While the ideal situation for any family is being able to spend multiple days at both Disneyland parks, sometimes you have to choose! Whether you’re a local making a one-day trip, vacationing on a budget, or just spending a single day at Disneyland amidst a trip of other California fun, choosing a single Disneyland park is a tough, and important, choice.
Add a toddler or two into the mix, and there is a lot to consider. Where are the best food options? What rides have low height requirements? Where can my toddler’s favorite characters be found? Which Disneyland park is best for toddlers? Given that it’s Disneyland, AKA the Happiest Place on Earth, you’ll receive rave reviews from your little one and have an amazing, memorable time regardless.
The short answer, in my opinion and experience, is that the main Disneyland Park is best for toddlers. The long answer, including the reasoning behind it, can be found below!
Top 5 Reasons Disneyland is the Best for Toddlers:
1. The Classic Magic of Disneyland
This seems obvious, right? Of course Disneyland is magical, and so is Disney California Adventure Park, which is virtually next door. But there’s something special about walking through the train station, strolling down Main Street, and seeing the castle come into view that fills my toddler with incomparable joy … and still gives my girlfriend and I butterflies as well. Disneyland Park provides that genuine, nostalgic joy that you imagine experiencing at a Disney park, which is why I recommend first-timers visit here first – and choose it as the best park for toddlers. Toddlers can let their imaginations run wild in Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and more. Traditional rides like King Arthur’s Carrousel and the Casey Jr. Circus Train are original from the park’s opening, and the perfect way to introduce toddlers to all things Disney and theme park related. For any die-hard Disney history fans, this experience will pull at your heartstrings!
2. Minimal Height Requirements
Unlike some of the more thrilling rides at neighboring Disney California Adventure Park, almost all of the attractions in Disneyland Park are safe for any size, meaning there isn’t a height requirement. Most of the classics such as Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Alice in Wonderland welcome all heights, so there’s plenty to keep toddlers busy. While some famous favorites like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Indiana Jones Adventure do have height requirements, they’re still on the lower side … and give little ones something to look forward to! By far, toddlers are good to go on a majority of attractions – and it’s awesome to know they’ll be safe, too!
3. Mickey’s Toontown
I know I’ve already driven the point home that Disneyland offers a great assortment of toddler-centric activities, but Mickey’s Toontown deserves its own slot on this list. Toontown is the glorious epitome of everything that makes Disneyland the perfect place for toddlers. Home to Mickey and Minnie’s Houses, Goofy’s Playhouse, Donald’s Boat, and Chip ‘n Dale Treehouse, Toontown allows toddlers to explore the worlds of their favorite characters come to life, as well as meeting Mickey and Minnie themselves!
Each character’s “home” can be walked (or played) through, with plenty of fun activities and interaction to captivate your toddler. Chip ‘n Dale Treehouse is practically a playground, and there are quite a few fun tricks to play with on Donald’s Boat. Of course, my daughter’s favorite is Minnie’s House, where you can watch a cake bake in the oven! Mickey’s Toontown even features Gadget’s Go Coaster, a small coaster with a height requirement of only 35 inches, so it’s perfect for your thrill-seeking little ones before they work their way up to Space Mountain.
4. Roaming Character Meet-and-Greets
While characters can be found at both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Parks, we’ve found that the interactions at Disneyland come about a bit more organically, and therefore, are more enjoyable. In our experience, you have to get in a formal line to meet most characters at California Adventure, but it’s been a totally different experience for us at Disneyland. We’ve been lucky enough to simply run into Alice and the Mad Hatter in Fantasyland as they searched for the White Rabbit, and have chatted with The Princess and the Frog’s Dr. Facilier before our Haunted Mansion FastPass.
Rather than being focused on turning and burning guests looking for photos, the characters found in Disneyland seem to be genuinely focused on offering guests (especially little ones) an authentic storytelling experience. I love how running into the princesses really brings the park to life for my daughter. If the inconsistency of “roaming” character meet-and-greets intimidates you (we understand how important it is to meet your toddler’s favorite cartoon-come-to-life!) don’t worry – there are formal meet-and-greets set up for select princesses and Tinkerbell in Fantasyland. Be sure to check out the daily schedule to see who, where, and when you can meet your top priority pals!
5. Toddler-friendly Entertainment
Disneyland is known for its stellar line-up of entertainment across the board, but we find that the best shows to engage toddlers can be found at Disneyland Park. Storytelling at Royal Theatre is a stage show just over 20 minutes long that puts a spin on telling classic Disney fairytales … the perfect place to rest your feet and dream of once upon a time and happily ever after while seeing some of your toddler’s heroes in the process!
Our family’s personal favorite is Mickey and the Magical Map, which intertwines some of the best Disney characters and stories as Mickey goes on an adventurous journey. Even I was blown away by the huge variety of characters featured, so it’s sure to please any toddler who stops by for the 22-minute show packed with song and dance. Last but not least, Disneyland almost always has a parade taking place daily, and the parade itself varies by season. What’s the best for toddlers, you ask? We’re personally fans of Mickey’s Soundsational Parade, which constantly keeps our toddler dancing to get out that extra energy for the day before the grand finale of nightly fireworks soaring above the castle.
While this isn’t a toddler-exclusive reason, another “plus” of Disneyland Park is the variety of food for picky eaters. (And let’s be honest, toddlers are the pickiest of them all!) Disney California Adventure has an e qually awesome selection, but the items over there tend to be on the more adventurous side. As an adult, those unique dishes are my preference … but as a parent, I prefer Disneyland Park’s wide range of simple dishes like hot dogs, sandwiches, and tacos, that while less bold, are just as yummy.
Why Disney California Adventure is a Great Option, Too
Already have your trip booked, and set on heading to California Adventure? No worries. California Adventure has its own set of unique strengths that make it a great destination for toddlers as well. Your Frozen-obsessed prince or princess, toddler or not, will be swept away by Frozen Live at the Hyperion, a live musical on par with Broadway quality. Cars Land is such an immersive environment that your toddler will truly believe he or she has been swept away to Radiator Springs.
For the superhero-obsessed, this park is where you can interact with Black Panther, Spiderman, and other out-of-this-world friends. The Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance Off! allows toddlers to get those alien jitterbugs out of their system by grooving alongside Groot and Gamora. California Adventure is also home to an awesome food “market” – that while more exotic in taste, offers tons of food stations all in one place so you can find something for everybody in your family.
Don’t forget that park-hopping is an option as well, although multi-park tickets are quite a bit more costly. Even though Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks are within a short walking distance of one another, they are BIG, so we like to save our toddler’s energy by focusing on one park at a time.
When it comes to toddlers and first-time visitors, we most definitely suggest Disneyland Park as your first stop … but given the time, budget, and opportunity, we totally recommend hitting up Disney California Adventure too. Disneyland Park is the perfect “first visit” location for toddlers to see magic come to life in a beautiful, and not-too-overwhelming, way prior to moving onto more adventurous theme parks … whether at Disney, or beyond!
My favorite part of taking my daughter to Disneyland is the thematic combination of character interactions and rides. She thought it was the coolest thing in the world when we got off Snow White’s Scary Adventures and then got to meet Snow White herself outside to ask her about the Evil Queen and that pesky apple! I think that’s what makes Disneyland as magical as it is known to be. What are your thoughts on the ideal Disney park for toddlers? Let us know in the comments below!