Our Happiest Place on Earth
When Mark and I started dating, our first long date was at Disneyland. We spent an entire twelve hours at the park. That was the first sign that he was the one :). While waiting in line for Indiana Jones, he asked at what age would I take my future-child to Disneyland. “Eight,” I declared. He laughed in disbelief.
Fast forward several years, married and with a one year old, we were burning to visit the park with Wes. He's so curious about the world, about how things work and he seems to have a natural affinity for “the mouse” – we had a hunch he would enjoy it. I wasn't kidding Mark, myself, or anyone else that I could wait until he turned eight! Wes had his first Disneyland experience at 14 months old.
DAY ONE - Arrival & later afternoon half-day
A few parent-friends swore by A Bug's Land and ToonTown for one year olds, so we started in California Adventure with a visit to A Bug’s Land and Heimlich's Chew Chew Train. Both were practically unnoticed by Wes so we went through the area quickly.
Wes walked down Hollywood Blvd. (he's a new walker so this was especially exciting for him) and we explored every gift and snack shop, bench, planter box, etc. on this street.
His favorite spot in California Adventure? The waterfall near the Grizzly Rapids. It was his first time seeing a waterfall and he was completely entranced. He could have watched it for hours!
DAY TWO - Full day
We spent the second day in Disneyland, starting with the character breakfast at Carnation Café. Wes loved Minnie Mouse (who you get to meet at the restaurant's entrance and you don't have to wait in line to see, in contrast to the rest of the park) and every character with the exception of poor Eeyore. Wes didn't understand why he had to wait to say hi to the characters. It was sad and cute at the same time...
Then we explored ToonTown, which was frantic and chaotic on a busy day. Regardless, Wes loved the cars and loved pretending to drive them. He was medium-interested in Mickey and Minnie’s houses and loved the spinning mobiles outside Goofy’s house. He was obsessed with the fountain and put up a fight when I wouldn't let him jump in.
We found a gem! A peaceful hidden spot where Wes catnapped under the Monorail, near the Matterhorn and Edelweiss Café/Snacks in Fantasyland. I definitely recommend stopping by here if your LO is overstimulated and needs a break.
Another quiet unknown spot is the nursing room off Main Street (more information about Baby Care Centers at the parks here). It's a clean and peaceful spot for a diaper change, refill on baby snacks and food, and most importantly to Wes, a toddler rocking chair that he enjoyed pushing back and forth for a good 20 minutes while we rested.
We let Wes lead the day for the most part, so a lot of time was spent doing things we don't usually do at the park, like watching ducks in the lake by the castle, inspecting every single item at gift shops, actually laying in a tub of stuffed-animal Chip and Dale's, I think we stopped to admire every single fountain and anything that had moving water... it's a totally different experience through a one year old's eyes. And we loved it!
At dusk, we rode It's A Small World and once again, Wes was entranced. It was his first big attraction and I think he did especially well because he was comforted in the Ergo baby, facing me.
DAY THREE - Checkout & morning half-day
We started when the park opened (and you can get access to the park one hour earlier if you stay in one of the Disneyland hotels) so by the time we finished riding what we wanted, Wes got a good nap in the hotel room and woke up in time for checkout. We hit the road and started our journey back to Malibu.
Since our third day was a Tuesday and the park was much quieter, we were able to ride all of these in half a day!
Peter Pan – I loved that the three of us could sit in one row and enjoy together.
The Carousel – I didn’t think he would love it but every time it stopped he got angry and commanded it to “GO!”
The Tiki Room – he was able to get up, dance and move around, which was a nice break for him.
Jungle Cruise – he didn't even mind when they fired the gun (we were sitting on the back of the boat)!
Alice In Wonderland – he loved the blacklight areas where the colors were especially vibrant.
Wes loved each of these so much, he cried when they ended and pleaded for them to “Go!!” That's our boy!
We spent two nights at a nearby hotel, which was the most relaxing way for us to visit the park. Wes doesn't nap well in his stroller so he napped in the room and it made the trip practically stress free.
Wearing Wes in the Ergo made getting on and off the rides easy and fast. He really didn't want to get off the rides, so it would have been a nightmare trying to take him off a ride when he's seriously resisting! Yikes!
Look for things off the beaten path. The waterfall, pushing his stroller down Hollywood Blvd., swimming in a sea of stuffed animals and rocking the chair in the nursing station, were some of his most favorite unexpected experiences that weren't rides.
If you’re really there for their experience, go with the flow and let them do most of the leading. They don't have to ride anything. Everything is new to them so just being there is a pretty wild experience. And I have to say that by letting him lead, we got to see the park through his eyes. It was one of the busiest times I've visited the park and regardless, it was definitely one of the most special.