Disney’s California Adventure with Kids

Guide to California Adventure with Toddlers

Whenever anyone talks about family travel, Disney always seems to come up in conversation. The Mouse is pretty awesome and Disney really caters well to families. I would advise, though, if you only have a day or so, take them to California Adventure instead of Disneyland. I think Disney’s California Adventure toddler-friendliness way exceeds that of Disneyland park.

California Adventure  Toddlers

If you don’t really think your little one may be ready for the full park experience, but you still want them to meet Mickey, check out our #1 Tip for Disneyland with a Toddler. But we’re here to talk California Adventure, so let’s get going.

California Adventure with Toddlers: Why It’s the Best

  • It’s a lot quieter. Especially since toddlers don’t meet height requirements for Guardians of the Galaxy or Incredicoaster. The other rides have much shorter lines.
  • Toddlers and young kids are more familiar with Pixar characters. I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s just their generation.
  • You will find more Pixar characters at California Adventure. If your kid (like mine) adores Toy Story you will find Buzz and Woody at California Adventure, not Disneyland.
  • This may not apply to you, but there are places to find a beer or glass of wine at California Adventure, unlike at Disneyland.
  • It’s a little smaller, so you can accomplish a little more in a shorter amount of time. Let’s be honest: you and your toddler will want to leave the park for a nap.
  • Anna, Elsa, and Olaf live at California Adventure.
  • I like it better if I am visiting Disneyland alone with my toddler. For whatever reason, I feel less fatigued and have a lot more fun than when I’ve visited Disneyland alone with her. Maybe it’s the shorter lines or the cool breeze over by the Grand Californian.

Favorite California Adventure Toddler Activities

Disney, Jr. Dance Party

First of all, it’s air-conditioned (major win in the Southern California sun), and it’s fun for kids. The colors are bright, the music is upbeat, the actors engage the kids really well, and the characters are easily recognizable. They have a clean bathroom right at the back of the theater, too, if you’re potty training. BONUS: If you’re nursing, it’s a quiet, cool place to sit and feed your baby.

Disney, Jr. Dance Party

Pixar Pier

The Pixar theming is pretty great. I prefer the non-swinging cars on the Pixar Pal-a-Round (my daughter insisted on riding in the swinging one and I was 4 months pregnant at the time–I spent the entire ride with my eyes closed). While toddlers are too short for the Incredicoaster, they will love the sweet treats on sale at Bing Bongs.

Pixar Pier
Pixar Pier

My daughter loves riding the Zephyr. There is no height restriction and the line moves really quickly (when there’s any line at all). The Little Mermaid themed rides are here. Though my daughter will not watch the movie, she loves Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.

Toy Story Midway Mania!

OK, this one is my favorite, but kids of any height can ride it, and they can play with the 3D glasses while you play. Just get there first or get Fast Passes/MaxPass, as the lines are LONG.

Toy Story Midway Mania!
Toy Story Midway Mania!

Cars Land. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollick’ Roadsters are for kids 32″ or older and a lot of fun. Plus, in Cars Land they can meet their favorite Tow Mater or Lightning McQueen.

Single Rider or Rider Switch Opportunities

I know you want to make the most of your experience, and some rides just are not toddler-friendly.

The following rides offer single rider queues if someone will watch your kid: Grizzly River Run, Goofy’s Sky School, and Radiator Springs Racers.

Guardians of the Galaxy–Mission Breakout! does have a rider switch, as do several other attractions.

Where to Eat at California Adventure with Toddlers

Basically, anywhere is kid-friendly. It’s Disneyland after all. The vegetable bake at Flo’s V8 Cafe is pretty delicious, Bayside Brews has some killer pretzels and beer (the former for the toddlers, the latter for you), but we always go to Smokejumper’s Grill by Soarin’ for some reason. The food is good, it’s quick, air-conditioned, and pretty easy. Plus, one kid’s meal feeds my daughter for 3 days. Wins all around.

We have done the special dining package (we did a dessert party for the World of Color show) for the evening light performance, and it’s nice but pricey. I think it makes more sense if you are drinking alcohol, but having a guaranteed seat is pretty nice for the duration of the show. My shoulders can only carry my daughter for so long.

The food on Pixar Pier is pretty good. We like the ice cream (obviously). We found the chicken at Poultry Palace underwhelming, unfortunately, so put your name in at the Lamplight Lounge and then go ride the Zephyr. They will text you when your table is ready.

Annual Passholder Bonus Perk at California Adventure

I am an Annual Passholder at Disneyland. I know, I never thought I would get to this stage, either, but we took our daughter for the first time when she was two, and she LOVED the rides. It’s so convenient from our home around Los Angeles, we can just pop down for a few hours to enjoy a few rides and grab a churro. Plus now that we have a new baby, it’s a great place to take our older daughter for mommy/daughter dates. It’s been worth it to us to have the passport, and we’ve discovered some fun perks.

At the AP Corner at Paradise Gardens, they have a station where you can charge your phone for free. Hey, that Disneyland app really saps your battery.

Keep in Mind if Visiting California Adventure with Toddlers

Disneyland in general is undergoing a lot of renovations. Hey, it means they are going to have a lot more fun coming our way, but in the meantime, many attractions do close. Check the Disneyland app and/or website before you go so you don’t get disappointed.

Also, Disneyland recently changed its policy regarding the size of strollers. Effective May 1, 2019 strollers must be less than 31″ in width or 52″ in length. Stroller wagons will also be prohibited as of that day.

Final Word

Trying to find toddler-friendly destinations, in general, can be challenging to say the least. Disney generally makes any family travel much easier, and honestly, Los Angeles is a great family destination. Adding on a day or two at Disney can make it memorable for you.

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