How to Do California Adventure with a Toddler

Day 24-11:18 pm: This past weekend we had the great pleasure of being able to spend a day at California Adventure. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, this is a theme park located across from Disneyland and has similar attractions, rides, and characters as Disneyland. It is Disneyland’s sister park, and let me tell you, it is so much fun! Doing Disneyland with a toddler can be overwhelming, especially when there’s a ton of lines and it’s busy. I should know, I went last year with our toddler when she was 20 months. But, California Adventure is a completely different experience.

California Adventure is very toddler-friendly.

So many of the rides allow little kids to come on. Yes, the whole park is a lot smaller than Disneyland, which makes it more manageable with a toddler. I think it also helped that it wasn’t super busy there. We were able to get on every ride with a 5-minute wait or less.

So, here is how our day went:

FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers

We got there at 9:00 am and went straight for the Cars ride “Radiator Springs Racers” FastPass. You have to get it early because it’s the most popular ride in the park and the FastPasses get taken quickly. My sister came with us, and this ride is only for big kids, so just my hubby and I got passes and my sister agreed to watch the toddler.

Monsters Inc. Ride

Then it was on to the Monsters Inc. ride. I thought it would be too scary for my toddler but she loved it! It was dark and there were monsters, of course, but the kid “Boo” in the story line kept her entertained and when we walked off she said “Mommy, that wasn’t scary!”. So there you go.

Anna and Elsa

After that we walked down Hollywood land to the big amphitheater. I was curious so we went inside where they have couches and large TV screens in a giant room. The perfect place to give everyone a much-needed break, nurse a kid, or have a kid take a nap. Since it was still early, we didn’t need to do that, but they announced that Anna and Elsa were there so we walked up to a couple people working there and asked if we could meet them. They took us down a hallway of doors, knocked on one, and then opened it. To my toddler’s surprise, Anna and Elsa were standing right there (with a photographer)! She walked right in and they both welcomed her and started talking to her while the photographer (and us) got some great shots. She was totally star struck and didn’t know what to do! I was in shock because there was no line to meet them! Win!

Cars Land

So, with Anna and Elsa checked off the list, we made our way to Cars Land. We stopped on the way to get a picture taken with Mickey Mouse. Cars Land is super cute and they have Flo’s Cafe which has a good breakfast and lots of snacks. Not to mention the stars of the movie “Cars” were there for photo ops! Get your picture taken with life-sized Lighting McQueen, Mater, Sally, and other characters. My toddler had never seen the movie, but she was still totally into the cars! We went on Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and my toddler had the biggest smile on her face as she rode around the ride.

A Bug’s Land

There was another ride for toddlers in Cars Land but the line was longer so we decided to move along. We entered “A Bug’s Land” based off the movie “A Bug’s Life” where it feels like you have shrunk to a bug’s size and everything is bigger. They have some really cute rides here and we went on “Flik’s Fliers” which is basically like a merry-go-round. They have a 3-D movie experience, but I heard it was a little scary for toddlers so we skipped that. They also have a train ride, but it was closed. We just let her run around this area and she was perfectly happy.

Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

Then it was off to the Pier. This is a great area with games and rides and food. Here, we went on “Ariel’s Undersea Adventure” which was amazing considering this is one of my toddler’s favorite Disney movies. She absolutely loved it! Simple, cute ride that makes you feel like you are “Under the Sea”.

Frozen!

So, by now it was time to head back to Hollywood Land for the first showing of “Frozen”, a live play of the movie. I knew my toddler would love to see this and they recommended getting there 30 miniutes early. We got in line and waited for about 10 minutes before they let us in. Then we waited for another 15 and the show started. We chose to sit in the Mezzanine because they said it had better viewing, which it did, but in the Orchestra some of the characters go up and down the aisles, so I thought that might have been fun too. It was a great show, about an hour long, and since it was close to nap time and dark in the theater, my toddler started to get a little sleepy.

Lunch at Wine Country Tratorria

After the show it was lunch time, and I had tried to call ahead to make reservations at the Wine Country Trattoria restaurant, but they said everywhere was full for lunch and dinner. (Call ahead, like a few days or weeks ahead, to make reservations) But, I tried my luck just walking up and they literally sat us in 2 minutes. My hubby had been walking around with our toddler and she fell asleep on his shoulder. He plopped her in the stroller and we adults enjoyed a nice meal together! Side note-California Adventure has alcohol, so I got a glass of wine and they even let me take it to go in a plastic wine glass! Great food here and good service!

Radiator Springs Racers

When my toddler woke up it was time for me and my hubby to head to the Radiator Springs Racers ride. Without FastPass the line was 80 minutes long! No way! And that was light! But, with FastPass, we walked right up, waited 5 minutes, got on the ride, had a blast, and was off in a total of 15 minutes! Definitely get the FastPass! My sister and our toddler even got to watch us ride from the viewing area and thought it was hilarious when she saw us in our car go racing by!

Then we stopped and got her a hot dog and sat by Ghirardelli restaurant and ate. They looked like they had a bunch more restaurants around there but we didn’t have a chance to explore.

Disney Junior Show

After food, we went to the Disney Junior show. I had no idea what to expect, but it was perfect for toddlers! The kids and parents sit on the floor and they have puppets on stage of their favorite Disney Junior shows like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. It is very interactive too and the kids are encouraged to stand up and dance while bubbles float from the ceiling. Super cute show and only 30 minutes so it’s perfect.

By then we had felt like we had done most of the rides that we wanted to. I kept my expectations low and decided we shouldn’t try to do too much, but it felt like we had done a lot! There was only one ride remaining that we needed to go on the King Triton’s Merry-Go-Round.

King Triton’s Carousel

So we made our way back to the Pier and got in the short line. But, things seemed to be taking a while. Then we found out why. All of a sudden Ariel, Cinderella, Belle, Rapunzel, and Tiana all climbed aboard the Merry-go-round! My toddler was in shock! And then, they let us in to go ride with them! I went straight for the first princess I saw and sat my toddler right next to Tiana! She got to chat with her and ride along side her! It was a magical Disney Moment! Then on the way out she gave each princess a hug. I was just as excited as she was and she couldn’t stop talking about it. They were just on for that one ride and we had amazing timing. It was a spontaneous thing that makes the Disney parks so much fun.

Toys and a Big Balloon

After that we got ice cream and then to the big “Emporium” store at the front where we let her pick out a toy to take home. We decided not to do dinner at the park (even though I wanted to stay later) since my hubby wasn’t feeling well. So we got our toy, our giant expensive balloon, and headed back to my cousin’s house for dinner.

All in all, it was a perfect Disney Day. No meltdowns. She took a nap. We went on all the rides on my to-do list. And, we had our magical princess moment.

There were only a few things I put on my to-do list for next time:

-Toy Story Ride

-Dinner at Ariel’s Grotto while watching the light show (I hear you get to dine with the princesses, which is where they all had come from)

-Try more of the restaurants

-Soarin’ California Ride (Grown ups and big kids only)

-Watched the parade

I’m sure there’s a ton more to do there, but this was perfect for a toddler. So grab some snacks, put on your walking shoes, and get ready for a fun filled day! You definitely have to check it out!

 

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