Taking a one day trip to Disneyland with a toddler? If you’re planning a visit to Disneyland with young kids, check out my ideal one day Disneyland with a toddler itinerary. Get tips on the best things to do with toddlers, favorite rides for little ones and making special first visit memories. Find out how to maximize your time at the theme parks with small children on a single day!
This article originally published October 18th, 2017. It has been updated and republished with a new date.
Can You Do Disneyland in One Day with a Toddler?
No, you won’t be able to experience everything at Disneyland in a single day. Toddler or not, there’s just too many shows, rides and attractions inside Disneyland to complete in one day.
Bringing a young child into the equation adds an even more complex element. I’ve been taking my little kids to Disneyland since they were babies. I’ll admit that vacationing with a toddler at Disneyland can be a challenge!
Why limit Disneyland to a single day? There are many reasons why families only want to visit Disneyland for one day. The cost of tickets and restricted travel schedule are two examples. Some parents may not want to overwhelm toddlers with a long vacation. Or they might not think that Disneyland has enough for toddlers to do.
Go into your one day at Disneyland knowing that you won’t be able to see and do it all. Having a loose itinerary is the best idea when it comes to maximizing your day.
My advice is to follow the toddler itinerary I’ll outline in this article. Read up about the best rides for young children, height requirements and top shows for toddlers.
I’ve also covered how to use Rider Switch with other family members, where to eat and fitting a nap into the schedule. And of course, all the ways to make favorite memories with your little ones while also minimizing meltdowns!
Do Toddlers Need Disneyland Theme Park Tickets?
If your child has not yet celebrated their 3rd birthday, a Disneyland ticket is not required. Children 2 and under have free admission to Disneyland!
One Day Disneyland Tickets
Only have one day? A single park day at Disneyland isn’t the most ideal. One day Disneyland tickets are sold with “tiered pricing”, which means that certain days may cost more than others. You also need to verify that you’re purchasing the correct tiered ticket for the day of your visit (check the Disneyland reservation calendar for availability first).
Also, with only one Disneyland day, you may feel rushed to try and experience everything because of the time crunch. Naturally, a rush-rush vacation isn’t optimal with toddlers, who tend to move at their own pace.
Consider adding an extra day – If possible, extending your visit to 2 or more days will allow more flexibility and relaxation into your schedule.
If you’re vacationing in California for the week or are a SoCal resident, purchase a multi-day ticket to visit on another day. Multi-day Disneyland tickets expire 13 days after the first day of use and they don’t have be used on consecutive days.
Get a Park Hopper – A Disneyland Park Hopper ticket will allow you to move between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks. They are only a few minute walk from each other, across a short esplanade.
Make theme park reservations – Once you have tickets, use the bar code to enter them into the Disneyland app. Make your theme park reservations for the day you wish to visit. Your baby or toddler doesn’t need a reservation.
My travel partners at Get Away Today offer both discounted Disneyland tickets and Anaheim-area hotels to fit any budget! Many hotels include exclusive discounts like free parking, complimentary breakfast or even free nights, just for booking through Get Away Today.
Disneyland tickets purchased now are good through December 31st, 2024. Purchase your multi-day tickets through Get Away Today now.
When you’re ready to book your Disneyland vacation, my friends at Get Away Today are ready to help! Mention code REWRITTEN to receive an extra discount off your SoCal vacation package (when booking 2+ nights with two or more tickets).
Need more information about buying Disneyland tickets?
How to Plan Ahead for One Day at Disneyland with a Toddler
When you only have a single day to spend in the parks, you’ll want to maximize your time and money. There are several things to do ahead of your trip to ensure a better vacation!
Here are a few ideas and additional posts for Disneyland tips with toddlers about what you should plan ahead of time.
Best clothes for toddlers to wear
Pay attention to the weather and pack accordingly. It’s tempting to go crazy with the Instagram-worthy outfits for your toddler. But keep comfort in mind, most of all! And of course, choose pieces that make diaper changes easy. These are some suggestions for the best outfits for toddlers to wear in the Disney Parks.
Check your toddler’s height
Some of the rides in Disneyland have height restrictions, which means that only those who meet the height marker may ride. Before your trip, measure your child using the Disneyland ride height requirement guide.
This article has a free printable checklist so you’ll know which attractions are acceptable for your toddler.
Get toddlers familiar with Disney
Most young children are somewhat familiarized with Disney characters, like Mickey Mouse. Consider watching Disney Junior shows or toddler-friendly movies on Disney+. Familiarity with some of the Fantasyland characters like Dumbo, Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland can make the rides more enjoyable for toddlers.
READ MORE – Be sure to read this post about Disneyland with a Toddler – it will give you lots of practical advice for your day!
Theme Park Essentials with Toddlers
Diaper bag essentials
You’ll need all the usual items, including plenty of diapers, wipes, bibs, snacks and clothing changes. It’s recommended to pack extras and put them into a locker for the day. This way you don’t have to carry them around with you, but they’re available when you need them!
Get the additional tips on how to pack a Disney parks diaper bag.
The Disney baby care centers have products for sale in case you run out. These locations also have diaper changing areas and tiny toilets for toddlers that are potty training.
Stroller or Front Carrier?
Even if your toddler never rides in a stroller, I implore you to bring one for a Disneyland vacation. Disney trips include lots of walking and your toddler will want a place to sit when they get tired.
If your toddler is used to riding in a front carrier, I suggest bringing that with you as well. Strollers aren’t permitted in lines but front carriers are okay. A baby carrier makes holding sleepy toddlers easier in queue.
Itinerary for One Day at Disneyland with a Toddler
Write up a brief to-do list before your trip with the most important thing at the top. Is going on lots of rides the main purpose of your visit? Do you strive for a more leisurely pace that includes meeting favorite characters and other entertainment?
The following sections will outline a one-day Disneyland itinerary with a toddler. These are the top things to see, do and eat in a single day at the Disneyland park with your toddler. As previously noted, you won’t be able to do everything. This Disneyland plan offers the theme park essentials that your toddler will enjoy!
(Editor’s Note: This itinerary is only for Disneyland park. A separate Disney California Adventure itinerary will be shared at a later date).
Is Disneyland Rope Drop Worth it with Toddlers?
Most toddlers are early birds, which will make it easy for you to get to the Park before opening. There are some definite advantages to getting in before the park officially opens in the morning.
Tips for Maximizing Rope Drop or Early Entry
Check the entertainment schedule ahead of your travel to know what time the theme park opens.
Many vacationers will sleep in and arrive to the Park later in the day. It’s good to be an early bird and take advantage of the lighter crowds during those first few hours.
Have a quick breakfast at the hotel with food you’ve packed in. Offer your toddler dry cereal and a sippy cup of milk, and let her nibble in the stroller while you’re walking to the gates!
What is Early Entry at Disneyland?
Registered Disneyland Resort guests may have 30 minutes of early entry for each day of their stay with valid park ticket. It is recommended to arrive at least 45 minutes before official Park opening.
Not all attractions are open during Early Entry, but Fantasyland is! Fantasyland is the perfect place to start with your toddler.
What is Rope Drop at Disneyland?
“Rope Drop” happens about 30 minutes before the Park opens officially. If you arrive during this time, you may be able to enter onto Main Street U.S.A. before the rest of the Park opens.
In order to be one of the first guests inside the park, you’ll want to leave enough time for transportation and getting through security. Arrive about 45-60 minutes before Disneyland official opening time.
As one of the first groups inside Disneyland, you’ll be well positioned at the “ropes” when the park opens for the day. Rope drop is often crowded with other parents of toddlers vying for the same attractions.
Work out a plan with other grown-ups in your group. Figure out ahead of time where you’ll be heading, which ride to get in line for, who will be parking the stroller, and who will be carrying your toddler! Read more about Disneyland Rope Drop and How to Maximize the First Two Hours.
Should You Get Disney Genie+ with a Toddler?
Disney Genie+ is the new line cutting system, similar to how Disneyland FASTPASS and MaxPass functioned in the past. Guests purchase Disney Genie+ separately via the Disneyland app for each day. This allows access to booking access to the shorter queue for many popular attractions. This line is called Lightning Lane.
Many rides are a part of the Disney Genie+ system…and many are not. Popular Fantasyland toddler rides like Dumbo the Flying Elephant and Peter Pan’s Flight do not offer a Lightning Lane. So even with the purchase of Disney Genie+, you’ll still be waiting in stand-by for some attractions.
Things to consider before buying Disney Genie+
How many rides will you go on using Disney Genie+?
There are some toddler attractions offered on Disney Genie+, which I will outline in the next section. However most of the rides have a height restriction that eliminate toddlers. If you have older kids or adults-only, it may be worth the extra cost to use the Lightning Lane.
Are the included attractions on Disney Genie+ worth the extra cost per person?
Keep in mind that only ticketed guests need to buy Disney Genie+ so you won’t need to buy it for your toddler. However, if you don’t plan on riding most of the attractions offered on Disney Genie+, it might not be worth adding on.
How crowded is it at Disneyland?
If you’re visiting in a non-peak time of year, you may not need to spend the extra cost on Disney Genie+. View the attraction wait times on the Disneyland app leading up to your trip. This way you’ll be able to judge whether the time waiting in the standby line with your toddler will be acceptable.
Toddlers at Disneyland First Stop: Fantasyland!
Most of the rides and attractions in the Fantasyland area are toddler appropriate (save for the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which have a 42″ minimum height requirement).
I recommend visiting Fantasyland first thing in the morning with your toddler, using the rope drop or early entry technique already described.
Where is Fantasyland at Disneyland? There are several pathways to get there from the front entrance.
- Walk straight down Main Street U.S.A., across the Sleeping Beauty Castle drawbridge and into Fantasyland. This is the fastest path to Peter Pan’s Flight.
- Instead of walking across the drawbridge, cut right towards Snow White’s Wishing Well. There is a curved path into Fantasyland. This walkway may take a bit longer but is usually less crowded.
- Walk around Sleeping Beauty Castle completely, towards the Matterhorn. This is the quickest way to reach the Alice in Wonderland attraction.
Disneyland Fantasyland Attractions
You will likely spend a good portion of your one day at Disneyland with a toddler in the Fantasyland area! With the exception of the Matterhorn, none of the rides in the Fantasyland area have a height restriction. This means that everyone, including babies and toddlers, can ride.
Certain rules may apply, including having a child seated on the bench next to you, versus sitting on your lap. Check with the Cast Member ride operator for more information.
- Alice in Wonderland
- Casey Jr. Circus Train
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- “it’s a small world” (Disney Genie+)
- King Arthur Carrousel
- Mad Tea Party
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
- Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough
- Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
- Storybook Land Canal Boats
Must-Do Toddler Attractions at Disneyland
Any ride or attraction that does not have a height restriction is a-okay for your toddler! However, it’s best to know a little bit about these rides, as some may not be appealing to young children.
Rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion do not have a height restriction. Use your best judgement before bringing your toddler aboard. Skittish little ones who do not enjoy the dark aspects or “spooky” elements likely will not enjoy these attractions!
Additional Attractions for One Day at Disneyland with a Toddler
This guide to toddler-friendly attractions includes height requirements and Disney Genie+ availability. I have added a few additional details for some of the attractions.
- Astro Orbitor
- Autopia – 32″ height requirement
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (Disney Genie+)
- Chip ‘n’ Dale’s GADGETcoaster – Great first rollercoaster for toddlers that meet the 35″ height requirement.
- Disneyland Railroad – Four stops around the Disneyland park to board or exit. Guest may take the “Grand Circle” tour that visits all stops.
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
- Haunted Mansion – Slow moving but dark and somewhat spooky. (Disney Genie+)
- Jungle Cruise
- Main Street Vehicles – Includes a double-decker bus and horse-drawn trolley.
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (May purchase Individual Lightning Lane for this ride)
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run -38″ height requirement (Disney Genie+)
- Monorail – This ride travels from inside Disneyland to the Downtown Disney District. Guests may disembark or ride round-trip.
- Pirates of the Caribbean – Slow moving but dark with skeletons, cannon blasts and pirates.
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin – Dark ride with a quirky spinning element you can opt to use, or not (Disney Genie+).
- Storytelling at Royal Theatre – Live show with Disney princesses. Kids may sit with parents on benches or on the floor at the foot of the stage.
- Tale of the Lion King – Vibrant live show in an outdoor theater.
- Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room – Highlight for toddlers: Snacks are allowed inside!
What About the Rest of the Family?
If you’re traveling with just a toddler, doing Disneyland for the day is easier to balance. However, if you have children of various ages on a one-day trip, that will require additional planning.
You can accommodate all ages at Disneyland! Here are some ways to maximize a one day visit to Disneyland when you have a toddler and older children in your group.
Disneyland Rider Switch
Disneyland offers a complimentary Rider Switch program for families. This is ideal for guests with kids that don’t meet the height restriction. Here’s how this “ride swap” works:
- The entire group approaches the Cast Member at the entrance of the ride. Tells them you’d like to use the Rider Switch program.
- The Cast Member will either scan the Disneyland ticket or Disneyland app on your phone. They will then assign the group a Rider Switch pass.
- At least one adult will stay behind with the child(ren) that are not riding.
- First group gets in the regular queue for that attraction. If they have a Lightning Lane reservation for the ride, they will use that line instead.
- Group meets up after the ride and adults trade places. Second group (up to three people) can then redeem Rider Switch to the Cast Member located at either the exit or Lightning Lane entrance to ride.
Single Rider Lines
Certain thrill rides like Space Mountain and the Matterhorn Bobsleds offer a Single Rider line. Guests from this queue will be chosen to fill open seats in the ride.
For adults traveling with just a toddler, this is an easy option to avoid the longer queue. The Single Rider line generally moves quickly, and each parent can take turns riding separately.
Character Greetings at Disneyland
Toddlers are fickle little people. Some toddlers LOVE the characters. And some toddlers HATE the characters! I recommend letting your toddler watch from afar at first and judge from there if you really want to do the character meet n’ greets.
There are plenty of characters around the entrance and hub of Main Street U.S.A. Toddlers and parents can meet with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, Chip n’ Dale, and Donald Duck in this area.
For additional Disney character meet ‘n greet, check the Disneyland app. First click the navigation button, then use the drop down to choose “Characters”. Pins in various locations will show which characters are greeting, along with a time schedule.
Disneyland Dining with Toddlers
When planning meals for one day at Disneyland with a toddler, there are several factors to consider.
Kids Menu – All dining locations offer kids meals on their menus. These toddler-friendly dishes vary depending upon the restaurant. View menus ahead of time on the Disneyland website or through the app.
Menu items range from basics like macaroni and cheese or chicken fingers with fries. Full-service restaurants may have more sophisticated tastes like a baked fish filet with steamed vegetables or BBQ tofu.
Share a Meal – Of course parents can always request an extra plate to feed your toddler from your own meal. If you order your child their own menu item, that meal will be charged to your bill.
Quick Service Dining – If you’re trying to maximize time, consider only eating at quick service locations.
One of the best time savers is to use the Disneyland app for mobile ordering food. Simply order from your phone, click the button when you arrive and pick it up at the counter! So easy when you have hungry littles and don’t want to stand in long lines for food.
Full-Service Dining – Table service restaurants take much longer and full-service dining with a fidgety toddler can be tricky. When toddlers are hungry they want to eat NOW!
My toddler tends to eat quickly and then clamor to get out of her highchair. This means I’m usually having to rush my meal or take it to-go! Keep that in mind when booking reservations for full service.
Pack your own food – Disneyland permits families to bring in their own snacks, water bottles and food into the theme parks. If you know your toddler prefers certain meals, pack them with you. Bringing your own snacks is also a great way to budget at Disney.
Looking for more? I have more dining tips for little ones at Disney on this post.
Best Places to Eat at Disneyland with a Toddler
As recommended, I choose quick service for one day at Disneyland. These meals are ideal for younger kids!
Jolly Holiday Bakery Café on Main Street
The perfect breakfast spot with egg and bacon croissants and cinnamon rolls. I recommend completing Fantasyland in the morning, then mobile ordering breakfast here. Jolly Holiday has patio dining that overlooks Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Plaza Inn on Main Street
The fried chicken, veggies and mashed potatoes can’t be beat and the large platters are perfect for sharing. Plaza Inn offers both indoor and outdoor dining.
Rancho del Zocalo in Frontierland
The Mexican food offerings are good, just be sure to check the menu before sharing because some of the dishes may be spicy. Outdoor dining with a patio. You’ll love the atmosphere here at night, with the beautiful colored lanterns.
Alien Pizza Planet in Tomorrowland
The breadsticks and pizza here are okay but the chicken fusilli pasta is what toddlers really love! Alien Pizza Planet has indoor and outdoor dining and a kid-friendly Toy Story-themed atmosphere.
Should You Do Character Dining at Disneyland with Toddlers?
Character dining at Disneyland is a great way to combine a meal with a Disney character meet ‘n greet! There is only one character dining experience inside the theme parks – Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at Plaza Inn. The other character dining meals take place in the Disneyland resort hotels.
Pros and cons to character dining on a single park day
Character dining experiences can take longer than a regular meal – If you’re on a tight timeline and only doing one day at Disneyland with a toddler, consider skipping character dining on your park day. Don’t forget to factor in walking time if you book a character meal at one of the resort hotels.
Do character dining on an “off park day” – Dine at one of the character restaurants inside the Disneyland resort hotels on a day away from the theme parks. This will allow for a more leisurely experience when you aren’t feeling rushed to get back to the rides.
Character dining is a great way to see lots of characters – Rather than waiting in lines to meet n’ greet, character dining is a fun way to engage with characters in a personal way.
Character dining can be hit or miss with a toddler – If your little one loves the characters, then yes, by all means book one of the character meals. But if your toddler doesn’t like the characters, I’d definitely skip the pricey character dining experiences (and risk your toddler screaming throughout the meal!).
Read more about choosing the best character dining at Disneyland with kids.
Disneyland With a Toddler Requires Play Time
Toddlers can only take so much of being strapped into a stroller. They need to get out, run around and play. Schedule time out of the stroller right before your toddler’s regular nap time.
There are places for you to let your toddler walk that aren’t too congested. Some sections of the park, like Main Street, New Orleans Square, Adventureland and Tomorrowland tend to be more crowded. It’s very easy to get separated in these locations.
Use a Harness Backpack with Removable Tether with your toddler. This will allow them to walk independently but still stay close to you, especially in busy sections of the park.
The plaza near “it’s a small world”, walkways around the Matterhorn and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge have open areas for walking. Here are a few more places to let your toddler walk for free play.
- Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island
- Mark Twain Riverboat
- Mickey’s Toontown grass and play areas. Goofy’s How-to-Play Yard is a fun section for play. There’s a special soft-play baby and toddler area behind Donald’s Boat. Click to read more about the Best Disneyland Toontown Rides for young kids.
Disneyland Live Entertainment for Toddlers
If you only have one day at Disneyland with a toddler, you might be tempted to stick to just the rides. Consider fitting one of the excellent live shows into your itinerary.
Entertainment including singers like the Dapper Dans, parades, cavalcade, the Disneyland Band, stage shows, and fireworks spectaculars are a great way to round out a day in the park.
Depending upon the season, there are several can’t miss Disneyland parades. Check the schedule before your trip to know which is going to run during your visit. Magic Happens, the Main Street Electrical Parade and Christmas Fantasy Parade have been recent offerings.
No matter the show, toddlers will love the vibrant colors, familiar characters and dance-able tunes. Parades are a great way to see lots of characters without the long lines of a meet ‘n greet!
Parade tip for toddlers – Arrive early to find a position on the curb. Place your toddler in his stroller and roll it right up to the curb during the parade. This allows your child a front row view to the show!
Nighttime Entertainment at Disneyland
There are several entertainment choices at Disneyland after nightfall, all appropriate for toddlers. Here’s an overview of some of the offerings.
What is your toddler falls asleep? If you’re aiming to maximize one day at Disneyland with a toddler, opt to stay until park closing. Your young child may fall asleep in the stroller, but crowds tend to lighten considerably after the final nighttime show.
Adults can then take advantage of Rider Switch and Single Rider lines to enjoy additional attractions until closing time.
Disneyland Fireworks Spectaculars with Toddlers
If your toddler doesn’t mind the noise and can stay up late, the fireworks spectaculars at Disneyland are amazing!
Fireworks are often shown only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Other days of the week, Disneyland has a projection show with some pyrotechnics instead.
I recommend avoiding Main Street for fireworks, as this area can be very crowded and overwhelming. Instead, watch the show near “it’s a small world”. Projections appear on the building façade.
Tips for Watching Fantasmic! with a Toddler
*Editor’s Note: Fantasmic is currently on hiatus. Another excellent nighttime show is Fantasmic! This is a water projection spectacular that takes place along the Rivers of America. The viewing areas can be very busy so plan on arriving at least an hour early to wait for the show.
Fantasmic! viewing is standing room only and that’s a LONG time to hold a squirmy toddler (ask me how I know!). Bring the stroller or front carrier for sure.
I highly recommend booking a Fantasmic! Dining Package in advance. You’ll receive a meal at one of the designated locations and a closer viewing location.
Best choice for Fantastic with a toddler – The River Belle Terrace is a full service restaurant that offers dining during the show. This prime viewing location allows you to sit and watch Fantasmic! from your patio table. If you choose one table-service restaurant during your one day at Disneyland with a toddler, consider booking this one!
How to Avoid Toddler Meltdown at Disneyland
Tantrums happen, even at the Happiest Place on Earth! Overstimulation with all the loud noises, lights, music and new experiences can cause even the most mellow toddler to meltdown.
How to Get a Toddler to Nap at Disneyland
Do NOT skip the nap! I repeat, do not attempt to skip sleep with your toddler. It’s tempting to want to power through your Disneyland day, but you’ll pay for that skipped nap with tantrums and meltdowns!
There are several options for nap time with a toddler at Disneyland. Is your hotel within reasonable walking distance? Try returning to the hotel just before nap time. Or, find a quiet location using the tips in this article about avoiding the Disneyland meltdown.
My personal choice has been letting my toddler fall asleep in her stroller. A stroller nap is never quite as refreshing or long enough, but it’s better than nothing!
What Disneyland Attractions Are Best to Skip on One Day?
Your ideal Disneyland vacation should be longer than one day. But if you’re forced to stick to the single day, you’ll have to limit your time by eliminating some attractions from your schedule.
These are some of the attractions that you might want to consider skipping if you only have one day at Disneyland with a toddler.
Royal Hall – This popular Disney princess meet n’ greet location in the Fantasy Faire area has extremely long lines. In fact, your wait in line could be upwards of an hour.
Instead of waiting here, consider visiting Tinker Bell instead. The outdoor Pixie Hollow greeting location has a much quicker wait time.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – This makeover location is only for ticketed guests, which means your child has to be 3 years or older to participate. However, you and your toddler are still able to shop for princess attire and accessories inside.
Ask one of the Bibbibi Bobbidi Boutique Cast Members for a sprinkle of “pixie dust”. This freebie sprinkling of hair glitter is a fun treat for little ones!
Souvenir Shopping – While this might be a good option when your toddler naps, you’ll make better use of your time using Rider Switch during nap time. Choose to shop on an off-day or purchase Disney souvenirs before a vacation.