Where we were: Tips for Disneyland with young kids

This past week I got to do something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little girl. I got to go to Disneyland. In DisneylandHaving never been to Disneyland before*, I knew I didn’t want to wait for the perfect Disneyland age with my own children and possibly miss the window of opportunity. I wanted to take my kids early and then try and get them back again once they were older and, presumably, more fun.

So, I began to save money. I socked away my year-end bonus, I hoarded birthday and Christmas money, and I started, literally, saving my pennies. The plan was that we could go as a family in July this year after BlogHer, and although it was going to be tricky timing-wise, crazy hot, and super crowded, we were going to get to Disneyland. Somehow, some way.

But, an opportunity fell into my lap by way of the nicest blogger ever, and all of a sudden I was heading to Disneyland. There are no words for the excitement I felt as I covertly packed, arranged, and organized a 5-day long trip without the kids suspecting a thing. I sewed, I gathered Disney dress up clothes, acquired autograph books, and we told the kids that we were going to California for a conference.

The look on their faces when they realized that we were headed to Disneyland was priceless, and it made all the secrecy totally worth it. I figure I have a very limited timeframe in which I can surprise them with something as huge as Disneyland, and I’m really glad we did it that way. Arriving in DisneylandAnd, let me tell you, I’M SO GLAD WE DIDN’T WAIT. They may still be on the young side, but I think that made the whole thing even more fun. I figured we would sightsee, we would ride some carousels, and maybe stand in line for a princess or two, and that would be Disneyland with a 3 year old and a 5 year old while hanging out with our favorite 1 year old. Bubs in DisneylandBut, it turns out that being tall for their ages is actually an awesome thing at Disneyland because my 3 year old could go on all the rides he would have been comfortable riding, and my 5 year old can go on whatever she would like.

So, what does a 5 year old want to go on? The answer, as we found out, was everything. She went on fast coasters, dark coasters, and even went on coasters that had her upside down. Fearless, I tell you.

Of course, we still stood in line and saw some princesses, but even that ended up being really fun. I figure there’s a really small window in which she’s going to want to do stuff like that so it makes it easy to justify spending a whole day standing in lines. Would I want to re-do the 2+ hour wait for Anna and Elsa? Probably not. But, it was worth it to do it once when it made my daughter so happy. Anna and Elsa at DisneylandRemember this book that she wrote about her tooth falling out and saving the money for Disneyland so she could meet Anna and Elsa? Yeah, even a 2+ hour wait didn't shake her resolve to see those princesses. Disneland
Other Disneyland highlights:

It’s a Small World ride. My husband assured me that no one smiled during this ride, but I really wanted to go, especially since 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the ride. He must have been watching a fluke bunch, because we had a blast on the ride and it was really cool that we could all go together, including the littlest Disney fan. Tip: there’s a scenic little area to the right of the ride that I utilized to take photo-bomb-free pictures while we waited in line. It's a Small WorldThe Rapunzel show at the Fantasyland Theatre, which we happened upon by accident and it ended up being a whole lot of fun. Rapunzel and Flynn even stayed after the show and signed autographs and took pictures with the kids, which gave us just enough time to run across and catch Belle under the umbrellas across the promenade. Tip: grab a Boysen Apple Freeze from Maurice’s Treats by the theater and sip while you watch. Rapunzel and Flynn in Disneyland
Apple Freeze in DinseylandMickey’s Toontown, which was the site of my daughter’s first roller coaster ever. I thought she was going to be scared, and was waiting for the eventual tears, but instead she yelled “I want to go AGAIN!” Tip: the Chip ‘n Dale Treehouse is seriously adorable, but it’s a tight squeeze for us tall folks. ToonTownCalifornia Adventure highlights:

Cars Land is awesome. Even if you don’t like rides, Cars Land is worth spending some time in. Everything is picturesque and it really feels like you’re in the movies. Tip: the stores in Cars Land have a bunch of exclusive Cars diecasts that you can’t find anywhere else. This was our little guy’s souvenir, so I love that he was able to get the cars right after he rode the tractors and the racers. Radiator Springs in Cars LandDisney Junior Live on Stage. During the afternoon heat you may need a place to rest your feet and relax for a bit, and Disney Junior Live on Stage is the perfect place to do it. We got to experience a backstage tour and I left with a newfound respect for the puppeteers and what they do for each show. It really was amazing. Tip: the stage is tall, so you will get the best view if you’re a little back from the front where you will have a better vantage point. Disney Junior Live on Stage viewingWorld of Color light and water show. A friend texted me while we were there and let me know that the World of Color show was amazing and we should try and go if possible. I’m so glad she did, because I loved the show. We even bought the special Mickey ears that correspond to the show and were smart enough to bring our Disneyland blanket we splurged on the day before because otherwise our little guy would have been a disaster after a full day of Disney and no nap while getting sprayed with cold water. But, the show ended up being amazing and our little guy snuggled and fell fast asleep in the stroller halfway through. Tip: don’t bring your fancy camera – it will get wet. I was happy I put mine away for the show and instead used my point and shoot camera. World of colorParadise Pier has something for everyone. My daughter loved the California Screaming coaster, I love all the quirky Coney Island nods, and my son loves the boardwalk games and the kids rides that “aren’t too scary”. Tip: If you’re good at boardwalk games, you can get some fun souvenirs fairly cheap here. Luckily Kerri from The Maven of Social Media is a game whiz, because she ended up winning two stuffed animals for the little guys and they were both thrilled. Mickey's Fun Wheel
Hugging Bullseye

General Tip: If you have two little ones like I do, they WILL get tired walking all day long. I've long been a fan of in-line strollers for ease of use and maneuverability, but I'm so glad we went with a side-by-side for our Disneyland trip. You can read all about how much we adored the Joovy Scooterx2 stroller in our review.

I know it's only been a week, but looking at these pictures really has me wanting to go back. We had a crazy good time and it's hard to be back to our normal routine. I guess we will just start saving our pennies again for next year!

Planning a trip to Disney World? Check out the guide to doing Disney World with a baby or toddler.

Leanne Signature 2*My older sister would correct me and state that I have, in fact, been to Disneyland. My family went back in the 80s when we lived in California, and I, at the ripe age of 5 months got to experience the joy of Disneyland. I’m sure I enjoyed napping throughout the fun and drooling on myself as the older kids rode rides and met their favorite characters. We can all agree whole-heartedly that THIS DOES NOT COUNT, right?

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