Children Under 5: On the West Coast

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer

Wondering what your little ones will enjoy? Our Parenting Panel shares their experiences just for you. What attractions and shows were your family’s favorites for children under 5? This week we will focus on the Disneyland Resort on the West Coast and next time we’ll hit the Walt Disney World Resort on the East Coast.

Lisa is a married, stay-at-home mom of Joey (5) and Matthew (2). She has been a Disneyland annual passholder since 2002, and has made several trips to Walt Disney World, as well. Lisa writes:

Since my kids are still pretty young, and my little guy hasn’t hit the pivotal 40 inches yet, we don’t do the “big” rides. But, my boys certainly have their favorites! Here are a few things we don’t miss:


"it’s a small world": We like this ride mainly because it (usually) has a short line and some good air conditioning. But, little kids love all of the stuff to look at, and we love to sing along.

The classic" it's a small world" attraction provides a 15-minute boat ride with great air conditioning, a catchy tune and plenty to see. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters: Another fun ride without a long wait, Buzz is great because it is interactive. Although we all agree that Toy Story Midway Mania is better, you can’t beat the line at Buzz. Even the youngest players get to use their blasters to defeat Zurg, which to young boys like mine, is just cool.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: OK, not my favorite ride. But, when my boys were really little, they couldn’t get enough! I am not sure what is so mesmerizing to little ones, but it is worth a short wait in line for them.

Goofy’s House/Toontown: Like the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, this is a great place to let the little ones run around for a bit. Goofy’s house has fun stuff to touch and do, including a little slide in his garden. And, you can check out some of the other houses without having to stand in line for anything.

Shows: Hands down our (collective) favorite show at Disneyland is Mickey and the Magical Map. It is so much fun to watch and sing along. My boys are still a little young for the Jedi Training Academy show, although I feel those days are coming quickly. Of course, if we can hang long enough, the Paint the Night Parade and Forever Fireworks are amazing. We rarely see them since they usually starts well past our kids’ bedtime.

Disney California Adventure

Redwood Creek Challenge Trail: By far, this is their favorite and a must when we go into the parks. It is often the first thing we hit to let them “get the wiggles out” before we stand in line anywhere. My boys can easily spend an hour running around, enjoying the slides, rope courses, and zipline. They even enjoy finding the animal tracks, even though they have done it all a hundred times before.

The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure: We like this one for a lot of reasons. First of all, it rarely has a line longer than five minutes (if it does, you know the park is crowded!). Second, it is air conditioned. After running around all over the Challenge Trail, we need to cool off. And third, who doesn’t enjoy singing along with Ariel and her under-the-sea friends? I’m not going to lie, I was the target age group of little girls when the movie came out and was obsessed – and can’t believe it took them so long to put in a ride!

Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree: This is another ride we like to hit up on our trips to the parks, partly because the line usually isn’t too bad. But, you just can’t help but smile and laugh on this ride. It is surprisingly fun for everyone – and isn’t that why you came to the Disneyland in the first place?

Shows: There are several shows around the park to catch, and we usually end up seeing at least one while we are there. When my boys were really little, the Disney Junior - Live on Stage! show was always fun. Now we usually will stop to watch the Green Army Men or even the Pixar Play Parade if we happen to be in the area. We like the World of Color show, but, as with the Disneyland night time shows, it is often too late of a night for us.

There are plenty of things to do with little ones at the parks. Just make sure you know what your limits are and how long your kids are willing to stand in lines to avoid melt downs. And, always have snacks!

Disney Junior - Live on Stage! includes characters from several Disney television shows, including Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Here, Jake (top) and Cubby plot to recover a treasure chest stolen by Captain Hook. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Sheena also known as Mermaid, teaches first grade in Arizona where she lives with her husband and two children, Matthew (4) and Katie (3). She visits the Disneyland Resort as often as she can and has passed on her love of the parks to her little Mouseketeers. Sheena writes:

My kids have been visiting Disneyland since their ages were measured in months—not years. Before 1, it was easy. They would go on any attraction without a height requirement and be content to go along for the ride. They had no fear and no real opinions—although they both loved "it's a small world" as babies. After 1 1/2, fears and opinions started developing. Although my older child hit 40 inches by his third birthday, he is not a fan of any of the "big rides" he has tried so far. I asked them each separately what their favorite ride is and they had the same answer.…

Casey Junior Circus Train: OK, they actually both said "the train ride" and the Disneyland Railroad was closed our last trip, so I knew they mean Casey Jr. My 5-year-old son said he likes going up and down and through the tunnels. My 3-year-old daughter said it goes super fast. They both hated Gadget's Go Coaster, so I interpret this to mean this ride has just the right amount of thrill and danger for the preschool crowd. The line for this never looks long, but it is painful. It moves very slowly. We try to ride this early, so while most people run to Peter Pan and Space Mountain, we are first in line at Casey Jr.

Mad Tea Party: The "teacups" are another one of their Fantasyland favorites. While Mom watches and takes pictures, they love to spin around and around with Dad. The simpleness of spinning teacups has won over generations and my kids are no different.

Heimlich's Chew Chew Train: This attraction can be found in Bug's Land in Disney California Adventure. All the rides in Bug's Land are great for preschoolers and toddlers (although some do have height requirements). The lines are generally short and the attractions are tame, but fun and well themed. Heimlich's is our favorite because of his funny comments as he chews through his favorite foods. Disney has infused the ride with smells of these foods for an added touch. The line for this can get long at busy times and it is a very short ride. I would not recommend waiting more than 15 minutes for it.

Disney Junior - Live on Stage!: Before kids, I pitied the people waiting outside for this show to open. I imagined it to be awful. I was so wrong. This show is fun, fast moving, and encourages the littlest guests to jump and dance. The cast has rotated throughout the years and features Disney Junior's popular characters of the moment. Currently, there are scenes from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Sofia the First. The show runs about 30 minutes and you should arrive 15-30 minutes before the show, more on especially busy days. This is a puppet show so you don't want to sit too close to the stage, better views are in the middle or back. The audience sits on the ground, but there are a few benches along the side and in the very back if family members have trouble sitting on the ground for extended periods. If your kids watch any of these shows on Disney Junior, you must see this cute show. Afterward, some of the characters are outside for a Meet and Greet. We saw Jake here on our last trip. My only complaint: no Hot Dog dance!

There is so much to see and do on a Disneyland vacation. Every age and stage brings new discoveries and adventures. I know there will come a time when my kids run to Space Mountain and Indiana Jones. For now, you can find us in the monkey cage on Casey Junior!

Children and adults alike enjoy Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. Pay close attention to the songs while waiting to board this ride - you might get lucky enough to hear the "blooper" reel song. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Jen, also known as *Nala*, is an engineer, a Disney fan, and a MouseAdventure fanatic. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two future MouseAdventurers, ages 3 and 5. Jen shares a little about both Disneyland and Walt Disney World:

Most of our recent Disney park visits have been with kids aged 5 and younger, so this week's topic is very close to me. While the kids are always discovering new fun things to do, some things have stood out over the last few years. Here are a few of our kids' favorites.

Favorite Show: Disney Junior - Live on Stage! As some Advanced MouseAdventure teams might remember, Disney Junior is made for preschoolers. The host is cheerful and the stories are familiar to kids who watch the Disney Junior shows. There are interactive elements where the kids can become snapping crocodiles to scare off Captain Hook or pop bubbles while dancing with Doc McStuffins. Be aware that most of the seating for this show is on the carpeted floor, though there are a few benches in the back of the theater.

Favorite Attractions: Playgrounds! Goofy's Playhouse at Disneyland and Redwood Creek Challenge Trail at Disney California Adventure are requested without fail on every visit. Kids can run and play and slide and bounce and burn off their seemingly endless energy. When given a choice, our kids will almost always pick playtime over rides.

Favorite Snack: Freeze dried apples. Google tells me the official name for this snack is Disney freeze-dried Fruit Crisps, but they are affectionately known as "Mickey apples" by my kids. At Disney parks they are sold in a bag of three individual pouches for around $4, and can be found at any of the fresh produce stands.

Favorite Rides: I left this category for last because it changes so frequently. I asked both kids today what their favorite Disney ride is. My 3-year-old daughter answered with "Ariel ride" (The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure.) The kids have also always enjoyed "it's a small world" and any of the carousels. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree at Disney California Adventure is another top choices. On our last Disneyland visit, we just discovered that our daughter is now proudly 40" tall, so we're looking forward to finding new favorites

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!



  1. By BrerFrog

    Thanks for this article! My 4-yr-old daughter likes many similar rides... but she also really likes Autopia! I'm surprised nobody mentioned it. Our last Disney trip was to HK Disney and we rode Autopia many times in the pouring rain. No lines! Also Dumbo is always a favorite.

  2. By Drince88

    I agree with Autopia! I took my then 2.5 yr old niece on it while everyone else did Space Mountain - and she GIGGLED through the whole thing. She had a blast 'driving' the car and swinging herself around as she hit that middle barrier again-and-again-and-again.

    And Dumbo is always a favorite. My nieces mother sooo enjoyed it when she was my nieces age (and my niece liked it too!)

    And who doesn't (regardless of age) like Mater's ride?

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