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Parenting in the Park
Tips and ideas for the traveling family
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Adrienne Krock, editor
Tips for dealing with holiday crowds
Recently I've received emails from several readers asking about holiday crowds at Disneyland, and specifically crowds on the actual holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. Many share the theory that most families stay at home on these days. However, holiday crowds at Disneyland actually tend to resemble busy summer weekends. Granted, on New Years Day, most of the tourists will be at the Rose Parade, but guess where many locals flock? Today, I'll offer some tips for dealing with the crowds at Disneyland during this particular holiday season.


With the recent construction and changes occurring at the Disneyland Resort, there are new crowd obstacles to overcome. The first is parking. Over Thanksgiving weekend, the main parking lots were filled to capacity. To guarantee a parking spot with tram access (via the Timon and Simba lots or the Mickey and Friends parking structure,) plan to arrive early in the day, as close to opening as you can.

The Mickey and Friends parking structure
The Mickey and Friends parking structure

If you're going to drive to Disneyland, you're probably best off parking in the Mickey and Friends parking structure. The other lots fill quickly, finding them is complicated as you are re-routed around Harbor and Katella, and their tram service is much slower because they are so spread out. If Timon and Simba are full, the Pumba lot does not even offer tram service and it is a long walk to the Main Gate.


If you plan to park at the Mickey and Friends parking lot, pack lots of patience, especially if you are bringing a stroller. This structure has only two guest elevators and frequently only one is operational. With a packed up stroller you may face long lines at the elevators. If possible, carry your jackets, diaper bags, and so forth, keep your stroller folded, and use the escalators. Eventually, you will save yourself from having to unpack and fold your stroller to board the tram to the main gate anyways.

Passports, a.k.a. Admission Tickets

Due to inadequate staffing, expect long lines to buy tickets
Due to inadequate staffing, expect long lines to buy tickets - this photo was taken 12/15 at 11 AM

For many guests the first line of the day is at the ticket booths outside the parks. You can save yourself some time by pre-purchasing your admission. Admission tickets are sold at Disney Stores. Many Anaheim hotels also offer tickets to their guests.


New "all day" lockers at $3 help save money if you need to go back and forth frequently to them
New "all day" lockers at $3 help save money if you need to go back and forth frequently to them

On busy days lockers are quickly occupied. The two best known sets of lockers are outside the Main Gate near the restrooms and on Main Street. There is a little known set of lockers in front of the main gate. These are located in the picnic area (not to be confused with the lockers near the restrooms there.) There are also lockers available at the back of Fantasyland near the Fantasyland Theater.

Speaking of the back of Fantasyland...

If you plan to arrive at park opening, watch the crowds. One group will head for Adventureland and New Orleans Square. Another will have its sights set on Tomorrowland. However, in my experience, fewer guests head to the back of the park. This is an excellent time to meet Mickey and Minnie and enjoy the rides in Toontown! Meeting Mickey and Minnie in their houses is much nicer than on Main Street. The atmosphere is much more relaxed and controlled.

it's a small world holiday
it's a small world holiday

While you're in this area, jump on "it's a small world holiday" or get a fast pass for it. Toontown closes early for fireworks, so hitting it early in the day will make sure you don't miss it!

Shop Early

If you see something and like it, don't plan to come back later for it! It may be gone and lines will be longer! Most guests wait until the end of the day to make souvenir purchases so the later in the day it gets, the more crowded the stores will get. Also, plan to shop and eat during parades when crowds are otherwise occupied.

If you don't want to carry your packages around all day, the park offers "package express." They will hold your package at the Newstand outside the exit gates and you can pick it up later in the day. If you're staying at the Disneyland Hotel or Paradise Pier Hotel you can even have packages delivered to your room.

If you are staying at one of the resort hotels, a quick stop by the lobby gift shop for souvenirs, t-shirts and the much needed autograph book will save you from longer lines for the same items once inside the park.


Bring your own water and snacks. This is usually a good tip anyway, but when lines are long it's especially useful.

Official Disney Photos

At several locations in the park, Official Disney photographers will take your photo with characters. If you have one of these pictures taken, pick them up well before park closing. The line at the photo shop on Main Street gets very long at the end of the day! The photos are usually ready about two hours after they are taken.

Meeting Characters

Kronk from Emperor's New Groove is now at the park
Kronk from Emperor's New Groove is now at the park

If there is a character that you or your child especially "need" to meet, stop by the Information board at the north end of Main Street. Specially trained Cast Members (CMs) are stationed there to help you find any characters you're looking for.


Bring plenty of it. When we lose our patience, our children's anxiety levels rise as well. The vicious cycle starts. You're upset so they get upset which makes you more upset and on and on.

Fortunately, the Happiest Place on Earth really does have a magical feel during the holidays. Just walking through the tunnels and seeing the Christmas tree, hearing the holiday music, and seeing the smile on my son's face turns on the magic for me!

Another Reader Email on Relaxing at Disneyland, from Tiffany:

I really enjoyed your article about being pregnant and going to the park. In August 1999, I was just about 2 months pregnant with my daughter and I was really upset about not being able to go on any of the "fun" rides. We live in Livermore, CA, so to pay to get into the park and making that 8 hour drive with my husband, sister- in- law, niece and nephew... I just thought why am I going??? No Indy + no Space Mountain = NO FUN... WRONG!

I will have to say that visiting the park from a pregnant perspective was a lot of fun. I really got to enjoy looking in all the shops and seeing shows I hadn't seen in years. Plus I rode a lot of the Fantasyland rides I hadn't been on since I was a little girl. It was a bit more tiring that I had anticipated, but fun none the less.

Oh, yes, I know all about life being more tiring when pregnant! Thanks for taking the time to write, Tiffany!

Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Adrienne here


More Tips!


Adrienne gathered experience taking children to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job: being Matthew and Spencer's mom.

Adrienne, Matthew and Spencer visit Disneyland several times a month, usually with Daddy.

Besides Matthew and Spencer, Adrienne and her husband Kevin created and maintain the award-winning Happiest Potties on Earth here at MousePlanet.

You can contact Adrienne here.


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