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What is the Best Age to Visit Disneyland?

Are you thinking about taking the family to Disneyland this summer? Perhaps you have some questions. I can help. You see, we’re big Disney fans in our house, but not in a weird way (opinions vary) and as such I am constantly receiving questions from people about planning a Disneyland family vacation. It’s a responsibility that I thoroughly enjoy and still take lightly. The most popular question from parents is about age, specifically:

“Is my child old enough to go to Disneyland?”

I get that question a lot. In fact, it is one of the top five questions that I hear on a regular basis (right between “Are we there yet?” and “Sir, are you okay?”).

Why do people ask me instead of their buddy Google? My guess is that people see my love of Disney and the fact that I write at a number of popular websites on parenting, family, travel, and entertainment, and they think that I might know something. They would be wrong, but I appreciate their vote of (perceived) confidence.

Also, I have a Mickey Mouse tattoo, but that’s a different post.

UPDATED BONUS: CARS LAND IS NOW OPEN AT DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE PARK!

When I was a boy growing up in Arizona there was nothing more exciting than a family trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California (just south of L.A.). Some of my best memories, ever, are from those trips with my dad driving through the night and the Platters playing softly on the radio. I suppose that those memories, combined with similar stories from my wife’s childhood, are the reason that our kids have visited Disneyland more in their few short years than most people do in a lifetime.

So when people ask, “Is my child old enough to go to Disneyland?” I answer with one word, “Yes.”

But what about the babies? Aren’t the babies too young?

Here’s the thing, obviously an infant isn’t going to remember their first time meeting Mickey Mouse or riding on Dumbo, but I believe that it is still worth going. Why? Brace yourself. The trip isn’t for the baby, the trip is for you. Let that sink in.

Please note, this does not mean that you should put baby in a corner. Nobody should do that.

The “baby trip” is when every moment is a Kodak moment (Instagram?) and every photo is a memory that will be cherished forever (not that the making of memories ever stops, but the earlier they start the better!). There are few things cuter than a picture of a small baby next to a giant rodent. As an added bonus, consider that you’re laying the groundwork for what could be a tradition of amazing family fun for decades to come. It’s a great time for parents to get a feel for, or reacquaint themselves with, Disneyland (and Disney California Adventure across the way). Establishing some familiarity with the park(s) will make subsequent trips all the easier and a little less daunting.

One thing to remember when taking a Disneyland vacation with small kids is that you won’t be able to do it all. This is a fact (it’s a fact whether you have kids with you or not, there’s just too much to do). Accepting it is a big step towards making your trip as enjoyable as possible (other steps include naps, shade, plenty of water and drinks with umbrellas in them). Some rides have height restrictions, and while adults have the luxury of Disney’s Rider Swap (from Disney: Guests take turns waiting with youngsters too small to ride a certain attraction, then “swap” with another adult guest from their party to experience the ride without standing in line twice.), if a kid isn’t tall enough for an attraction they aren’t able to ride. It happens. Side effects include crying.

Don’t worry, that just means that the next trip (and they’ll want a next trip) is already promising more fun and a sweet anticipation for that famous Disney magic. It’s okay to leave things for next time.

After that it rolls into a blurry montage of milestones. The child loves the characters. The child is afraid of the characters. Pirates of the Caribbean is the best ride ever. Pirates of the Caribbean is the scariest ride ever. Then Pirates of the Caribbean is secretly scary, but they love it anyway. Johnny Depp posters may or may not come into play. Then balloons, churros and dancing in the streets (literally).

Obviously, you know your child better than anyone else and there may be variables that contribute to your decision that aren’t addressed here. Also, I am painfully aware of the expense involved in taking a Disneyland vacation and did not factor that in because it’s relative to your personal situation. One thing to keep in mind is that children under the age of three get into Disneyland for free. Savings add up!

If it helps, I’m also a firm believer that children are never too old to go to Disneyland. Fit your Disneyland vacation into your life accordingly!

Here are some of our Disney memories from the past few years:


  • Once Upon a Time… 1 of 17
    Once Upon a Time...
    Every Disney story has to start somewhere, and ours is no different. This photo was actually taken in Disney California Adventure's Art of Animation attraction, which is part of the Disneyland Resort and therefor counts.
  • Disneyland Hotel Arrival 2 of 17
    Disneyland Hotel Arrival
    Despite living about an hour from Disneyland we try to stay on property whenever possible (ask me about my Disney timeshare!). The best way to enjoy a long day at Disneyland is being able to take a nap and decompress on occasion.
  • Toy Story Gets It 3 of 17
    Toy Story Gets It
    This is when a little Atticus met a tall Sheriff Woody. Adventure followed.
  • First Mickey Mouse Ears 4 of 17
    First Mickey Mouse Ears
    Zane didn't care about his first ears nearly as much as Nana did, but he humored her.
  • It’s Got to be the Pooh Shoes 5 of 17
    It's Got to be the Pooh Shoes
    This silly ol' bear was pretty happy with Zane's footwear. Please note, no bears were harmed in the making of the shoes.
  • On the Ropes 6 of 17
    On the Ropes
    When Atticus turned three (actually the weekend prior so he would still be free!) we all had shirts made to mark the event. It was great. The rope course is in DCA, and the boys still love it.
  • Hugging Beauty 7 of 17
    Hugging Beauty
    Sleeping Beauty was wide awake when she and Atticus bonded over breakfast.
  • Down the Frog Hole 8 of 17
    Down the Frog Hole
    Halloween at Disneyland is something very special. This photo was taken at DCA when Atticus met up with Alice and the Mad Hatter.
    Also on video!
  • Early Hours 9 of 17
    Early Hours
    If you stay on property you can get early admission into Disneyland on select days. This select day happened to be New Years morning, and we were pretty much by ourselves at 7 a.m. (and no hangover!).
  • Meeting Mickey Mouse 10 of 17
    Meeting Mickey Mouse
    Meeting Mickey Mouse never gets old. Even for old people. In Toontown you can visit Mickey in his home, which is the fastest way to do so. Fast being a relative term.
  • Captains & the Queen 11 of 17
    Captains & the Queen
    We spent this past Halloween at Disneyland, and these were the three fairest people in the park. Of course I'm a) biased, and b) terrified.
  • Map of Disneyland 12 of 17
    Map of Disneyland
    The boys are map people. No matter how many times we go through those magic gates they each grab a map and spend half the morning planning things that may or may not happen.
  • Chip and Zane 13 of 17
    Chip and Zane
    Chip has a nose that looks like a chocolate chip. Dale has a nose that looks like a big, red plum. Amaze your friends!
  • Pirate Kids 14 of 17
    Pirate Kids
    They start cads young these days. Tom Sawyer's Island at Disneyland is kid and pirate friendly with lots of interactive adventures to be had. Also, you're on an island, so the kids can't get too far should they become lost.
  • Goofin’ Around 15 of 17
    Goofin' Around
    Goofy is just that. The boys are even more so. Goofy makes a lot of appearances in Toontown throughout the day, keep your eyes open!
  • Two Kids, One Monorail 16 of 17
    Two Kids, One Monorail
    Getting in and out of Disneyland park is as easy as catching the monorail in Downtown Disney (by the Rainforest Cafe). You must have your park ticket in order to ride.
  • … and They Lived Happily Ever After 17 of 17
    ... and They Lived Happily Ever After
    This is where our story ends... for now. Cue the promise and sweet anticipation I mentioned in the post above.

No, Disney did not ask me to write this.

Have you taken your children to Disneyland? Why or why not?


Whit Honea can be found writing about whatever he feels like at his personal site Honea Express (Honea sounds like pony) and DadCentric. If you’re really bored you can follow him on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).

Also from Whit:

Teacher/Bully Caught by Concerned Father

The Terrible Sixes

8 Underrated Sports for Kids

Note on Friendship

Photos

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