Disneyland with a Toddler: 5 Things They Will Love

On Monday, Hudson had his second trip to Disneyland!  He had a blast, slept for a total of 30-minutes, and was on a sugar rush for most of the day.  I wrote about our first trip to Disneyland with Hudson when he was almost 11-months, which you can read here.  That first trip was still a lot of fun, but now Disneyland is way more fun.  A lot has changed with Hudson in those 4 months.  Since our last time at Disneyland, he is now walking, using sign language to communicate his needs, and honestly just a whole lot more fun.  His level of excitement and interest over rides and especially the characters was so fun to watch. Hudson would literally cry every time it was time to say goodbye to the character we were visiting.  He loved Eeyore, Tiger, Buzz, Goofy, Pluto, Minnie, and the Chipmunks. He literally would attempt to walk back up to them and break up their time with the other little kids. As a parent, it was so fun to see the pure awe and joy of the Disneyland experience through the eyes of our crazy, little toddler.  I am pretty sure I had a similar line in my previous Disney post, but now at almost 15-months, the awe and joy and amazement is in full-force. If you are a parent with a baby and are debating the right time to take your little one to Disney, I think this toddler time is the perfect time. If your baby is younger than a year, I would wait even just a few months.  So much will happen in the matter of 4-5 months. It is worth the wait. Of course you can take your little, little baby, but if you are looking to really see them get super excited and into the rides and characters, I think that 15-month mark is the perfect time. We had such a fun time with Hudson’s Nanny and Poppy, even though we definitely missed daddy as he was away on a work trip. Last post on Disney, I gave tips on traveling to Disney with a baby.  Today, I want to give you my top 5 things to do in Disneyland + California Adventures with a toddler. Side note, this is through the experience of what Hudson (15-months) really loved and enjoyed. Obviously all babies are different and what really appealed to little H, might not be your little one’s thing. Adjust accordingly! 

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One of the many sugar-filled things Hudson ate on our Disneyland trip!

1. Meal with Characters

We went to Goofy’s Kitchen and Hudson had the very best time.  These character meals are super expensive, but it is the perfect setting for your toddler to get in some really special moments with the characters.  Hudson’s Nanny and Poppy were with us and it was their idea to go. Initially I was worried that after barely napping all day, Hudson would have a meltdown, but it was actually the opposite. He loved all the food, which is very much tailored with the taste buds of kids in mind. His favs were probably the Mac n Cheese, PB & J pizza (yes, pizza), and the raspberry cream puffs.  Let’s just say, Hudson had a cheat day. Not only did he love munching on all the yummy options, he loved all the characters coming up to greet him. He was waving and clapping all over the place. At one point, he got so excited when all the characters were doing a dance in the middle of the restaurant that I put him down and he literally walked right up to one of the chipmunks (Chip or Dale, not sure which) and started clapping and dancing. Of course I didn’t have my phone to capture the moment, but the cuteness of that memory will never fade.  

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Hudson loved his time hanging out with the characters at Goofy’s Kitchen!

2. The Tiki Room + Dole Whip

Of course, Hudson loved all the moving rides we went on (some of his favs of the day included: the rockets, Dumbo, Nemo, Alice in Wonderland, and Winnie the Pooh); however, no ride captured his enthusiasm quite as much as the Tiki Room.  Hudson is currently obsessed with birds and points them out anytime we are out, so that was probably a large reason he loved it. This little 15-minute show really is the perfect thing to do with a toddler. The color, the music, the lights, and of course the talking birds and plants make this a toddler’s dream.  As you wait to enter the show or on your way out, you should grab a dole whip and let your little one have a few bites. This was a huge hit for Hudson. 

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Waiting for his dole whip and talking birds with his nanny!

3. Jessie’s Critter Carousel (DCA)

While California Adventures is very much limited on baby rides, there is one that was a huge hit for little H: Jessie’s Critter Carousel.  This ride is literally just a merry-go-round, but instead of the typical horses there are fun animals like turtles, bunnies, and skunks. The funny thing is Hudson typically hates riding on merry-go-rounds, but for some reason he loved this one. I have a few theories.  It is much slower than a typical merry-go-round and the music is more Wild, Wild West-like. Whatever it was, Hudson loved this ride. So much so that immediately when it stopped he signed “more” and then began to cry as I had to pull him off his little, green turtle. We then went immediately back through the line and popped him back on and the happiness was restored.  As I am learning daily, it is often the simplest things that satisfy and entertain Hudson. If you are over in California Adventures, I would definitely take your little one on this ride.

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Of course the simple merry-go-round was one of Hudson’s very favorite rides!

4. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (DCA)

This one is a bit unexpected, but this challenge trail is actually the perfect setting for your energy-filled toddler.  Obviously parts of this course are not suited for toddlers, (the tire zip-line, rock wall, and netted bridges) but Hudson thoroughly enjoyed running around, sliding, and exploring in the cave.  We spent a good amount of time here and Hudson was so happy. He was giggling and running all about. As a parent, this is the perfect setting to take a break. There are picnic benches and rocks that make good seats.  It is also a beautiful setting and you actually feel like you are in a Redwood forest. This is the perfect place to break up the day and give your little one some time out of the stroller.

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Hudson loved his free time roaming through caves and crawling through tunnels.

5. Toddler Meals

Who knew this was a thing?  I am not sure how many places within the parks offer it, but Rancho Del Zocalo, in Frontierland, offers the regular kid’s meals, but they also have a toddler meal option.  This is 2 dollars less than a kid’s meal and is the perfect size for a picky toddler. Right now, kid’s meals are too big for Hudson, so this toddler meal option was the perfect alternative.  It came with a small serving of beans and rice, a Go-Go Squeeze pack, and a milk or apple juice. The perfect meal size for our little guy.  

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Hudson was extra shy around his very favorite character, Buzz!

Disneyland is a blast, but the magic really does increase when you get to experience it all through the eyes of your toddler.  This is such a fun age that Hudson is entering. Yes, there are some challenges, the tantrums and food throwing are at an all-time high right now, but it mostly is fun.  The world really is opening up to Hudson and as his mom, it is so fun to watch him delight in it all. Hudson will definitely not remember this trip, but I can’t wait to show him the pictures and tell him about how he walked up to Chip or Dale and clapped and danced and basically had his best day ever.

5 Tips for Bringing Baby to Disneyland

On Monday, we took Hudson to Disneyland for the first time! The night before I was watching lots of Youtube videos on tips and tricks when it comes to Disneyland and babies.  Some of it was helpful, but like most things in life, the best way to figure things out is by doing them and learning along the way.  Overall, we had a great time, and we are pretty sure Hudson did too, I mean just look at that face on the teacups! I have always been a fan of trips to Disneyland, and I have been a handful of times.  Of all the times I have been, I have to say our trip this past Monday was probably my favorite.  It was not my favorite in the sense that we rode lots of rides.  It was not my favorite because there were no lines because there were plenty of those.  It was my favorite simply because of the way Hudson’s eyes lit up when he saw bubbles through the window of the submarine, met Mickey, and swirled on teacups.  There is nothing better than experiencing Disneyland through the eyes of a child. As I already wrote about in my post about bringing a baby to a wedding (you can read that here), babies change experiences. In ways, bringing Hudson always makes things slightly more complicated. We have to pack more, plan ahead, leave early. But, seeing those big, curious eyes and that goofy 8-toothed smile, made everything more than worth it. Things are different now. I nurse in lines. I am concerned where the best changing tables are located. I care more about visiting Mickey at his house than Space Mountain. And, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. All this to say, I think bringing your baby to Disney is so much fun. But I also think what makes it fun is being prepared and unattached to expectations. You can’t compare it to previous trips. It is going to be so different, but as I detailed above, I think it ultimately is better. So if you are planning a trip to Disneyland with your little one, here are 5 practical tips to consider.

1. Arrive Early + Skip the Tram (if crowded)

I wish we got to the park before it opened. Both parks open at 9 am. After we finally got through parking and to the ticket gates, it was closer to 10 am and it was already getting full. I wish we aimed to get there as early as 8 am because it really can take a long time to park and the tram gets crowded. Since it was so crowded and we had a stroller, we chose to walk over and skip the tram. If you get there at a busy time, I think walking over is a time saver. It might have only saved a couple minutes, but we felt more productive. We were able to skip the long tram ride and avoid the hassle of folding up the stroller. It was also nice to have a few minutes away from the crowds. I get that not everyone would want to walk over or is able to do so, but if you are willing and don’t mind, it really is a short walk and like I said, it’s nice to escape the crowds even for just a few minutes.

2. Take Advantage of Waiting in Lines

The reality is that you are going to spend a lot of time waiting in lines.  Especially when you have a baby it is important to use this time effectively. Use waiting in lines to take care of some of baby’s basic needs. Lines are great feeding times. While not my first choice, if baby does get hungry or fussy, you can use lines to nurse. Pirates was such a long line that I had to use this time to nurse Hudson. People are so in their own worlds that lines are actually not a terrible nursing spot, as long as you don’t mind standing and being surrounded by people. If your baby also eats regular food, you definitely are going to want to have snacks in line to help distract baby. We also used long lines for naps. I would aim to plan for the afternoon nap at the same time as you are in line for the attraction with the longest wait time. For us, we chose to wait in line at Mickey’s house as Hudson napped. We knew this line would be long (nearly an hour wait). He woke up a few minutes before and was awake and in a better mood for the picture with Mickey. You can’t control everything, but if you can try to be strategic with lines and naps, it will pay off.

3. Pack Light

It is easy to over pack. I literally packed 10 diapers. At this point Hudson does not go through nearly that many in a day. Even though I know that, there is something about being away from home for more than a few hours that makes me over prepare and over pack. This mostly is a good thing, but the reality is, I packed more than we needed and I forgot to pack things we could of actually used, like a bib! The point here is to really just pack the essentials. There is no need to stuff your bag with diapers- just a few will suffice. I also packed multiple outfits for him. He stayed in the same outfit all day. Maybe just bring one extra shirt and jacket, but there is no need to pack the whole closet. One thing I did pack that was handy was a pair of pajamas. It was nice to change him out of his clothes and put him into his comfy pjs before making the drive home. In terms of bags, we just did one backpack with a Lululemon bag to put snacks and miscellaneous things in. While you could manage without a stroller, it was handy having the stroller for extra storage space and as a place for naps. The other essential to pack is a baby carrier. Hudson ended up spending way more time in the carrier than the stroller. When you aren’t using it, you can easily put it underneath the stroller. If you don’t want to deal with stroller the entire day, there are tons of stroller parking locations. It also is handy to tie something to mark your stroller with to make it easy to find. We tied a bright orange bandana to ours.

4. Use Baby Station

This is a tip I did not follow, but I wish I had. There is a baby station that has changing tables, nursing chairs, high chairs, and all types of baby supplies you can purchase. It is located right on Main Street. You can get a whole tour of it through this YouTube video here. It is such a nice and peaceful space. It really is well thought out and has everything you would need. In terms of nursing, it was fine to nurse Hudson on the go, but this would have been especially helpful in the early days. I wish we had planned better to go to the baby station to change his diapers because the changing tables in the regular bathrooms are out in the open and are not padded. It is totally doable to just change baby in the regular bathrooms, but it would have been nice to use the more convenient and thought out facilities at the baby station.

5. Let Go of Expectations + Be Home for Bedtime

One of the best ways to ensure you have a great time with baby at Disneyland is to let go of any expectations. Do not expect to go on tons of rides. Do not expect baby to stay on regular nap schedule. Do not expect baby to be happy the entire day. If you are able to let go of some of these expectations, you are going to enjoy yourself so much more. Things did not go perfectly for us. We only made it on a few rides, he woke up when we wanted him to sleep, he fell asleep when we wanted him up, and he definitely had some unhappy and overwhelmed moments. However, as a whole the experience was amazing. While we only went on a few rides, he mostly enjoyed each one. He especially loved Nemo (minus the really dark parts). Pirates was also a hit for him! He was a champ on the drop. I have never seen his eyes get so big. While he did not stick to his typical nap routine, he did get some rest and never became too cranky. And while there were definitely some moments of fussiness, it never lasted long, especially with all the fun things for him to take in around us. If my expectation was a perfect baby the entire day and to go on over 10 rides, I would of been disappointed. I really had no expectations, so everything exceeded my expectations. Hudson was overall so good and some of the pictures and videos we captured of his pure amazement will be some of my favorites. Final tip is to leave early and get home by bedtime. Yes, you miss the parades and fireworks, but I think it is worth it. You end on a good note. We left around 6 pm and at this point Hudson was still in a great mood. The tram was empty and parking lot was nice and quiet. It was the perfect conditions to change Hudson into his pjs and nurse him before driving home.

It was a successful first trip to Disneyland! While Hudson will definitely not remember the day, I can’t wait to show him all the pictures and videos. Disneyland is fun, but I really think it is even more magical when you have your little one along for the ride.