A first-time trip to Disneyland Park with kids is such an exciting event for a family, but there is so much to do and see that it can seem a bit overwhelming when trying to plan for the big day. I go to Disneyland one to two times a week with my four-year-old son and have a pretty good grasp on can’t-miss attractions, entertainment and experiences at the park. I’m excited to share my ideas for the best itinerary for a day at Disneyland for families of preschool-aged kids!
To begin, there are two important things I suggest doing to help the day run as smoothly as possible. First, download the official Disneyland App. The Disneyland App will be the best tool at your fingertips. It has a map of the entire park, attraction wait times, entertainment schedules, character locations and appearance times, restaurants locations, where to shop, a place to link your tickets, and so much more! Secondly, purchase MaxPass for just $15 per person! With MaxPass, you can take advantage of booking Fast Passes right on your phone – which is an incredible time-saver. MaxPass also comes with free unlimited downloads of all PhotoPass photos snapped during your magical day – so be sure to stop any Cast Members with a camera and ask for a photo!
To make the most of your visit to Disneyland, I recommend arriving to the main gates about 20-30 minutes before park opening time. Before heading down Main Street U.S.A, my son Reagan and I like to stop in Town Square to meet Mickey Mouse and some of his pals! Snapping photos with a few Disney characters is a fun way to kick off the day, and the Disneyland App makes it so easy to find locations and appearance times for your favorite characters.
After we’ve snapped a few photos with Mickey and his pals, we make our way into Fantasyland where there are lots of fun, family-friendly attractions. Magic at every turn, it’s like stepping into the world of some of the most beloved Disney films! A few of our can’t-miss Fantasyland attractions include Peter Pan’s Flight, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Alice in Wonderland, Storybook Land Canal Boats, the Mad Tea Party, Casey Jr. Circus Train, King Arthur Carrousel, and “it’s a small world.”
Just down the way from Fantasyland is Mickey’s Toontown, where guests can explore the homes of Mickey and his pals! Inside the characters homes, and throughout Downtown Toontown, you’ll find endless interactive experiences for kids. Mickey’s Toontown is also one of my favorite spots to let my son get some physical play-time in (and all that energy out!). Goofy’s Playhouse is typically where we start because he has a slide and play area in his backyard – amazing! And if you’re looking for a mild version of a rollercoaster, hop on Gadget’s Go Coaster – it’s a great beginner’s thrill ride for guests 32 inches and up. Lastly, don’t forget to visit Mickey and Minnie at their houses throughout the day!
My four year old’s current favorite attraction is Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters, so after some Toontown play, and maybe a mid-morning snack, we make our way to Tomorrowland to defeat the Evil Emperor Zurg! A couple of other Tomorrowland favorites include a scenic drive on Autopia (your kiddos can take the wheel!), and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage to explore the depths of the ocean with Nemo and his friends.
Once we’ve explored the land of Tomorrow, we make our way across the hub to Adventureland! The world famous Jungle Cruise is on my son’s top attractions list, so we always make time for it. I’m also a big fan of the Jungle Cruise because it’s a nice rest for the feet and extremely entertaining for kids and adults alike – the skippers will keep you laughing with their witty jokes and clever puns!
Right down the way from the Jungle Cruise is Pirates of the Caribbean, another one of my son’s favorites. There’s nothing like exploring the world of swashbuckling pirates! I personally love this attraction because it feels so nostalgic – the sounds, the smell, the sights…takes me right back to my own childhood memories of Disneyland! Right across the walkway from Pirates of the Caribbean is the beautiful Rivers of America, where guests can take a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat or Sailing Ship Columbia – very fun for kids and relaxing for parents. And if you’re in need of a spot to let your little explorer get some play time in, take a log raft over to Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island!
In addition to Pirates of the Caribbean in New Orleans Square, we like to ride the fan favorite Haunted Mansion. My four year old likes this attraction, but just a warning, it can be a little spooky for some kids. I always recommend checking out Haunted Mansion Holiday during Halloween Time and the Holiday season at Disneyland, as it’s a little more upbeat and it’s fun to see how Jack Skellington & his friends have decked the halls of the mansion! Before we leave New Orleans Square, we always have to grab some Mickey-shaped beignets from the Mint Julep Bar – one of my favorite treats in the whole park.
Next stop on the must-do’s is Critter Country for one of the most adorable and happy attractions – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The line queue is notoriously short, and this ride is such a treat for little ones. We really love it. After a ride through the Hundred Acre Wood, we make our way into Pooh Corner for a yummy treat (we recommend a “Tigger Tail” or a Chocolate-Dipped Pineapple Spear!)!
Another can’t-miss attraction that we always make time for at some point in the day (often around nap/rest time) is the Disneyland Railroad. You can’t beat a 20+ minute break for your feet and the views of Disneyland along the route! The train has stations at Town Square on Main Street U.S.A, New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown and Tomorrowland, which makes it so convenient to board at any time and get from land to land. Just remember that strollers must be either parked at the station or folded and carried on the train with you before boarding.
I am a huge fan of the entertainment at Disneyland, and I’m so glad my son loves it just as much! I think entertainment is the perfect way to break up a day full of attraction hopping. For us, parades and fireworks are always a must. We also really enjoy watching the Disneyland Band, especially during the “Happiest March Along on Earth” with Mickey and his friends at Town Square. Another show at the top of our list is “Mickey and the Magical Map” at the Fantasyland Theatre featuring a few classic songs from favorite Disney films, and appearances from a variety of characters like Mickey Mouse, King Louie, Pocahontas, Mulan, Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, Sebastian, Stitch and Princess Tiana – you won’t be able to help but sing along throughout the entire show! For a tropical, nostalgic adventure, we love Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland (Dole Whips in hand!). And we like to end our day with our favorite show, “Fantasmic!,” which is a nighttime spectacular on the Rivers of America. I recommend either making reservations for a Fantasmic! Dining Package, or grabbing a Fast Pass for the show in the morning before they run out (distribution location is by the Mark Twain Riverboat dock). The Fantasmic! Dining Package or Fast Pass allows guests into a reserved viewing area along the Rivers of America. As mentioned before, the Disneyland App makes it so easy to find entertainment happening throughout the day.
Character Meet and Greets
One other thing I recommend doing, if you’re in need of a break from attractions, is visiting a few characters. We also really love visiting Winnie the Pooh and his friends at “Pooh’s Thotful Spot” in Critter Country, Tinker Bell and her fairy friends at Pixie Hollow, and the princesses at Royal Hall. Royal Hall is great because you can see up to three princesses in one spot – while only having to stand in one line queue! Remember to check the Disneyland App for the list of characters who are available for meet and greets throughout the day.
Disneyland has so much to offer for families of preschoolers! As often as we go, we always find something fun and exciting (and often times new!) to experience. If you’re thinking of a trip to Disneyland Resort, now is the perfect time to plan – and take advantage of a special ticket offer on Disneyland.com! Let the magic and memories begin!