Disneyland Resort with a 3 Year Old (January 2022)
I took my princess Aurora to Disneyland for the first time yesterday. It’ll be a day I never forget and though it wasn’t all together easy or without hiccups, it was definitely worth it for the memories of her experiencing this magical world of all her favorites characters in real life. She is 3.5 and I know was at the right age to appreciate it all but be able to handle some lines and walking.
Favorite experiences and our tips for Disneyland right now with a 3-4 year old:
Make lines fun: This is hard, especially if you’ve had a long day, but we ended up playing games and talking a lot during the lines, which is a very real part of Disney
Don’t wait in ALL the long lines for rides: Pick maybe 1 or 2 that you really want to do and prioritize those, but remember that there’s so much else to see and experience outside of the rides, the majority of which are 3 minutes. We got there early and went straight to Alice in Wonderland’s ride. We waited around 25 minutes, and the ride was 3 minutes. It was entertaining but nothing that blew our minds or made it feel worth the wait. Not once did Aurora mention that ride as a favorite later on and being packed like a sardine in the line was not ideal. We shifted course after this ride and glad we did.
It’s a Small World ride
Hardly any line and you ride in a real boat on water, this experience was mesmirizing and filled with tons of reactions and excitement from Aurora. It was a much longer ride—14 minutes—so you can really relax and absorb the impressive detail in all the animatronics that depict destinations all over the world. As a travel journalist I loved it as much now as I did when I was three, and Aurora agrees.
Sleeping Beauty’s Castle walkthrough
Did you know that you can walk inside Aurora’s castle? We were surprised that there were few people doing this self guided walk through the castle, peeping into windows to see the story of Sleeping Beauty. It was a little scary at moments but my thrill seeker enjoyed it.
The whole toon town world is really fun and being centered for little ones, it had a very relaxed and playful energy. We saw Mickey, Minnie and Chip and Dale there, and got to play on some of the cars and in the Chip and Dale treehouse. The rest of the homes are closed sadly but the Gadget Go-Coaster was running and it was Aurora’s favorite ride—enough of an adrenaline rush to be thrilling but not scary. The line was doable at the time, only around 10 minutes.
Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups
We passed by these a few times and waited until I noticed the line was down (it was way more crowded in the morning). We waited like 5 minutes and were on. Such a classic and the spin-yourself aspect was really fun for Aurora.
Enchanted Tiki Room
This 15 minute “show” is really nothing that’d I’ve ever experienced and it was a personal highlight. I could tell Aurora was blown away when the parrot above her started talking and singing. The magical fountain in the center, the songs, the talking walls, the “rain”— this was truly stunning display and a nice way to get off your feet. Also, no line! Grab a dole whip before you go in.
Tom Sawyer Island
I am so glad I found a random blog post about this in my research because I never would have found it at the park. You take a little raft across the Rivers of America and arrive on an island with elaborate artificial caves, pirate hideouts, swinging bridges and lookouts. We spent almost an hour just exploring and it was so nice to be away from crowds, let Aurora lead the way and just have fun. We found pirate treasure and walked every bridge a few times. It definitely is for those with energy and mobility as it’s up/down/inside caves etc but for 3 year olds and up, it’s a memorable adventure.
Right now there weren’t parades but they did have unplanned appearances on the streets. Twice Anna and Elsa rolled up and we also had a mini parade with Ariel, Captain Hook, the Genie and a few more. We actually saw pretty much everyone Aurora had hoped to see but you had to act fast if you heard the music. We missed Elsa and Ana once because we were too late and crowds formed, but the next time we got ahead of them and Aurora got to wave to them.
Check out Lightning Lane: You can pay per ride to skip the line with Lightning Lane but it only applies to certain rides. We didn’t really want to go on the rides they offered as they were for older kids but in the future, I’d definitely shell out the $20 per rider to skip a 45 minute + line.
MAMAS (and dads): If you are breastfeeding or are bringing a baby, the Baby Care Center was a helpful place to pump, breastfeed, warm bottles, change diapers etc. We had to stop in a few times for me to pump but it was crucial as I don’t know what else I’d have done. I actually think they should have at least another one of these in Disneyland.