The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California is a popular place for families to visit with little ones. But not every ride or attraction in the Happiest Place on Earth is toddler and preschooler-friendly. Some have height minimums like roller coasters. Others just have a theme or elements that are too scary for young kids. How can you pick the rides that are best for your toddler or preschooler on your family’s Disneyland vacation?
More than a decade ago, I started taking my first born as a toddler to the Disneyland Resort. In fact, this post originally dates back to about 10 years ago when she was about to start kindergarten and she helped me catalog her favorite rides in both parks.
We kept going to Disneyland regularly over the years, and we took her younger brother there during his toddler and preschooler years many times as well. I learned a lot as a parent that what works for one kid may not work for another. My son had his own opinions about some rides. He developed his own – somewhat different – list of favorite attractions.
With the benefit of the input of both kids, as well as the kids of many friends and family we’ve visited with over the years, here is our family’s list of the 15 top attractions in Disneyland park for toddlers and preschoolers. If you are headed to both parks in Anaheim with a multi-day or park hopper ticket, be sure not to miss my recommendations for the Best Rides for Toddlers & Preschoolers in Disney California Adventure for the best choices just across the esplanade!
Best Disneyland Rides for Toddlers & Preschoolers
1. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh has been a top attraction choice for our family with both of our kids. Winnie the Pooh is a character that appears on a lot of baby gear, so he may actually be the Disney character your child knows and loves first – even before Mickey Mouse!
The ride itself is a fairly mellow, slow, and smooth dark ride. Guests sit in a three rowed ride vehicle shaped like a beehive on its side. The track follows Winnie through a rainstorm and a dream about honey. A few young kids may find the brightly colored and visually stimulating “heffalumps and woozles” room in the middle a bit overwhelming, but it is certainly less scary than all of the Fantasyland dark rides.
Best of all for now at least – because the The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is located in a back corner of the park in Critter Country, it historically hasn’t gotten too crowded. As a result, my family has often been able to ride it multiple times back-to-back even when other areas of the park start getting busy, such as in the late morning.
Note that this will likely all change when the transformation of what used to be Splash Mountain into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure happens in late 2024. So ride this attraction now with your little ones while it is still less trafficked! (Related: See my guide to how to plan and tour Disneyland differently in 2023-2024 for all the latest details like this.)
2. It’s a Small World
The “it’s a small world” attraction is an easy-going and relaxing 15 minute long indoor boat ride with no scary features at all. The attraction features singing child dolls wearing traditional garb from their countries of origin. There is a lot visually to engage younger kids and a catchy song that just about everyone in America knows by heart – for better or for worse!
For older toddlers and preschoolers who know more Disney characters already, it’s a ton of fun to try to spot the characters hidden in various scenes through the ride. Look for Ariel plus Lilo and Stitch in the South Seas room, Peter Pan soaring over London in the United Kingdom section, Woody from Toy Story in the American West, and many more.
The attraction is a smart choice to go on if the park gets too hot and everyone needs a break in the air conditioning. 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 thousands of lights. Bonus for parents that the children sing Christmas carols along with the usual song, as it’s not quite so repetitive.
Dumbo is an attraction that dates back to 1955 (although not quite all the way to Disneyland’s opening day). So it has been a Disneyland must-do for young kids for several generations. It remains a favorite of every young child I know, including both of mine.
Ride vehicles are elephants that usually seat 2 but can accommodate an adult plus two younger kids when needed. Multiple elephants “fly” around a central post and go up and down in height, controlled by each set of passengers who use a joystick.
Dumbo is a little thrilling but not scary since it is in the open air. It affords beautiful views of most of Fantasyland as well, so I’ve always enjoyed it as a parent.
The major drawback is the line. It can swell to an hour plus on even regular days. It’s rarely a ride that you have to “rope drop” first thing. That said, I usually schedule Dumbo as one of the first 3-4 rides of the day when I’m with younger kids. Alternately, wait until later in the evening if your little ones can stay up later than most (but watch for it to close during evening spectaculars on nights fireworks are included).
4. Peter Pan’s Flight
Peter Pan’s Flight is truly one of the most magical rides in Disneyland. Guests board a pirate ship vehicle that can easily seat three and occasionally 4 if there are several smaller kids in your party. The ship is on a track mounted on the ceiling to create the feeling of flight. Guests fly over London and off to Neverland, passing scenes from the 1953 film with characters like Captain Hook, Wendy, and Smee.
Toddlers and preschoolers usually enjoy this attraction, as it incorporates theming from a Disney movie that is age-appropriate for them (show them the movie before your trip if they haven’t seen it yet!). The ride does start out in a pretty dark room, so some little ones may be a bit scared by the darkness. This is probably the least scary of the Fantasyland dark rides, so it’s a good bellwether for other dark rides.
Even more than Dumbo, this ride is extremely low capacity and very popular, so lines are usually very long at all times of day. If you have early entry privileges (available to guests at on-property hotels 30 minutes early), this is THE ride to ride first.
If you don’t have early entry privileges, the line for Peter Pan’s Flight may already be too long at rope drop, especially for families with toddlers who need to park a stroller or move a little slower. My usual practice is to watch wait times in the Disneyland app and get in line whenever the queue is posted at 30 minutes or less. That’s about as good as you can ever find.
5. Mad Tea Party
Who doesn’t love spinning teacups? Mad Tea Party is a Disneyland classic – one of several Disneyland opening day attractions still operating today.
This open air attraction seats guests in larger than life brightly colored teacups that spin on one of three turntables. All of these turntables sit on a larger turntable that spins as well. Additionally, guests can rotate each cup’s central steering wheel to spin the individual cups. Cups can easily seat a family of 4 together.
The fact that this ride can be “customized” for different ages is a big benefit. When our kids were younger and more cautious, we didn’t spin the teacup’s central wheel to make the cup spin more rapidly. But the time they were ready for some thrills as preschoolers, we turned up the speed to great effect.
The Alice in Wonderland theming and music (“The Unbirthday Song”) makes it a great fit for toddlers and preschoolers, particularly if they enjoy the movie like our kids do.
6. Alice in Wonderland
Few movies have gotten more than one attraction in Disneyland park, but the 1951 Alice in Wonderland film is the basis for a second attraction that works well for toddlers too. The Alice in Wonderland ride is located immediately adjacent to Mad Tea Party.
The ride takes guests indoors down the rabbit hole just like Alice, through scenes in the movie involving the Cheshire Cat, Queen of Hearts, and several others. It culminates in a celebration at an unbirthday party at the end.
Guests are seated in two row caterpillar ride vehicles that can seat 4 (two to a row) that move slowly. The ride is brightly colored and doesn’t get too dark, but the angry Queen might be a bit intimidating.
Alice in Wonderland is probably one of the top three most popular rides in Fantasyland, so my family often chooses to do it second or third at rope drop for shorter lines.
7. King Arthur’s Carrousel
What toddler doesn’t love a carousel? King Arthur’s Carrousel one was our daughter’s favorite rides on our first visit to Disneyland when she was not quite 2 years old, and we continued to ride it several times on each return visit in her and her brother’s toddler years.
There is nothing particularly different about this carousel compared to many other historic ones around the country, other than Disney’s meticulous care. The horses are painted brightly and beautifully and it’s on the larger side as far as carousels go.
As a result, the standby lines for this attraction can often be quite short. There’s definitely no need to rope drop this attraction, as lines take awhile to build as other guests focus on more in-demand kid rides like Alice, Dumbo, and Peter Pan. I recommend waiting to ride it no sooner than an hour after park opening.
8. Storybook Land Canal Boats
This slow motorboat ride takes guests into scenes from many traditional fairy tales turned Disney classic films. It starts by cruising into the mouth of Monstro the Whale from Pinocchio. It then passes by about a dozen miniature scenes including ones from Frozen, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Little Mermaid. This ride is especially engaging for older preschoolers who may recognize the settings from a number of their favorite Disney films.
Because the ride’s queue can be a little bit obscured by crowds, standby lines can often be fairly short even though the ride’s capacity isn’t that large. The attraction can often be the saving grace for families with impatient toddlers when lines elsewhere in Fantasyland get long!
9. Casey Junior Circus Train
The famous “I Think I Can” engine from the movie Dumbo is the focus of this highly toddler-friendly train ride in Fantasyland. The Casey Junior Circus Train wends it way along a track through some of the same scenes visible from Storybook Land Canal Boats. It’s one of the safest bets for sensitive toddlers, with no scary characters and no darkness plus the familiarity of a train.
The train itself is made up of different circus transport cars. The cage for the monkey that has always been the biggest hit with my kids. Capacity is very low, so even if the line looks short, don’t be fooled and wait longer than you have to!
10. Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters
Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters isn’t always thought of as a little kid-friendly attraction, but it can be a huge hit with many of them. Guests board slow moving ride vehicles through scenes from outer space where they “battle” Buzz’s nemesis, the Evil Emperor Zurg. The vehicles are equipped with two blasters, and guests aim at different shaped targets to rack up points.
Parents and teens will love the competitive, game-like atmosphere. Younger kids enjoy the Toy Story theme (especially the giant Buzz animatronic in the queue that talks to them) and the chance to get their hands on a real Buzz blaster.
What may give some parents pause is that the ride can be a bit loud and the darkness and moving robots may be too much for a few sensitive younger kids. But the chance to shoot blasters at targets may be distracting enough that most kids won’t have time to be fearful. My very sensitive video game loving son always enjoyed it (tip: we often used noise-reducing toddler ear muffs with him on louder indoor rides that helped).
This attraction is one of the very few little-kid friendly rides that is a part of Genie+ and has a Lightning Lane. So it is easy to skip the line if you have paid for that perk. The lines for it can get pretty long mid-day, but if you visit within about 1-2 hours of park opening, it often has very manageable standby lines.
11. Disneyland Railroad
Railroads are a big hit with a lot of young kids, and it doesn’t get much more classic than the Disneyland Railroad. With stops at Town Square in Main Street, U.S.A., New Orleans Square, Toontown, and Tomorrowland, the railroad is a useful form of transportation from some areas of the park to others to help save some steps.
When you need a break, you can also get an enjoyable overview of the park taking the full circle tour. If you are going to take the railroad for sightseeing instead of transportation, I recommend leaving your stroller behind, parking at the station, and picking it up at the end. The railroad goes through a number of pretty cool throwback scenes between the Tomorrowland and Main Street, U.S.A., passing Walt Disney’s historic dioramas of the Grand Canyon and Primeval World.
Related: Best Strollers for Disney Parks
Just be aware that you may have to wait in line for a vehicle as they do fill up on busy days. Trains are supposed to run every 5-10 minutes, but realistically the wait can be 15 minutes or more.
12. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
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 school 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 older child jumped at a loud explosion sound at one point), but the draw of Nemo and the cool submarine factor may be enough to overcome that for most.
The main negative? The ride is extremely low capacity, so lines build up quickly. Consider this one of the earlier stops on your itinerary in the morning (perhaps after a couple of Fantasyland dark rides) if you arrive at rope drop.
13. Jungle Cruise
Jungle Cruise is a slow boat ride through the greatest rivers of the world, with scenes from Africa, Asia, and South America. For animal loving kiddos, being able to see the Audio-Animatronic elephants, lions, snakes, and more makes this a very engaging attraction.
The ride is most well-known for the puns and corny jokes told by the boat’s skippers. The jokes will definitely go over the heads of younger kids, but they are what makes the ride engaging and a favorite for parents. We have always appreciated how the attraction works at different levels for different guests, much like many cartoons always have over the years.
One word of warning on this ride. At the scene with the hippos, your skipper will fire a gun to “scare” them away. The sudden noise may be alarming to some little ones.
There is no way to cut the line, but I’ve always been able to ride Jungle Cruise with minimal waits up until about two hours after park opening and often even later (usually after visiting Fantasyland and doing 3-6 other rides first).
14. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway in Toontown is an indoor dark ride that truly works for the whole family while still being highly appealing for toddlers and preschoolers. The attraction features stylized versions of Mickey and Minnie from the recent cartoon shorts you might have already seen on Disney+. It follows Mickey and Minnie bound for a countryside picnic together when Goofy gets in the way (as is traditional!) and sets off a cascade of unintentional shenanigans.
The ride is trackless, using the same advanced technology from Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in Disneyland Paris and Disney World, and Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland. The attraction moves through physical sets featuring Audio-Animatronic characters, as well as screens giving the illusion of movement.
Ride vehicles can comfortably seat 4 adults across, with two rows in each, so this works well for a lot of family configurations. There is no height minimum to ride. The attraction does have some very mild thrills, mostly when the vehicles turn and jerk during transitions. Parents may want to hold onto younger toddlers a bit so they don’t slip and slide too much.
If you want to avoid the line, the ride is currently offering paid a la carte Lightning Lane. It’s a tad pricey at $15-18 per person but sometimes avoiding a line with a toddler or preschooler in tow can be pretty valuable! (Fingers crossed this gets added to Genie+ in the not-too-distant future.)
15. Chip ‘n’ Dale’s GADGETcoaster
While I definitely wouldn’t recommend this attraction for all little ones, Chip ‘n’ Dale’s GADGETcoaster deserves a place on this list. Why? It’s the very first coaster many younger kids try out at Disneyland as they progress into more thrilling attractions – much like the Barnstormer at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. If your preschooler has a need for speed, as some of them do, this may be the only thrill attraction they can do until they grow a few more inches!
With a height requirement of only 35 inches, many kids will be tall enough to ride it before their third birthdays. The coaster has the advantage of easing younger kids into a faster attraction with character theming that many know and love. (In 2022, Disney replaced the Inspector Gadget theming of Gadget’s Go Coaster in favor of the more timely Rescue Rangers.)
Plus, the ride itself is only 44 seconds long. So it’s a very short coaster if your child decides mid-ride that thrills really aren’t their thing yet. Seats are in acorns and are designed for one adult and one child to sit together for extra assurance.
Unfortunately, capacity is very low on this ride which can translate into long waits. The increased popularity of a renovated Toontown in 2023 has only brought more people to the back of the park. I wouldn’t recommend waiting anymore than 20 minutes for such a short ride, so watch the wait times carefully before making your way to the back to the park to queue up.
Tips for Riding Disneyland Attractions with Toddlers and Preschoolers
Start in Fantasyland Early
As is probably clear from the ride descriptions above, many of the attractions that little ones love are located in Fantasyland. And none of them have Lightning Lanes for you to cut the line if you purchase Genie+. In fact, only two attractions on this list are on the Genie+ system and one is available as a paid a la carte Lightning Lane purchase.
The only way to ride these with shorter lines at a time that works with toddler sleep schedules is to start early! If you have Early Entry, I recommend starting with Peter Pan. If not and you plan to be at regular rope drop, I recommend starting with Alice in Wonderland or Dumbo.
Watch Out for the Scare Factor
While parents will obviously avoid thrill rides with height minimums, be aware that there are quite a few slow rides that might be scary for some younger kids. I’ve called out some of the milder scares in attractions I’d otherwise still recommend above. But there are a few attractions that are too scary for a substantial number of toddlers and preschoolers.
Rides like the Haunted Mansion are probably obvious. But you need to watch out in Fantasyland too. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, for example, quite literally takes guests on a journey into h-ll(!), complete with a fire-breathing dragon. Pinocchio is pretty darn scary as well. Thankfully, the super terrifying Snow White’s Scary Adventures received a major refurbishment into Snow White’s Enchanted Wish. It still has a creepy witch scene that may be too much for some younger kids, but it’s more palatable for others now.
Don’t Forget About Characters, Shows, & Everything Else!
If you think theme parks are all about the rides (like I do!), you might make them the focus of your toddler trip. Toddlers and preschoolers, however, may get as much as – or even more – joy out of everything else there is to see and do at Disneyland.
Make time to see some of the quality entertainment and meet and greet characters. We always reserved at least one Disneyland character meal at this age with our kids). We usually also made time to let the kids engage in free play and exploration in places like Toontown, Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, and the soon-to-be-reopened Adventureland Treehouse inspired by Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson.
Be sure to check out all of my tried and true tips for Disneyland with toddlers for even more thoughts on tackling the parks with young kids.
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What are your young children’s favorite rides at Disneyland? Share your thoughts in the comments.