Before I brought my daughter to Disneyland to celebrate her first birthday, some well-meaning friends warned, “It’s better to wait until she’s 5 or 6 to go. What’s the point in taking her now? She won’t even remember it.” But when I held my birthday girl in my arms as we soared through the air on Dumbo’s back and she clapped her hands, grinning and baring her two teeth, I knew that moment mattered. Even if she doesn’t remember it, for that moment she and I were soaring through joy.
As a Disneyland enthusiast and former Annual Passholder, I have since visited the Happiest Place on Earth a multitude of times with my two young children. Many parents worry there are not enough rides for babies and toddlers, but amusements for all ages abound at Disneyland. The best part is the entire family can enjoy most attractions together.
Here are my favorite Disneyland rides and attractions for babies and toddlers:
1. Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Fantasyland
After failing to get my daughter (then age three) to ride Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and instead taking my infant son, who clawed at my face with fear throughout, I have given up waiting out the ridiculously long lines for the dark rides in Fantasyland. Instead, we head to everyone’s favorite flying elephant.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
2. It’s a Small World in Fantasyland
It is worth getting the cutesy Small World song stuck in your head all day for the smiles this ride will induce for your child. Plus, you get a big return (an eight-minute ride) for your small investment (typically a brief wait in line).
It’s a Small World
3. A Bug’s Land at Disney’s California Adventure
This area includes three rides for little ones that you can hit pretty quickly since the lines tend to be minimal. While Tuck and Roll’s Drive’Em Buggies bumper cars are fun for preschoolers, the other two rides are wonderful choices for kids and babies alike. There is Flik’s Flyers, which is a slightly less magical version of Dumbo’s ride, and Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train, for which you board a talking caterpillar who chews his way though a garden of sweet-smelling treats like watermelon and animal crackers. Wait until kids are older to brave the 3-D film It’s Tough to Be a Bug! I took my daughter when she was a little over age two. Too scary!
Tuck and Roll’s Drive’Em Buggies
4. Minnie’s House in Mickey’s Toontown
When you tire of waiting in lines, this walk-though attraction keeps toddling kids busy with dials and buttons galore.
5. Jungle Cruise in Adventureland
Here’s an old-school ride for the whole family. Adults will chuckle (or groan) at the humorous commentary of the adventure guides. As for the kids, I remember believing I had actually been to Africa and back when I embarked on this ride during my first trip to Disney World at age 4.
Jungle Cruise (Photo: armadillo444, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0)
6. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in Critter Country
This brightly colored, sweet ride is one of my daughter’s all-time favorite rides! I keep hoping my (ride-shy) son will warm to it, but perhaps the psychodelic Heffalump scene and loopy feel are not his cup of milk. Most non-ride-phobic kids will love this one.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
7. Mickey’s Fun Wheel at Disney’s California Adventure’s Paradise Pier
Formerly the Sun Wheel, this huge Ferris wheel provides a great aerial view of the park. Skip the long lines for the swinging, scarier gondolas and opt for the milder, merely-swaying ones.
Mickey’s Fun Wheel
8. Disneyland Railroad
I have yet to meet a child who is not enthralled by choo-choo trains! You can climb aboard or disembark at Main Street U.S.A., Tomorrowland, Mickey’s Toontown, or New Orleans Square. The best part is the “surprise” trip through the Grand Canyon and Primeval World (a scene of Animatronic dinosaurs) between Tomorrowland and Main Street.
Historic photo of Walt Disney aboard the Disneyland Railroad (Photo Courtesy of Disneyland)
9. The Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland
Birds and flowers serenade the audience in this pleasant indoor show, giving you time out of the sun (or rain, as the case may be) to rest your tootsies while the baby nurses or sips a bottle. Beware of a brief, somewhat scary tropical thunderstorm at the end of the show.
The Enchanted Tiki Room
10. King Triton’s Carousel at Disney’s California Adventure’s Paradise Pier or King Arthur’s Carousel in Fantasyland
Whether you choose Triton’s underwater-themed carousel with seahorses, whales, and other ride-able sea creatures or you choose Arthur’s classic hand-carved horses, most tots love a carousel! It may seem like a boring choice to grown-ups, but not so for the kiddos!
King Triton’s Carousel