disney: california adventures

so we just got back from our 5th (!!!!) disney trip to disneyland/california adventures this spring. we have been utilizing the southern california offer and the fact that sweet little e is under 3 yrs old to have disney adventures and mini staycations in anaheim this spring. this is the first year we are taking our daughter to disneyland..


mini mel (mickey+minnie shoes) / birkenstocks (mama) / sunnies (mama)

we have had a blast this spring so far and are looking forward to our final trip next month before the summer heat really ramps up here in southern california..

read below for more pictures from our most recent visit to california adventures and some tips/tricks we picked up this season to make our d-land trips fun, pretty stress-free, and doable with a little 2.5 yo toddler! 🙂


tips, tricks, and our experiences…

1. how we get there. we usually try to maximize mornings as much as possible before the crowds get too big.. especially on weekends! we live in LA so to get to anaheim it is at least an hour drive (but who knows with our notorious traffic).. which when you are trying to get into a park by 8am calls for a VERY early morning.. so we usually opt to stay in a hotel the night before. this is where my love for points comes in handy. i’m a big fan of the chase sapphire credit card (we have the reserve version) and its ability to transfer to hotels like the hyatt brand! I have been able to snag rooms (even last minute!) at the hyatt house or hyatt place (both near the convention center and just a 15-20 min walk to the park). this also allows us to hit up downtown disney the night before for dinner and a nice family stroll. sweet little e loves walking to downtown disney and getting excited about the park visit the next day!


2. morning of. since we usually stay at the hyatt place/house, we utilize the complimentary hot breakfast before we head over to the park. for example, this trip california adventures opened their doors at 8am so we had breakfast (free!) at 7am. we filled up on scrambled eggs, juice/milk, bagels, bacon, fresh fruit (grape fruit, pinapple, bananas, apples..), cereal, and cottage cheese! it’s a pretty standard breakfast setup and perfect for fueling up for a long day. we then walk down to the park and were in as close to opening time as possible!

3. snag fast passes for the adults and utilize rider swap! sweet little e is 2.5 yo and not tall enough for any of the fast pass rides in the park but if you and your DH/DW love rides then you can still go on rides throughout the day if you utilize the family rider swap. for california adventures, i highly recommend you get the fast pass for radiator springs in cars land super early!  this was by far our favorite ride in the park and even though we grabbed a fast pass at 9am we didn’t get spots until 1pm! so i highly recommend you get this one very early on. the nice thing is even though our ride wasn’t until 1pm, we were still able to get another fast pass at 11am so we actually had 2 rides waiting on fast pass and we waited just minutes for both rides! (remember to check the bottom of your fast pass ticket to see when you can grab the next fast pass!)


4. world of color.. this music/color/water show at night in california adventures is beautiful! beware though because the music is very loud so if your little one is sensitive to loud noises (ours is a bit) then s/he might not enjoy the show as much (ours didn’t!) but it’s definitely worth picking up fast passes at the beginning of your day to hold a dedicated viewing area spot. check to see where the fast pass ticket booth will be before you go to the park but i think it’s usually in the grizzy park area (right by the paradise pier). remember fast passes “sell out” so we go get these first thing when we get in the park… also, getting world of color fast passes DO NOT time you out for other fast passes so we grab the radiator spring racers one next (this station is in bug’s life!) if you do go to world of colors, you may want to head into the viewing area earlier than later as it is first come first serve for seating… i keep a small mat/blanket so we can plop our tired bums down at the end of the night while we wait for the show to start.


5. where we visit first.. i would say from my experience this spring, car’s land is one of the more popular destinations in california adventures so we hit this one up first. we can usually get on all the rides with very minimal waits this way and then we head over to paradise pier and grizzly park afterwards.. we usually visit bug’s life later in the day even though it has the most rides for sweet little e because it’s so toddler friendly that the older kids/adults don’t go there.  so even when it gets more crowded this area tends to be more manageable! we also save hollywood land for later because the indoor show/rides we like are there (disney jr and we LOVE turtle talk!!).  we like to take a breather from the warm weather and rest our tired legs in darkness/coolness/chairs for a bit.. lol.

6. download the disneyland app (free on itunes!) so you can check out specifics for the day of. it’s really great for checking out menus for different restaurants (can make reservations (res require cc hold)), check out when show times are, or character meet and greets. i usually peruse the night before and get a sense of what things are available only earlier during the day so that we make sure to catch it and not miss out! it’s also great to figuring out where the nearest bathroom is for your little toddler who is potty training! 🙂


7. take a “playground” break at the redwood creek challenge trail in grizzly peak! sweet little e is a playground lover.. and sometimes you need to take a break and let them run things out after waiting in lines and walking through crowds. we LOVE LOVE LOVE the redwood creek challenge.. it’s open to all ages although some portions are restricted to taller kids.. but basically its like a redwood forrest playground.. there are bridges to run across, obstacle courses, rock climbing, different slides, caves to crawl through, a stream to splish splash in and its pretty shaded! it’s a perfect mid day play area where you can let your little one run a bit loose.. sweet little e is a big fan and so are we!


8. meeting characters! definitely check out the disneyland app because they give times of when you can find specific characters.. for example sweet little e loves doc mc stuffin so we make sure we catch before she’s gone for the day at 3pm!

9. nap time – either head back to the hotel if you are staying the night and your little one needs to sleep in a bed or if yours is like ours we stroller nap her (we have a maclaren umbrella stroller with amazing shade and a great recline) and we take this time to re-energize over drinks and apps at cove bar or even head out to downtown disney. the goal here is to RELAX so when your toddler wakes up you can go go go again!


10. bring a stroller unless your toddler is a super champ at walking everywhere.. it also doubles as a storage container. ha. we stuff all our extra clothes (sweaters, vest, minnie ears) in the bottom and keep our essentials in our backpack. you can park it all over the park as you hop on rides and as i mentioned above, it’s sweet little e’s nap cave mid-day.

11. bring insulated thermos filled with cold water, milk, and snack boxes! i usually filled sweet little e’s yumbox with easy snacks (carrots, celery sticks, apples, raisens, almonds, pb&j mini sandwiches) that she can snack on throughout the day. lots of snacks prevents mini melt downs and keeps her going all day long. also, i’ll put cold milk in a thermos and give that to her before nap or before we head out and not have to worry about trying to find kid friendly drinks/meals (although there are obviously plenty…) and she shares food with me otherwise when we buy food there!

12. bring a small toy s/he loves to play with in the stroller/in lines. sweet little e is super independent (or so she thinks) so she doesn’t love the stroller but to get around a bit quicker and save her energy she likes to sit in it with her lego train or minnie doll. remember don’t bring TOO much stuff since you have to lug it around all day ;).

11. some of sweet little e’s favorite rides (she’s 2.5 yo and meets the 36 inch height requirement)
– car’s land: mater’s junyard jamboree, luigi’s rollickin’ roadsters
– paradise pier: king triton’s carousel, the little mermaid (indoor ride, a little loud, dark but not as scary as the other indoor dark rides), golden zephyr, mickey’s fun wheel
– a bug’s land: basically everything.
– grizzly peak: redwood creek challenge trail!!!
– hollywood land: turtle talk with crush (also a parent’s favorite 😉 ), disney junior – live on stage!


so these are some things we’ve figured out to make a disney california adventure days smoother.. hope you have fun on your visits too!


links (affiliate):

yumbox / insulated thermos (funtainer) / lego train kit / maclaren quest stroller /




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hi! i'm a mama to a sweet little toddler living in los angeles and blogging about our life and our travels abroad!