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Educational Things to Do at Disneyland with Kids

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Sure, Disneyland is all about fun, fun, fun. But a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth can be educational, too. Whether you want to justify taking the kids out of traditional school for a few days, or you're a homeschooling family, or you just want to add some learning to your Disney vacation — check out these 13 educational things to do at Disneyland with kids.

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Educational Things to Do at Disneyland with Kids #disney #disneyland #homeschooling #worldschooling #physics

1. Great Moments with Lincoln on Main Street U.S.A. ~ Disneyland

History comes to life when watching Great Moments with Lincoln. The sixteenth president of the United States was the first completed human audio-animatronic figure. It was created by Walt Disney in 1964 for that year's World Fair. This attraction has been updated with the most advanced technology available today. It's amazingly lifelike. In fact, as a child I remember thinking that I was actually watching the real Abraham Lincoln deliver a speech. Of course, I found very confusing. Therefore, you may want to make sure young children understand that the man delivering an address compiled from Lincoln's most well-known speeches is actually a robotic figure! Before entering the theatre, talk to children about Lincoln's role in uniting the U.S. and bringing an end to slavery. Lincoln artifacts and artwork in the lobby will help families learn about this important historical figure.

Learn American history at Great Moments with Lincoln ~ Educational Things to Do at Disneyland with Kids

Learn American history at Great Moments with Lincoln (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Animation Academy in Hollywood Land ~ Disney California Adventure

Artists of all ages learn how to draw a different Disney character every day at Animation Academy. A Disney artist gives step-by-step instructions for creating an illustration that would make Mickey proud. Participants leave with a souvenir sketch they created themselves. Who knows? Maybe your child will be inspired to someday become a Disney imagineer! No reservations are required and drawing classes take place every 30 minutes.

Get creative at Animation Academy at Disney California Adventure ~ Educational Things to Do at Disneyland with Kids

Get creative at Animation Academy (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. It's Tough to be a Bug in “a bug's land” ~ Disney California Adventure

Disney makes learning about insects and arachnids fun with It's Tough to be a Bug, a 4D movie starring Flik from the Disney•Pixar film, A Bug’s Life. Learn how ants, termites, hornets and stink bugs use different defense mechanisms to protect themselves. Kids will also discover how bugs pollinate flowers to help vegetables and flowers grow, and how insects help keep our planet clean by disposing of waste. Note: this film might be too scary for some young children; it features surprise elements like fog, funny smells and the sensation of “bugs” poking and crawling along the seats.

Become an honorary bug at It's Tough to be a Bug! ~ Educational Things to Do at Disneyland with Kids

Become an honorary bug at It's Tough to be a Bug! (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Boudin Bakery Tour in Pacific Wharf ~ Disney California Adventure

This walk-through attraction gives young would-be bakers insight into the chemistry behind sour dough bread-making. Did you know that every Boudin loaf is related to The Mother, a yeast strain originally created in the 1850s? This learning experience ends with a tasty bonus: a sample of Boudin's famous bread.

Watch the process of sourdough bread baking at the Boudin Bakery Tour ~ Educational Things to Do at Disneyland with Kids

Watch the process of sourdough bread baking at the Boudin Bakery Tour (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. “it's a small world” in Fantasyland ~ Disneyland

Set off on a journey around the globe on this classic Disney ride. Get a (Disneyfied) glimpse of the traditions and clothing of cultures across the planet as your boat sails to all seven continents. Kids can even hear a variety of languages on this attraction while watching animatronic children sing a song of unity and peace. “It's a small world” takes travelers to the Polar regions, the British Isles, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, South America, the South Pacific and the United States. Make the ride more meaningful to young children by identifying various destinations along the route. With older kids, ask them to point out as many countries as they can during the 15-minute sailing. (Whoever names the most wins a churro!)

Take a trip around the globe on "it's a small world" ~ Educational Things to Do at Disneyland with Kids

Take a trip around the globe on “it's a small world” (Photo credit: Paul Hiffmeyer, Disneyland)

6. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail in Grizzly Peak ~ Disney California Adventure

Redwood Creek Challenge Trail provides children a break from standing in lines. Here they can explore nature paths, rope bridges, slides, and climbing walls. Signs posted throughout this attraction teach children about California plants and wild animal tracks.

This real tree in the Redwood Challenge Trail teaches natural history ~ Educational Things to Do at Disneyland with Kids

This real tree in the Redwood Challenge Trail shows a historic timeline through its rings (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. Turtle Talk with Crush in Hollywood Land ~ Disney California Adventure

At Turtle Talk with Crush participants learn about turtles and the ocean, dude! Enter the Aquatorium in the Disney Animation building for a 15-minute animated conversation with Crush, the surfing sea turtle from Disney•Pixar's Finding Dory and Finding Nemo. Children can ask any questions they want. During a session my family attended, one child asked, “What's it like to be in the ocean?”

Crush replied, “You can find me in water that's about 68 degrees, which is why you'll mostly find sea turtles in the coasts off Australia and Mexico.” Speaking with his best surfer lingo, Crush also taught the audience about echolocation, encouraging little dudes and dudettes to put their hands behind their ears and say, “ooh” to try to find him. Questions will vary every time you visit, but the computer graphic Crush tries to keep it humorous and educational.

Kids learn about sea turtles and the ocean at Turtle Talk with Crush ~ Educational Things to Do at Disneyland with Kids

Kids learn about sea turtles and the ocean at Turtle Talk with Crush (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

8. Sleeping Beauty Walkthrough Castle ~ Disneyland

Encourage kids to read aloud the story of Aurora and Maleficent as your family meanders through winding passageways filled with dioramas from the Sleeping Beauty story. It's like a picture book come to life! Inform young Disney goers that Sleeping Beauty's Castle was inspired by a real-life castle in Germany with a funny name, Neuschwanstein.

Read the story of Sleeping Beauty inside her castle ~ Educational Things to Do at Disneyland with Kids

Read the story of Sleeping Beauty inside her castle (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

9. Snow White Grotto ~ Disneyland

When approaching Sleeping Beauty's Castle from Mainstreet U.S.A., look to your right to find Snow White Grotto. This tranquil fountain features Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Legend has it that the white marble figurines arrived anonymously from Italy as a gift for Walt Disney. Each statue, including the princess, was the same height. The park placed the princess above the rest of the characters at the top of the fountain, looking down on her housemates. This causes her to appear larger than the rest, even though they're all the same size. This is called forced perspective and it's an interesting illusion to explain to kids.

Learn about forced perspective at Snow White's Grotto ~ Educational Things to Do at Disneyland with Kids

Learn about forced perspective at Snow White Grotto (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

10. Soarin' Around the World in Grizzly Peak ~ Disney California Adventure

Older children (40+ inches) will enjoy this flight simulation around the world. Soar past such wonders as the Swiss Alps, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, Sydney Harbour and Mount Kilimanjaro, among others. Soarin' Around the World just might inspire your kids to want to travel to the actual destinations!

Soarin' Around the World takes riders flying past some the Earth's most iconic monuments ~ Educational things to do at Disneyland with kids

Soarin' Around the World takes riders flying past some the Earth's most iconic monuments (Photo credit: Paul Hiffmeyer, Disneyland)

11. Miscellaneous Main Street U.S.A. Learning Opportunities ~ Disneyland

A stroll down Main Street U.S.A. provides all sorts of educational things to do at Disneyland with kids. Start with a self-guided tour of Disney history in the Opera House at Town Square, where you can see rare illustrations of Disneyland attractions and a scale model of Disneyland as it looked on opening day, July 17, 1955.

Next, watch in awe as candy makers make works of edible art like brittle, dipped apples and strawberry treats at the Candy Palace. Then, put a coin in the antique machines at the Penny Arcade to experience the world's first motion pictures via antique Mutoscopes (automated flip books) and Cail-o-Scopes (stereoscopes). Next up? Pop into the Silhouette Studio to watch artists cut a person's profile from a sheet of black paper…in under a minute. Your family can also learn about the lost art of glass etching at Crystal Arts, where you can watch as your name or favorite character is etched into glassware using an old fashioned glass-cutting machine.

Finally, every evening the Flag Retreat takes place at the flagpole on Mainstreet U.S.A. During this patriotic ceremony, U.S. military members are honored and recognized. Then attendees watch the retiring of the colors, during which the American flag is brought down and folded according to tradition.

Learn about traditions, handicrafts and more on Mainstreet U.S.A. ~ Educational things to do at Disneyland with kids

Learn about traditions, handicrafts and more on Mainstreet U.S.A. (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

12. Learn Physics at Disneyland

A visit to a Disney theme park provides an fun opportunity to learn the laws of physics. Observing and experiencing rides enables kids to get a firsthand understanding of such scientific concepts as displacement, velocity, and gravitational force. Download this NASA Amusement Park Physics PDF for experiments and activities to do at Disneyland with kids.

Use physics to understand the centrifugal and centripedal forces at work on the Mad Tea Party ride ~ Educational Things to Do at Disneyland with Kids

Use physics to understand the centrifugal and centripedal forces at work on the Mad Tea Party ride (Photo credit: Paul Hiffmeyer, Disneyland)

13. Special Disneyland Tours

Take learning at Disneyland to another level with a special behind-the-scenes tour. Book a “Walk in Walt's Disneyland Footsteps” Guided Tour to hear stories about what inspired Walt Disney and the challenges he faced while designing the park, and to experience attractions significant to his past. Other tours available may include the Grand Circle Tour (which focuses on Walt's love of trains and their history at Disneyland) and seasonal/holiday tours. Learn more here or reserve by calling (714) 781-8687.

Learn more about Walt Disney and Disneyland on a special behind-the-scenes tour

Learn more about Walt Disney and Disneyland on a special behind-the-scenes tour (Photo credit: Disneyland)

Save Money on Your Disneyland Vacation

Want to save money on your Disneyland vacation? Of course you do! Use discount code TravelMamas to get $10 off any two-night or longer Southern California package (hotel and two ticket minimum) when you book through Get Away Today. Just want tickets? Buy discounted Disneyland Park tickets now!

Consider booking a character meal to add even more magic to your visit. Read our Disneyland character meal reviews to choose the best one for your family. Click here to save up to $11 per adult meal and up to $5 per child meal.

The education doesn't have to stop there! Read 10 Things Children Learn through Travel for more inspiration.

Do you have any suggestions for other educational things to do at Disneyland with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. I’ve been to Disneyland numerous times and had no idea there was much to learn!

  2. This a great resource. I think it’s so important to make education a natural part of the kids’ lives, and Disney is full of opportunities for that.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I don’t think most people think Disney is educational at all but there really are lessons to be shared during a Disneyland vacay!

  3. I love this! Sneaking in some education while the kids have a blast! That is good parenting! Thank you for all the links to good info and tips too!

  4. Disney land is a great place to visit with the kids! I love how you found educational ways to look at the happiest place on earth!

  5. I love Disney so much! These are all great attractions because they ARE educational but kids might not even realize they are learning while having fun.

  6. I love Animation Academy in Hollywood Studios! I once did a tutorial in Disney that taught me how to draw Olaf!

  7. I haven’t been to Disney in so long. Last time I was there, it was 1999. These sound like such fun things to do with kids!

  8. Victoria Heckstall says:

    I never really thought about going to Disney before, it looks beautiful though. May need to add it to my want to do list.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      You haven’t?! Well, I hope you will give it a go. Disney Parks are the best theme parks!

  9. In the beginning, California Adventure was more heavily California themed. They used to offer field trips for 4th graders to go learn the state history. It was awesome! So glad there are still so many amazing lessons to learn at Disneyland.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I remember that, Heather. Yes, it seems they are getting further and further away from the California theme. I guess it was too specific/not universal enough to appeal to the masses?!

  10. This is a really cool list. I didn’t know there was this much educational stuff there.

  11. I really love the idea of doing this at a theme park. It is all fun and learning!

  12. I totally need to plan a vacation, I mean an educational field trip now 😂

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