Last year, I ranked my favorite Disneyland attractions for toddlers and preschoolers (or more accurately, Virginia ranked her favorites!). But Disneyland is more than one park these days, as California Adventure has now finally come into its own with the addition of Cars Land and other recent updates. My family had the chance to check out all of the new California Adventure rides and attractions when we visited in the fall of 2012 when our daughter was 3 1/2. And we are hoping to head back soon in 2014!
We found there was plenty to do with the preschool set in California Adventure too. So, without further ado, here is our list of the 7 top attractions in California Adventure for toddlers and preschoolers. With a little further expansion, California Adventure might warrant a Top 10 soon enough.
1. Disney Junior Live on Stage
If your little ones like Disney Junior shows, this is a can’t miss. Here, favorite characters from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and, more recently, Doc McStuffins, Jake & the Never Land Pirates, and Sofia the First, do a live action interactive show. On a hot day, this is a great activity and chance for a break — it is nicely air conditioned and you and your little ones can rest your feet while they are mesmerized.
2. King Triton’s Carousel
This is a very similar ride to King Arthur Carrousel in Fantasyland. Instead of horses, children can ride on their favorite sea creatures — dolphins, fish, seahorses, and more. It is truly a visually inspiring ride and our little one insisted on riding it three times in a row. Lines are rarely that bad, so this is a good stop if you are tired of waiting in line for some of the more popular attractions.
3. Bug’s Land Rides
Most of the rides in A Bug’s Land aren’t really memorable standing alone, but the whole area is a toddler and preschooler’s dream. Be sure not to miss Flik’s Flyers (kind of like Dumbo), Francis’s Ladybug Boogie (a spinning ride that is the fastest of the bunch and probably too much for anything but thrill-seeking toddlers), Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em Buggies (easy going bumper cars), and Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train (a really slow train that is cute for babies and young toddlers but perhaps too boring by the time your child is 4 or 5).
4. The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
This is one of the largest “dark rides” in Disneyland and one of the newest, so the technology is much-improved over the Fantasyland oldies-but-goodies. You cruise in a clam shell through scenes in the movie. Because the ride is in the dark and also because Ursula makes an appearance, make sure your little one is not easily frightened before taking this ride. But most young children who are Little Mermaid movie fans shouldn’t miss this one.
5. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
This is one of the new Cars Land additions, and boy will your little thrill seeker enjoy it! The tractors from Pixar’s Cars movies spin around while Mater sings and entertains everyone. Lines do build up quickly for this ride, like all of the rides in Cars Land, so try to do it early.
6. Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue
The Monster’s Inc. Ride has been around in California Adventure for awhile, but it is still one of the highlights even after the park expansion. Located in Hollywood Land, this is another dark ride where you are taken into the world of Monstropolis and get to see some of your child’s favorite Pixar characters from the movie. Be aware that the ride gets a little loud, so you might want to wait on this ride if you have an exceptionally sensitive toddler. Our daughter covered her ears and kept smiling!
7. Toy Story Mania!
Toy Story Mania combines the best of a Disney dark ride with an interactive 3D gaming experience. If you like Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, you will LOVE this ride. It is just as exhilarating for toddlers and young kids as it is for teens and adults, so this is a can’t miss on any family vacation. Riders play a variety of old-style carnival games using new technology as they cruise through various Toy Story scenes. This is one of the longest waits in California Adventure outside of Car’s Land, so if your kids want to do this ride, plan accordingly!