Planning a trip to Pixar Fest? Disneyland’s 2018 spring and summer celebration of all things Pixar is chock full of favorite characters, amazing food, and entertaining parades and shows. There are attractions that work for every age and stage, from babies to grandparents and everyone in between. Since I focus regularly on toddler and preschooler travel here on Trips With Tykes, I wanted to share my specific thoughts on doing Disneyland’s Pixar Fest with toddlers and preschoolers in tow.
I know all too well from first hand experience that toddlers and preschoolers can sometimes be the most challenging travel companions — even at the Happiest Place on Earth. Creating a touring plan at Disneyland with little ones requires planning around nap times, early bedtimes, hunger, and heat. So, when it comes to Pixar Fest, what activities and offerings are can’t miss? How can you deal with lines and crowds at some of the more popular Pixar Fest attractions?
Here are the best things to do at Pixar Fest with toddlers and preschoolers, with lots of insider strategies for doing it right with fewer Disneyland meltdowns.
- Related: 20 Tips for Taking Toddlers to Disneyland
- Related: The Best Things to Do That Aren’t Rides at Disneyland with Preschoolers
And… be sure not to miss my complete guide to Pixar Fest has all the nitty gritty details of the entire festival. There, I cover everything that may be important to hit if you have older kids or if you just want to experience all the offerings for yourself!
Plus, be sure to scroll all the way to the end of this post for a giveaway of some cute Pixar merchandise, including a much-beloved Alien claw tumbler.
Top Things to Do at Pixar Fest with Toddlers and Preschoolers
1. Meet and Greet the Pixar Pals
Assuming your toddler or preschooler isn’t terrified of characters (there are a some!), making time to meet and greet favorite Pixar characters should be on your must-do list. Mr. & Mrs. Incredible, Russell and Dug from Up, Flik & Atta from Bug’s Life, and Woody & Buzz from Toy Story meet and greet guests at the back of Disney California Adventure in Paradise Gardens.
Check the times guide or the official Disneyland app for the daily schedule. I have found the area is open most days from 11am-6pm. I’d also highly recommend at least one person in your party having Disneyland’s Maxpass ($10 per person per day) so you can have access to Photopass shots from this location.
Lines can be long, but the waiting area is mostly shaded. And because the characters rotate out regularly, there are not long breaks to make the wait more challenging. Look also for roaming characters in this same area of Paradise Gardens – I spotted both Jessie from Toy Story and Sully from Monsters Inc.
2. Watch the Pixar Play Parade
With little ones, attending the evening shows and fireworks is always a hit or miss proposition. If you can’t quite make Paint the Night or Together Forever – A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular at night (both of which are amazing if you CAN make them by the way), you have another parade option in the daytime: the Pixar Play Parade! The parade features brand new floats from Inside Out and Up, and also opens with the famous Pixar lamp and ball leading the way.
The parade is in a new location in Disneyland park and runs along the usual parade route from it’s a small world up Main Street USA. It can also run in the reverse direction so ask cast members so you can pick the right spot where you won’t need to wait for its arrival for too long.
Speaking of waiting, if you don’t want to camp out for an hour or more for a front row seat, Disneyland offers a lunch dining package at Plaza Inn for the Pixar Play Parade with reserve seating. The meal is a picnic style baked chicken lunch that looks very kid-friendly. Toddlers under 3 are free so this could be a not-too-expensive option for families who don’t have a lot of older mouths to feed.
Check the times guide or the official Disneyland app for the schedule – the Pixar Play Parade will likely run twice a day on weekends and other busy days but only once on weekdays.
3. Take a Spin with Mater or Luigi
While Radiator Springs Racers gets all the glory as the best ride in Cars Land, chances are your toddlers and preschoolers are not going to measure up to ride it. Or they may just be too scared even if they hit 40 inches.
Luckily, Cars Land has two other Pixar rides for the little ones: Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. Both have just the right level of little kid thrills.
A great time to ride these attractions is within an hour of park opening. They never have the crushing lines of Radiator Springs Racers but they can often have waits of 30 minutes or more before lunchtime. So do them early!
4. Try a Sweet Pixar Treat
Even if you avoid sugar with your toddler or preschooler at home, a sweet treat at Disneyland is pretty much a necessity. The treats are Pixar Fest are absolutely adorable and pretty tasty too! So when you need that mid-afternoon sugar rush to power through, schedule a snack break.
What are the top treats I’d recommend? My 4 year old adores all things churro so I’d make a beeline for one of the many new flavored churros. The Pixar Fest cake is another colorful, tasty and kid-friendly option. Bonus that it’s available in several locations so you don’t have to walk too far to find it. Cake pops are another toddler-friendly choice that aren’t too messy or too huge.
(Check out a full Pixar Fest food report from my foodie friend Kimberly at A Night Owl Blog.)
5. Listen to the Pixarmonic Orchestra
When your little one has had enough of lines, take a break over in Paradise Gardens in Disney California Adventure. There, you can listen to the sounds of “TripleDent Gum Presents the Pixarmonic Orchestra” multiple times a day (check the showtimes guide).
Parents will appreciate the truly impressive musical talent that abounds in this bunch. But kids will just love the wacky instruments they work into the show as well as a few of their favorite Pixar classic songs. This performance was honestly the surprise hit of all of Pixar Fest for me. Don’t miss it!
6. Go to Infinity and Beyond with Buzz Lightyear
Another Pixar-themed ride favorite that always works well for toddlers and preschoolers is Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters in Tomorrowland in Disneyland park. Buzz Lightyear rarely has onerous wait times, so it can often be a walk-on option many times during the day. That’s so necessary with young kids! It also offers Fastpass/Maxpass (usually with very good availability) so you can easily work it into your schedule even on more crowded Disneyland days.
7. Pose for a Photo at the Entrance to Cars Land
The entrance to Cars Land in Disney California Adventure regularly gets a seasonal sprucing up. But the extras added for Pixar Fest are probably my favorite ever – car-shaped versions of Buzz Lightyear and Woody from Toy Story! It’s the perfect place for some photos of the whole family as well as some cute kid-only shots.
This is also another location that is regularly staffed by Photopass photographers – another reason to invest at least $10 in Maxpass to have your family photos to download later. There is likely to be a little bit of a line due to this location’s popularity but I didn’t wait more than 10 minutes even on the opening day of Pixar Fest.
8. Enjoy 4D Fun on Toy Story Midway Mania!
Another Pixar-themed ride that my children have always loved at the toddler and preschooler stages is Toy Story Midway Mania. This attraction is located in what is about to be re-themed into Pixar Pier in DCA. There’s a lot of construction all around it at the moment, but it’s still open and worth the trek!
The ride often has long lines which I know you don’t want to do with toddlers and preschoolers. If you start early, consider making it your first stop at rope drop since most other morning visitors run straight to Radiator Springs Racers. My family often rides it twice back to back at this time of day. For other times, make the most of Fastpass or Maxpass. Just be sure not to wait too long in the day to book Fastpasses since this is a ride where the Fastpasses run out earlier than many.
9. Watch a Pixar Short
When the crowds get too big or the heat starts to get to you, make a beeline for a mid-afternoon break in Hollywood Land in Disney’s California Adventure. In the Sunset Showcase Theater, Disney is showing a Pixar Shorts Film Festival during Pixar Fest.
Currently, you can watch some of your favorite shorts in 3D like Lava, Piper, and For the Birds. Starting on July 6, the shorts swap out to Knick Knack, La Luna, and Sanjay’s Super Team. Since they run continuously throughout the day, you can stay for as little or as long as you need to avoid the toddler meltdown.
10. Become a Bug… One Last Time
A Bug’s Land in has always been one of the top places to go with toddlers and preschoolers in Disney California Adventure park. Pixar Fest is your family’s last chance to enjoy all the kid-friendly Pixar themed rides, as a Bug’s Land is closing at the end of this summer to make way for a Marvel-themed land. The Bug’s Life Theater is already closed, but all the rides are still in operation. In addition, the Princess Dot Puddle Park (the area’s splash pad) is a great place for your little one to cool off on hot days.
11. Press a Pixar Penny
Last but certainly not least, if you want to take an inexpensive Disneyland souvenir home for your little one, introduce them to pressed pennies. ParkPennies.com always has the definitive and updated list, but I spotted Buzz and a few others in the machine at the exit of his ride as well as Dory in Kingswell Camera Shop on Buena Vista Street in DCA.
If a bigger souvenir than just a pressed penny is in your budget, there are plenty of opportunities to let your toddler take home some Pixar merchandise. The store with the most Pixar merchandise is Knick Knacks across from Cove Bar in DCA. In Disneyland park, you can also find many Pixar options in the Little Green Men Store Command in Tomorrowland. If you want Pixar items before your trip, there are a lot of Pixar choices on DisneyStore.com.
Pixar Fest Goodies Giveaway!
[PLEASE NOTE THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED]
Speaking of Pixar Fest merchandise, I’ve got some to give away to a reader! One of the hottest items at Pixar Fest is the Alien claw light up tumbler. And here’s your chance to win one, along with all of the adorable Pixar-themed items pictured:
- Monsters Inc. Mike and Sully socks
- Bing Bong pin
- Up house pin
- Mike Wazowski keychain
- Alien straw with backpack clip
- Disney Ghirardelli chocolates
Save Money on Your Disneyland Travels
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