22 Rides and Attractions at Disneyland in 14 Hours
First Visit, Fifth Birthday
My husband and I both grew up visiting to Disney parks – as a SoCal resident, my go-to theme park was Disneyland; my husband, who is from Florida, frequented Disney World. We each have our own personal childhood Disney memories and wanted to make sure our daughter’s inaugural visit and fifth birthday was unforgettable.
Why we waited until she turned Five
Five seemed like the be the perfect age to really enjoy Disneyland. It gave us several years to build up character recognition with Disney classics such as Snow White, Peter Pan, and Mary Poppins.
Biological factors also come into play:
- At 5, She is comfortably potty trained, and can verbally communicate her needs
- She has more patience waiting in line (at a younger age, the concept of waiting would be lost on an impatient toddler)
- Frequent naps aren’t required
Emotionally, it made sense too. Even though we kept her “special birthday trip” a secret until we got there, we saved the pinnacle of theme parks for momentous occasion because it truly is a magical place.
Our Ride/Attraction List & Strategy
My husband and I curated a list of our favorite rides from childhood, and luckily, most of them coincided. Our strategy was to arrive before the park opened, and stick to our list with little diversion. If we completed the list, then we could backtrack and choose things from our “B-list”. Thankfully, the park wasn’t as busy as I thought, even for a Saturday on a Holiday weekend. I definitely attribute completing our list to arriving early. When planning your trip, visit the official Disneyland website to find out which rides are closed for renovation. The order of the list is crucial for optimal coverage.
We took the following factors into consideration:
- wait time
- character recognition
- personal nostalgia and favorites
- type of attraction/thrill factor
Our A-list of Rides & Attractions:
This ride is known to have a very slow line, so it was our first stop. It’s also further away from the cluster of rides in the heart of Fantasyland. I’m a bit of a germaphobe, so I wanted to be on one of the first voyages of the day.
The carrousel on the other hand, rarely has a line, but it was the next stop for us. It refreshing, especially after an enclosed submarine. We saw Mary Poppins and her band, which was an extra special treat!
One of my daughter’s favorite characters is Tinker Bell. We were among the first to arrive at Pixie Hollow to meet the famous fairy. The decor is just wonderful, and definitely makes you feel tiny and magical, like a fairy! I brought my daughter’s Tinker Bell costume so she could coordinate with her favorite fairy. Thankfully, we got Tinker Bell, because the website states, “Since they constantly flit in and out, you never know which one you’ll meet.”
Even though it was not on our “A-List”, we went on this ride because there was no line, and because we were waiting to meet up with some friends who were also visiting the park that day. The ride is really dark, and my daughter was terrified. She closed her eyes as soon as she saw the witch, which was at the beginning, and throughout the ride. Not something I would consider taking my daughter on again unless she asked.
This was a ride for my husband and daughter. I’m not a fan of spinning rides, as I get nauseous. He loves them, though. And I’m glad he has my daughter to enjoy this ride with him. She loved it. P.S. Apparently the lavender colored tea-cups spin the fastest!
When we first arrived to the park, this ride already had a long line, which is why we skipped it as our first ride. It is one of the best rides in Fantasyland, which is the reason why the line is always so long. We waited about half an hour for this ride, and my daughter asked about 10 times during the 30 minute period if we were close. Thankfully, I had the book Little Known Facts About Well Known Places – Disneyland, that my friend Aya let me borrow, to entertain me. Once we were on, she enjoyed it immensely, which made it worth the wait.
This has been around since 1955 and it still entertains. I really love the visuals. I wish I read the description on the website thoroughly, because I had no idea there is a HD Video version of the attraction, which accommodates guests who don’t want to walk up the stairs. I’m perfectly capable of walking stairs, but I at some point when I’m not, this is good to know.
This is a great ride on a hot day. However, we didn’t wait until it was too hot to ride this because everyone else has the same thought, so the line can get long. A slow-moving boat ride with plenty to see, it’s nice how it’s peppered with some Disney characters such as Woody and Jessie, Ariel, and Alice in the Wonderland.
This was another “Daddy, Daughter” ride, because I wanted a few minutes of “me-time”, which consisted of relaxing at the fountain sitting area and observing my surroundings. I had very little cellphone reception (on the Sprint network), which was fine, because I wanted to save my battery to take pictures and video. My daughter still talks about this ride, because it was the most “thrilling” ride of the day.
When I was a kid (totally sounding old right now), Toontown didn’t exist. So this visit was also a first for me. I love the Fantasia-themed decor in Mickey’s house, on your way to meet him. When we finally met Mickey, I felt a little rushed, so we only took one picture with him.
The line to Minnie’s house was pretty long, so we didn’t visit her.
11. Disneyland Railroad to New Orleans Square
We took the railroad to New Orleans Square. One of the reasons why I waited until my daughter turned five to go to Disneyland is because my friend told me when she took her kid at the age of two, all he wanted to do was ride around the park on the railroad. As much as I love the railroad, I’d probably feel bad about spending so much money to circle the park. The dinosaur diorama is awesome and still entertaining.
Lunch at Cafe Orleans
As much as I want to eat healthy meals, I throw that rule out the window when I’m on vacation. Our breakfast in the car on the way to Disneyland was Burger King, per my daughter’s request (she calls it “King Burger”). I chose Cafe Orleans for lunch because I wanted a terrible-for-you-but-so-delicous Monte Cristo sandwich. Thankfully, the over $20 sandwich was enough for my husband and I to share (the sandwich is cut into four pieces and drenched in batter, then fried). We also ordered a $6 cup of gumbo to share as well, but my kid decided she wanted that instead of the $9 kid’s meal mac and cheese she said she wanted (which my husband ended up eating). Our lunch total, including drinks, came out to around $50 for the three of us.
Fun ride, and even funnier “hallucinogenic” dream sequence – Heffalumps and Woozles. The location is a little further out, but definitely worth it. We also met Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, whose line was longer than waiting for the actual ride. Super cute and entertaining for all.
I wasn’t sure if daughter would like of this ride, but she loved it. There’s a lot to see, and not much I cared to explain, so my hope was that she would enjoy the music and be entertained by the animatronics. She was, thankfully, although she was a little scared of the cannons and gun sounds. I heard they will renovate this year to remove the “wench auction” section of the ride.
Totally thought the kid would be scared of this ride, but because her Dad is so vocal about loving it, she enjoyed it. Line was long, but not terrible. It moved moderately fast. We should have gotten a FASTPASS, but didn’t.
15. Jungle Cruise
The Jungle Cruise is always a good time. I like the cheesy humor and puns by the skippers, who usually come up with their own lines and are stand-up comedians.
I read in the Little Known Facts About Well Known Places – Disneyland book you can request to “wake up Jose” for the show, so we did. I love this show and it will always be one of my favorites. The line outside for a DOLE WHIP® at the Tiki Juice Bar seemed longer than our wait for the show.
Ice Cream Break at Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor
It was around 4:40pm when we finished the Tiki Room, and my daughter was about to pass out and take a nap. We wanted her to stay awake, so my husband thought it was a good idea to get her hyped up on sugar by taking her to the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor to get “anything she wanted.” She chose a very messy sprinkle and chocolate covered waffle cone with two scoops of ice cream – mint and chocolate, respectively.
This was one of her favorite things, and thank goodness we managed to do it before it closed for the day. In retrospect, we should have done this earlier. However, it was fantastic. She met Cinderella, Ariel, and Snow White. I’m glad I brought two costumes because she got ice cream all over her Tinker Bell costume.
The B-List, as in BONUS Rides and Attractions we experienced
I loved this ride as a kid, but my husband wasn’t too keen on it, and neither were some of the blogs I checked out, so it didn’t make our original “A-list”. However, I’m glad we had time for it because my kid loved it. She was able to steer, but not power the gas because her legs are not long enough. My husband was her ride partner, and I got to ride on my own (whoo hoo!).
19. Meeting Chewbacca and Darth Vader at Star Wars Launch Bay
View this post on Instagram
The #costumedcharacters at #disneyland are top-notch. When we visited this #starwars section with #meetandgreets , everyone stayed in #character including the photo staff and greeters. When taking the photo of #darthvader they say "scanning" instead of "smile" . Also, both #vader and #chewbacca are as large as i would imagine in real life. #cosplay #disney #bestbirthdayever #disneybirthday
My daughter hasn’t seen any of the Star Wars movies (she’s still only into cartoons and I’m happy to keep it that way), but is familiar with the Star Wars characters. She was excited to meet Chewbacca and Darth Vader, even though they were at least 6’4″ tall and and could look intimidating. This was not around the last time I went to Disneyland (over 5 years ago, before my daughter was born), so I wasn’t aware of it. It will definitely be a stop on a return visit.
Dinner – corn dogs from cart near The Plaza Inn
A friend of mine told me I must get the corn dog from this cart. We did and it was delicious. Another friend said they are a lot better at California Adventure, but I guess I’ll have to be the judge of that. I think the corn dogs were around $7+ but they are pretty huge. It was around 7pm at this point, which was prime time for a meltdown…which happened.
20. Astro Orbitor
Since Dumbo was undergoing refurbishment, my husband took our daughter on the Astro Orbitor, which basically does the same thing but in a different format. The line was pretty long, and I walked around for about half an hour, waiting for them.
I wish I read about the FASTPASS for Fantasmic, because it’s really difficult to get a good view. We ended up watching it on the bridge near Pirates of the Caribbean, which wasn’t a great view. The show itself is pretty spectacular.
We hauled a** to get to Main Street and find a decent spot for fireworks. My husband put our kid on his shoulders, who remained there for the 20 minute show.
The park closed at midnight, but we left after the fireworks show and were out of the park by 10pm. So, in 14 hours, we completed 22 rides and attractions! I felt pretty accomplished, and was glad we planned it the way we did! My daughter had a pretty memorable 5th birthday.
More to come in a future post: Character Breakfast at The Storyteller’s Cafe
Disclaimer: My loving parents purchased our Disneyland tickets for us, as a gift to our daughter for her Birthday. God bless grandparents. All opinions are honest and 100% my own. All photos taken and are property of Ruby Hunt, WestsideMommy.com, and may not be used without permission.