Letting Off Steam at the Disneyland Resortby Jenna Kahl, contributing writer
For those of you who travel with little ones, or for those of you who find yourself as the "responsible adult" in charge of the little ones, the Disneyland Resort can be the ultimate memory maker while also being downright exhausting. Whether it be walking more than 13,000 steps a day, lifting kids in and out of strollers, or being with the little one "stuck" in a stroller while everyone else rides "big kid" rides, it's nice to have some cool, fun, and laid-back places to let off steam when everyone needs a timeout.
If you have already desperately searched for an alcoholic beverage after a meltdown over who got the pink umbrella in their Dole Whip (just me?), then you probably know that Disneyland Park does not serve alcohol, but Disney's California Adventure certainly does. For adults looking to relax, let off some steam and enjoy a libation with the kids in tow, I have a few recommendations. If staying in the park is part of your plan, or if you are looking to have a drink while walking around, I recommend the walk-up bar, Mendocino Terrace, located on the north side of Wine Country Trattoria. With a selection of beers, wine, Champagne and hard cider, it's located on a shady patio with easy access to a small bathroom outfitted with a changing table.
If you don't mind the walk to the Disneyland Hotel, you should really check out Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar. While the indoor seating area isn't expansive by any means, the wrap-around patio (equipped with heaters) has ample space to park a stroller, relax, and let the little ones walk around.
Now that the adults in the group are more relaxed and receptive I thought I would pass on some of our favorite spots for little ones to let off some steam. Our 2-year-old daughter can only take the stroller for so long before she needs a break. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail at Disney California Adventure is a perfect spot for kids of all ages, but it has some great slides and crawl through tunnels that little ones can handle on their own.
The Animation Academy is another great spot, especially on warm days, but I will say that it can get very busy on weekends and holidays. Located north of Disney Junior—Live on Stage, this building holds several attractions but also a large lobby, open seating space, music, Disney movie clips and drawings. My girls enjoy the shapes projected on the floor, providing a moving dance floor that is always a hit (note: as long as Anna and Elsa have their meet-and-greet, strollers must be parked outside the building).
Across the Esplanade at Disneyland Park it can seem harder to find a quiet spot to pull over and relax, but I do have a few tried-and-true locations that never let my family down. With the Disneyland Railroad currently on hiatus, one of our favorite spots, located next to the Haunted Mansion and in front of the entrance to the New Orleans Square Station, is a great place to grab a bag of beignets (sold next door at the Mint Julep Bar) and plop down for a quick break. The area is pretty simple, no chairs, or benches but an abundance of shade and some elevated planters, access to a bathroom and a good place to reapply sunscreen, organize a diaper bag, etc.
If you find yourself desperate for a break in Tomorrowland, make sure to take advantage of the shady benches along the outside of Innoventions and the restrooms located next to Autopia. If your little ones need to run around, the open floor area used for Jedi Training Academy is a good spot to utilize, in between shows, of course.
While this is not a piece about great places to eat in at the Disneyland Resort, one of my favorite spots to let off steam happens to also be the Rancho del Zocalo restaurant. Being from Texas, and now Arizona, I have high standards and a deep love of Mexican food, and Rancho del Zocalo never disappoints. The best part is the abundant seating and shade make this location a favorite place for me to hang out and enjoy chips and salsa, while our youngest naps in the stroller.
If Mexican food is not at the top of your list, and you need a place to relax in the shade and enjoy some more traditional fare, make sure you check out the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter County. It gets pretty busy at lunch, but during off hours on the lower deck in the very back you can find a nice place to relax, feed the ducks, and put your feet up. With the construction of Star Wars Land I make no guarantee about the quality of the view from this vantage point or quantity of ducks.
As many of you know, it's the few minutes of quiet that can make all the difference. So, at the end of a long day, whenever the children are asleep in their stroller, I dread ruining the quiet as we unload them onto the tram back to the Mickey and Friends parking structure. At this point I have two solutions. Option one requires a very accommodating park partner who is willing to drive around and pick you and the kids up at the pedestrian drop off located on Harbor Boulevard. To get there, just follow the signs to the Toy Story Lot shuttles and keep walking, follow the cast members as this is where many are picked up and dropped off. Option two involves walking the path from Downtown Disney to the Mickey and Friends parking structure, but the quiet of the walk can be really relaxing at the end of a long day. It also gives you time to talk to other adults uninterrupted, and even plan out the wake-up time for the following day if you are traveling in a family group.
At the end of all of this, I hope you have some new ideas and spots to try out next time you find yourself holding a melting Mickey Bar while your 5-year-old has a meltdown because her sister is "having more fun."