In September, we took our 3 1/2 year-old girl to the most magical place on earth, Disneyland! My friends have been asking for some tips from our experience, so I’ll lay them out here. Have an amazing time!
1. Bring a stroller
Preferably an umbrella stroller that reclines for naps. Sure, they have them to rent but who wants to wait in a stroller line when you’re eager to get in and out of the park. Plus, if you leave for naps you’ll have to return in and then check one out again. Just another line you’ll avoid.
2. Bring a backpack
You can take them on the rides. We just stuffed ours under our seat. And our backpack was huge, filled with: Snacks, water bottles, camera, video camera, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats and a change of clothes for Kelsey (just in case).
3. Tie a balloon to your stroller
This way you can easily identify your stroller amongst the hundreds parked outside rides. No one steals your stroller. It’s like an unwritten stroller/ parent rule there.
4. See Tinkerbell
She’s in Pixie Hollow just to the east of the castle. We walked right by this place last time we were here (it’s kind of hidden). It’s worth the wait because your child gets great one on one time with the pixie. She told Kelsey jokes, let her look around her tree house and posed for pictures.
5. Get a Three-Day Pass
Because then you’re not rushed to see everything in a short time frame. And, with a three-day pass, you’ll get one Magic Hour day. This means, you get to enter the park one hour early before it opens to everyone else. During this time you can hit up all the kid rides that usually take forever to ride. See: Peter Pan, Cars Land.
6. Ariel’s Grotto is Fantastic!
We went for lunch. It was a bit pricey (I think about $100 for 2 adults, 1 kid) but oh-so worth it! Kelsey still talks about meeting Ariel and all of the Princesses (they greet every table). She met Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Bell. They do this for breakfast or lunch only (not dinner) so book one of those times. Reservations go fast (I booked mine 2 weeks in advance and didn’t get the time I wanted). So, book early. You can email email@example.com.
7. Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue
If you love country music and good ‘ole family style barbecue, then you’ll love this place. We sat at picnic tables and food was brought to us right when we sat down. No ordering here, it’s all the same. I think. At least our neighbors to our right were eating the same food too. Country singers invited kids up on stage and put on a great show. Plus, they had red tongs on the table that kept Kelsey very entertained. Who knew.
8. Best Ice Cream at the Park is …
At Cozy Cone Motel in California Adventure Park. It’s really just ice cream cones and such, but go here when the sun goes down and enjoy ice cream in this snack area. The orange cones light up at night and make for a really pretty (and cozy) little spot.
9. Starbucks is now on Main Street
This is an obvious adult-pit stop right when you arrive in the park. Get your caffeine fix, but make it a Grande. We got Ventis and then quickly realized that you can’t take them with you on any rides. Doh.
10. Buy stuffed animals before you go
This sounds a little cheap, but trust me, it’s a good tip: Go to Costco, Target or even the Disney store and purchase a stuffed animal before you go. Little girls everywhere were carrying around little stuffed animals. It keeps them busy in line and is great for them to have and hold throughout the entire day. Plus, you’ll avoid the large markup if you were to purchase this toy inside the Park.
11. Bring a costume
We brought two. One of the days, we let her dress up like her favorite Princess. With running shoes on, she sported a Disney costume and loved the attention she got, “Here comes a real Princess” strangers would say. It was so cute. And meeting Snow White, while dressed as Snow White … well, you can only imagine her excitement there. Tip: Wear clothes under the costume because if you know three-year-olds then you know they are ‘over it’ as quickly as they were into it.
12. Check the event calendar
I checked the hours and the event calendar one week prior to our trip. This way you know when the park opens (it varies by season) and what parades or special events are happening. Kelsey sat through an entire parade! I was impressed (and oh-so grateful because our feet were killing us). Here’s a link to the Event Schedule.
13. Take it all in!
Stop to take it all in. At some point, you’ve made your dinner reservations, planned the must-see spots for the day, brought all of your gear … now, let loose. Enjoy the rides, watch your child’s eyes light up when they watch “World of Color” and really soak it all in. Seeing Disneyland from a child’s eyes is truly the most magical thing to see.
Feel free to add your travel tips to this post too. We’re taking both kids to Disneyworld next year and I sure could use the tips for taking kids there.