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Ultimate Guide to visiting Disneyland with Kids

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The original Disneyland Park, located in Anaheim, California first opened June 17, 1955. Almost 70 years later Disney is as popular as ever attracting 17 million visitors a year. My Great Aunt Betty took my mom when she was a little girl the first week the park opened. I grew up going to Disneyland and now my family continues to be among the crowd, visiting multiple times a month. We have practically made Disneyland with kids a routine, so we got this on lock and it’s time to share my tips with you!

Kids with Mickey Ears

Money Saving Tips:

Disneyland is supposed to be the happiest place on earth, but high ticket prices, crowds, long lines and expensive food can easily make visitors angry, tired and broke. There are tricks to avoid this pit. Hands down the annual passport is the best the value. The pass gives you so much freedom and solves many of the issues that make people go anti-Disney. Choose to pay all at once or make small monthly payments. I recommend adding parking to the pass which saves you from paying $20 every time you visit. When you don’t have to pay every single visit, you are more likely to visit more which relieves you from the obligation of having marathon Disney days. Shorter visits mean fewer meals which saves a ton of cash. Traveling anywhere with kids requires an arsenal of snacks. Keep the kids happy and full. Heck, keep mama happy and full. Disneyland allows food to bring into the park, so pack lunch and snacks to avoid buying expensive food. Grab your passes and your food and let’s go to Disneyland.

Disneyland with Kids front of Castle

Where to stay near Disneyland:

Disneyland Hotel:

Great for an encompassing the whole Disney experience. All the rooms are modern and chic with touches of Disney magic and whimsy. To break up the hot summer days, the tropical pool and water slide is fantastic for keeping the kids cool and entertained. When you’re hungry the Disneyland Hotel has great family-friendly restaurants like Goofy’s Kitchen; a delicious character dining experience and the spot where we celebrated my son’s first birthday.

Family at Disneyland Hotel with Character

Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar is a fabulous mix of relaxation and adventure. Adults can enjoy exotic craft cocktails, while kids can sip on interesting mocktails within a magical tropical Hawaiian oasis. The tiki bar does turn into an adult’s only party after 8:00pm, so bring a babysitter and get those kiddos to bed.

Kids at Disneyland hotel pool
Disneyland Hotel Pool

If you plan on staying and playing, look for vacation packages. It really is the best value if you don’t have an annual passport. Disney is a tough nut to crack and it is really hard to find good deals with outside sources. Normal rates for the hotel range from $200-$500 a night, but annual passport holders get discounted rates. For the best rates, avoid prime season which is summer and Christmas.

Disneyland hotel

Places to Eat at Disneyland:

We usually always pack a lunch and save money for dinner. We also pack tons of snacks and water bottles to keep the kids (and adults) energized. Kids are whole lot less irritable when they have munchies and cool drink.

Disneyland Park has plenty of dining options, but here are few of my favorites.

Blue Bayou Restaurant

(table service): Although pretty pricey, I just love at atmosphere. Dine over candle light while on the bayou of the Pirates Caribbean ride as you watch the boats float by. As a kid, I loved waving to all the ride-goers and listening to the sounds of the bayou, letting my imagination run wild. It makes for a great escape on hot summer days.

family at blue bayou restaurant
Blue Bayou

Big Thunder Ranch

(table service): The BBQ is yummy, but what really makes this place fun is the live entertainment.

The Golden Horseshoe

(quick service): It is inexpensive, indoors (hello cool air) and has hilarious live entertainment. My dad and hubby were picked to participate on stage one visit, leaving me in stitches! I laughed so hard, tears rolled down my face.

Dad on stage at Golden Horseshoe
HotDaddy and Papa on stage at Gold Horseshoe

Hungry Bear

(quick service): Rarely does a trip to Disneyland not include this venue. Located on the lake, the view is beautiful and relaxing. I love to take the kids to feed the ducks and wave to the Mark Twain River boat cruise through the channel while I sit back and watch the peaceful water.

Disneyland with kids
Hungry Bear

Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port

(quick service): Cause who doesn’t love pizza?

Disneyland restaurant with entire family and kids
Pizza Port

Tiki Juice Bar:

Best pineapple floats and ice cream ever!!!

Where to grab a drink at Disneyland?

No alcohol is served within the Disneyland Park (sad face). Club 33 (a secret restaurant above the Blue Bayou) is the only place within Disneyland that alcohol is served, but you have to be member to dine. No worries! Take a break from Disneyland to grab a well deserved libation at Downtown Disney or hop over to California Adventure.

Fun things to do at Disneyland:

Before getting annual passes my husband was not down with Disney, but now he loves it. The pressure is off. We only go for a few hours per visit, see a couple things and go. If the lines are too long then we don’t go on the ride and save it for next time. Not stressing about seeing everything in one day makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

Kids at Disney Innoventions
Innovations

As much as I go to Disneyland, here are some great tips about slow-loading vs. fast-loading rides. Basically, slow-loading rides are ones that load all the passengers at once, the ride resumes and concludes and then unloads everyone before taking on more passengers such as Dumbo (the longest line ever! Ugh). Fast-loading rides are continually loading people as the ride rotates, hence the line moves faster even if it is a longer line like Small World. The blog suggests hitting all the slow-loading rides first, early in the morning before the crowds. Then save all the fast-loading rides for later. So if rides are important to you and your family, this is a great time-saving strategy.

Disneyland Dumbo Ride with kids
Dumbo

Disneyland Attractions:

There are tons to do and see at Disneyland, but we never leave without going on the Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and The Pirates of the Caribbean. Fantasyland is usually the busiest land at the park, so if you want to hit any of those rides go there first.

Disneyland jungle book ride
Jungle Cruise
Dad on Teacup with kids
Tea Cups

Entertainment:

In addition to the ride, there is always a show going on somewhere. There are parades, fireworks and character meet n’ greets. We to love hangout at the Jamboree, located behind Thunder Mountain. There is a petting zoo, tons of activities for the kids and characters roaming around.

Disney Character Pose with kids
Jessie at Jamboree

We try to see a new character every time. I track down characters locations with the Disney Magic Mobile App. The app also tells me how long lines for rides are running so I can make the decision which land to head to next. I love this app!

Little girl with Belle from Disney
Belle

That’s a Wrap:

I know there are a lot of people out there that are not Disney fans and think a day a Disneyland with kids sounds dreadful. My thoughts? They don’t know how to do Disney correctly. If you spend your day wasting money on expensive food, waiting in lines and trying to accomplish too much, then you are setting yourself up for failure. It is all about the attitude. Like I said, my husband was not thrilled when I got our family passes, now he loves going. If you know the tricks to save money and time as well as avoiding crowds and long lines, then your day will be great. Don’t try to cram in too much or you just make everyone tired and annoyed. Prioritize what you want to see before entering the park and don’t be afraid to take breaks. It is not a waste of time, it is a mental and physical recharge. So make a plan and have some fun!

Disneyland with kids
Off to Disney

Also see my tips on California Adventure HERE.

Have you ever been to Disneyland? What are your tips?

Author

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".