Every family has a different opinion on the right time to visit Disneyland. It can be overwhelming to think of taking your young children to the parks as well as being away from the comfort of your own home and routine. However, there are some families that decide they will take the plunge and take their children before age 5, my family being one of them. Let me just put your fears to rest and let you know it’s not as terrifying as you think, at least not for us. Also, even if you are worried about your child not remembering the trip, the pictures will last a lifetime and when they are older they will love reliving the memories and stories with you.
To make sure your trip goes smoothly with your young child, obviously a well thought out plan is a must have. A major part of the itinerary with your young child is deciding what rides are the top attractions for their age group. I have narrowed down to the top 5 rides for children under 5 to help you along your way to vacation bliss with your toddler.
These rides are in no particular order and based on my experience with my recent trip with my two-year old.
1. Dumbo – This classic spectacle is a definite go to ride for young children. This ride in particular is usually packed most of the day so make sure to arrive early at the park so you are able to hop on the famous flying pachyderm. Personally, this is my favorite ride to enjoy with my two year old daughter because of how magical it is to children of their age. The combination of the enchanting surroundings and the feeling as if they’re flying brings a unique look of amazement to their face that only Disney can deliver.
2. It’s A Small World – No matter your opinion or devoted hatred for the mantra of this famous ride, this is a requirement on pre-k ride list. The colors, lights, and sounds captures the imagination of even the littlest tots. This is an ageless Disney landmark and a staple for every Disney vacation. It is also a great place for your kids to cool down inside the air-conditioned boat ride.
3. The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure – Hop on over to California Adventure and you are in for an under the sea treat. This timeless princess classic is a hit, especially with the little girls in your life. This was the most frequent stop on our ride list because my two-year old is at the beginning of the princess stage. It is a great ride for little boys too especially the “Under the Sea” segment with the various colorful sea life.
4. Toy Story Midway Mania/Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters – I combined Toy Story Midway Mania in California Adventure and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters in Disneyland into one because I feel like they are essentially the same ride. In my opinion, these attractions are more suited for the older toddler to young child age bracket. You can bring younger babies on these rides but the noise may be too over stimulating for them. Since there are not many thrill rides for younger children, these two rides are a great opportunity to add some excitement and action to their Disney day. Even if they can’t count yet, they still find joy out of hitting the targets and racking up the points.
5. The Bug’s Land at California Adventure – This section of the parks is more like a fair/carnival based environment. Though it is not that entertaining for parents or adults, the kids really seem to enjoy the Bug’s Life themed atmosphere. There is Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train as well as Flik’s Flyers that allows you to twirl around in the ant’s latest invention. “It’s Tough To Be A Bug” is a 3D live show that both adults and children enjoy. However, it is not the best idea to bring in your own little squirmy bugs that do not have the attention span to sit through the show with bug eye glasses on.
Selfishly, I would’ve loved to place my top “kiddie rides” on the list but I know that they do not appeal to all young children.
Peter Pan‘s Flight – This is my absolute favorite “kiddie ride” or ride in general at Disneyland but for younger kids it may not be as fun. It is a classic dark ride from the early days of Disneyland and some children may be scared of the dark.
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage – Finding Nemo is a very popular film with younger children although do not let the outer appeal of this ride deceive you. The submarine ride is a very tight squeeze inside and it is difficult to get your young children in and out of the ride. We didn’t even try to attempt this ride with my two-year old because it was difficult to maneuver just being adults let alone a squirmy toddler, but it may be ok for other children.
Mad Tea Party – I enjoy all things Alice in Wonderland and this is one of my favorite ride experiences. That being said, the spinning and rapid movement may be too much for some children. When we take our daughter, we never spin the wheel to make us turn so she enjoys the ride as well.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – This is also another classic dark ride and there is black-light lighting in some parts. Also, the heffalumps and woozles are somewhat frightening so this ride is not for all young children even though it is marketed and made for them. Again, if your child doesn’t do well with the dark or over stimulation this isn’t the ride for them.
Rides to Avoid:
Mickey’s Fun Wheel at California Adventure – It is coincidental that they claim this to be a “fun” wheel because I like to think of it as Mickey’s Wheel of Terror. This is not a good ride for most people, especially young children. The heights are fear-provoking and you do not feel secure in the cages they put you in. If you do decide to go on the “fun” wheel with your child, do not choose to go on one of the cages that move, that intensifies the terror. This is not your typical Ferris wheel that you see at the fair, it is much larger and scares any parent no matter if they have a fear of heights or not.
Pinocchio’s Daring Journey/ Snow White’s Scary Adventure – I previously listed Peter Pan’s Flight as well as The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh on the honorable mention list because of their dark ride atmosphere that may not be suitable for all children However, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey and Snow White’s Scary Adventure are a different story. These were the original dark rides at the park and some of the images and sounds are too scary for young children. I would suggest you skip these all together. Even though they are classics, you are not missing anything.
Bonus Tip: Although it is not considered a ride, you absolutely must take your young children to Disney Junior Live in California Adventure located in Hollywoodland. If you are like our family, Disney Junior is on our television quite frequently, especially when mommy needs to get something done. Therefore, this show is an amazing experience for children to enjoy their favorite Disney Junior characters and shows such as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. They conveniently have show times throughout the day to accommodate with your plans. This is a great opportunity for kids to dance around and take a rest from the day. Disney Junior Live was definitely a highlight for our two-year old from her Disney trip.
No matter your opinion on when to take your child to the Disney parks, you will always have unforgettable memories. The three times that we have taken our daughter to the parks thus far, have been my favorite trips to date. These experiences are irreplaceable and the innocence of early childhood and the magic of Disney bring overwhelming joy to your heart. Rest assured, Disney will always accommodate to your needs and your time at the parks will be magical no matter the age of your child.