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The Best Ways to Experience Disneyland® Resort at Any Age

Discover the magical things to do at Disneyland® Resort with your family over and over again by visiting the parks at any age.

Fantasy Faire

Photo: As to Disney artwork/properties © Disney

The beauty of the Disneyland® Resort is that it offers something for all ages. Whether you’re riding “it’s a small world” for the fifth time with your toddlers or speeding around the Matterhorn Bobsleds with your teenagers, you’re going to have a blast. But planning around your kids’ ages when mapping out your day and choosing attractions is the best way to ensure your visit to Disneyland® Resort goes smoothly. (Read: fewer tantrums, more smiles.)

5 & UNDER

Best attractions: Disneyland® Resort has plenty of fun in store for the little ones. In Disneyland® Park, rides such as “it’s a small world”; Dumbo the Flying Elephant; the Enchanted Tiki Room, presented by Dole®; the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage; the Casey Jr. Circus Train; the King Arthur Carrousel; and the Storybook Land Canal Boats are guaranteed to keep small children smiling. Just about everything in Mickey’s Toontown is a safe bet. In Disney California Adventure® Park, try Flik’s Flyers, Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train, The Little Mermaid~Ariel’s Undersea Adventure and Mickey’s Fun Wheel.

The 5 and under age group is also a sweet spot for princess fun. Don’t miss the Fantasy Faire, where you can watch your favorite fairy tales come to life in an open-air tent.

Things to consider: This age group scares easily, so be prepared for when a ride that isn’t all warm fuzzies sends your little one into a fit of tears. Pirates of the Caribbean®, for instance, winds through dark caves filled with unsavory characters and the sound of cannons. In Disneyland® Park’s Fantasyland, many attractions feature characters and stories geared to this age group, but they can be surprisingly frightening to sensitive toddlers. Visit Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Peter Pan’s Flight and Alice in Wonderland with caution.

Timing: With young children in tow, you’re primed to avoid the parks’ busiest times. Little ones rise early, so you’ll have no trouble getting into the park as soon as the gates open. Break for an early lunch at 11 a.m., then hop back on the attractions before noon when everyone else is grabbing food. An hour or two later, you can head out for nap time or to lounge by the pool at the hotel.

Return to the park around 3 or 4 p.m. to catch Mickey’s Soundsational Parade in Disneyland® Park. If your kids are still raring to go, check out the fantastical World of Color show in Disney California Adventure® Park. Don’t be surprised if your kids don’t make it to the show after a full day of fun. You can always visit the parks again when they’re older to enjoy the nighttime attractions.

Mom and dad haven’t had enough? Disneyland® Resort Hotels offer contact information about vetted babysitters for hire. Just ask at the front desk, and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying another whirl on Space Mountain while the kids rest up for the next day of fun.

10 & UNDER

Best attractions: Disneyland® Resort is perfect for elementary school-aged kids. They are still filled with wonder and awe, so everything is exciting. Plus, most kids in this age group are typically tall enough to ride everything, are less fearful of big-kid rides and are more inclined to try new things.

Attractions that may have been too scary in the past, such as the Haunted Mansion, are just the right amount of spooky now. Roller coasters that were once too fast—like Space Mountain, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and the Radiator Springs Racers—now provoke giggles and squeals rather than tears. Autopia, where you can try your hand at driving a car, and Soarin’ Around the World are also big hits with kids 10 and under.

Things to consider: If your kids aren’t daredevils, they may find some rides too intense. Think twice before jumping in line for Indiana Jones™ Adventure and California Screamin’, the resort’s only roller coaster with an upside-down loop.

Radiator Springs Racers

Photo: As to Disney artwork/properties © Disney

Timing: Elementary school kids are used to rising at the crack of dawn. The added excitement of the Disneyland® Resort also makes it easy to get them up and at it, so just like the 5-and-unders, they can stick with the early-morning schedule and get a jumpstart on lines.

The big differences with older kids: they don’t nap, and they can stay up later. You’ll have more time in the park, so you’ll definitely be able to stay up for fireworks—and maybe even squeeze in a late-night ride or two when lines lull.

Taking time out of the park in the late afternoon is still a good idea to keep parents and kids from crashing. Schedule pool time in the late afternoon or hit a show like “Frozen—Live at the Hyperion” in Disney California Adventure® Park when everyone needs a pick me up.

For parents looking to spend some time on their own, Pinocchio’s Workshop offers childcare for ages 5 to 12 from 5 p.m. to midnight.

18 & UNDER

Best attractions: At the Disneyland® Resort, angsty teens tend to soften up and let loose in the company of Mickey Mouse. This age group loves to step back in time and re-experience the attractions they loved as kids, such as “it’s a small world” and Peter Pan’s Flight. An appreciation for kitsch—which you’ll find in the Enchanted Tiki Room, presented by Dole®—and for humor—which is what the Jungle Cruise is all about (bonus: teens will actually get the jokes this time)—is common among teens at Disneyland® Resort.

Of course, teens are all about the thrills, too. Indiana Jones™ Adventure, Space Mountain and California Screamin’ are sure to be on your teen’s list.

Things to consider: Many teenagers are interested in the history of the park. The Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps tour costs extra, but it’s a great way for your teen to learn more about the man behind the magic and see the parks in a new light.

Timing: Sleeping in, even while on vacation at the Disneyland® Resort, is probably on your teen’s agenda. (And let’s face it: They’re more pleasant to be around when they’re well-rested). While your teen snoozes, you can take advantage of the chance to sneak in the parks early to hit your favorite rides and take advantage of the Disney FASTPASS® Service later in the afternoon.

Meet up with your teen around 10 or 11 a.m. after they’ve had a late breakfast at the hotel. You’ll be able to push back lunch and dinner to avoid the most popular dining times. Then you can plan to stay until the park closes.

If keeping up with the night owls isn’t easy, you can always head back to the hotel for a nap in the afternoon and give your teens some time to explore on their own. But be sure to meet up later in the evening. There’s nothing more fun for a family than riding the Matterhorn Bobsleds again and again late at night.

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Marco Ruiz, AAA Travel Counselor, Monterey, Calif.

I love to suggest Italy and Spain because of the culture and the flair of the people–their fashions, language and way of life. They take time to enjoy life's pleasures. When you're there, you feel it, too.

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