by Character Diva
When California Adventure first opened in 2001, it was targeting a much older demographic than those flocking to Disneyland across the way. Boasting rides such as Soarin’ Over California, California Screamin’ and Grizzly River Run, California Adventure was meant to be for teenagers and those seeking more of a thrill ride experience. But what if you had littles? Did that mean you just scrapped California Adventure off of your “to do” list altogether? While families may have once considered that to be the case, I can happily say that there are now plenty of things to do with your favorite little ones in California Adventure.
First, let’s get those out of the way. Anyone who has littles in their party wants to know what their child can and can’t ride. For a complete list of Disneyland and Disney World Height Restrictions, click here. Disney Diva Tip: Do you have members in your party who are too short to ride the attractions, but you are still hoping to try out California Screamin’ or Radiator Springs Racers? Not to worry! Members of your party can take advantage of the Rider Switch Program! Click here for more details on how it all works.
Part of the magic of a Disney theme park or event is the opportunity to meet Disney characters. You want to capture that magic moment when your child runs up and embraces Mickey for the first time or gives him a fist bump. While you definitely want to have your phones or camera ready to record any videos or snap any pictures, at the same time, you need to take into consideration that not every child is thrilled to see a five foot tall mouse heading in their direction. Face characters (such as Anna or Elsa) usually receive the warmest reception from toddlers and small children, while fully costumed characters like Buzz Lightyear or Goofy may need a little time to warm up to. Fortunately, Disney characters are great at gauging how well they are being received and work really hard to get down on their level and making kids feel comfortable. Need more ideas on prepping your toddlers to meet characters? Check out all of my great tips here!
Disney Visa Cardmembers Photo Opp
Do you have a Disney Visa credit card? If so, there is a special photo opp just for you! Currently, the character you might pose with in California Adventure is either Daisy Duck, Minnie Mouse, or Stitch. This is a great opportunity for your toddlers to meet characters, especially since the line is usually short (or non-existent). Unfortunately, this photo opp is only available for a few hours each day, so make sure to head over as soon as possible. Trying to meet a specific character? Your best bet is to talk to the cast member on hand. While nothing is guaranteed, they can give you the best estimate on when each character will be greeting fans to maximize your chances of meeting a rare character (i.e. Stitch, and in some cases, even Daisy) or avoiding meeting Minnie for the third time that trip.
Buena Vista Street
If you’re looking to meet characters, this is a great place to find them. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Chip, Dale, and Daisy can all be found wearing clothes reminiscent of the roaring twenties. If you’re lucky, you might even find Oswald the Lucky Rabbit hanging around!
This is also one of the locations where you can board the red car trolley. This is one of my son’s favorite attractions… and if you strike up a conversation with the driver and comment about how much your son loves trains and cars, the driver may even sprinkle a little Disney magic on your family and let your child honk the horn and ring the trolley bell.
Bug’s Land was one of the first areas in California Adventure built to accommodate small children. Princess Dot Puddle Park is particularly inviting when you’re dealing with the California heat. Disney Diva Tip: Shoes must be worn at all times while in the puddle park. Even as a seasoned Disney veteran who knew to pack extra sandals for her kids, I forgot on occasion. My daughter of course tried to take off her socks and shoes, but was asked by a cast member to leave them on. Not a big deal, but you’ll want to avoid the same mistake to help keep your little one’s feet dry (and also avoid potential blisters).
Other favorite attractions include Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train, Flik’s Flyers, Francis’ Ladybug Boogie, and Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em Buggies. Disney Diva Tip: Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em Buggies has a 36 inch height requirement. Also… only two people may ride in a buggie. So what do you do if you have two small children? Not a problem! When our family went last year, my husband and I had three small children. Two met the height requirement, our youngest did not. But since my children were both too young to ride without an adult, I explained a situation to the cast member. She handed me an extra whatever they pass out to keep track of how many people can go in (I forget what it was off the top of my head), and then my son and I rode while my husband, daughter and infant son waited by the exit. When my son and I were done, I handed the extra pass to my husband and daughter and they went in through the exit while my son and I stayed with the baby.
Carsland is a great place for kids to play! In addition to seeing some of your favorite residents of Radiator Springs cruise on by or stop for pictures, there are also great rides like Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (there is a 32 inch height requirement, but if your little one is tall enough, this is definitely a ride you do not want to miss… it is one of my entire family’s favorites). You can also check out Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters (which replaced Luigi’s Flying Tires), but there is a 32 inch height requirement for this as well.
While your littles most likely won’t be riding Grizzly River Run, one area they can check out (and burn lots of energy) is the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. This is a great place to explore, climb on rocks, run around, play and burn off lots of energy. You can also take advantage of completing tasks to become a Wilderness Explorer! When you’re done, make sure you attend the badge ceremony to earn your title and have a special meet and greet with Russell!
Hollywood Land is a great place to hang out if you have littles. Hollywood Land features Turtle Talk with Crush, the Animation Academy where you can learn how to draw some of your favorite Disney characters, and ride Monsters Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue! (a great dark ride, similar to Peter Pan’s Flight in Disneyland that takes you through the major events from the movie.) You can also find some of your favorite characters such as Spider-man, Black Widow, Captain America, Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf, Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, and Timon! There’s even a new Disney Junior Dance Party you can participate in!
Some of my kids’ favorite attractions at California Adventure are in Paradise Pier- Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Toy Story Mania and Ariel’s Undersea Adventure can all be found in various locations around here.
Ariel’s Undersea Adventure is a great dark ride (similar to the Monsters Inc. attraction in Hollywood Land) and takes you through the key scenes from the movie “The Little Mermaid” as you move along in your clam mobile. Disney Diva Tip: This ride usually has really short lines, so if you need a break, want to ride a ride over and over again, or are looking for something to do until you can line up for the World of Color seating, this is a great place to hang out.
Mickey’s Fun Wheel is definitely hard to miss, and is one of the iconic weenies at California Adventure. There are two options for riding this attraction… sitting in a “swinging” gondola, or sitting in a stationary one that is just like any other standard ferris wheel. While my daughter and I LOVE the swinging version (my daughter laughed and squealed with delight the entire time), my husband, aunt, and mom were definitely NOT fans. As to my younger boys…. They had mixed reactions (liking it part of the time, and clinging in fear the other part.) My daughter (and my older son), were somewhat disappointed that when my husband suggested we ride the non-swinging gondola the next time around, but either way, it’s still a fun family favorite.
Located right down the way from Mickey’s Fun Wheel is Toy Story Mania. An animatronic Mr. Potato Head greets you as you wait in line, ready to meet some of your favorite friends from Toy Story 2. This is similar to the Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters in Disneyland in the sense that you climb on the ride and try to shoot as many targets as possible in order to beat your partner and receive a higher score. But instead of Zurg’s Z’s, in this case, you’re trying to break plates, throw eggs, toss rings, and more as you make your way through five differently themed carnival attractions. Disney Diva Tip: Want some extra Disney magic at the end of the ride? Check out Tangled Diva’s video tip here!
So rides are great, but let’s face it… if you’re walking around all day, you’re going to want to stop and eat at some point. You don’t want to have meltdowns along the way! Cocina Cucamonga is always a family favorite of ours, though your children probably won’t complain if you choose to stop at Award Wieners or Corn Dog Castle either. Disney Diva Tip: Remember! NEVER pay for water… free cups of water or cups of ice are available at any quick-service restaurant. Make sure you take advantage and stay hydrated!
Parades & Shows
Shows and parades are a great place if your little one needs time to unwind, take a break (or even a quick nap). Frozen: the Musical is currently playing at the Hyperion Theater or you can check out the Pixar Play Parade and see some of your favorite characters from different Pixar movies such as: “The Incredibles”, “Toy Story”, “Finding Nemo”, and more. Planning on staying late? You might want to check out the World of Color! Just make sure you snag a fastpass or take advantage of the World of Color Dessert Party!
Strollers are great. My oldest is six and we still take two strollers with us. You just never know when someone will need a nap or just need to rest their legs (not to mention it’s nice to have somewhere to stash all of our stuff once in a while). While you can rent a stroller, if there’s any way you can bring your own, I recommend doing so. Someone is less likely to confuse it with theirs, you’ll have a much easier time finding it among the sea of strollers, and you’ll know how to operate it much quicker. Disney Diva Tip: If you do rent a stroller, make sure to save your receipt. If your stroller does disappear, Disneyland will issue another one, but only if you have the receipt.
So as you can see, there are plenty of things to do in California Adventure with your little ones (and this is only a fragment of everything you can do!) But whatever you choose to do, you’ll definitely have a great time. What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!
Ready to book your vacation? Contact Authorized Disney Vacation Planner Leslie Harris of Pixie Vacations for a free quote! Her services are FREE to you and she can help you with all of your travel needs! Have fun!