In this Disneyland with toddlers guide we round up our best Disneyland toddler tips, best Disneyland rides for toddlers and of course our favourite Disneyland with toddlers itinerary to make sure you have the most magical day in the park.
Disneyland with toddler tips
You might be wondering whether Disneyland with toddlers is worthwhile and I would say that it absolutely is having been to Disneyland when both my daughter and son were toddlers however it does take a little planning. In this section of our guide I will outline our Disneyland toddler tips
Go off season
One of the best things about travelling with a toddler is the ability to travel in off-peak times. If you travel off season then you are likely to face less queues which is a sure fire win when travelling with a toddler. It will also reduce your costs as hotels Disneyland California will be cheaper.
However, if you like me can no longer travel in the off season due to older siblings school commitments be sure to check a Disney Crowd Calendar to look for days that won’t be as busy.
Decide if you want to visit Disneyland and California Adventure
There are so many ticket options out there for Disneyland California and California Adventure with toddlers but the main thing you need to decide is whether you want to visit one park or two. If you only have one day to go to Disneyland California then I recommend sticking to a park a day. However Disneyland and California Adventure are some of my favourite California theme parks with toddlers to visit so if you can visit both parks. Though there is more than enough things to do at Disneyland with a toddler without having to park hop.
However, if you are going to the parks at a very busy time you may want to consider a park hopper ticket in case one park is busier than the other you could choose to alternate for the afternoon.
Buy Your Tickets in Advance
It is absolutely essential to book your tickets online in advance. Tickets for Disneyland California are currently selling out and when I checked for tickets a month in advance there were some days that were already full. My advice is to book your tickets as soon as you start the Disneyland vacation planning process. And definitely check availability for your dates before you book other parts of your trip if you are solely going for the purpose of visiting the parks.
Go Before Your toddler turns 3
We believe that there is no bad age to go to Disneyland with kids, however if you are planning to go with your toddler then go before they turn 3. Children under the age of 3 do not need a ticket (and therefore also don’t need their own Genie+) which will save you a considerable amount of money. It is a great way to cut some of the spend if you are travelling to Disneyland on a budget.
Days at Disneyland can be long especially if you are travelling to Disney with a toddler. While it may be tempting to have a leisurely start we recommend getting to the park for rope drop. This means getting to the gates at least 30 minutes – hour before opening. This way you can get straight to the rides you want as soon as the park opens. Disney only gets busier as the day goes on so by being inside for rope drop you ensure you can do a lot of rides before the crowds start to arrive (you can read more about our Disneyland rope drop strategy here).
Do I need Genie+ when travelling with toddlers at Disneyland?
Genie+ is an add on to your ticket at 20USD a day and has replaced the old fast pass system. It allows you, on certain rides to book a time to ride slot later in the day and means you basically skip the queue.
While I would recommend most people buying these I am not completely sold that this is worthwhile when you are travelling to Disneyland with toddlers.
When you are travelling with toddlers to Disneyland you can expect to spend most of your time in Fantasyland when it comes to rides. Most of the rides in Fantasyland where you will most of the rides without height restrictions, do not have genie+ lightening lane access.
The rides without height restrictions available on Genie+ are;
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- It’s a Small World
- Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblast
Depending on the height of your toddler Autopia with its 81cm height restriction may also be something your toddler can ride.
While the lightening lanes are a great way for toddlers to ride without losing patience in long lines, especially with rides like Peter Pan’s Flight which can get to 40 minutes very quickly if not an hour plus, it is an added expense and with such limited ride selections for toddlers and only being able to ride each ride once with a lightening lane it may not be worth it for your family unless you are going at a busy time.
Saying that if you have older siblings or are planning on using the rider swap on grown up rides then it is absolutely worthwhile.
Decide if you want to stay on site
There are three onsite hotels at Disneyland California
- The Disneyland hotel
- Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa
- Disneyland’s Paradise Pier Hotel – soon to be renovated with a Pixar theme
When we travel to Disneyland Paris with toddlers I always recommend staying on site however when we visit Disneyland California with toddlers we never stay on site. The cost of these hotels is quite high and there are little added extra benefits such as long early magic hours and character meetings currently provided. Therefore we recommend staying at a nearby hotel that is in walking distance.
When we visit Disneyland California we usually stay at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Anaheim Resort Area. It is a short 10-15 minute walk into Downtown Disney and we have always had good experiences there.
Other nearby hotels that provide similar ease are;
- SpringHill Suites by Marriott Anaheim Maingate
- Best Western Plus Anaheim
- Fairfield by Marriott Anaheim Resort
- Howard Johnson by Wyndham Anaheim Hotel & Water playground – which has the added bonus of a great water play area for toddlers
Character Dining with toddlers
Character meet and greets are a key component of any visit to Disneyland for toddlers. However, the queues for meet and greets can get long and there is no lightening lane option for character meet and greets. The best alternative for meeting characters outside of these are through character dining.
At Disneyland there are;
- Breakfast in the Park with Minnie and Friends held at Plaza Inn in Disneyland Park.
- Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet held at Storyteller’s Cafe at Grand Californian Hotel and Spa.
- Disney Princess Breakfast at Napa Rose at Grand Californian Hotel and Spa.
- Goofy’s Kitchen for breakfast or dinner at Disneyland Hotel
If you can afford it, it is definitely a worthwhile experience to get your child to meet a lot of characters in a short space of time without facing the queues. I think this is particularly worthwhile if you had a Princess mad toddler as the queues for the Princess Pavilion in the park can easily get up to 2 hours long on a busy day.
If you do decide to decide to do the princess breakfast then be sure to check out our post on questions to ask Disney Princess or questions to ask Disney characters to ensure great character interactions.
NOTE: specific characters at the character dining are not guaranteed and you won’t know until you get there who you are going to meet.
Know where to find characters
Character meets are one of my toddler’s favourite things at Disney. While you can wait in long queues for the characters we try and eliminate queues wherever we can which is why we like character dining. The other way to meet characters without a queue is knowing where you can see them. We found we met or last saw characters impromptu in the following places;
- At the train stations platform overlooking Main Street
- Walking around Fantasyland in the morning (around 9-9;30 we saw Peter, Wendy and Hook, and we saw Alice and the Mad Hatter around lunch). They tend to go inside at the intersection of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland at the end of their rotation. We also saw first thing in the morning Mary and Bert on the carousel.
- On the terraces near it’s a small world entrance
Look out for toddler meals
At some of the counter service restaurants at Disneyland they offer toddler power packs. These are smaller than regular kids meals and come with a smaller price tag. It’s a great way of saving money if you are travelling to Disneyland on a budget. Alternatively the adult meals are usually large enough to share with a toddler.
Bring Pull Up Diapers
We found the changing tables at Disneyland to be very small for our tall 18 month year old. We were very please that he was wearing pull up diapers as this made changes on small changing tables easier.
I also recommend bringing these even if you have potty trained your toddler. While my advice is to make sure you take a toilet break after every ride, you never know when your toddler may need the bathroom so having some pull ups with you for extra long queues is always a good idea.
Snacks are expensive at Disney and there is nothing worse than a Hangry toddler in a queue. Be sure to pack plenty to keep your toddler happy and save your pennies.
For our full what to pack for Disneyland with toddlers guide click here!
Don’t underestimate the heat
California is undoubtedly a hot place especially if you are travelling to Disneyland in summer. Be sure that you pack plenty of drinks for your toddler, take your reusable water bottle with you and do not forget plenty of sun cream. We were surprised with how many of the toddler friendly rides in Disneyland didn’t have much shade cover. Be sure to reapply your sunscreen before long queues and regularly throughout the day.
Take Layers and Blankets
While California is known for its great weather, there are times it gets chilly and if you are taking your toddler to the evening Parade it can get chilly for them so be sure to have plenty of layers for them.
I also recommend taking blankets as you will need to reserve your place for the parade early so they get a good view. I recommend putting a blanket down in your spot and having your self a lovely evening picnic.
Best Disneyland Rides for Toddlers
Most people visiting Disneyland with toddler worry about what there is to do for them, whether they will be able to go on rides etc. In reality there are lots of rides that don’t have a height restrictions however some may be a but scary. In this section of our guide we round up the best Disneyland rides for toddlers and the rides that might be too scary.
Fantasyland Rides for Toddlers
If you are looking for the best Disneyland rides for toddlers your first stop should be Fantasyland. Fantasyland at Disneyland has the highest density of rides suitable for toddlers and many without any height restrictions at all. Here are the rides your toddler can ride in fantasyland with some added information about height restrictions, scary moments and more!
It’s a Small World
When I think about Disneyland one of the rides I always think about it It’s a Small World. It is a bit of a marmite ride with a song that will undoubtedly stick in your head for the whole day but hey it will make a change from We Don’t Talk About Bruno which seems to be on repeat in my house.
This ride is one of the best in the park for toddlers. And the great thing about this ride is that there is absolutely no height restriction so you can even go on this if you are travelling to Disneyland with a baby. Another great thing about this ride is that you can sit 4 or 5 abreast meaning even larger families can sit together on this ride.
The other great thing about this line is the there is a lightening lane option for this ride if you have Genie+. Even though we visited during Spring Break using our Lightening Lane it only took us 5 minutes of queuing to get onto the ride.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Another classic Disneyland ride suitable for toddlers. This was actually one of my son’s and daughter’s favourites when they rode at toddlers. The great thing is you can control how high it goes and they can watch the ride before they go on it which is also a bonus for littles.
Unfortunately there is no lightening lane for this ride and after Peter Pan I would say that this ride is the busiest in Fantasyland.
We recommend trying to ride this early just after rope drop but you can read more about that in our best Disneyland with toddler itinerary.
King Arthur Carousel
Another favourite toddler Disneyland ride. Again no lightening lane but the good thing about this ride is that the queue for it rarely goes above 25 minutes. If it does, I would just wait to ride until later.
Please note; when riding with small children you will be asked to use the seatbelt and for small babies and toddlers be asked to stand next to them as they ride.
Mad Tea Party
Another Fantasyland ride that toddlers can ride on but whose queue does not seem to go above 30 minutes all too often.
Casey Junior Circus Train
Another ride in Fantasyland whose inspiration comes from the film Dumbo. This slow train round circles around the landscape from the Storybook boats. You have the choice about sitting in a conventional carriage or a circus cage. We love the cage option as it is one of the few rides in Disneyland where large families can all sit together.
Even better there is absolutely no scare factor in this ride.
Note: We found the queue for this ride to be very exposed so therefore if you are queuing be sure you have applied enough sunscreen before joining the queue.
We love the Storybook Canal ride. It is gentle and endearing and both my children have adored this boat ride that takes you round the landscapes from your favourite Disney films.
Fantasyland rides scary for toddlers at Disneyland
The above rides are all those you can find in Fantasyland with absolutely no scare factor. The rides that are listed below have the potential to scare. It really depends on the child – when my daughter was a toddler she loved all of these rides however my son not so much.
Is Peter Pan’s Flight Scary?
Another iconic Disneyland ride and perhaps the most popular in Fantasyland. This ride is the one that gets the craziest queues in Fantasyland.
If you are visiting at a busy time it is worth getting a lightening lane for this ride as the queue can be over an hour. You can try to ride straight after rope drop but the line gets big quick so the genie plus is worth while.
It is also worth noting that if your toddler is afraid of the dark this ride takes part in it. While it is not a scary ride it is dark.
Is Mr Toad’s Wild Ride Scary
The truth is Mr Toad’s Wild Ride could be scary for some toddlers (like my son). It doesn’t have a height restriction but could scare some toddlers due to the darkness and scary subject matter (there’s a car collision and depiction of hell in this one complete with mini devils).
Is Snow White’s Enchanted Wish scary?
Even my daughter wasn’t keen on this one. This is another dark ride which of course has the potential to be scary due to the darkness along but has added scary themes. In the past this ride was scary and was toned down in a refurbishment however the evil queen / witch still makes an appearance that could scare a sensitive toddler.
Is Pinocchio’s Daring Journey scary?
This is another dark ride which made my son cry from the get go. We start with Pinocchio being held captive by an evil puppeteer and other scenes include the boys being turned into donkeys for being naughty.There are also some creepy clowns which might freak out a phobic adult let alone a toddler.
Is Alice in Wonderland ride scary?
The last of the dark rides in Fantasyland and the one my son found least scary. Although dark none of the scenes are too terrifying other than the Queen Shouting Off with their Heads but starts quite gently to ease your little one into the darkness. Both my kids loved this and we rode this one multiple times.
ToonTown Rides for Toddlers
Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
Roger Rabbit’s car toon spin allows you to steer a runaway car through toon town. The ride doesn’t have any height restrictions however could be scary for toddlers for the dark ride element.
Please note; Toontown is currently closed for renovations.
Tomorrowland Rides for Toddlers
Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblast
Sit in a two person car and shoot your laser to help defeat Zorg. My son adored this ride but please note that this is another dark ride.
This is actually one of our favourite rides at Disneyland for toddlers because it has a lightening lane and doesn’t usually have a long queue early in the day.
The last of the no height restriction rides in Tomorrowland. This ride you can sit three in car and has a similar experience to Dumbo the Flying Elephant except you sit behind each other rather than in a row.
Note: Autopia is another ride featured in Tomorrowland but this does have a low height requirement of 32 inches.
Frontierland Rides for Toddlers
Of all the lands in Disneyland, Frontierland is doesn’t have lots of rides for toddlers. I love Frontierland as Big Thunder Mountain is one of my all time favourite Disneyland rides however if you are a toddler you can only ride:
Mark Twain Riverboat
More attraction than ride per se – you board a steamboat and go on a 12 minute journey around the Rivers of America.
Both of my kids have loved this ride and it is easy to keep them entertained on this trip.
Critter Country Rides for Toddlers
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
This is another dark ride that toddlers can go in. My toddler wasn’t scared on this one but I can image that it would scare some.
Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes
Located near the Hungry Bear restaurant, this another attraction rather than ride. This is basically a canoe ride around the Critter Country / Frontier Land area. You sit two by two in a long canoe where children are required to wear a life jacket. We had great fun doing this, and the leader has banter similar to the Jungle Cruise however I would not recommend doing with a toddler. Our little one didn’t want to sit and it became a stressful experience for us parents.
So although you can take a toddler on this I really don’t recommend it. However, if you have the option try and do a rider swap as we really enjoyed this experience.
Adventureland Rides for Toddlers
Jungle cruise is a no height restrictions ride in Adventureland and was one of my son’s favourites. It is a gentle river ride with plenty of animatronic animals to spot on your way round. MY son loved making all the noises of the animals he spotted. Parents and carers will love this ride for all the dad jokes done by your expedition leader.
However, please note towards the end of the ride your expedition leader will fire two shots at the hippos which could cause some toddlers distress. Neither of our children had issues with this but children sensitive to loud noises could potentially have issue.
New Orleans Square Rides for Toddlers
There are two rides with no height restrictions in New Orleans Square however my advice would be to take your toddlers on these rides with caution
Is Pirates of the Caribbean Scary for toddlers?
The Pirates of the Caribbean does not have a height restriction but we did not ride this with either of our toddlers. My husband and I had ridden this before and knew the dark ride, cannon fire and the drop would terrify our littles so we avoided. You may feel it would be ok for us but if in doubt then I would recommend avoiding.
Is the Haunted Mansion Scary for toddlers?
Again, the Haunted Mansion has non height restrictions but I would urge caution taking your little one on this. Although the ride is slow moving with no sudden drops and the ghosts aren’t meant to be scary it may scare some sensitive toddlers. Again having ridden this before we thought this would scare our toddlers. My advice is either avoid or ride before your little to be sure they won’t be too scared.
Galaxy’s Edge Rides for Toddlers
Galaxy’s Edge is the Stars Wars area of Disneyland California. There are no rides that are suitable for toddlers in Galaxy’s Edge because all the rides have relatively high height restrictions. However even if you are travelling with a toddler it is worth going to see the area as it is so impressive.
Best Things to do at Disneyland for toddlers (other than rides)
Character Meet and Greets
When we travelled to Disneyland with toddlers one of the highlights was the character meet and greets. Unless your child is particularly obsessed with one character my advice would be just to see the characters with the shortest queues and know when and where you are likely to see some walking around/
Princesses and Mickey often command the longest queues and have been some of my little ones favourite people to meet. However, a two hour Princess Pavilion queue with a toddler is no fun at all. Therefore if you can afford it try and book a character dining experience which means you are likely to meet some of these characters.
My toddler’s number one favourite thing to do at Disneyland are the parades. Be sure to make sure you do at least one of these during your visits.
Note: People start sitting out for the parade a couple of hours before the parade begins. Be sure to get there in good time to grab your toddler a good view. To keep your toddler occupied during the wait we recommend taking a blanket, a little picnic and some toys to keep them occupied while you wait.
Where to sit for the parade with a toddler? We recommend sitting opposite the Matterhorn for the Disneyland parades. There is only one side to sit on so you are likely to get great character interaction during the parade and it is close to the toilets which is important when hanging around with a toddler.
Shows have always been a highlight for my daughter at Disneyland. Be sure to know when and where they are and ask a cast member outside what time you need to start queuing up to make sure you get inside.
Free Play Time
Don’t think your toddler can only be entertained with rides and planned entertainment. Toon town is a great place to provide your toddler with some free play time.
Though toon town is currently closed there are plenty of other places that a toddler can run around.
Best Disneyland with toddler itinerary
When planning a Disneyland with toddlers itinerary you have to make sure you plan in lots of things i.e. nap times and there are a lot of dependencies such as queue times and closures. With that in mind we think that this is the best Disneyland with toddler itinerary out there
Rope Drop: Rope drop is a great way to get on a lot of rides quickly. We recommend heading to Fantasyland first.
Head to Fantasyland first as this is where you will find most of the toddler friendly rides and you will get on a lot quickly. Avoid lines with queues longer than 20 minutes in the first hour to make sure you use your time most effectively. If Peter Pan has a queue of less than 20 minutes then it is worth jumping straight on this. If not, use a lightening lane later in the day if you have genie plus.
The two rides we tend to prioritise in this period are Peter Pan and Dumbo as these get the longest queues later in the day.
Once you have completed Fantasyland we recommend heading to Adventureland next to ride Jungle Cruise. After Peter Pan, Jungle Cruise is the ride that gets the longest queue that toddlers can ride. Do this earlier in the day after you have done Fantasyland.
For lunch we recommend Golden Horse shoe. This has food that any toddler will love such as chicken tenders. On top of that there is usually a piano man providing entertainment over the lunch period which kept my kids occupied during our lunch.
Notes about this itinerary
I haven’t added nap times into the schedule above as every toddler naps differently. Try and replicate your toddler’s regular nap time so they don’t get overtired and utilise this time to ride rides with a larger height restrictions. Obviously if you are travelling with older children too who have different ride needs then this will alter your itinerary however I still recommend always starting in Fantasyland.
I also haven’t included character meet and greets but you should plug these into your itinerary dependent on who you want to see and what times they are out.
After lunch, head to Tomorrowland to ride Buzz and Astroblast.
For the afternoon we recommend taking in some free play time, and riding any rides that either you haven’t had chance to or repeating your toddlers favourites again.
For a full Disneyland itinerary for toddlers which includes ride order, meet and greets and parades be sure to check out this very detailed itinerary post.
If you are traveling to Disneyland in October why not check out our post on Is Disneyland Crowded on Halloween
FAQs about Disneyland for toddlers
Is Disneyland for toddlers worth it?
You might be wondering whether is Disneyland for toddlers worth it. My answer undoubtedly YES! We have enjoyed every Disneyland vacation with toddlers. Yes, they can’t go on the big rides but there is more than enough for them to go and if they are like my toddlers will adore all the character interactions and parades.
Is Disney good for a 2 year old?
Disney is great for a 2 year old. There are lots of rides they can ride and it is overall one of the best ages to go to Disney in my opinion.
Also if you are visiting Disney with a toddler be sure to check out our other Disney toddler and baby guides no matter the park we will have a guide do you:
- Disneyland with Toddlers
- What to pack for disneyland with toddlers
- Best California Adventure rides with toddlers
- Best Age For Disneyland