Many parents ask me what can my preschooler do at Disneyland? They know Disney has child friendly rides and attractions. They are unsure of what is appropriate for their child though.
I tell them what I do. Let's start with arriving at opening visit California Adventure first at opening when they open the crowds are thin. Both theme parks get busy after ten in the morning.
The Disney Junior Dance party which the first performance is at 10:30 most days has people lining up early. Later in the day you’re in line with the bunch of parents with toddlers and preschoolers who missed nap time. The dance party is the one show preschoolers should not miss.
The Animation Academy is where your child can meet Elsa and Anna at Anna and Elsas Royal Welcome. Turtle Talk with Crush and the Sorcerer's Workshop inside the Animation Academy are a do not miss. You can skip them if pressed for time.
Then head to the Heroic Encounter with Spiderman Captain America before it get's warn and a line forms. Hop on Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue the ride is dark but fun.
Later in the day, the lines for the Hollywood Land meet and greets are longer. I like to get them done early before naps and lunch to prevent crankiness and before stains appear the kids clothing.
On Buena Vista Street for the Red Car Trolley Newsboys show is fun for kids. The performances start at 10:30 am. It's a musical show that's cute and under 15 minutes, Mickey Mouse comes out at the end and the show is a hit with kids.
Carsland is fun and looks like the movie. Tow Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Rollickin Roadsters fantastic. Lightning McQueen or Tow Mater meet fans at the Cozy Cone the line can get long but it moves fast. I don’t recommend Radiator Springs Racers for any small child. Radiator Springs Racers goes fast.
The Silly Symphony Swings is not something I recommend for small children. The Golden Zephyr may be ok for some small children. Jumpin Jellyfish may not be appropriate for any child under the age of five or six. Goofy's Sky School is mild roller coaster and not for first-timers. Toy Story Midway Mania and Ariel's Undersea Adventures are a safe bet.
Soarin Over the World is awesome. Some children might feel scared even though Soarin doesn’t go fast. This is not a thrill ride you will sit in a chair that's hoisted up. Before visiting Disneyland visit YouTube and watch ride through videos pick the attractions you’re concerned about. This may help you decide if the ride is ok before you even leave.
Redwood Creek Trail is a great place to take preschoolers and toddlers. The rock slides are popular with children. This is a great place to go when your child needs to play.
Where should you eat in California Adventure? Try Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta at Pixar Pier the food is a safe bet. They offer pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, and Uncrustable sandwiches by Smuckers.
Award Wieners in Hollywood Land sells a power pack with fruits, crackers, and yogurt. Another option is the all beef hotdog. Award Wieners is quick service with simple kid friendly food.
Flo's V8 Café in Radiator Springs has an amazing new menu and a gorgeous view. I recommend coming here if your child is a little hungry. They serve several Gluten-free foods. Ramones Low and Slow Club is my favorite, and the fried Chicken tastes like the fried chicken from Plaza Inn.
When your child needs a break, you can ride the Disneyland railroad around the park and take a nice break. The Dapper Dan’s perform live on Main Street. They are a barbershop quartet, and the children enjoy dancing and listening to them sing. Main Street USA has many vehicles to ride on and relax. There is a horseless carriage which will take you to the castle. Bob Gurr's fire engine is always fun. The horse-drawn streetcars are the favorite of many kids because of the horse. Finally there is omnibus on Main Street.
If it’s a hot sunny day, the movie house on Main Street is an excellent place to cool off for a few minutes. Classic Mickey Mouse cartoons play it’s a good place to take children give them a little break.
At Pixie Hollow children can meet Tinker Bell or one of her friends. Tinker Bell goes home at 4 PM every day. Make sure you make it on time. I always exit Pixie Hollow and head straight for the Disney princess meet and greet at the Royal Hall because they are very close to each other.
Then I recommend you go to storytelling at the Royal Theater. The performances run until 6 o’clock at night. You’ll either see Tangled or Beauty and the Beast.
The theatre is also in Fantasyland if you go through the castle you can go straight to the rides in Fantasyland. Your child can throw change for Snow White's Wishing Well. This is a great photo opportunity, and as a bonus, you can hear Snow White Singing.
All the rides in Fantasyland except the Matterhorn are ones I would let a small child ride. The Matterhorn is a Bobsled that goes fast. Be aware many of the rides are dark rides such as Mr. Toad, Snow White, Pinocchio, and Peter Pan. These may frighten children. They are dark rides and feature scary themes in each attraction.
Stop in front of Snow White’s Scary Adventures and look at the main window. The Evil Queen opens the curtains every once a while. As you enter the line for Snow White touch the golden apple.
Frontierland does not offer many child friendly rides. There’s Big Thunder Mountain which I don’t recommend for small children. You can go to the Sailing Ship Columbia and the Mark Twain. Tiana and Dr. Faclier are often doing meet and greet at the Mark Twain. The Golden Horseshoe has a live show several times a day. However, the Golden Horseshoe serves ice cream so you may not want to visit until after lunch. Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island in Frontierland is the most fun option this land has to offer. Kids could play on the Island for hours.
New Orleans Square which offers Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Both are dark and may scare small children. Pirates of the Caribbean has drops. If your child does not like loud noises, the dark, or drops skip Pirates. It is a long ride. Haunted Mansion may also scare smaller children. I would watch a video of the Haunted Mansion before your visit.
Tarzans Tree House in Adventure Land has interactive play for younger children. Do not skip Tarzan's Treehouse.
Search for the Little Man of Disneyland if you are traveling here order the book beforehand to make the activity more fun. Skip Indiana Jones which is a dark thrill ride. The Jungle Cruise, yet, is a great ride for children. Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room is also a lot of fun. Even though it is in the dark, the singing birds are delightful. Try a Dole Whip they are delicious and kids love them.
Mornings in Critter Country you can meet with Winnie the Pooh and his friends which is always fun. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh though it is dark ride it is s a fun ride for children of any age. Splash Mountain I don’t recommend for any child that does not like heights. The themes may upset small children. Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes are fun, but rowing may be hard for small children.
Toontown is excellent for small children. Toontown is right next to It’s a Small World. I recommend checking the show times of Mickey and the Magical Map in Fantasyland. It’s a great show for families and children of all ages and its smack dab between It is a Small World and Toontown.
Toontown can be a little lackluster. It offers more for younger children than anyone else. Try Gadgets GoGo Coaster if your child shows interest in going on the thrill rides. It’s 45 seconds and a miniature roller coaster. If they don't like that ride forget the rest of the roller coasters. Roger Rabbit Cartoon Spin is dark ride it’s not very scary, but some children might have an issue with it.
Kids can visit Mickey and Minnie in their houses in Toontown. Goofy's house also has a small park for children to play in. Donald Duck's boat is another great place for children run around.
Tomorrowland is full of fun attractions. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters is a dark ride, but the Atro Blasters is a fun game where you shoot targets. I’ve never seen a child cry on this attraction.
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is perfect for children. It's themed well. Despite, being dark the ride is fun. Boarding the submarine may be hard for small children though.
Autopia is a classic ride for children and adults. Most children enjoy this attraction and insist on driving. Push the pedals though as it is hard for children to reach them.
The Astro Orbiter, but, I don’t recommend for smaller children. The Astro Orbiter is like Dumbo, but unlike Dumbo the Orbiters lean sideways. I’ve seen little children ride and be ok. Though I have seen small children ride and cry. You the parent will have to make a judgement call.
I don’t recommend Space Mountain. It’s a dark ride, fast, and scary for most small children. Star Tours is another judgment call since its motion simulator.
Star Wars Launch Bay is a great place to go if it’s a warm day it’s sunny. You can meet Kylo Ren, Darth Vader, or Chewbacca. If you’re a Star Wars fan and your child is the Star Wars franchise, this might be a fun meet and greet. Inside Star Wars Launch Bay kid's can play with Lego's and test out video games.
As far as dining goes with younger children Disneyland has options. Carnation Café is a great place to eat the food's delicious, but it’s hard to get a table sometimes. Picky eaters can order a peanut butter jelly sandwich. There are also fruit plates, a hamburger, and macaroni and cheese.
If you want to eat something filling and fast try Refreshment Corner. They serve hotdogs and turkey dogs as well for the children. Next Door at Jolly Holiday where you can get a grilled cheese sandwich it comes with tomato bisque soup.
If you want chicken nuggets, the Stage Door Café in Frontierland or the Hungry Bear serve them. They also offer more fried foods if that is what you are looking for.
Stage Door Cafe offers fish and chips which are delicious. If you want to eat at Rancho del Zocalo restaurant but your is picky, you could always stop at the Stage Door Café. It's across from Rancho del Zocalo and get them chicken nuggets or corn dog. Rancho Del Zocalo serves kids chicken and rice, beans and rice, chicken taco, or bean burrito for kids. For the adults, the real treat is the Burrito. Two people can share the burrito because it's that big.
Mickey’s Toontown Dining is a smart choice if you’re looking for something simple Pluto's Dog House has hot dogs. You could also get macaroni and cheese. Clarabelle Cows has a turkey sandwich or chef salad if you’re trying to lose weight. They also have a large fruit salad. Daisies Diner also offers individual small pizzas great for the kids. It’s a great alternative going over to Tomorrowland's Pizza Port.
Redd Rockett Pizza Port or as of right now Pizza Planet is another option for the whole family. The children’s pasta is whole wheat. The children's meatballs are turkey. My husband is a huge fan of the Count Down Chicken Fusilli it is one of the most popular dishes they have it is delicious. If you want spaghetti, you will want to read my post on where to find the best.
There are plenty of dining options throughout the park. I recommend what has the most simple foods that most preschoolers enjoy with little fuss. My obvious choice to dine would be the Plaza Inn the fried chicken is a favorite. The pot roast is also excellent. They offer pasta for the picky eaters but its Penne Pasta. Plaza Inn is one of the more expensive dining options though with the chicken plate being $17.49. They also have desserts which I think the red velvet cake and carrot cake is most excellent.
For nighttime entertainment Fantasmic is something I have noticed that most children enjoy. It’s hard to enjoy Fantasmic from certain angles because you can’t see the projections. It’s on another judgment call it does gets loud from the fireworks, and there are few villains involved.
At night Pixie Hollow has a nighttime light show. In the pond it’s not on a schedule. It happens every 20 to 30 minutes. The show is not long, but it’s enjoyable it’s also an alternative if you want to get the kids home early.
Both parades are awesome. Paint the Night is at California Adventure. The Pixar Play Parade is at Disneyland. Both are loud but lots of fun.
The Together Forever A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular is wonderful. If you watch the first Fantasmic stay put as you can view the fireworks from that spot.
Check out my post on Disneyland with babies because I list all the Family Bathrooms at Disneyland. You can also visit the Baby Care Centers for child-sized toilets for children five or younger. Most restrooms have toilets lower to the ground towards the back.
Check out my list of freebies here. Many of the free items you can find in the parks are things kids will love like free buttons and chocolate.
If you have questions, please ask in the comments below. I am also linking you to my most popular Disney posts.
If your children want to try pin trading read my advice on that here.