Birthdays at Disneyland

by Lisa Perkis, staff writer

Going to Disneyland on your birthday is special enough, but with a little advance planning it can be an especially memorable day for you or a loved one, whether your guest of honor is turning 3 or 83. The best part about birthdays at the resort is that you need not spend a fortune to add a few festive touches to a birthday visit. Here are some ideas to help start your planning.

Birthday sticker

Where: City Hall
Cost: Free with admission
Age Range: All ages

The birthday sticker is the first step to a great Disneyland birthday, and the best part is its price: Free to guests of all ages. The sticker lets cast members (park employees) know you are celebrating your special day at the park. Many cast members single out birthday folks with special attention and greetings. It's an amazing thing, considering how many thousands of folks walk around the park with a birthday sticker.

The sticker can live on in a photo book or scrapbook as a reminder of a memorable day. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

Some cast members even lead crowds in a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” just to make someone's day special (or embarrass them to death.) One cast member led the whole crowd waiting for Fantasmic! in a birthday song for my 8–year–old daughter, who is just young enough to enjoy that sort of mass attention.

A busy skipper takes time to chat with the birthday girl. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

Worth the price? Nothing is better than a cool free sticker. The sticker is valid even if it's not the exact day of your birth.

Call from Goofy

Where: City Hall
Cost: Free
Age Range: All ages

While at City Hall for your birthday sticker, look for the old–fashioned phone at the front desk. This is Goofy's private line to wish happy birthday to the lucky celebrant. Other phones around the resort can be patched to Goofy, such as the Disney Gallery phone in New Orleans Square, but the phone at City Hall is the “official” Goofy phone and the most fun to use.

Party guests look on enviously as Goofy gives a special birthday greeting. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

Worth the price? It's another wonderful freebie one can get only at Disneyland.

Happiest Birthdays on Earth

Where: Plaza Inn, Disneyland
Cost: $10 per person (free for children under 2). Premium Annual Passholders get a 10 percent discount
Age Range: Geared towards children 12 and under
Priority Seating: Call Disney Dining at (714) 781–3463 or stop by the Plaza Inn or City Hall

This birthday celebration appeals more towards children than adults, though you can usually spot several young–at–hearts joining in the spirit. The structure of the party has changed little since it debuted three years ago at the Plaza Inn. The price includes a blank cake with sprinkles and frosting, punch and a plastic birthday drink cup, a party hat and a special sticker.

Mr. Pat E. Cake takes the time to greet each birthday guest and comment on their culinary creation. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

The party lasts about 40 minutes, and during that time, Pat E. Cake hosts the gathering with songs and comments on the lovely cakes the guests are decorating, competing for the top decorating prize. Of course, everyone wins—this is Disneyland, after all.

Watch out for the frosting—the colors stain everything it touches, including skin. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

As the cakes are being eaten and the indelible blue frosting is being smeared all over clothes, the special guest can make an appearance for pictures and one final round of the happy birthday song. Odds are it will be Mickey and Minnie.

If the weather is inclement, the party moves to the interior of the Plaza Inn or the Golden Horseshoe. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

Worth the price? It's not something I would go back to year after year, but children really have a great time.

Birthday Bucket

Where: Most resort restaurants at DL and DCA
Cost: $20
Age range: Geared towards children 12 and under

Birthday Buckets are widely available around the Resort, and are an alternative to the birthday party at the Plaza Inn. You can also purchase them through room service at any of the Disneyland Resort hotels. The buckets contain a small cake, a birthday pin, stickers, and a choice of toys (depending on the bucket theme you choose). Birthday people under 10 should be the most excited about receiving a birthday bucket, though I have seen adults toting them around as well.

Princess or Mickey fan? There's a bucket for you. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

Worth the price? Twenty bucks seems a little steep, but the birthday pin is cute and a nice permanent keepsake. Plus, it is less expensive than paying for a party of three or more to go to the Happiest Birthdays on Earth at the Plaza Inn.

Complementary Birthday Dessert

Where: Storytellers, Blue Bayou, Carnation Cafe
Cost: Free with purchase of meal
Age Range: All ages
Priority Seating: Call Disney Dining at (714) 781–3463

Several full service restaurants offer a complementary dessert and a happy birthday song with purchase of a meal. Storytellers at the Grand Californian is a nice place to have a family birthday; the menu is varied to appeal to all ages. The make–it–yourself pizza is fun for children, and the chocolate Mickey–shaped dessert is available in a to–go container if the birthday person is just too stuffed.

Storytellers can be busy on the weekends; call ahead for priority seating. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

The Carnation Café is one of the unsung heroes of table–service restaurants at the resort and also provides a birthday dessert with purchase of a meal. The comfort food served at the Café is excellent, and the view of Main Street is always entertaining; especially if you can book a table during a parade. The Blue Bayou, located in New Orleans Square, is a favorite restaurant for many guests. The perpetual evening and fireflies, plus that famous scent of the dank piratey water from the adjacent Pirates of the Caribbean attraction can add up to a fun atmosphere to celebrate a birthday with a complementary dessert. Keep in mind the overall meal costs more at the Blue Bayou than either Story Tellers or Carnation Café, and a seat at the coveted tables by the water requires a longer wait, even with priority seating.

Worth the price? If the birthday person is in the mood for a sit–down meal, any one of these restaurants should do the job nicely.


Where: Mission Tortilla Factory Tour
Cost: Free with admission (and birthday sticker)
Age Range: One can never be too old for free tortillas

This is a fun freebie that is totally unofficial and unpublicized by Disney's California Adventure park and Mission's Tortilla Factory. If cast members spot your birthday sticker, there is a very good chance they will give you a whole bag of hot, fresh tortillas as a yummy birthday gift. It's not a guaranteed thing, since the gift is unpublicized, but so far every birthday guest I have accompanied to the factory has received a bag. The key is not to demand, but to smile and flash the birthday sticker subtly. If cast members have enough tortillas, chances are good they will oblige.

This is the time to tactfully flash the birthday sticker. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

Worth the price? Even if you don't get a whole stack, one nice warm tortilla says happy birthday in its own special way. Maseca!

Character Dining birthday parties

Where: At various character dining locations around the resort.
Cost: Purchase of meal plus $5 per guest
Age range: Geared towards kids 12 and under
Priority Seating: Call Disney Dining at (714) 781–3463

Book a dining reservation at Goofy's Kitchen and for an additional $5 per person, each guest receives a birthday hat, plate, cup, and goodie bag with a toy and a Goofy pen. The birthday person receives a cupcake, but a whole cake for the entire party requires an extra fee (see below.)

The Lilo and Stitch Aloha Breakfast at the PCH Grill in the Paradise Pier Hotel provides a party set–up with party hat, plate, cups, and small bag with a little treat inside for $5 above the cost of the buffet. The Royal Disney Princess Breakfast at the Plaza Inn also provides the birthday favor bags, hats, and plates at the same price.

If you are interested in having a whole birthday cake at any of the on-property hotel restaurants, Disney Dining takes orders at the same time you book your priority seating, up to 60 days in advance and no later than 72 hours in advance. A 10–inch round cake, which serves up to 14 guests, sets you back $23.50. A quarter sheet is $38 and serves up to 21 guests. The baking kitchen personalizes the cake with specific colors and put the birthday person's name on it. The kitchen even delivers the cake to the hotel restaurant of your choice in time for the birthday person to blow out the candles.

Worth the price? As far as the birthday party set–ups go, it depends on your feelings about character meals. If the guest of honor loves to visit with the characters and eat buffet meals, $5 more per person doesn't seem like a lot to get that little extra birthday flourish. The Goofy's Kitchen party favors are more substantial, so keep that in mind when deciding on which character meal to book. If the birthday person would rather eat a more traditional meal without Pluto sticking his nose into the soup, perhaps a whole cake ordered for the end of the meal is the way to go.

Build-a-Bear Workshop

Where: Downtown Disney
Cost: Prices start at $10 per guest
Age Range: geared towards children and young teens
Reservations: Call 1 (877) 789–2327 (toll-free)

Alhough not in Disneyland park itself, Build-a-Bear Workshop may be a good option for birthday kids looking for a hands–on party experience. The entire upstairs area of the building is reserved for private groups, which is helpful, since the lower floor is usually chaotic and crowded. A “party leader” helps guests create a bear (or other creature). They then “fluff” it (add stuffing), name it, and create a personalized birth certificate. Outfits and accessories are additional. The down side to a Build-a-Bear party is that they do not allow food or drinks in the party area, so a birthday cake is out. The same goes for outside gifts. The Downtown Disney Build-a-Bear is extremely busy, so they recommend booking a party three to four months in advance.

If you must have a Disney–themed party, consider the Mickey Mouse Club outfits for your bear. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

Worth the price? If one can overlook the non–Disney aspect to Build-a-Bear, this is a great birthday party alternative, especially since each birthday guest goes home with a fuzzy, tangible memory of the day. It's also a good alternative for older kids and teens.

Club Libby Lu

Where: Downtown Disney
Cost: Prices vary from $20 to $30 per girl
Age Range: Children (girls) under 13
Reservations: Call (714) 772–3793

One of the newer additions to Downtown Disney, Club Libby Lu appeals strictly to girls under 13. It may not appeal to parents wanting to delay pre–occupation with makeup, hair and clothes in their 6–year–old daughter, but seeing how crowded the store has been since it has opened, those parents appear to be in the minority. The shop offers a “Very Important Princess” birthday party with prices starting at $20 per child for a “Libby Du,” with accessories to “complete the look,” and party favors in a small backpack. A one–girl deposit is required when booking a party, but there is no minimum number of party guests required.

Got glitter? Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Worth the Cost? According to MousePlanet's message boards, this store has some ardent fans and equally ardent detractors. Strictly a parent's call on this one.

Next time you are thinking of what to do to celebrate a birthday, consider a visit to Disneyland that includes the many extra touches to make the day extra special for a Disneyland birtday bash. And if you have a great birthday tradition at the resort, be sure you let me know.