California Disneyland Resort Itinerary for Families with Little Kids Who Don’t Like Rides

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Advisor - Ashley Freer
Curated By

Ashley Freer

  • Family Travel

  • California

  • Anaheim

  • Entertainment

  • Kid-Friendly

  • Amusement Park

California Disneyland Resort Itinerary for Families with Little Kids Who Don’t Like Rides
Curator’s statement

Disneyland may not be on the top of your list for your next family trip but hear me out. We are not Disney fans, and to be honest, Disneyland would not have been on my radar if it weren’t for a friend who is Disney fanatic. She convinced me to go to Disneyland before my youngest turned three (kids are free under three!) and I am so glad she did. Prior to our first trip, my kids hadn't watched the Disney movies, weren’t super familiar with Disney characters, and they didn't like scary rides, and still don't. They now love Disneyland, and as embarrassing as it is to admit, we love taking them. The most important piece of advice I can give is to take it easy and go with the flow. My husband had to remind me multiple times that this trip was for the kids, and we weren’t there to do everything I wanted to do. Don’t try to see it all and do it all, go at your kids pace, follow their interest, and enjoy the magic of Disney.

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Overview Day 1

Spend the day in your preferred method of transportation to Anaheim and settle into the hotel. We have driven and flown and they both have their pros and cons. When we did fly, we used a transportation service that included car seats to pick us up from the airport and even stopped for a Target drive up on the way to the hotel.

Once you arrive, enjoy the hotel amenities with a dip in the pool or hot tub. When you are ready for a bite to eat, cruise on over to Downtown Disney. You will have to go through security to get to Downtown Disney, and it is good practice to understand how to pack your stroller for ease the next day. Once through security, figure out where you want to eat as there is an abundance of options, get your name on a list, and explore the shops until it is time to eat. If you have planned in advance, you might have been able to snag a reservation.

Overview Day 2

When you get into the park, first, enjoy the feeling. It is truly magical! Look at your kids faces, soak it up, then pull to the side and get your Genie+ activated. Only 1 adult needs to get one if your kids won’t be going on the bigger rides. Genie+ is minimally more than just photo pass so it makes sense, and if you are with another adult you might be able to peel away and actually enjoy a ride through lightning lane.

Now that you have your Genie+, wait in line for a family photo pass photo at the entrance in front of the train station. This is the iconic picture you probably see everyone else posting. We are so glad we did this, especially the first time! If you can’t figure out PhotoPass, a cast member will help you find the QR to scan. Take a screenshot of the QR code and my husbands trick is to make it your lock screen for the day.

As you go under the train tracks through the tunnels you may find some characters on the other side. My girls enjoyed watching and interacting with them, then when ready stroll down main street. If you want to grab a locker, there are some halfway down between Market House and Disney Clothiers Ltd. on the right hand side.

Once we get through main street, the first stop after mesmerizing at the Castle is The Royal Hall and Royal Theater to the left hand side. Here we can check out what shows are on at what times, and see if there are any princesses around. It is usually a bit quieter here in the morning and there is a bathroom nearby if needed. Waiting in line for the princesses is completely worth it, and the shows at the Royal Theater are fun for the kids and give you a chance to rest your legs.
What the kids will notice at the parks is truly magical. My youngest fell in love with the little cat & bird interaction tucked away in the corner across from the Royal Theater. The attention to detail is everywhere at the parks! Her first trip when she was two that is all she wanted to see.

Pixie Hollow is another great stop on the right hand side of the castle. Make sure to ask a cast member when Tinker Belle will be there. Pixie Hollow is so adorable and she was there in the morning hours when we visited.

Let’s talk about rides. I have a sensitive older child and even the tiniest roller coaster is not her thing. Many of the indoor dark rides are scary and loud. Bring noise cancelling headphones if you plan to go on them, or maybe even decide to skip those for now. Remember, you are here to experience joy from your children’s perspective and there will be a time when they will be at an age and enjoy the dark rides. As you go through the castle, there are a good amount of rides on the other side in Fantasyland that they will enjoy.

King Arthur Carrousel (A favorite!)
Casey Jr. Circus Train
Dumbo the Flying Elephant (A favorite!)
Mad Tea Party (Another favorite!)
Storybook Land Canal Boats
Alice in Wonderland (Not as scary as the other dark rides)

As you start to go walk around other areas of the park, you have a more ride options:
Autopia
"It’s a Small World”
Disneyland Railroad is great for when your feet need a break. Leave the stroller and enjoy a different view of the park. Going through its a small world on the railroad at night when it is lit up during the holidays is super fun!
Disneyland® Monorail - Another opportunity to rest those legs and have a different view of the park.
Mark Twain Riverboat
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Astro Orbiters

Outside of rides, there are many other experiences to enjoy:
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique - If you want to splurge, do it. It is absolutely adorable! Make sure you mark your calendars to book 60 days in advance and plan to chunk it about 2-3 hours between meals and naps. I thought my three year old would be too young, but I am glad we had her do it when her six year old sister did. Plan this for your first day, so they can enjoy all the fun and accessories that comes with it for the the rest of the trip.
Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough
Fantasyland Theatre - We didn’t get a chance to see a show here but I heard it was great. Definitely on my list for next time.
Enchanted Tiki Room. A nice, cool play to rest the feet inside away from the sun and elements with a show for all to enjoy. Grab a dole whip out front and enjoy the show!
Mickey’s Toon Town. The first time we went it was open, second time it was closed. It is re-opening in March 2023 and I am looking forward to visiting it with the kids when we return. I think it will be a wonderful place to hang out with the littles!
Parades or show times can all be found in the app. If you want a good view, have a parent take a light blanket you brought and get a spot ~90mins before show time on the parade route. Just ask any cast member if you need help on where it goes. People will creep into any open bit of space, so the blanket helps hold the appropriate amount of space for your family. The other parent can then take the kids to some rides, look for characters, or go on the monorail, while someone holds down the space. It is great people and character watching!

Dining: When it comes to dining, we did not always eat meals at the same time. Sometimes my husband was hungry and the rest of us weren’t, and he would mobile order and head off on his own. We made sure to accommodate everyone’s needs when they arose to avoid the hangry temper tantrum’s. There are still many places we have not tried yet and the options are endless. Here are a few tried and true:
Red Rose Tavern: The Grey Stuff. So good, a kid favorite. There is also a churro cart that we hit up many times across the road, and there are bathrooms that are prime for all the activities the kids enjoy.
Alien Pizza Planet: It had something for everyone here. Vegan husband, kids meal, and mom all were satisfied!
Jolly Holiday Bakery Café
Rancho del Zocalo Restaurant

Overview Day 3

I have heard a lot of people say you don’t need to spend a lot of time here, but my kids love the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. They could spend all day there and it is literally a struggle to get my older one to do anything else. It has zip lines, rock climbing walls, slides, and endless amounts of ropes courses to explore. It is shaded with plenty of places to sit down and let the kids run free. When I do get them away from the challenge trail, there are other rides they enjoy.

The little mermaid
Jumpin’ Jellyfish
Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
Toy Story Midway Mania
Jessie’s Critter Carousel
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
Luigi’s Rollickin Roadsters
Radiator Springs Racers - This one is for you! Do single rider if you can sneak away. It is still a decent wait for single rider, but I think it is such a fun ride!

Experiences
Disney Junior Dance Party - A really fun one. Don’t miss it for the littles! You can see the show times on the app.
Animation Academy - might be better for older kids. It depends on the attention span and interest of your kids.
Turtle Talk with Crush

Dining
Flo’s V8 Café
Pacific Wharf has a ton of options
Cozy Cone Motel is so adorable
Corn Dog Castle - The corn dogs are huge, and delicious.

Overview Day 4

Now that you have your bearings, enjoy your third day doing things you didn’t get done, or doing the things you want to do again. If you were going to do a park hopper, this would be the day to do it.

60 days in advance you can book restaurant reservations. I booked a sit down lunch on our third day and it was a nice break. We were able to sit inside, away from the crowds and have a quiet sit down meal with service. I have heard Blue Bayou and Carthay Circle are a treat!
In the two time we have been there with kids, we have not done any character dining yet and I don’t feel like we have missed out. With picky eaters, we personally didn’t feel we needed to spend our money there.

After two trips with kids, there are still plenty of things we haven’t done yet and we look forward to a future trip with them.

Overview Day 5

Sadly, it is time to pack up all the extra toys, dresses, bubble wands, and mickey ears you acquired throughout your stay and head home. Empty wallets, full hearts, sore feet, and tons of memories!

Whenever we leave, we are exhausted, broke, and tell ourselves we don't need to come back for awhile. Yet somehow we have gone two years in a row, and there are still plenty of things we haven’t done yet. Here's to our next Disney trip, which might have to be to the Aulani since Hawaii is our other favorite family trip spot.

Overview of Additional Days

Preparation for Disneyland

We have two girls and I have been to the Disneyland Resorts twice with them and once on an adult girls trip. We’ve gone when they were two and five, and three and six. Both trips were during the holiday season which was truly very special. Our first trip was when there was still COVID protocols, and the second was when things were “back to normal” and were able to meet and greet with characters, hug their favorite princesses, and go to shows. We have done single park tickets for our first two trips to Disneyland and we did not feel the need to do park hopper at this age. It will cost ~$60 more per day per ticket! That adds up quick with four tickets over three days.

When you have little kids that aren’t stuck on the traditional school schedule, or if you don’t mind pulling them out of school for a few days of fun, I encourage you to go mid week and/or not around school holidays. However, if you can’t swing that do not fret, you will still have a great trip.

In preparation for your trip, download the Disneyland app, read up on rides that allow for Single Rider and Rider Switch, and get your walking shoes ready. Single Rider and Rider Switch are both great opportunities that you can definitely take advantage of with little kids in tow. Disney is also very accommodating to dietary preferences and guests with disabilities. I have a vegan husband and the kids are picky eaters, and everyone has always been accommodated well.

Hotel location will affect your trip experience and I recommend staying at a hotel within walking distance. You will all need a mid day break which will then allow you to enjoy the wonderful shows and fireworks they have at night. I have stayed at a hotel that is a half mile away versus one mile away, and the half mile was a much better experience. The hotel that was a mile away was more inconvenient because while it is actually quicker to walk, no-one wants an extra two miles of walking while at Disneyland. There are buses, but they take a while, you need to plan your timing perfectly, and you need to collapse your stroller to get on and off.

Throughout the parks there are designated stroller parking areas throughout the park and cast members may move your stroller to maximize the space. Bring a fanny pack for your valuables like credit cards, cell phones, etc. and leave everything else in the stroller. You can always throw an Apple AirTag in the stroller, or have something identifying on it since many strollers look alike. Our orange double bob came in handy in a sea of black strollers. If your stroller is feeling a bit packed and you don’t want to haul around too much stuff, grab a locker on main street.

What to bring and how to prepare
A double stroller. Even the older kids will want to take a seat.
Refillable water bottles.
Some protein bars or a few snacks for those meltdown moments. In my opinion, you don’t need to overpack snacks if you don’t mind purchasing them on site. There are many fun food options inside the parks.
Check the weather for appropriate clothes and bring layers. Don’t forget swimsuits and goggles for the hotel pool.
If you are interested in the wet rides, bring a poncho and flip flops for splash mountain and grizzly run. Take it from my experience, you do not want to be walking around the park in wet sneakers all day.
A few pairs of comfortable sneakers to rotate each day.
A battery pack because the Disneyland app drains your phone.
Bring a light blanket to mark out your spot for the parade, fireworks, and shows if you are up for that. The kids honestly loved them and has been a huge part of our trips.
Take time to get familiar with Genie+, Mobile Ordering, and the map. The app is not intuitive so watch some videos online before you go, and ask a cast member when you get there if you are still unsure. Once you know how to navigate the app, you can easily filter between attractions, entertainment, bathrooms, order food, and play with photo filters.

Happy kids posing with Santa
Happy kids posing like a princess
Catching a glimpse of a cat and a bird
A nap in the stroller pose

Need to Know

This trip report is part of our ongoing series on travel to California. In need of further inspiration? Check out Irving Macario’s guide, Weekend Getaway to San Francisco, California.

Advisor - Ashley Freer

Travel Advisor

Ashley Freer

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