Ultimate Guide to Disney California Adventure with Kids

Opening in February of 2001, Disney California Adventure stole the show (a least in my opinion). The theme park recently went through a complete remodel this year, whimsically representing California and highlighting the state’s diversity. Visitors can wander through Hollywood, stroll along the boardwalk or hike through the wilderness before taking a break to sip wine in Napa or listen to the Mariachi Divas over a margarita. It is all here to enjoy. I love the vibe at Disney California Adventure with kids and it is definitely our favorite park to visit. Find out why.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Keep Cost in Check:

In regards to Disneyland and California Adventure, the best value is the annual passport. If you can’t make it to So Cal more than once, leave enough time to take advantage of the hopper tickets. The single day/single park tickets just aren’t worth it.

Drop your Bags:

Paradise Pier: Embracing California’s beach culture, Paradise Pier is the epitome of seaside resort (minus the sea). In the heart of Anaheim, every day is a beach party at this hotel. We’ve stayed here a few times, because we just love the laid-back hang-ten vibe. The rooms have splashes of beach accents like the beach ball pillows that lay playfully on the bed. The pool is on the rooftop which is kind of fun and unique. Like all great Disney resorts it has an amazing water slide for the kiddos. In the hotel is kids movie area set up like a day at the beach with darling little Adirondack chairs, perfect for their little bodies.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Even when we are not staying at the Paradise Pier we like to visit the Disney PCH Grill. It is a really fun character dining experience. I like it more than Goofy’s Kitchen, because of the all music and dancing. It is constant entertainment and a buffet of yummy food which makes it a great value. Breakfast is my favorite time to go the PCH Grill to the day started off right.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Disney California Adventure with kids

Grand Californian: The mountain lodge theme makes this hotel so cozy, despite the grand size. We often escape to the lobby to enjoy a nice cocktail surrounded by the warm woods, dim lighting, comfy conversational seating and piano music. There is story time by the roaring fireplace for the kids (my daughter’s favorite). There are even sweet miniature rockers for the kids to sit and enjoy Disney cartoons while Mama and Daddy sip their wine. When we are ready to head back the park we just go through the entrance conveniently located off the hotel lobby. The Grand Californian is really something special, plus this is home to my nephew’s favorite pool.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Get your Grub On:

At California Adventure there a ton of dining options ranging from the full-service to quick service.

Carthay Circle Restaurant

This is fine dining 1920’s style. It is beautiful for a romantic dinner for two or a really nice dinner with the family. Like Disneyland, above Carthay Circle is a secret restaurant for members only.

Pacific Wharf

I like to be outdoors whenever possible which makes me a bit of a patio freak. If the restaurant has a patio then you can bet that I am on it for sure. Luckily for me, California Adventure has plenty of options. I like hanging at the Pacific Wharf not only because it is outdoors, but it is on the water. Plus they have AMAZING Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Holla!

Disney California Adventure with kids

Ariel’s Grotto

This is a character dining experience overlooking the water and Ferris wheel. What is really cool is the World of Color package where guests get to dine while getting front row seats to this spectacular water show.


Yes, the restaurants are nice, but in all honesty my family’s favorite eat at California Adventure is the chimichangas sold of a cart in the Hollywood section. We never leave the park without one.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Disney California Adventure with kids

Places to grab a drink

Okay. My favorite part!!! Drinks at Disney!! Yes, Disney California has alcohol. From craft beer to craft cocktails, Disney can be fun for parents too.

Carthy Circle Lounge:

For a real pre-prohibition craft cocktail experience, this is the place. It is my husband’s favorite. The dim lit dark bar with leather seating, marble tables and chandeliers takes you back in time to early 1900’s. What I love about Disney is that I can rolled up with my double wide stroller and still get this HotMama a drink at really classy joint with no judgment. I definitely recommend the Manhattan! Simply superb.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Beer Trucks:

There are plenty of beer stops around the park and yes, I have my route mapped out. My favorite place to grab a beer at California Adventure is the Karl Strauss beer truck. Centrally located, this is my first stop once we enter the park.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Cove Bar:

Located just upstairs from Ariel’s Grotto, this bar is outside with gorgeous views of the park and delicious cocktails.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Mad T Party:

Hands down, my favorite thing at California Adventure. I love dancing to the Mad Hatter Band while sipping on my light up beers and cocktails. It is MAD!!

*Disclaimer: Sadly, Mad T Party is not in operation as of March 2016. I will update as soon as I know the replacement.

Entertain Me:

Attractions & Entertainment:

Disney California Adventure with kids has a plethora of attractions and shows, everything from the thrilling to the mild. We have been enough times that we are pretty relaxed and don’t waste our time with really long lines. If there is a really popular ride that is a must, make sure to get a fast pass first thing.


The Tower of Terror ride is extremely popular and heart stopping, but my three year old loves it. Think that is normal?

Disney California Adventure with kids

The Monster’s Inc ride which is a favorite of my kids is it located by the Mad T Party, so between sets we take the kids for a ride.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Mad T Party:

My favorite! The band is fantastic, the music is great, there is beer, cocktails, mocktails, dancing and best of all the kids can party along with you! My kids love dancing the night away at this MAD party. Although it is no longer happening, I have my fingers crossed it will come back.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Disney California Adventure with kids

Disney Junior Show:

Great for the little ones. My kids just love this interactive show, but beware it is floor seating and my foot falls asleep every darn time!

Disney California Adventure with kids

Aladdin Musical:

Really great show. The characters come out into the audience, holding the attention of my toddlers the entire time.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Muppet 3D:

Really cute and fun for the kids. It is a great escape from the heat as well.

Bugs Land:

Very kid-friendly for the little ones in your group. There are also plenty of places to get cooled off on those hot day trips.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Disney California Adventure with kids

Disney California Adventure with kids

Cars Land:

The newest land added to the park. Looks just like Radiator Springs. Very fun and very cute, but home the most popular ride: Radiator Springs Racers! Want to ride this get a fast pass early or be willing to wait in an hour long line. Ugh. Avoid the Luigi’s Flying Tires, it barely moves and even my toddlers were bored.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Paradise Pier:

Another staple in the family, the Ariel ride. We have to ride every trip. My kids just love it. This is a fast loading ride so the line moves really quickly.

Disney California Adventure with kids

King Triton’s Carousal:

My son could ride this all day if I’d let him. Now that my daughter (3) has moved up to the more daring rides like Tower of Terror, it is a bit slow for her. I love the sea creatures and the whimsical colors.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Phineas and Ferb Rockin’ Dance Party pops up at scheduled times throughout the day in front of Pacific Wharf. It is really fun for the kids to get up and dance with scouts.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Grizzly Peak:

Home of the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, perfect for burning up those kiddos’ excess energy. Plus they get to meet the characters of UP.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Disney California Adventure with kids

Condor Flats:

Where my husband’s favorite ride is located, Soarin’ over California. It really is a full sensory experience.

Throughout the park and on Buena Vista Street is parade and impromptu concerts all day. The Pixar Parade is the main parade that travels the entirely of the park featuring all your favorite Pixar characters. Don’t miss the World of Color which is the last show of the evening before closing.

That’s a Wrap:

Tired already? Prepare for meltdown.

Disney California Adventure with kids

Disney California Adventure has literally become our favorite park to visit. It is easy to get around, less crowded than Disneyland and it has real drinks! Everyone is happy. I understand for those who don’t get to visit Disney often seeing the original park is important, but Disney California Adventure with kids is way more fun in my opinion. Grab the kids, grab a cold one and have some fun!

Disney California Adventure with kids

Also see out adventures at Disneyland Park, HERE.

Have you been to Disneyland or California Adventure? Which one do you like more? Why?


I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".


  1. Pingback: Disneyland | hotmamatravel.com

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    • Yeah Disney California Adventure is my favorite, because it has a much more relaxed atmosphere.

  3. I went to Florida and then, California but couldn’t visit Disney, although I wanted to! This post is quite helpful as I would know which park to go to when I visit California next.

    Plus, all those kids looks so adorable and extremely happy! I totally love the picture of those girls in front of the stack of fishes and the boy lying face-down!

  4. Pingback: Things To Do In Anaheim with Kids (Besides Disney) - HotMamaTravel

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