One of the biggest things I have been looking forward to as a parent is taking my daughter to Disneyland when she was finally old enough to appreciate it. I remember thinking that three years old sounded like a good time, but it seemed like so far into the future. Well, here we are!
Annabelle is now 3 years and 3 months and we finally made our way to Disneyland this past weekend! Little Leo just turned one (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LEO!!) so unfortunately he couldn’t possibly appreciate his time there. He spent most of the 10 HOURS we were there fastened into a stroller or a baby carrier, so I think he probably felt like it was a mild form of torture, but he did seem to enjoy the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage! If I’m being honest though, Disneyland was all about Annabelle this time around. And she certainly did have a magical time at the Magic Kingdom, as did I!
I think I can speak for Annabelle when I say that behind the birth of her baby brother, this was the happiest day of her little life! So many fun things were crammed into one day that her head was spinning with pure joy!
The Disney “marathon”
We got up at the butt crack of dawn, 5:30am, and got ourselves ready for what felt like a full marathon run ahead. All the snacks packed, cooler full, change of clothes in the bag, princess dress on, and a day of activities planned in advance — we were ready for Disney!!
We were advised to get there when it opened at 8am to avoid some of the Saturday crowd, so we got there just a little before 8, enough time to unload the car and hop on the shuttle to downtown Disney. As we looped around the path to the Magic Kingdom, and bushes shaped like Mickey Mouse were waving at me, welcoming me to the park, I felt butterflies literally fluttering around in my stomach. Why am I this excited? This trip is for Annabelle, right? Well, technically yes… But there’s just something about being in this place that brings out the 10 year old in you the moment you lay your eyes on your first plush $60 Mickey Mouse stuffed animal in a gift shop. And you’ll secretly want to buy it for yourself out of pure nostalgia. But you don’t, you buy it for your kid and offer to carry it around the park all day for your little one, sneaking snuggles with Mickey when no one is looking.
I knew the impending crowed would be cramping our day as the minutes wore on, so we made sure to do as much as we could in those first two hours. We stood in a line and got a great family photo with Minnie Mouse that was about a 5 minute wait. This same line was a mile long when we exited the park at 6pm. Yes, you read that right — 6pm. We stayed at the park all damn day. Wear comfortable shoes. Please don’t try to be cute and stylish at Disney, no one cares. You are surrounded by Disney Freaks (I say that lovingly) dressed head to toe in Mickey gear with sparkly Mickey ears, and half of these folks don’t even have kids!! It’s not a fashion show.
I had scheduled Annabelle for a princess makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at 9am. She wore her new Princess Ariel costume that is also her Halloween costume and she looked so stinkin’ cute walking around in it. If your daughter loves princesses, be sure to bring a princess dress for her to wear at Disney. ALL the little girls were in their princess gear so you don’t want your little miss to feel left out! Of course you could always purchase the super lux versions of these princess dresses at the gift shops and spend like $50. So ya, bring one with you. The princess makeover was the most adorable thing ever and Annabelle truly felt special when we left and people were staring at her, asking where she got her makeover. In in my opinion, if you’re going to go to Disney, you gotta splurge a little here and there for the experience, so the $60 we spent on the makeover was well worth it! (Tip: bring cash so you can TIP your fairy Godmother makeover artist. You can’t tip on your credit card.)
I heard that princesses were hard to come by at Disneyland, as they’re more prevalent at the sister park California Adventure. So I was happily surprised to learn that three princesses were doing meet and greets next to the BB Boutique. We waited 30 minutes (seems so long when you have a new walking baby and a bored toddler!), and got to meet Snow White, Cinderella, and Ariel! As expected, Annabelle was completely starstruck by the princesses and couldn’t utter a single word. She was particularly in awe of Ariel since she was wearing her Ariel costume!
From there, we rode the Dumbo ride, It’s a Small World (which is still totally freaking weird and a bit scary for Annabelle, lol!), The Thunder Mountain Railroad, Star Tours, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, and a Toontown roller coaster. We caught a bit of the afternoon parade, which is pretty awesome, and we had lunch at Cafe Orleans. All that took 10 hours!! It was a long day but we had a great time. Jeff, of course, gets irritable at the growing crowds, so he starts saying he hates this kind of stuff (theme parks) but by the end as we were leaving he was already planning our next trip to Disney!
OMG, check out Annabelle dancing during the parade. Is it just me, or does she dance like Elaine from Seinfeld? LOL!
Tips for parents wanting to plan a trip to Disney in your near future…
- Dress comfortably for the weather, wear tennis shoes
- Bring a cooler with snacks and drinks so you don’t have to buy every snack at Disney, it gets expensive!
- Make lunch and/or dinner reservations online at least a week in advance of your trip. Or else you’ll be eating cafeteria style (or waiting in long lines for restaurants).
- Build your itinerary ahead of time on the Disney website by creating a Wish List of the rides you want to hit. You can access your Wish list on your phone while at the park to remember what rides your kid can do based on their height and interests.
- Bring a cell phone charger!!! Something about being at Disney sucks the battery life out of your phone at an alarming rate, so don’t lose your charge and possibly your CAMERA early on in the day without a charger.
- Bring a separate camera so you don’t have to use your cell phone as your camera the whole time because you will lose your battery charge early.
- Utilize the Fast Pass! Get a Disney map that shows what rides you can get a Fast Pass to, and grab one with your park admission and use your husband’s park ticket to get another one, too. Once you get one with your admission ticket you can’t get another one for an hour. It took us 5 minutes to get through the Thunder Mountain line, which was amazing!
- If you want to do Space Mountain, get to the park at opening and get a Fast Pass right away because it’ll be HOURS before the Fast Pass will let you return for the ride. It’s easily the most popular ride at Disneyland.
- Don’t show up without a plan! Research the Disneyland/world website ahead of time, and know what you want to do!
- Unless you have an older child that can enjoy the rides, I wouldn’t bother bringing kids 3 and under (or under 40″) to Disney. There will be a few tinker toy rides that can do, but no roller coasters or anything scary like the Haunted House. If you do bring your baby like we did because we DO have a 3 y.o./40.5″ child, one parent will always have to wait out the more fun rides because baby can’t go. I think it’ll be really fun to go when Leo and Annabelle are 4 and 6 — nothing is off limits!
- Disneyland is a lot smaller than Disneyworld, so it’s less overwhelming to take your little tykes to for the first time.
Hope those tips are a little helpful for families that are looking to take their maiden voyage to Disney soon!