A quick side addition to the PCS series because while in Cali we went to DISNEYLAND! Disneyland needs its own post because I have so much to share from our time at this magical place. My husband and I grew up as east coasters, and both have been to Disney World several times over the years, but this was our very first time to the original Disneyland. Keep on reading for tips on how to make the most of your Disneyland experience with a toddler, the most cost efficient places to stay, and the best deals on tickets for military families. I’ll close this post with a little fun by picking which Disney park I prefer after visiting them both!
Buying Tickets to Disney
Originally we were only planning to go to Disneyland for the day, so we looked at just purchasing the day passes. However, after doing our research we found out that the one day pass was expensive and not offered as a military discount! It was a much better deal for our family to buy the discounted three day military pass that provided us the flexibility we wanted for bad weather, a sick baby, or anything else that might have been thrown our way! We were so glad we did because Disneyland is too big and too much fun to see in a day, but would definitely get tiring for anything longer than three days. So we really hit the sweet spot with two fun days filled with lasting memories. The three day pass also includes access to both Disneyland and California Adventure. The one day pass does not include access to both parks. If you are military, go to your local MWR or ITT center on base to purchase your tickets.
Next, where to stay at a decent price. Here is the link to the Holiday Inn Anaheim-Resort Area where we stayed. This resorts includes:
- A great price for the quality and prime location of the hotel. (100-130$) vs. (Disneyland hotels resort average ($380-700+)
- A short 5 minute complimentary shuttle ride from hotel to the park every 30 minutes (so no paying for parking at the park)
- Beautifully decorated Disneyland themed decor throughout the hotel.
- A delicious restaurant located on the main level of hotel called “Burger Theory”, we had dinner here both nights we stayed.
- Short drive to tons of restaurants and convenient stores.
- Nice outdoor pool and hot tub area.
In short, most hotels in the vicinity of Disneyland are great, affordable places to stay as a family. Just do your research and read plenty of reviews prior to booking. Unlike Shades of Green at Disney World in Orlando, there is no military family resort that services Disneyland. The Disneyland resort hotels (owned and operated by Disney) are incredibly expensive and out of the budget for most families.
Tips for taking on Disneyland with a toddler
- Before even going to the park I did my research and found the holy grail of a blog for taking on Disneyland with little ones. If you are anything like me and are on a timeframe for getting rides done (a.k.a before meltdowns) at the park, then I suggest you visit this blog to help you plan your visit. Here is the link to Magic Kingdom Mamas.
- We found it was best to get there right when the park opens around 8am. This allows you to get in there and ride those rides that typically grow long lines later in the day. The park really starts to get packed around noon, so the earlier you can get there the better!
- Download the Disneyland app on your phone to check the ride wait times. This app really helped me to prioritize where we wanted to start our day and continued helping flow the rest of our day.
- The park is absolutely huge, so if you have a toddler then definitely bring a stroller for when they get tired of walking. Our stroller was also a convenient spot for quick naps, and I enjoyed having the additional storage for our camera and souvenirs!
- Bring the essentials your baby/toddler needs. Snacks, wipes, diapers, water, etc. We didn’t have any problems getting through security.
- If you are looking to grab a quick delicious sandwich around lunchtime then I suggest the Jolly Holiday Cafe on Mainstreet. We ate lunch there on day 1 and the sandwich we had was delicious! It is walk up service. You order, then wait for your number to be called to get food from counter, then sit and enjoy! Super simple.
- There are lots of rides toddlers can enjoy at Disneyland. Some of our favorites were: The Jungle Cruise in Adventureland, Pirates of the Caribben in New Orleans Square, Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters in Tomorrowland, and Dumbo & It’s a Small World in Fantasyland.
(It’s a Small World)
- We also loved exploring around Toontown and meeting the one & only MICKEY MOUSE here in his “house”. Heres a little hint: Arrive to Mickey’s house before the meet & greet time that is given and they will probably have the gate to his house already open, allowing you to walk through and meet Mickey without even waiting in line! This is what happened to us when we just stumbled upon his house and decided to go in since there was no gate up.
- Depending on the time of year you visit they may have a special event going on. We ended up going during the last two days of the Christmas Holiday event. Everything in the park was decorated like a winter wonderland with a Christmas-y touch. They even had a Christmas fantasy parade running right through the park, starring the man himself, Santa Claus! So be sure to check the Disneyland calendar to see if any special events are happening during your visit.
Visiting California Adventure
We decided to go check out California Adventure park on the second day after hitting Disneyland park in the morning time. I am glad we saved this for last for two reasons: 1. It does not have many rides for toddlers 2. It is physically smaller than Disneyland so we were able to see mostly everything rather quickly. Our favorite things to see/do at this park were: Feel like a tiny insect while exploring the “A Bug’s Land” (inspired by Bugs Life) and ride the Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train, a walk through Cars Land to feel like we stepped right onto the set of “Cars” in Radiator Springs, and lastly walk around Paradise Pier and see the famous Mickey Mouse Carousel Wheel.
(Playing with a hose and spigot in “A Bug’s Land”)
Disney World or Disneyland?
I enjoyed writing this post and reliving our wonderful memories from our visit. Disney parks are truly magical from the intricate design set-up, to the beautiful surroundings, and down to the super friendly workers providing that indescribable warm and happy feeling to every visitor. Overall though, I’d have to say I pick Disney World over Disneyland. For all the wonderful things about Disneyland, the park seemed to have a difficult time with managing limited space and fewer attractions to handle the massive crowds. Other than the crowd size, we loved our visit to Disneyland. Maybe I’m partial because of all my childhood memories at DW, or maybe it’s because it truly has a different experience to offer that Disneyland doesn’t, and vice versa.. Both parks are great and we can’t wait to go back to either Disney once our son is a little older. I hope y’all enjoyed this post and found it helpful if you are planning a trip to the happiest place on earth.