The Magic Kingdom is toddler paradise - if you know where to go.
By LiaMarin Waldron
My family - me, husband Dave, and our two-year-old daughter, Amy - took our first
trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, this past spring. We were a little unsure
about Amy. Was it worth it with a child that young? Would she even remember the
experience? Our concerns were erased by the time the trip was over. She had a
ball - and because of her age, she never doubted that the magic was real. As for
Dave and me, we'll never forget the expressions of wonder on Amy's face.
To ensure a great time for everyone, learn about the park's offerings before you go. Here are some tips
to help you plan the most toddler-friendly visit to the Magic Kingdom.
Design a Game Plan
- Travel agents recommend visiting in early fall or winter to avoid crowds. Whenever you do go, take lines and crowds into consideration as you schedule your days.
- Disneyland's Web site (www.disneyland.com) offers directions, park maps, hours, and attraction descriptions. Check them all out before you get there and familiarize yourself with the park. Signage for bathrooms especially can be sparse.
- You can rent strollers for $7, but if your child is heavier than 30 pounds, they won't be roomy enough for a comfy nap. We brought our own, which has a sunshade, and a bike lock to keep it safe. You can't take your stroller in line for any rides, but you can park it just outside of every attraction.
- If you get the urge for some adult time, the Fullerton Child Care Agency (714-528-1640) can send a sitter to your hotel room or take your child to the park for you.
Inside the Park
- If you want to go on some adults-only rides without splitting up, try the "Baby Swap." As soon as you get in line, tell an attendant that you want to use this option. When it's your family's turn, one parent rides while the other stands aside holding the child. When the run is over, the parent who just rode gets off and takes the child, and the other parent hops on.
- Eating in the park can be expensive, but most restaurants offer Mouskemeals ($3.99) for young kids. For a sit-down family buffet, try Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel (adults, $24.95; kids 4 to 11, $8.95; and children 3 and under, $3.95). Costumed Disney characters mingle and ham it up as you eat, and there's a special child-height buffet stocked with kid-pleasing foods.
Disneyland boasts a slew of rides and attractions that, while tame, elicit squeals of delight from toddlers. Amy's favorites were It's a Small World, a boat ride through a musical diorama; the Enchanted Tiki Room, a Hawaiian extravaganza complete with automated birds and flowers; and the Country Bear Playhouse, where furry life-sized robotic bears sing and dance in a jamboree.
Children three and older can visit every attraction in Mickey's Toontown, including Chip 'n Dale's Treehouse and Goofy's Bounce House. They can also tour Mickey's House, where they're guaranteed a chance to meet the Mouse himself in his dressing room. Then there's this little-known secret: Several times each afternoon, Disney princesses tell stories to young guests in the Tinker Bell Toy Shoppe.
Twice a day during our visit, the 45 Years of Magic Parade marched down Main Street U.S.A. Parade schedules vary, depending on the season, but stake out a spot early to give your toddler a good view of all her favorite characters.
Every night when we were there, the park staged "Fantasmic!" at Rivers of America. A laser-light water show with fireworks and a full-sized pirate ship, "Fantasmic!" will knock the cynic out of any adult. I was worried that Amy would be scared of the giant fire-breathing dragon. Boy, was I wrong: She asked to watch it three nights in a row! Bright lights and big noise were also on tap at 9:30 every night with the 45th Anniversary Fireworks Spectacular, "Believe: There's Magic in the Stars."
Where to Stay
The Walt Disney Travel Company (800-854-3104; www.disney.go.com/Disneyland) offers packages throughout the year. We got our fourth hotel night free, a five-day flexible pass for the price of a three-day pass, early admission to the park (6:30 a.m.), and one complimentary breakfast.
Here are some hotels, packages, and total rates for a two-night stay for two adults and one toddler.
- Disneyland Hotel (714-778-6600; $680): Includes a Disneyland Flex Passport, early park admission (6:30 a.m.), Monorail transportation to the park, and fine dining in the hotel.
- Hilton Anaheim (714-750-4321; $209): Includes convenient frequent shuttle service to and from the park.
- Best Western Park Place Inn (800-854-8175; $220 to $240): Located directly across from Disneyland's main entrance, making it the most convenient (though not the nicest) hotel for a Disneyland vacation.
- Red Roof Inn Anaheim (714-502-9014; $159 to $179): Three miles from Disneyland; offers shuttle service.
LiaMarin Waldron is a writer who lives with her family in Provo, Utah.
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