My family - me, husband Dave, and our two-year-old daughter, Amy - took
our first trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, this past spring. We
were a little unsure about Amy. Was it worth it with a child that young?
Would she even remember the experience? Our concerns were erased by the
time the trip was over. She had a ball - and because of her age, she never
doubted that the magic was real. As for Dave and me, we'll never forget
the expressions of wonder on Amy's face.
To ensure a great time for everyone, learn about the park's offerings
before you go. Here are some tips to help you plan the most
toddler-friendly visit to the Magic Kingdom.
Design a Game Plan
* Travel agents recommend visiting in early fall or winter to avoid
crowds. Whenever you do go, take lines and crowds into consideration as
you schedule your days.
* Disneyland's Web site (www.disneyland.com) offers directions, park maps,
hours, and attraction descriptions. Check them all out before you get
there and familiarize yourself with the park. Signage for bathrooms
especially can be sparse.
* You can rent strollers for $7, but if your child is heavier than 30
pounds, they won't be roomy enough for a comfy nap. We brought our own,
which has a sunshade, and a bike lock to keep it safe. You can't take your
stroller in line for any rides, but you can park it just outside of every
* If you get the urge for some adult time, the Fullerton Child Care Agency
(714-528-1640) can send a sitter to your hotel room or take your child to
the park for you.
Inside the Park
* If you want to go on some adults-only rides without splitting up, try
the "Baby Swap." As soon as you get in line, tell an attendant that you
want to use this option. When it's your family's turn, one parent rides
while the other stands aside holding the child. When the run is over, the
parent who just rode gets off and takes the child, and the other parent
* Eating in the park can be expensive, but most restaurants offer
Mouskemeals ($3.99) for young kids. For a sit-down family buffet, try
Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel (adults, $24.95; kids 4 to 11,
$8.95; and children 3 and under, $3.95). Costumed Disney characters mingle
and ham it up as you eat, and there's a special child-height buffet
stocked with kid-pleasing foods.
Disneyland boasts a slew of rides and attractions that, while tame, elicit
squeals of delight from toddlers. Amy's favorites were It's a Small World,
a boat ride through a musical diorama; the Enchanted Tiki Room, a Hawaiian
extravaganza complete with automated birds and flowers; and the Country
Bear Playhouse, where furry life-sized robotic bears sing and dance in a
Children three and older can visit every attraction in Mickey's Toontown,
including Chip 'n Dale's Treehouse and Goofy's Bounce House. They can also
tour Mickey's House, where they're guaranteed a chance to meet the Mouse
himself in his dressing room. Then there's this little-known secret:
Several times each afternoon, Disney princesses tell stories to young
guests in the Tinker Bell Toy Shoppe.
Twice a day during our visit, the 45 Years of Magic Parade marched down
Main Street U.S.A. Parade schedules vary, depending on the season, but
stake out a spot early to give your toddler a good view of all her
Every night when we were there, the park staged "Fantasmic!" at Rivers of
America. A laser-light water show with fireworks and a full-sized pirate
ship, "Fantasmic!" will knock the cynic out of any adult. I was worried
that Amy would be scared of the giant fire-breathing dragon. Boy, was I
wrong: She asked to watch it three nights in a row! Bright lights and big
noise were also on tap at 9:30 every night with the 45th Anniversary
Fireworks Spectacular, "Believe: There's Magic in the Stars."
Where to Stay
The Walt Disney Travel Company (800-854-3104;
www.disney.go.com/Disneyland) offers packages throughout the year. We got
our fourth hotel night free, a five-day flexible pass for the price of a
three-day pass, early admission to the park (6:30 a.m.), and one
Here are some hotels, packages, and total rates for a two-night stay for
two adults and one toddler.
* Disneyland Hotel (714-778-6600; $680): Includes a Disneyland Flex
Passport, early park admission (6:30 a.m.), Monorail transportation to the
park, and fine dining in the hotel.
* Hilton Anaheim (714-750-4321; $209): Includes convenient frequent
shuttle service to and from the park.
* Best Western Park Place Inn (800-854-8175; $220 to $240): Located
directly across from Disneyland's main entrance, making it the most
convenient (though not the nicest) hotel for a Disneyland vacation.
* Red Roof Inn Anaheim (714-502-9014; $159 to $179): Three miles from
Disneyland; offers shuttle service.