Last week, we had the opportunity to take our entire families to Disneyland for the day, courtesy of our wonderful friends at Visit Anaheim, to showcase a few of our favorite family attractions at the Happiest Place on Earth! While we were there, photographer – and all around amazing human – Leinea Nabayan followed us around (and helped wrangle our kids!) for a few hours – and we had a blast!
Can you believe that its already September? Summer is rapidly coming to a close, but there are still so many exciting and fun things to enjoy at the parks (including a few that will be ending soon) and so much more coming as we approach the fall! There is a lot we could share, but we will highlight the a few “can’t miss” family attractions at the parks right now!
Character Meet and Greets
Seeing a child’s face light up when they meet their favorite characters has got to be one of the best things about a Disney day! The substance of the best Disney memories! k Our kids’ favorite character meet and greets are with the classics – Mickey and his friends! One of the best ways to meet Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Chip ‘n’ Dale is on Main Street USA, where they appear for photos and autographs all day long! We highly recommend downloading the official Disneyland App for character appearance times.
The most helpful piece of information we could provide if you’re wanting that perfect character candid is: Livery Service & Stable on Main Street. If you wait near the double doors located to the right of the Livery Service and Stable building (just beyond The Mad Hatter), you’ll be able to see each character as they make their grand entrance onto Main Street. This is, without fail, the best time to get the most amazing candid photos of your little ones interacting with characters (without waiting in a line!). A lot of times, depending on how many other children are around, characters will even walk hand-in-hand with your child to their final photo location – it’s just so magical and sweet! The characters appear out of the double doors all day long (except during shows or parades on Main Street), so just check the Disneyland App for their appearance times to know when to wait for them – morning at park opening is our favorite time to stop by and see them.
Fantasyland is our first recommendation for families with young kids. We tend to always start our morning in Fantasyland, then work our way to other lands afterwards. Our top five picks for Fantasyland attractions include: It’s a Small World, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Mad Tea Party (the Teacups), Peter Pan’s Flight and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Peter Pan has a notoriously long line, so if you really want to go on this ride, we suggest going right to the line queue when the park opens at rope drop – you’ll notice everyone rushes there first!
One of the best things about Fantasyland attractions is every single one (except the Matterhorn) has no height requirement, which means you can take your tiniest babes (even in a wrap or carrier!) on all the rides!
The Return of the Disneyland Classics
The highlight of our Summer was the return of the Disneyland Classics like the Rivers of America, the Disneyland Railroad and Fantasmic! All of these classics were closed for about 18 months due to Star Wars Land construction – and we are just so excited they’re finally back! If you’re not familiar with these Disneyland classics, we’ll fill you in on what you can expect!
The Rivers of America
The Rivers of America is home to the Mark Twain Riverboat, Sailing Ship Columbia, Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes and Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. All of these are a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Disneyland, all while still having tons of fun (loads of nostalgia for us)!
The Mark Twain Riverboat starts making regular trips around the Rivers of America when Disneyland opens and typically closes at 5:45 PM. That said, be sure to check the daily schedule during your visit so you don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy this attraction!
The Sailing Ship Columbia starts running at 11:00 AM and ends its trips around the river at 4:00 PM. Be sure to check out the lower deck of the ship to see how 18th century sailors lived – so neat!
The Mark Twain and Sailing Ship Columbia alternate picking guests up at the dock in Frontierland, so if you don’t see the boat you’d like to ride at the dock, just wait a few minutes because chances are, the other boat will be comin’ around the corner to the dock soon.
For any parents out there, the Mark Twain is an especially great place to relax (there is seating on the boat) and take in the views! We also think it’s a perfect spot to feed/nurse your babe, or get your baby in a wrap or carrier down for a nap (the entire trip takes about 14 minutes). Just FYI, no strollers may be taken onto the boats.
With the return of the Disneyland Classics also came the introduction of a new Big Thunder Trail! Big Thunder Trail is a walkway that takes guests behind The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It connects Frontierland to Fantasyland. The trail is an amazing escape from crowds – and we are just so excited it is finally back open. There are also two new future Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge entry points along Big Thunder Trail! These obviously will not be open until 2019, but both walkways are a great place to take a rest or let kids get their wiggles out (one of the walkways is pictured above).
One of the new unofficial “photo walls” along the Big Thunder Trail – you’ll see lots of guests stopping to snap photos here!
Another Big Thunder Trail bonus – meeting characters like Pocahontas, Woody and Jessie!
We think its always a good idea to grab a treat or snack before boarding the Mark Twain Riverboat! Cotton Candy for the kiddos on this special day!
Since the Disneyland Railroad is back up and running (with a brand new route and trestle along the Rivers of America – pictured above!), the four stations have been a little more crowded than usual. If you’re wanting to pick-up a train at Main Street, New Orleans Square, the Toon Town Depot or Tomorrowland, just prepare to wait! Riding at park opening or in the evening (except during fireworks – the train closes intermittently for the show) is best for shorter lines. Once the hype of the train returning dies down, we think the lines will also, but for now, just expect higher wait times at each station.
We’ve noticed that the New Orleans Square Station seems to attract the most people because a lot of guests spend time in that area of the park and choose to pick up the train at the station there. Another reason we think the New Orleans Square Station’s line doesn’t move as quickly, is because it’s just one stop beyond the Main Street Train Station – so there aren’t as many guest disembarking after such a short trip. Most guests want to take the full trip around the park, or at least see the new trestle along the Rivers of America – and we don’t blame them!
The entire ride around Disneyland takes about 18 minutes, so it’s a really great spot to relax while your kids are still having fun – it’s basically like a ride to the littles! You can park your stroller at the station, or fold it to take along the ride. What we do sometimes is park at one station (you can lock your stroller with a stroller lock if you’d like,, but we usually feel comfortable to leave it without locking), then ride the train to another location, get off to eat lunch or ride an attraction, then get back on and head back to where we parked our stroller – it’s a great way to get from land to land if you need to take a break from all the walking!
The return of Fantasmic! is probably one of the most exciting things for us about the return of the Disneyland Classics – it’s our favorite show at Disneyland! If we had to pick one evening show to watch, it would be Fantasmic!, so we always recommend that families try to see it! We have a ton of information about best places to watch the show from and details about how to book a dining package for the show on our website – click here to read!
Parades are a great way to take a break from attractions! Many of you already know this, but those who didn’t, the Main Street Electrical Parade ended its limited-time run on August 20, but not to worry! You can still enjoy the super fun Mickey’s Soundsational Parade daily in the afternoon (until early November when “A Christmas Fantasy Parade” begins)!
If you’re going to Mickey’s Halloween Party (separately ticketed event on select nights from September 20-October 31), you’ll get to enjoy the Frightfully Fun Parade!
For our tips on best places to watch parades and fireworks from, click here.
Disneyland & South Coast Plaza
Lastly, we wanted to highlight a fun partnership between Disneyland and South Coast Plaza – an amazing shopping destination (every store you could ever possibly need/want to shop in!). South Coast Plaza’s carousel is celebrating its 50th year, and as a fun collaboration with Disneyland, they have released these limited edition collectable carousel pins! Our kiddos LOVE the carousels at both Disneyland and South Coast…so it is really fun for us to make this announcement!
A few details about these beauties:
- Only 500 pairs will be available exclusively at South Coast Plaza this summer.
- Each pair of complimentary carousel pins is available with a minimum purchase of a two-day, one-park admission ticket to the Disneyland Resort at any of South Coast Plaza’s four concierge locations, while supplies last. Head on over to get yours while you can!
If you haven’t already had a chance to do so, be sure to check out the Halloween Time at Disneyland and California Adventure Halloween Overlay blog posts for all of the exciting, not-too-spooky fall fun coming to the parks! We cannot wait! Also, stay tuned for our detailed Festive Holidays and Christmas Celebration at Disneyland blog post coming in the next month or so!
THANK YOU again to Visit Anaheim and Nea for allowing us to spend the day with our families at the parks – AND have it documented! Usually, its just Emily and I desperately scrambling around with the kids, haphazardly shooting photos on our phones – haha – so this special day is a memory that we will hold very dear to our Disney-loving hearts!
Have an awesome weekend, friends!
Julie & Emily