Little V has been to Disneyland three times in her four short years, and considers herself quite the Disneyland connoisseur by now. Below, she offers her analysis on her favorite rides within Disneyland park, and explains why these are the best rides for other toddlers & preschoolers too. (Mom offers her thoughts as well). Don’t miss my related post on top picks for toddlers in California Adventure.
1. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Mom’s review: Top choice for our family, as it incorporates a character that babies, toddlers, and young children all love. The ride itself is fairly mellow, following Winnie through a rainstorm and a dream about honey. A few young kids may find the brightly colored and stimulating “Heffalumps and woozles” room a bit overwhelming, but it is certainly less scary than all of the Fantasyland dark rides. Best of all – because the ride is located in a back corner of the park in Critter Country, it doesn’t tend to get too crowded. As a result, we were often able to ride it multiple times back-to-back even when other areas of the park were getting busy, such as late morning.
Virginia’s commentary: “I like it because it has doors that open and it has honey on top even.”
2. Minnie’s House
Mom’s review: Located at the back of the park in Toontown, Minnie’s House is a great stop when other areas of the park are busy and you just want to give your child some time to play freely and not adhere to a schedule. The home is fully decorated as if Minnie lives there, and has a few hidden gems like an oven that “bakes” and a fridge that is filled with cheese. Our daughter did not want to leave.
Virginia’s commentary: “It has cheese! And I was working on the computer. Can we go there again?”
3. It’s a Small World
Mom’s review: A nice, easy-going, long and relaxing ride with no scary features at all! This is a great ride to go on if the park gets too hot and everyone needs a break. And I know many a nursing mom has found it to be the perfect place to feed a baby while still enjoying a ride. The ride is especially magical during Christmastime when it is covered in lights and the children sing Christmas carols along with the usual song.
Virginia’s commentary: “It’s kind of being on land and walking on water. And it’s kind of fun because you can go through a little tunnel on water.”
Mom’s review: This is a favorite of every young child I know, as it is thrilling but not scary since it is in the open air. Multiple elephants “fly” around a central post and can go up and down in height. The major drawback is the line. It can be an hour plus on even regular days, so be sure to schedule it as your first ride of the day if you arrive at rope drop (or wait until later in the evening if you have older kids who can stay up late once the little ones leave).
Virginia’s commentary: “I like Dumbo because elephants don’t really fly except Dumbo. People can get inside Dumbo and go up and down.”
5. Mad Tea Party
Mom’s review: Who doesn’t love spinning teacups? The fact that this ride can be “customized” for different ages is a big draw. When V was younger, we didn’t spin the teacup’s central wheel to make the cup spin more rapidly. On our last trip (3 1/2 years old), we decided that our fearless daughter was ready for a bigger thrill, and we turned up the speed to great effect. The Alice in Wonderland theming and music makes it a great fit for toddlers and preschoolers, particularly if they enjoyed the movie like our daughter did.
Virginia’s commentary: “They spin and you can go super-duper fast.”
6. Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters
Mom’s review: This is a ride that everyone in the family can enjoy – parents and teens will love the competitive, game-like atmosphere of racking up points shooting at moving targets, and kids will enjoy the Toy Story theme and the chance to get their hands on a real Buzz blaster. The ride can be a bit loud and the darkness and moving robots may be too much for a few sensitive kids, but the chance to shoot blasters at targets may be distracting enough that most kids won’t have time to be fearful.
Virginia’s commentary: “It has scary monsters that you blast with laser guns.”
7. King Arthur’s Carrousel
Mom’s review: What toddler doesn’t love a carousel? This one was V’s favorite on our first visit to Disneyland when she was not quite 2 years old, and we continue to ride it several times on each return visit. The horses are painted beautifully and the lines can often be quite short, even later in the morning as other Fantasyland lines become choked with guests.
Virginia’s commentary: “There’s even an orange one, and purple one, and a pink one, I think!”
8. Disneyland Railroad
Mom’s review: Railroads are a big hit with a lot of young kids, and this one is a nice and relaxing ride. You can get a great overview of the park just doing a circle tour (tip — leave your stroller behind if you plan to do the whole circle and pick it up at the end), and the railroad is also a nice form of transportation from some areas of the park to others.
Virginia’s commentary: (Virginia couldn’t really distinguish this railroad from the many others we’ve done in her short life, but I will comment that she did enjoy it!)
9. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
Mom’s review: Nemo is a favorite character for the toddler and preschooler set, and the chance to see him in person on a real submarine can’t be missed. Even though I regret that the old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea theme is gone from this ride, I have to say that the Nemo overlay works well too. Some more sensitive younger kids may find the darkness and the noise a bit overwhelming (even our fearless child jumped at a loud explosion sound at one point), but the draw of Nemo may be enough to overcome that for most. The ride is extremely low capacity, so lines do build up quickly. Consider this one of the first stops on your itinerary in the morning if you arrive at rope drop.
Virginia’s commentary: “It looks like you are underwater even and there’s a song about it …. Yellow Submarine.”
10. Peter Pan’s Flight
Mom’s review: This is truly one of the more magical rides in Disneyland. Toddlers and preschoolers will likely appreciate it, as it incorporates theming from a movie that is age-appropriate for them (show them the movie before your trip!). Little ones may be a bit scared by some of the rooms in the dark, but this is the least scary of the Fantasyland dark rides. Like Dumbo, this ride is extremely low capacity and very popular, so lines are usually quite long. We always schedule it first or second when we arrive at morning rope drop to avoid long waits.
Virginia’s commentary: “I like the Peter Pan ride because you can see things that are sometimes real. It’s kind of like exploring. There’s Captain Hook even and a volcano.”
What are your child’s favorite rides at Disneyland? Share your thoughts in the comments.