That title sounds a bit crazy to some of you. I know it does. I thought we might be insane ourselves, but unless you’ve tried it, you have no idea how much fun you’re missing out on. Everyone seems to constantly debate the right time to take your kid to Disney. First of all, there are about as many right answers to that question as there are parking spaces at Disney World. Second, there are just as many wrong answers.
I had never been to Disneyland myself nor had my husband. I’ve been to Disney World at least nine times, and my husband has been once or twice. (I went when I was 4, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, and 27). Every experience was different, and I loved each of them in different ways. At each stage of my life I had something different to appreciate about Disney and it’s magic. I did know, however, that I couldn’t wait to take my own kids some day. I thought about lots of milestones for our first Disney trip, and eventually, I was just looking for an excuse to go.
What’s better than a birthday for a trip to Disney? (For those of you who have never done Disney, this is your second tip–go to Disney when you have something to celebrate. You get a special pin and just a little extra noticeability.)
Ok, but a first birthday? You still think I’m insane.
Yes, a first freaking birthday. And it was the very best idea I’ve had since mom-brain became an official part of my vocabulary around 1 year and 9 months ago.
Granted, not every child is the same. Some 1 year olds are in the throws of stranger anxiety, or separation anxiety, or just shy altogether. Others, like mine, are in this stage of newly-minted walking abilities and absolutely determined to off themselves any chance they get. Also, they absolutely do not need mom’s or dad’s help. This is why we drink, people.
But what do you do with a 12-month old at Disney? Ok, first of all, we didn’t take Ava to Disney World, only Disneyland. What’s the difference, you ask?
- Disneyland is much smaller and much more manageable with little ones.
- Disneyland isn’t nearly as humid as Disney World.
- There’s no Epcot (major downside for a group of only adults/older kids).
- There’s no Animal Kingdom (sort of a downside for all groups because even Ava loves animals and zoos already).
- There’s no water parks. (No place for Ava to take an extra chance to do something crazy).
- There are less places to stay “on property” but it makes it somewhat easier to pick. The choices alone at Disney World can be overwhelming.
- Disney World has far more dining options (and much better quality, IMO).
Hence, we decided on Disneyland. The trip was about the same either way for us (the plane ride part, I mean.) It required less time to hit all the high points, and seemed like a good plan since we had no idea how Ava would react to Disney.
We arrived around 2pm on a Monday and caught the Disneyland Express to the Disney Grand Californian Resort where we would be spending the next few magical nights. While we were checking in, a few of the characters (including Mickey and Minnie) were in the lobby, so we got the character introductions off to a quick start. We grabbed dinner in downtown Disney and went to bed pretty early (especially on PST).
For our first official day exploring the parks, we woke up and were in Disneyland park around 7:45am. It opens at 7am a couple days a week for Disney resort guests only. We rode 4 rides before we even had breakfast. We had breakfast at The Plaza Inn in Disneyland with Minnie and all of her friends. Ava loved meeting all the characters and she truly enjoyed the rides too. I had asked people for recommendations regarding rides a 12-month old might enjoy, but we found plenty more. Watching her reactions to the characters, the amazement in her eyes on the rides, and the excitement in her squeals was worth every last penny we spent.
If you’re hitting up Disneyland park with a little one (specifically a young one, or one less than about 32-40″ tall), here’s a list of the rides you should at least try:
- King Arthur Carousel
- Mad Tea Party
- Take a posed picture in the teacup just outside the ride
- Dumbo The Flying Elephant
- Take a posed picture in the extra Dumbo just outside the exit
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
- Casey Jr.’s Circus Train
- Disneyland Railroad
- “it’s a small world”
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Peter Pan’s Flight (I honestly didn’t find this super short ride worth the long wait)
Where you should meet the characters in Disneyland:
- Mickey’s House and Meet Mickey
- Minnie’s House
- Plaza Inn Character Breakfast (Minnie Mouse, Chip and Dale, Pooh, Tigger, Rafiki, Eeyore)
- Critter Country (Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, Rabbit)
- Main Street USA Town Square (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto)
- Royal Hall (Three Disney Princesses that typically rotate through, we met Cinderella, Jasmine, and Snow White)
Where to eat in Disneyland:
- Plaza Inn
- Blue Bayou
Other things to do in Disneyland:
- Stop at the Mad Hater (the one on Main Street near the entrance) to get your embroidered ears/hat
- Pick up some Dole Whip on your way out of Adventureland (but be prepared for the line)
Download the Disneyland app and order ahead to pick up some quick bites and avoid long lines!
Sign up for Maxpass ($10 per day) in order to get your photos on your phone, your fast passes (skip the lines!) on your phone, and see wait times, where characters are, etc. all from the palm of your hand!
Tomorrow, I’ll share even more information about Disney in California including adult fun, other tips and tricks to the area, and Disney’s California Adventure!