider Switch comes in handy. It is one of the BEST rides in every Disney Park (in my humble opinion), but little ones have to be 40″ or taller to ride.
So this is a great time to use Rider Switch. You can also use it if adults or older kids want to ride Splash Mountain or Space Mountain or one of the roller coasters in Disney California Adventure. An adult and older children can test their need for speed while younger ones wait with an adult, and then the adults can switch.
You can see directions for the Rider Switch here.
14. Dress in Character When in Disneyland
When in Disneyland…. dress like a Disney character! There are plenty of ways to dress up as your favorite Disney character, from Mickey Mouse Ears to full-on princess outfits to maximize your tot’s experience. And, you can always check out the Bippity Boppity Boutique if you would like a professional Disney makeover!
15. Take a Mid Afternoon Break
Another great tip for navigating Disneyland with toddlers is to add a midafternoon break to your itinerary. This break is the perfect time to use your hotel's amenities like the pool for a little rest and relaxation.
This is also the perfect nap time or time to eat a meal or grab a Disney snack. When my kids were little, they would sometimes nap in our Ergo Carrier while we rode on some of the no-height requirement rides like “It's A Small World.”
You can also use the Monorail if little feet get tired. My kids didn't realize it wasn't a “ride” as it was just as exciting for them!
16. Bring a Cell Phone Charger
Make sure you pack a cellphone charger in your day bag or stroller. It's important to keep your cellphone charged, especially if you're using the Genie Service.
17. Visit Both Parks
Don't skip one of the two parks because there are toddler-friendly things you don't want to miss in both locations. You may be tempted to skip one to save time, but this is one of the tips for navigating Disneyland with toddlers you don't want to miss.
There will be a lot of walking, so be sure to have good shoes for your theme park days!
18. Listen to Your Child
It's important to listen to your kids and only plan as much as your children can handle. There is a lot to do in both parks, and you can't do everything in one day.
And since you don't want to miss some of the best Disney experiences, plan to do each park on separate days. We know how much there is to do, so we set our expectations to accomplish specific rides or certain areas.
You can’t do it all even in one trip, so that's why we always take multiple vacations to Disneyland. Believe me; I hear no complaints from anyone in my family taking multiple trips to one place like this because we know there is so much to do.
19. Relax, It's Disney!
My best piece of advice to families with toddlers is to relax. You may have heard the story about my son when we were potty training him. If not, I'll just say he may or may not have had a little accident on the floor at one of the Disney shops.
Don't stress if one of your young children has a toddler moment because Disney brings out the kid in all of us. So, relax; it's a Disney vacation with kids! We expect our kids to be happy, sad, noisy, laugh loudly, and yes, even throw a temper tantrum.
20. Visit Mickey's ToonTown
A visit to Mickey's ToonTown is perfect for free play and walkarounds with your toddler. Your little ones will enjoy the ToonTown rides and playing on the attractions and activities designed just for them, such as Goofy's Playhouse with an indoor and outdoor play yard for kids.
Construction is underway as Disneyland was finally able to start working on Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway that the pandemic stopped. So, expect to see some demolition and construction as the ride is set to open in 2023 now.
Critter Country is another great place to find some shade during hot days or take a break. Home to Splash Mountain and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Critter Country rides are a favorite for many young children.
21. Book Character Meals
It's not all about Disneyland rides! Getting to meet the characters is also the highlight a Disneyland vacation with toddlers. Can you imagine how fun it would be to be a Disney cast member?
One of the best ways for your little one to get up and close to their favorite pals is during one of the character meals. In both Disneyland parks, there are character experiences.
But seeing kids' favorite friends and getting an autograph is a thrilling experience.
Our favorite is Minnie and Friends Breakfast at the Plaza Inn on Main Street U.S.A.. It's a great one to see Minnie and a range of friends before taking flight on some of the Disneyland rides.
Is Disneyland good for a 2-year-old?
Yes, you are never too young (or old) for Disneyland! Because there are over 60 rides with no height requirement, plus rider switch, Baby Care Centers, hotels close to the park, meals for toddlers on the menus, and two-year-olds don't need tickets for the park, it is a great vacation to visit with a two-year-old. There are also stage shows toddlers love (though sadly, the beloved Mickey and the Magical Map is permanently closed.) But at such a family-friendly place, I can easily say that Disneyland is good for a 2-year-old.
Can toddlers ride rides at Disneyland?
Yes, there are over 60 rides with no height requirement at Disneyland for toddlers and babies! Some of our favorites include It's A Small World, Peter Pan's Flight, the Jungle Cruise, and a climb about at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail!
What is there to do for toddlers at Disneyland?
From soaring to Neverland on Peter Pan's Flight to singing along with “It's A Small World”, taking a river ride on the Jungle Cruise, or visiting with Mickey Mouse and the gang (as well as other Disney favorites), there is so much to do for toddlers at Disneyland. They most certainly will enjoy the Disney trip as much as everyone in the family.
Which Disneyland Park is better for toddlers?
While you will find most of the toddler-friendly attractions in Fantasyland in Disneyland, don't overlook Disney's California Adventure Park.
Here you'll find many attractions suitable for toddlers.
But my kids' favorite was Cars Land, which looks like you just stepped into Radiator Springs (any Cars fan will want to see it.)
The Radiator Springs Racers and Mater's Junkyard Jamboree have height requirements. But there are appearances by Lightning McQueen, Red, and Mater. Do take advantage of Rider Switch for Radiator Springs Racers if you have family members too small to ride, as it is one of the very best rides in all of the Disney Parks.
Final Thoughts on Disneyland with Toddlers
A trip to the Disneyland Resort in Southern California is a fun family vacation. But careful planning and preparation can make it even better. The most helpful tip for parents traveling to Disneyland with toddlers is to download the Disney app.
You may even want to consider using the Genie Service. That way, you can plan your day around the rides with height restrictions and other popular attractions your toddler will enjoy.
Families with toddlers will enjoy a Disneyland trip in California that’s completely unique from Disney World in Florida. To make things easier, you can even look into vacation packages where you can stay onsite.
Follow these smart tips for families vacationing at Disneyland with toddlers, and you'll make magical memories for years to come.