Planning a Trip to Disneyland with Kids Under 5 (+printable rides map!)
We didn’t exactly plan on taking two kids under the age of 5 to Disneyland.
I’d always thought I’d wait until my kids were older, when they could really enjoy it and take in the full experience. Taking a 3 year old to Disneyland? What a waste! Can they even go on many rides?
But we were already in Southern California, staying just a few miles away. Maybe, we could sneak in a quick trip just to see how it goes?
Well, guys. I’ll admit it: Everything I thought about Disneyland with little kids was dead wrong.
I totally underestimated just how magical our day would be. 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 the whole 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!
Planning a Trip to Disneyland (with kids under 5)
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!
Disneyland in 1 Day: Best Rides for Kids Under 5
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 8 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 the park has to offer for kids under 5 in just one day!
Here’s our recommended route and rides for Disneyland with kids under 5:
Stop #1: Fantasyland
As soon as the gates open, head to Fantasyland first. Here you’ll find a majority of the rides ideal for kids under 5. I’d recommend (in this order):
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant | Lines get pretty long later in the day and never really subside, so if you hit it first you’ll get right on.
- Peter Pan’s Flight | Next, head to Peter Pan’s Flight, a favorite in the park and one we missed because we didn’t go early enough! The queue gets long almost immediately, but you’ll have the least wait (and least sun to stand in!) if you do it early.
- Alice in Wonderland | Next head over to Alice in Wonderland where queues will have already started to lengthen.
- Mad Tea Party | Queues should still be relatively short first thing in the morning, so hop on for a spin (or two)!
If it’s not yet 9 AM, consider hopping on:
- Pinocchio’s Daring Journey | We skipped this ride as I read it can be a little scary (and Evelyn is not a fan of the dark, loud rides!). It’s a fun, quick one, but I’ve read it’s not worth waiting too long for.
- “it’s a small world” | It’s a must for the nostalgia alone, but I wouldn’t recommend using up valuable morning time for this long, slow ride. If it’s approaching 9 AM, grab a FASTPASS ticket and come back in another hour or so.
Stop #2: Toontown
While the rest of the park opens at 8 AM, Mickey’s Toontown doesn’t open up until 9 AM. This is actually perfect though, as it allows you to experience a few rides before heading back to meet Mickey!
- Mickey’s House and Meet Mickey | This is the first place you’ll want to go in Toontown. If you get there right at 9, you won’t have to wait in hardly any line to meet the man himself!
- Minnie’s House | Then head next door to Minnie’s house for another meet and greet!
- Gadget’s Go Coaster | You must be 35 inches tall to ride, but this 60 second mini roller coaster is perfect for beginner thrill-seekers in training. We went first thing after meeting Mickey and Minnie and there are virtually no line, so we got to ride twice!
- Chip ’n Dale Treehouse, Donald’s Boat & Goofy’s Playhouse | Squeeze in a few more character greetings and explore the fun play areas a bit.
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin | Evelyn didn’t love this fast and dark ride, but it’s otherwise the next best thing for young kids in Toontown. (you can also grab a FASTPASS for this ride if you plan to spend a good amount of time in Toontown and want to come back to it).
Stop #3: Back to Fantasyland
Once you’ve exhausted Toontown, things will start to slow down. By 10 AM, the park is filling up fast and lines are setting in. You won’t be able to do things as quickly as you did in the first couple of hours, so be prepared with lots of extra patience.
- “it’s a small world” or Pinocchio’s Daring Journey | If you skipped either of these before, now’s the time to make it up.
- Casey Jr. Circus Train or Storybook Land Canal Boats | Both rides take you through the same scenery, so if I had to choose, I’d probably stick to the Casey Jr. Circus Train. Though if you’re looking for something more mellow (and ideal for a baby needing a feeding), 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.
Also consider skipping:
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride | I’d read this ride can be scary for young children, so we skipped it altogether with our scaredy cat.
- King Arthur Carousel | Evelyn so wanted to do the carousel, but with so many choices I just couldn’t justify the long line! That said, if it’s a short wait, go for it!
- Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough | With not really much to see, and even a bit dark and scary for Ev, you’re probably better off spending your time waiting in line for that quintessential photo in front of the castle.
Stop for a bite at: One of the many vendor carts around Fantasyland serving churros, Mickey Rice Krispie treats, or caramel apples.
This is also a good time to stop for a picnic lunch if you don’t want to worry about a restaurant reservation. You’ll find picnic tables outside Dumbo the Flying Elephant, or benches near Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
Stop #4: Tomorrowland
With Fantasyland under your belt, it’s time to explore some more lands with rides for kids under 5. Expect longer waits as you visit:
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters | This fun, interactive ride was one of Evelyn’s favorites. It does have FASTPASS availability, which you might want to grab first and come back to depending on timing.
- Astro Orbitor | It’s a long, hot queue, but worth it for this ride which flies high above the park!
- Autopia | Having experienced Autopia pre-kids, I knew this was one we’d skip. It sounds great in theory, but the cars are hard to drive, and kids must be 32 inches tall to ride with an adult driver.
- Finding Nemo | This is a popular ride for young kids, but in my opinion, kind of long and boring. Skip it and spend your time elsewhere unless you’ve got huge Nemo fans.
Stop #5: Critter Country
Next, head to the opposite end of the park to Critter Country! This is where you’ll find Pooh Bear and his Hundred Acre Woods, and the earlier you get there, the less busy it will be.
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh | Quick moving and fun, the queue for this ride is mostly shaded making it bearable, even in the mid-day sun.
- Meet Tigger, Eeyore & Winnie the Pooh | Meet all 3 characters in one go. Evelyn didn’t even know who they were (shocking, I know!) and still insisted she needed to give them each a hug!
Stop for a bite at: Pooh Corner Bakery for Dipped Marshmallows or Mickey Rice Krispie Treats. If you haven’t eaten lunch yet, Hungry Bear Cafe is a good place to sneak in a quick meal.
Stop #6: New Orleans Square
Next up is 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 and a little milder (though lines are long!). If the timing’s right, try to grab a FASTPASS on your way to Critter Country for your return later.
- Pirates of the Caribbean | A definite favorite, Pirates of the Caribbean has a long line, but is worth it for something the whole family will enjoy (well, except the tired baby, but I think she’s gotten over it).
Stop for a bite at: The Mint Julep Bar for Mickey-shaped beignets and mint juleps
Stop #7: Frontierland
From this point on it will be getting late, so pick and choose what interests you most to fill out the rest of your day.
We didn’t get to explore Frontierland, as our 8 month old baby was thoroughly worn out by this point, but if we had, we may have added to the itinerary:
- Mark Twain Riverboat | A 15 minute trip around the Rivers of America and a good way to relax after an afternoon full of rides
- Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island | In the center of the Rivers of America, travel to Tom Sawyer Island by raft for Pirates of the Caribbean-themed fun. Return on select evenings for the nightime Fantasmic! light show.
Stop #8: Adventureland
Last but not least, a few last adventures are to be had in Adventureland.
- Tarzan’s Treehouse | Climb the 80 foot treehouse for a glimpse of Tarzan’s improvised living conditions.
- Jungle Cruise | Perfect for the end of the day when you’re needing a break, the jungle cruise offers a fun boat ride with quirky guides. Bonus, the line is in the shade!
- Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room | Experience the rhythms of Polynesia with a 15-minute musical show inside the tiki room.
Stop for a bite at: The Tiki Juice Bar for Dole Whip (or my favorite, a Dole Float)! Use the second line through Enchanted Tiki Room entrance for an even shorter wait.
Stop #9: Main Street USA & Disneyland Railroad
As the day comes to a close, spend some time visiting the shops along Main Street USA. Don’t forget to catch the Disney parade at 6 PM, or take a ride around the park on the Disneyland Railroad in you’re needing a rest.
A few other attractions along Main Street worth stopping for include:
- Candy Palace and Candy Kitchen | For any last minute treats you missed during the day.
- Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor | Because ice cream is always a good idea.
- The Dapper Dans | Check out this barber shop quartet performing on Main Street USA throughout the day.
- Main Street Cinema | Head inside this vintage movie theater for a screening of Walt Disney’s earliest classics.
- Emporium | You can’t leave Disney without some overpriced merch! Seriously, you just have to. So indulge and don’t feel bad about it!
Printable Disneyland Rides Map + 1 Day Planner
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!
Have you been to Disneyland with young kids? Let us know your top tips and favorite rides in the comments!
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