Never in my life did I think we’d be Disney people.
And when we decided to take our girls on their first Disneyland trip at the ripe old ages of 9 months and 3 years old, I’d already broken my own school of thought on waiting until the kids were older to fully experience everything. Would taking a toddler to Disneyland really be worth the stress?
Well, guys. turns out everything I thought about Disneyland with toddlers was dead wrong.
Little did I realize, just how many Disneyland rides were actually perfect for toddlers and just how fun it would be watchingn the magic through their eyes!
Before we embarked on our Disneyland day, we planned to spend just a few hours at the park, experiencing as much as we could before nap time. Instead, we had so much fun, we ended up staying all day!
There’s a reason they call it the happiest place on earth. Because there’s really no age, kid or adult, that won’t enjoy a trip to Disneyland!
Read on to learn how to experience all of the best Disneyland rides for toddlers in one day!
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Planning a Trip to Disneyland with a Toddler
This wasn’t my first rodeo at Disneyland. I’d visited twice before, pre-kids, so I had the advantage of at least being a little familiar with the park. But, as you know, traveling with kids is a whole different ball game, and we needed to be much more prepared. So this time around, with a baby and 3 year old in tow, I knew we needed a plan to see as much as possible before the tiredness and tantrums set in.
Though you want to be flexible, having a rough plan for the day is vital to seeing and riding as much as possible. Below I’ve mapped out our 1 day Disneyland itinerary ideal for kids under 5. Feel free to steal our route and make it your own!
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Disneyland in 1 Day: The Best Disneyland Rides for Toddlers
Planning a trip to Disneyland is overwhelming, not only because you’re planning how to get there, but then you’ve got to plan how to make the most of your day once you’re actually at the park!
Disneyland is divided into 9 themed lands, so planning how and what you’ll visit in each of them is super important. Luckily, the Disneyland website makes it super easy to decide which rides should be included on your wish list.
To narrow things down, simple visit Disneyland’s Attractions page and filter by rides ideal for preschoolers and with no (or the applicable) height restriction. (Also worth noting, babies can join you on any ride without a height restriction!)
I was suprised to find that with a plan in place, we could actually see and do almost everything Disneyland has to offer for toddlers in just one day!
Here’s our recommended route and rides for Disneyland with toddlers:
Stop #1: Fantasyland
First things first, you have to rope drop. I know, the idea of waking a toddler at 6:30 am to head into a full day at Disneyland sounds insane. But if you want to make the most out of one day at Disneyland with a toddler, those first couple of hours are crucial.
Genie+ Tip: If using Genie+, set your first lightning lane reservation for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway as soon as you enter through the ticket gates. We’ll come back to this in a little bit.
As soon as the ropes drop at 8 am, head directly under Cinderella’s Castle to Fantasyland. Here you’ll find all of the classic Disneyland kiddie rides that are perfect for toddlers.
Try to hit as many of these rides as you can first thing:
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant | Lines get pretty long later in the day and never really subside, so if you start here first, you’ll get right on. Plus, what screams Disney magic more than Dumbo’s flying elephants!
- Peter Pan’s Flight | Next, head to Peter Pan’s Flight, a fan favorite at Disneyland and one that’s easy to miss if you don’t hit it early. The queue gets long almost immediately, but you’ll have the least wait (and least sun to stand in!) if you do it early.
- Mad Tea Party | Queues should still be relatively short first thing in the morning, so hop on for a spin (or two)!
- Alice in Wonderland | If lines aren’t too long yet (<30 min), head over to Alice in Wonderland where queues will have started to lengthen. While not exactly scary, the angry Queen of Hearts has been known to upset a toddler or two, of if your child is nervous, you may want to skip this one.
With your first few rides under your belt, we’ll leave Fantasyland for a little while to keep the magic going. If you’re using Genie+ and have selected Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway as your first Lightning Lane, make sure you leave Fantasyland just before your Lightning Lane expires.
Genie+ Tip: You can check into your lightning lane up to 5 minutes before and 15 minutes after your reservation window, giving you a little leeway if your timing doesn’t work out as planned.
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Stop #2: Toontown
After getting in your first few classics in Fantasyland, head back to Toontown for your next stop!
Reopened in 2022 after a major refurbishment, Toontown was literally made for toddlers. And with so much to see and do in this small area of the park, expect to spend some time soaking in everything Disneyland is all about.
A few must-stops while you’re in Toontown:
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway | One of the newest rides to Disneyland, this one is fun for the whole family, from babies and toddlers to the adults! Utilize Genie+ to skip the long wait time, or enjoy the break indoors as the line meanders through “Mickey Through the Ears”, a history of Mickey’s film career featuring movie props and memorabilia.
Genie+ Tip: Once you scan into Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, it’s time to make your next Lightning Lane selection. If you have an adventurous toddler, I’d recommend Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin or Big Thunder Mountain. For those wanting to keep it more lowkey, book a spot for “it’s a small world”.
- Mickey’s House and Meet Mickey | If the wait isn’t too long yet (<20 minutes), head to meet Mickey next. You’ll do a walkthrough of Mickey’s House where at the end you’ll get a chance to meet the big man himself (don’t forget your autograph book!)
- Minnie’s House and Meet Minnie | After meeting Mickey, head next door to Minnie’s house for another meet and greet! Again the wait times tend to ebb and flow during the morning hours, so if the wait is too long, hold off for the moment and come back to this later.
- Chip ‘n’ Dale’s GADGETCoaster | You must be 35 inches tall to ride, but this 60 second mini roller coaster is perfect for beginner thrill-seekers in training. Fun fact: the GADGET coaster is the fastest ride in all of Disneyland, even beating out the Matterhorn and Space Mountain!
- Goofy’s How to Play Yard (+Donald’s Boat & CenTOONial Park) | In between character meet and greets and toddler-friendly rides, explore Goofy’s How to Play Yard, a cute fenced in area that would keep toddlers occupied for literal hours. Try not to rush and let them explore the magic!
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin | Before you leave Toontown, you can hit more optional spot that is a hit or miss for toddlers. Evelyn didn’t love this fast and dark ride, but it’s for adventurous toddlers, it’s sure to please.
Genie+ Tip: If you haven’t already, make your next Lightning Lane selection for Big Thunder Mountain (for the adults) or “it’s a small world”.
Stop #3: Back to Fantasyland
After seeing all that Toontown has to offer, head back to Fantasyland for a few more rides. By now the park will be filling up fast and lines settling in. Be prepared to slow down and have extra patience as you wait in line for a few more toddler-friendly rides:
- “it’s a small world” | It’s a classic you just can’t miss, but not worth waiting in line more than 10-15 minutes. If utilizing Genie+, you can typically hop right on this one.
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride | Toddlers will love riding in the open-air buggy through Toad Hall and London town. There are a few loud, dark and scary parts, so skip this one if your toddler is skiddish.
- Pinocchio’s Daring Journey or Snow White | These two are very similar rides, so no need to do them both if short on time. Essentially pick which story you like better and enjoy.
- Casey Jr. Circus Train or Storybook Land Canal Boats | Both of these kiddie rides take you through a miniature Storybook land, one by land and one by sea. I personally prefer the Casey Jr. Circus Train, but if you’re looking for something more mellow, the slow-moving Storybook Land Canal Boats might be what you need. That said, neither are really worth a super long wait in the sun, so you may want to skip these altogether if short on time.
- King Arthur Carousel | It might seem like just another carousel, but there’s something extra magical about King Arthur’s Carousel in the middle of Fantasyland. You just might spot your favorite character going for a ride too!
- Fantasy Faire Courtyard | There’s nothing sweeter than your toddler meeting their favorite Disney princess! Stop by Fantasy Faire Courtyard in front of the castle for rotating meet and greets of Disney’s finest ladies (check the Disneyland app to see who’s out and about on the day of your visit).
Stop #4: Frontierland
Next up, make the short walk from Fantasyland to Frontierland.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad | With a 40″ height requirement, this isn’t a ride for toddlers, but it’s such a classic that I had to include it on the list! Utilize Genie+ or a Rider Switch for the adults to experience this one while the littles stop for a snack at the nearby popcorn or pretzel cart.
Genie+ Tip: Be sure to make your next Lightning Lane selection as soon as you check-in (we recommend Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run or Haunted Mansion next).
- Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island | In the center of the Rivers of America, venture out to Tom Sawyer Island by raft for some adventurous fun.
- Rancho del Zocalo Park | Stop by here for rotating character meet and greets like Miguel from Coco or Mirabel from Encanto!
- Mark Twain Riverboat | Ok, I have to be honest, I’ve never been on the Mark Twain Riverboat! But with a quick 15 minute trip around the Rivers of America, it’s a good option for relaxing in between a busy schedule of rides.
Stop #5: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland’s newest land, certainly isn’t a prime spot for toddlers. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t include it here, because us parents deserve a little fun too!
Galaxy’s Edge has just two rides, but half the fun of this land is walking amongst the epic towering formations and market facades that make you feel like you’ve entered an alternate universe. If you do decide to get in some adult time, I’d highly recommend:
- Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run | Star Wars land’s original ride, Smuggler’s Run has shorter wait times than popular Rise of the Resistance, and it’s on Genie+, making it an ideal choice for parents wanting to get their Star Wars fill while also keeping on toddler time.
Genie+ Tip: If you do stop here, be sure to queue up your next Lightning Lane selection for Haunted Mansion after checking in.
- Rise of the Resistance | If you’re a die-hard Star Wars fan, sorry toddlers, you can’t miss this one. The line for Rise of the Resistance stretches at minimum 1 hour, so parents are best to split up during this time, with one parent carrying on with the littles to Critter Country.
Stop #6: Critter Country
Next up, head to a more underrated area of the park: Critter Country! This is where you’ll find Winnie the Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. Follow along the tree-lined path with plenty of shade and benches for resting, while taking in:
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh | A quick moving and fun ride for toddlers, the queue is mostly shaded making it fairly enjoyable, even in the mid-day sun.
- Meet Tigger, Eeyore & Winnie the Pooh | The characters rotate in and out, but you’ll be sure to meet at least two of the Hundred Acre Wood’s most famous residents.
➜ Laura’s Tip: While in Critter Country, stop by Pooh Corner Bakery for a yummy instagrammable treat!
Stop #7: New Orleans Square
Next up, one of my favorite areas of the park: New Orleans Square! By mid-afternoon this area is packed, but walk along the Rivers of America and you just might catch a jazz show.
- Haunted Mansion | This one might be a little scary for young kids, but during the holidays is extra decked out and actually a little milder than the typical ghost theme. The lines are LONG here by mid-day, so utilize a Genie+ Lightning Lane if you can.
- Pirates of the Caribbean | Another fan favorite, Pirates of the Caribbean has a looooong line that appears daunting at first, but don’t be dismayed, it moves fairly quickly. The beginning is dark with a couple of drops and scary bits, but if you can make it past that, the rest will be a fun-filled ride with lots for your toddler to take in.
Genie+ Tip: Plan ahead by booking your next Lightning Lane at the popular Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.
Stop #8: Adventureland
Carry on a little farther and you’ll reach Adventureland, a favorite spot for classic Disney staples.
- Adventureland Treehouse | Newly reopened in 2024, climb the 80 foot treehouse and explore this fascinating “home” based on Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson.
- Jungle Cruise | Perfect for when you’re nearing the end of the day and needing a little break, the jungle cruise offers a fun boat ride with quirky guides and punny jokes.. Bonus, most of the line is shaded!
- Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room | Experience the rhythms of Polynesia with a 15-minute musical show inside the tiki room. And don’t forget to stop by The Tropical Hideaway for a Dole Whip (or my personal favorite, a Dole Float!) right after.
Stop #9: Tomorrowland
As the end of the day nears, head back to where it all started at one of Disneyland’s original lands, Tomorrowland! Here you’ll find a few more fun toddler-friendly rides:
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters | This fun, interactive ride is a toddler favorite! Skip the long wait by pre-booking a Genie+ Lightning Lane.
- Astro Orbitor | With a long, hot queue, I like to save this ride for later in the day when the weather has cooled off. Plus, as the sun starts to set, it’s even more magical flying high above the park with views of Main Street and Cinderella’s Castle!
- Autopia | While not personally my favorite, toddlers will love heading out on the raceway in their own working car. Just be warned: the cars are slow and jerky and traffic jams abound, making it no wonder people either love or hate this one. If the wait isn’t too long or you can snag a Lightning Lane with Genie+, go ahead and give it a go. (Just keep in mind, kids must be 32 inches tall to ride, even with an adult driver).
- Finding Nemo‘s Submarine Voyage | This is another popular ride for young kids, but in my opinion, not worth a long wait. Don’t feel bad skipping this one if you’re running out of time.
Stop #10: Main Street USA
As the day comes to a close, we always have to spend some time visiting the shops along Main Street USA.
While you may want to make a pit stop here earlier in the day for Mickey’s parade, (check the day’s entertainment schedule for exact times), here are a few other attractions along Main Street worth stopping for:
- Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe | Stop in for the most delectable treats, like Mickey-shaped macarons, seasonal mini pies, and other Instagram-worthy baked goods.
- Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor | Because ice cream is always a good idea, and their specialty sundaes make it that much better.
- The Dapper Dans | Check out this barber shop quartet performing on Main Street USA throughout the day.
- Emporium | It wouldn’t be a Disney trip without some new merch! Seriously, you just have to…no shame here.
Printable Disneyland Rides Map + 1 Day Itinerary for Toddlers
Planning the perfect day at Disneyland is tough, especially with kids under 5! And one of my biggest regrets was relying on an app that drained my battery and not bringing my own printable map!
So to help other busy mamas out, I’ve put together the perfect printable Disneyland rides map and day planner for you to make your own! Join our weekly newsletter tribe and receive access to this and more in our free family travel resource library! Click below to subscribe via Grow!
Have you been to Disneyland with toddlers? Let us know your top tips and favorite rides in the comments!
what if you could…
Have these and so much more!
…. the possibility is endless!