Welcome to your Undercover Tourist 1-Day Disneyland tour guide for families with small children! A Disneyland vacation is a special time indeed for families. There is so much to do that it can feel a little overwhelming ... but it does not have to be. Our 1-Day Disneyland tour guide for families with small children helps break down a park hopping day to help you make the best use of your time with the rides, foods and experiences that even your tiniest tadpoles are bound to love. Consider it your step-by-step plan in the best order to accomplish all of the must-dos.
For those of you visual learners who love a quick bit of information, our froggy friend @TheDisneyBenches partnered with us to put together this handy one-minute park hopper guide for families with small children. While we've geared this plan for people who are hopping, if you are visiting just one park per day, you can also just take the parts that apply to your park and divide it up over two days (one in each park) if you want to move at a slower pace and do more exploring. If you only have time for one park, focus your time on Disneyland Park. It offers the most for young families.
We’ll also dive into a few things you need to know to pull this off and offer a few other suggestions and tips should you find yourself with extra time or if you have wider interests. Keep in mind that sometimes you just have to slow down a bit and take more breaks with small children. Don't let a schedule add any stress to your day, but instead, let your kids be the gauge of how fast you go. You kids will never know if you cross a few items off the list and will be happy with as much or as little as they see no matter what. They will not, on the other hand, be happy if you push them past their limits, so slow down to meet their needs and don't skip nap time if your toddler needs a rest. Our toddler, Lily, would like to add that allotting some bubble wand time is a must!
Our tips for taking a baby to Disneyland post has advice and ideas to help you if you have toddlers and babies with you. You may also find our guide to height requirements and rider switch to be hopful so there are no surprises and tantrums ("But why can't I ride Splash Mountain?!").
Our Hoppin' One-Day Disneyland Tour Guide for Families with Small Children
First of all, you are going to want a Park Hopper ticket to follow the plan as laid out. Make a theme park reservation for your starting park at Disneyland (you are allowed to hop after 1 p.m.). You'll want to arrive before park opening. Parking lots open one hour before park opening, and security for people walking in from on-site or off-site hotels opens about 45 minutes before park opening. Then, the park turnstiles open about 30 minutes before park opening. Ropes will contain you at the hub, and, at official park opening, the rope will drop so you can head to your first attraction.
1. Peter Pan – You can walk through the castle and hit this at rope drop, but if you are running late, then skip this ride because the line gets long really quickly and you do not want to start your day with a long line.
2. Snow White's Enchanted Wish – The newest refurbishment makes this a happier and less scary ride than before.
3. Any Fantasyland rides that interest your family – We are talking about Pinocchio's Daring Journey (though it could be scary for some tadpoles), Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Casey Jr. Circus Train (what small child doesn't love a train ride?), Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo, Mad Tea Party and King Arthur's Carrousel. Mad Tea Party and the Carrousel always have quick-moving lines.
4. Minnie and Friends Character Dining at Plaza Inn – No doubt you are very hungry by now. Hop over to Plaza Inn for a breakfast buffet with characters. Ideally, you will have already made an advance dining reservation. But if not, you can see if there is any walk-up availability in the park. Hopfully, you can get in, but if not, you can find some breakfast items at Jolly Holiday Cafe, Red Rose Taverne or Galactic Grill and locate some Disney characters in the park (such as Princess meet and greets at or near the Royal Hall).
5. "it's a small world" – This ride is on Genie+ if you want to pay to skip the line. You do not need Genie+ for tadpoles under 3. If you have time before breakfast, you might want to hit this ride early before the line gets long.
6. Disneyland Railroad – Hop on at Toontown Station (Toontown is closed until 2023, but the train station remains open) to ride to the Main Street station. You'll pass the Grand Canyon and Dinosaurs dioramas on the way, which are always huge hits with the littles. You need to fold up a stroller to bring it on the train.
When you exit the train at Main Street and Town Square, you can visit with Mickey and friends, but they do disappear around noon to get ready for the approaching cavalcade. Before you hop, try to catch a character cavalcade. Look up Mickey & Friends Cavalcade in the Disneyland app (there is usually one between 12 and 12:45 p.m.). This mini-parade is short and sweet and will have so many different characters all at once. The cavalcade does not run past the train station. As it travels down Main Street toward the train station, it cuts left before the circle.
7. Park hop to Disney California Adventure
8. Lunch at Flo's V8 Café
9. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree – This one has a height requirement of 32 inches or taller. Also, in Cars Land, don't froget to say hi to Lightning McQueen or Mater in front of the Cozy Cone Motel. The Cozy Cone has yummy soft-serve ice cream, as well as mac and cheese in a bread cone.
10. Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters – This ride has a height requirement of 32 inches or taller.
11. Say hi to Super Heroes at Avengers Campus – WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure has no height requirement. It's not high on our list but you may want to ride, especially if you have some Spider-Man fans. The line will be long so consider opting for an individual Lightning Lane to skip the line for this ride. Be sure to catch The Amazing Spider-Man (find showtimes in the app but catch him before 4 p.m.) to see him leap from the rooftops and then meet him afterward.
12. Disney Junior Dance Party – Showtimes are only until 4 p.m. so check the schedule and move things around to be able to make it before the last show.
13. Mickey's PhilharMagic Show – The 3D show that gives you a chance to sit and rest in AC. Shows run continuously.
14. Animation Building – This is where you can chat with Crush during Turtle Talk and maybe even meet Anna and Elsa.
15. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail – Get all the wiggles out for some unstructured time in this climbing area.
16. The Little Mermaid — Ariel's Undersea Adventure – Sit down in a clamshell and go for a musical adventure under the sea.
17. Have dinner at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta
18. End the night in Pixar Pier riding Toy Story Midway Mania! (available on Genie+) and any other kid-friendly rides you want to try such as Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind, Jessie's Critter Carousel or the Golden Zephyr. Keep an eye on the time as these rides do close early for World of Color.
World of Color is an amazing water show if your tadpoles can stay up for it! You'll want to join the virtual queue at noon for a reserved viewing area or ask about standby viewing that night. Our World of Color post has all the deets!
Have Extra Time? Here's What Else You Can Do
This is a huge day if your tadpoles can make it through. You might want to do just a one-park per day with really small children and if so, here's what you can add to your day at Disneyland. In Critter Country, your littles will love the Winnie the Pooh ride. You can meet Winnie the Pooh and maybe even Tigger too in Critter Country. The Jungle Cruise never disappoints. Some small children love The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, but others find them scary. Our 2-year-old nephew loves ghosts and pirates ... Lily not so much.
Simple pleasures for small children at Disneyland include:
- Bubble wands — Lily is always hoppy to sit in the stroller when she can hold the bubble wand.
- Break time with snacks — Mickey ice cream bars, fruit bars, Mickey pretzels and popcorn are a hit, but there are many places to pick up healthy snacks such as cheese, yogurt and fruit. We bring snacks from home to save money and guarantee we have something the tadpoles will like. You can even get Mickey-shaped Goldfish crackers to stay on theme.
- Live entertainment — Slow down to watch small musical acts or characters from afar. Sometimes characters seem scary up close but are just fine from a distance.
- Parades and cavalcades — Take a seat on a curb and enjoy the show.
- The Baby Care Centers — Each park has a Baby Care Center. It's a great place to change diapers or take your potty-training toddlers to use the tiny potties that are just their size. It's also a distraction-free spot to feed or nurse your little one or purchase needed baby care items. At Disneyland, it is located to the right of Plaza Inn near First Aid. At Disney California Adventure, it is tucked away between Cars Land and Ghirardelli in Pacific Wharf.
Hopfully, our one-day Disneyland tour guide for families helps your family have a magical day at Disneyland. If you have more than one day to spend in the parks you can save on a multi-day theme park ticket and slow down the pace.