I’m always flabbergasted when I ask a new acquaintance if they’ve visited Disneyland (yes, that’s a question I ask someone when I’m getting to know them. What else did you expect?), and they say something like, “Why would I go to Disneyland? It’s a park for kids.” First of all, everyone is a kid at heart so really everyone belongs at Disneyland. However, with this common notion that Disneyland is only for youngins, there are mostly parents bringing their children to the parks. Although I currently don’t have kids myself, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that you can implement the next time you visit Disneyland with kids.
#1: Quit Complaining and Get Up Early
I’m pretty sure the last thing you want to do on vacation is get up early. Sorry to break it to you, but a trip to Disneyland is not the place to go if you want to catch up on your sleep. I remember when I was a lot younger, my family didn’t go into the parks until about ten in the morning. I’d be wired from the time I anxiously awoke to the time we finally walked to the parks. So, I recommend that you arrive for rope drop (normally, rope drop is at 8 a.m. in both parks, but check the Disneyland Resort website for the specific days you’ll be in the parks). The parks are the least crowded in the morning when they first open. You’ll have more than enough time to check off some Fantasyland attractions from your list, or visit with some of your children’s favorite characters. When two o’ clock rolls around, and a food comma sits in (for you and your children), head back to the hotel to relax before going back into the parks for dinner. The afternoons are the busiest time at the park, so by recharging at your hotel, you’ll avoid at least some of the crowds. Plus, your kiddos won’t be as exhausted and cranky.
#2: Bring Snacks
Unlike most theme parks, Disneyland allows guests to bring in an abundance of snacks. Although food might be annoying to lug around all day, you’ll thank me later after your children start getting hungry, and you won’t have to pay $12 for a snack. Although Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth, it isn’t when it comes to the damage it could do to your wallet. So instead of breaking the bank, bring in a variety of snacks that are sure to keep your kids satisfied.
#3: Buy Merchandise Before Arriving
No doubt, your children will be asking for lightsabers and Elsa dolls the moment they spot them in Disneyland or California Adventure. To prevent a dramatic meltdown, do all your shopping for Disney merchandise the day you arrive in Anaheim. There are many stores surrounding Disneyland that sell Disney merchandise for a drastically lower price than what you’d pay in the park. I particularly like to order Disney apparel and accessories off of Etsy. If you order online, be sure to allow enough time so that you’ll have your purchases before you leave for your Disneyland vacation.
#4: View Parades across from It’s a Small World
Guaranteed, your kids will want to see the Soundsational Parade at least once during your stay (unfortunately you won’t be able to take a nap at your hotel that day). Instead of lining up on Main Street to wait for the parade an hour and a half before it starts (yeah, my family was once crazy enough to wait that long for a parade), arrive in front of It’s a Small World a half hour before the parade starts. You’ll be able to grab a front-row spot at many locations around the attraction. If you’re unsure of where the parade route is, ask a nearby cast member, and they’ll direct you to any open space you can claim for the parade.
#5: Go to California Adventure if Your Child is a Disney Channel Fan
For the longest time, my family didn’t get the Disney channel. I had the rare opportunity to watch Disney shows only when we’d travel and stay at a hotel that had the channel. Imagine my excitement when my parents explained a few years later that we’d be getting the Disney channel! I could watch shows like JoJo’s Circus, Special Agent Oso, and Hannah Montana as frequently as I desired. From then on, I was a Disney channel addict (I still watch The Suite Life of Zack and Cody more than the average college student should). Because I know that your kids are probably no different than I was, take them to Hollywood Boulevard in DCA. They can visit with characters like Princess Sophia, Handy Manny, and Doc McStuffins just to name a few. If you have any Disney channel super fans in your family, take them to Disney Junior—Live on Stage in DCA.
#6: Measure Your Kids Before Going to the Parks
I’ve watched many kids throw tantrums in the parks because they’re too short to ride a particular attraction. It’s heartbreaking to watch a kid’s day be ruined because they weren’t tall enough to ride the only attraction that they’ve been waiting months to ride. To prevent this heartbreaking scene, measure your children’s height before going to the park. On the Disneyland website, you’ll find measurement requirements for all the attractions. If your children don’t meet the requirement, avoid those attractions when you do make it to the parks.
#7: Go to Fantasy Faire
Fantasy Faire is one of the newest additions to Disneyland that is a little girl’s paradise. Your little princess can watch some of her favorite movies like Tangled and Beauty and the Beast come to life on stage at the Royal Theatre. Plus, be sure to make a pit stop at the Royal Hall where your children can visit with a plethora of Disney princesses. The great thing about the Royal Hall is that you only have to wait in line once for the price of three princesses (Disneyland’s version of buy one get two free). Ask the cast member outside the hall to see what princesses you could visit with that day.
#8: Go to the Cozy Cone for Snacks
On the days that you decide lugging around food isn’t worth it, head to the Cozy Cone Motel in Cars Land to grab some snacks. I know how picky kids can be (thanks to my younger sister who was as picky as they come), and even your pickiest of eaters will find something to enjoy at the Cozy Cone. The neat thing about this pit stop is that each cone sells a different food item but it’s all in close proximity. There’s flavored popcorn, Chili Cone Queso, churros, pretzel bites, soft serve ice cream and more. Whatever your children are craving, they’re sure to find it at the Cozy Cone.
#9: Wait for the Toontown Rope drop
Assuming that you follow my first tip, you’ll be in the park in time for Toontown’s rope drop which is normally around 9:30. There is never a huge crowd because most guests will be spending this time riding as many E-Ticket attractions as they can before the crowds really role in the for the day. I recommend getting to the Toontown gates about ten to fifteen minutes before rope drop to guarantee that you get a front row viewing. The cool thing about this rope drop, is that the residents of Toontown (aka Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto) make an appearance. The characters normally interact with the guests a few minutes before rope drop, and a few lucky children will even get the opportunity to walk into Toontown while holding one of the character’s hands (characters normally pick children close to the front, so that’s another incentive for getting to there a few minutes early). Not only is this a great photo opportunity (a picture of your child clutching Mickey’s glove while being the first guest of the day to enter Toontown! What gets better than that?), it’s a great opportunity to get in line to visit with some of the most popular characters. The lines to see these characters grow incredibly long during the day, but it’s sure to be the shortest after rope drop. Watch this video by FreshBakedDisney to see this magical moment you could experience.
#10: Put a Ribbon on Your Stroller
If you haven’t been paying attention to my previous tips, I recommend that you start paying attention now, because this is the most important tip I’m going to tell you. For the sake of your own sanity, please wrap a colorful ribbon around your stroller. When your whole family hops in line for an attraction, you’ll leave your stroller to the cast members outside the attraction. As you wait in line and ride the attraction, cast members will be arranging and rearranging the plethora of strollers into endless rows and columns as if it was a stroller parking lot. By the time you exit the ride, you’ll be scanning a sea of strollers that look identical. All of your agony will be nonexistent if you simply tie a colorful ribbon around your stroller so you can easily pick it out of a crowd.
UPDATE: Just to let y’all know, my blog is undergoing a minor change. I’ve realized that writing a blog post every week while working and being a full-time college student is nearly impossible. Instead of writing a post weekly, I’ll now be posting the first Saturday of every month. Nevertheless, the goal of Off to Neverland still remains the same: to bring Disneyland magic to you, wherever you are.
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