Luna Park Sydney might just be the most gorgeously positioned amusement park in the world. Perched on the shorefront of Milson’s Point, the juxtapositioning of the old-world carnival colours against the stunning blue of Sydney Harbour makes it an incredible spot to visit, even if you’re not planning on actually riding anything.
While children and adults flock to the park to enjoy hair-raising rides, Luna Park is also an historical icon in Sydney, being listed on the State Heritage Register in 2010.
Whether rides are or aren’t your thing, Luna Park is a fascinating piece of Australian history. The fist Luna Park opened in St Kilda, Melbourne, in December 1912, with a second opening in Glenelg, South Australia, in 1930. The later, however, encountered push back from the locals, who thought the park was a haven for unsavoury types – as a result, the park was packed up and shipped to Sydney.
Sydney’s Luna Park was constructed at the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1935, and, once open, ran for nine-month seasons until 1972, when it was opened year-round. The park closed in mid-1979 following the infamous Ghost train fire, which killed six children and one adult.
The park has been partially demolished, renovated, re-opened and closed again several times since due to various problems – the most recent being the noise pollution complaints from locals surrounding the Big Dipper rollercoaster that caused the ride to be heavily restricted and, as a result, saw a drop in attendance that lead to the park’s closure in 1996.
After further redevelopment, the park re-opened in 2004 and has been open ever since.
In 2010 the Luna Park Face was listed as an item of national heritage by the National Trust of Australia, making it one two amusement parks in the world that are protected by government legislation; several of the buildings on the site are also listed on the Register of the National Estate and the NSW State Heritage Register: most notably Luna Park’s Coney Island Funnyland, which is the only operating example of a 1930s funhouse left in the world.
Coney Island was built in 1935, and although there have been some changes made over the years, the layout is almost identical to when it opened, including the rotating barrels, moving platforms, long slides and arcade games that line the walls.
I recently took the little Cheese to experience Luna Park for the first time and have some tips if you’re intending to go:
Luna Park Tips
Buy your tickets online
They are cheaper to buy from the Luna park website than in person at the park. You will also avoid the queues this way.
Look for special deals
Take a look for even better deals before you buy them directly from the park. For example, try Groupon, or Telstra and Optus perks. I received the best deal through Optus.
Adult accompanying rider tickets cost some serious money
If you’re not planning to buy an adult ticket for yourself but your child isn’t tall enough to ride everything on their own, you will need to buy an accompanying adult ticket. These are not available for discount purchase online at all – they must be bough at the park, full price, and they are EXPENSIVE! They are also only valid for rides where accompanying the riders who are too short to ride by themselves – so you can’t ride without them, either.
Pack your own food
There is basic food available at the park, like hot dogs, burgers and chips kinda stuff, and they are expensive. I suggest packing healthier food for lunch and bringing it with you to save money.
Prepare for the weather
There is very little shade in much of the park, particularly in the little kids’ area out the back. Pack wide brimmed hats and plenty of sunscreen.
This is my mantra for theme parks in general. Go as early as possible when the queues are shorter and the sun isn’t as hot.
Be aware of height restrictions
Make sure your kid is big enough to get the most out of the cost of park entry. You can find a list of the height requirements for each ride here
Know how much money it’s going to cost if you buy tickets at the park
Unlimited Rides Pass – Yellow (130cm+) $52 (vs $48 online)
Unlimited Rides Pass – Green (106-129cm) $42 (vs $38 online)
Unlimited Rides Pass – Red (85-105cm) $22 (vs $22 online)
Accompanying Adult – Green $42
Accompanying Adult – Red $22
The cheapest day to go is Mondays
During the school holidays this is an excellent deal for school kids
Mini Money Mondays – Yellow (130cm+) $40
Mini Money Mondays – Green (106-129cm) $30
Mini Money Mondays – Red (85-105cm) $16
Other ticket options A Coney Island Pass ($12) lets you access just Coney Island all day. Coney Island was our kids’ favourite of the whole day, and is blissfully indoors!
How to get there
Luna park is so easy to reach by public transport. Catch the ferry or train directly to the park, or, if you have to drive, park in their car park. Either way, there is very little walking involved, so great for little ones.
Luna Park 1 Olympic Dr, Milsons Point NSW 2061 Hours: The days and hours Luna Park opens varies. Please check the website before going. lunaparksydney.com
The hot ticket at Disney California Adventure Park this year is the brand new stage show, Frozen – Live at the Hyperion.
The show is exactly what you would imagine it to be: a very closely followed adaptation of the movie Frozen, performed live on stage by excellent performers on some seriously stunning staging.
The show is one hour in duration (the movie is 1 hr 49 minutes) and as a result there are small cuts in places – a few minor characters are either missing or have their parts shortened significantly, but the changes I noticed the most were to take away anything remotely “scary”.
As a result, the show is billed as “suitable for all ages” – and I have to agree, it was extremely mild and even my scaredy cat Cheese who refuses to see the movie at the moment because she deems it “too scary”, didn’t find a single moment of the show anything other than thoroughly entertaining.
As per all of Disney’s productions, Frozen – Live At The Hyperion is of the highest standard. I was particularly impressed with their Elsa, considering the difficulty of the song Let It Go, (which she nailed, by the way).
The set design for the show is incredibly impressive, particularly the scenes from the sisters’ childhood, where the props are made larger than usual to make the “child” Anna and Elsa really look small, even though they are played by adults.
Even with the show significantly shortened from the original movie, it seemed a perfect length, with all the major songs and moments covered beautifully. It was also a great length for all of the small children in the audience, who were happily belting out the lyrics to each number and wiggling joyfully throughout the show.
Tips on how to see the show:
As the show is so popular, I advise getting tickets using the Disney FASTPASS Service, which provides first-come, first-served tickets to same day Frozen – Live at the Hyperion shows.
Tickets are available when the park opens at the Disney FASTPASS Service machines located to the left of the Hyperion Theater. Tickets are distributed for the first show of the day via the machine until all the tickets run out. After the first show is sold out, tickets for the second show are made available, and so forth. Guests are not able to choose a specific time show.
At the FASTPASS machine, insert your park admission ticket and you will be given a Disney FASTPASS ticket printed with your Frozen – Live at the Hyperion showtime and recommended arrival time. Pay attention to the suggested time and turn up as early as possible. My ticket suggested I arrive 40 minutes before the show started. We arrived 30 minutes before showtime and we were among the last people seated at the end of the queue.
If you have a stroller with you, be very aware of where it is parked when you go into the show. Our stroller was taken from us and parked by a Disney cast member and we didn’t see where it was taken. As a result, at the end of the show it took us a very long time to search for our stroller among a sea of about a hundred or so.
Get more information on Frozen – Live At The Hyperion and the latest show times here.
Disneyland is magical for adults and kids alike. It’s such an incredibly designed place that keeps the magic of childhood well and truly alive, through rides, entertainment and live characters. Disneyland is also a place that requires a lot of planning to get the most out of. I hope my tips will help you plan your perfect Disneyland holiday.
What age is best for Disneyland?
Honestly, any age! Disneyland caters to all ages from 0-100 as long as you love Disney. I’ve been as an adult without kids, with a 2 year old, and most recently with my almost 5-year-old. Each time is different but equally enjoyable.
What time of year should we go?
Disneyland is gorgeous to visit all-year round. They have special seasonal events around Halloween and Christmas in particular, making these two times of year a really special time to visit. Check out the crowds at the time of year you’re considering visiting at this website – if you can visit during a slower time, I would suggest doing so. We have visited twice in June or July and both times it has been very hot and very busy.
Where should we stay?
There are so many choices! Disneyland have their own hotels that are on the park grounds and give you special benefits – the biggest two being early entry into the parks every day (an hour before general admission) and a special entry to Disney California Adventure Park through Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa so you’ll never have to line up. While the Disneyland hotels also offer other great features that carry the Disney magic to all areas of your stay, they are also the pricey accomodation option – so if you’re on a budget you’ll want to consider staying at a “good neighbor” hotel instead.
We have stayed at two different “good neighbor” hotels, the Howard Johnson Hotel and Water Park, and the Carousel Inn and Suites. Both were half the price of the Disneyland hotels and had excellent locations – directly across the road from Disneyland, making our commute each morning a mere 5 minutes walk.
How long should we stay for?
We have stayed for three days both times we visited, and this was the perfect amount for us. We spent one day each at Disneyland and California Adventure park, and one day hopping between the two. If you buy tickets for three or more consecutive days, you get a magic morning included, where you can enter Disneyland an hour early (7am!) on a designated day.
What’s a “magic morning”?
Magic mornings are the days when you can enter the park at 7am instead of 8am, which is when the parks usually open. You need to have a 3+ day pass to be able to use a magic morning early entry. Magic mornings are held on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays. It’s recommended that you arrive an hour and a quarter before the regular park opening. We didn’t have magic mornings with our trip this time around, and we went to California Adventure park that day instead – which turned out to be a brilliant choice as the park was pretty much empty – everyone was at Disneyland using their magic morning!
What tickets should we get?
You have a choice between single park passes, which allow you entry into one park per day, or “park hoppers” which let you go back and forth between the parks. If you buy multi day passes (which is the cheapest way to buy tickets), you will have to choose between the two types, you can’t mix and match. With older kids, I’d recommend park hoppers, particularly if you will be there three days. I found a full day at each park was perfect, plus that extra day to jump between the two and finish up a few things we missed or wanted to do again.
I always advise buying tickets at least a few days in advance. While the queues have always been short to buy tickets when we’ve arrived, it just cuts out one extra step to get into the park. When you buy a ticket online you can choose an eTicket which you then present on your phone (or printed out) at the gates for entry.
What time of day should I arrive?
The parks open at 8am (with the exception of magic mornings when it opens at 7 if you have valid tickets). My best advice on getting the most out of a Disneyland day is to arrive well before the park opens. It can take quite a while to get through security, and also through the gates. When you use your tickets for the first time, you will have a photo taken and linked online to your pass, and you will need to sign the tickets they give you – all making the entry process that much longer.
We enjoyed the early mornings the most as there were the fewest people in the park, so lines were shorter.
How do I plan a day at Disneyland?
My best advice is to plan to do all the rides first thing in the morning. As soon as the gates open, go straight to the rides you want to do the most that are the most popular rides, and either do the rides immediately, or get a FASTPASS (see more below) to return and do the ride later without having to line up to do so.
We spent the first three hours just doing all of the rides, then took a break for lunch and spent the afternoons watching shows, meeting characters, shopping, eating ice cream, and watching the parades.
What is a FASTPASS?
A FASTPASS lets you skip the queue for the most popular rides at the park. Look for the FASTPASS Distribution sign near the entrance of an attraction, check the Return Time displayed on the sign, insert your Disneyland Resort admission ticket into the FASTPASS machine and take with you the FASTPASS ticket it spits out, printed with your return time. Then return to the ride during your time window at any time, show your FASTPASS ticket to the Cast Member at the entrance to the ride, and enjoy a minimal wait. Note: You can only have one FASTPASS at a time.
What are some tips for watching the parades?
The parades are incredibly popular, with people staking out their front row spots over 45 minutes before the parade begins. If you watch carefully around the park from an hour before the parades start, Disneyland staff will begin marking out the areas for crowd control. Grab a spot on a bench or on the gutter edge and either all sit with some snacks and wait, or leave one adult there while the rest of the family entertain themselves in other ways while you’re waiting.
The parades wind their way from the back of the park to the front, so if the start time is 4:30pm, it will reach around the front of the park around 4:45-4:50pm.
Can we take food and drink into the park?
Yes you can. Take a large refillable water bottle – you can refill with water at any drink station through out the parks. You can also ask for cups of ice water at any restaurant/fast food outlet. You are allowed to take whatever food and snacks you like into the park, which is a great way to cut down on costs. We didn’t take many snacks with us as we were staying at a very basic hotel with nowhere to keep food. We ate park food all day and didn’t find it overly expensive.
Should I take a stroller?
If your child fits in one, absolutely yes. Many hours of walking will tired even older children. There is stroller parking at every ride, and every restaurant/facility is stroller-accessible. I also like having a stroller to put our stuff in, like water bottles and snacks, and the canopy provides much needed shade during the heat.
Should I use the Disneyland photographers?
Personally, I always utilise the Disneyland photography service, called PhotoPass. For $39 a day you can download all of the images taken by the Disneyland photographers. The photographers are scattered around both parks all throughout the day and take some really great quality photos – with the entire family in them! I love that I can get out whole family in the same shot with zero effort, and I also like to leave my giant SLR camera at home and just take my point and shoot with me, knowing the Disneyland photographers will have their excellent cameras to snap portraits for me that save me lugging around my behemoth for the day.
When getting your photo taken, you can either download the Disneyland app to your phone and present the app to the photographer and add the photos to your account, or the photographer will give you a small card with a bar code that you can then add into your account yourself later on.
You can take the cards to a Disneyland PhotoPass store to buy the images at the park, or log into the Disneyland PhotoPass website later to buy and download them.
How do I keep on top of what’s happening during the day?
This trip I discovered the excellent (free) Disneyland app. It allowed me to see the wait times on every ride, has a map with a compass so you know where you are, and also shows what characters are where for meet and greets, where food outlets and bathrooms are, and times for entertainment such as shows and parades.
How do I meet characters at Disneyland?
Characters roam around the parks all day. Some have designated spots and times that you can find either on the app or by asking at Guest Services inside the park. The core characters such as Minnie, Mickey and friends and the princesses have designated places where they can be found.
Others simply roam and you have to be lucky to spot them, such as Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter, and Mary Poppins. If you want an easy way to meet lots of the characters all together, book in for a Character Breakfast. Our faves are Ariel’s Grotto, which has all of the princesses some around to each table, and Plaza Inn, which has Minnie Mouse, plus core Disney faves like Donald Duck, Hook and Chip & Dale, Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore.
How do I meet the Disney princesses?
You can meet three princesses at any time of day at the Fantasy Faire inside Fantasyland, Disneyland. The princesses change regularly so you won’t know which ones will be there until you go inside.
The princesses are in seperate rooms and you walk around to meet them one at a time. You can also happen upon princesses outside Cinderella’s Castle – we found Aurora this way. If you want to meet the majority of the princesses in one go, the only way is to book in for a character breakfast at Ariels Grotto. When we visited in 2014, met Ariel, Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora and Belle here. If you want to meet Jasmine, Merida or Tiana, look for them roaming around the park.
What about Anna and Elsa?
The sisters are located inside the Animation Academy in California Adventure Park, and are the only princesses you meet together. We really enjoyed meeting Anna and Elsa – they have a great repartee together, making the sisters a really fun duo to chat with.
Is there any thing else “Frozen”?
Yes, there is a fantastic new live “Frozen” show in the Hyperion Theatre in California Adventure Park. the show goes for an hour, and runs several times a day. You can get a FASTPASS to the show – tickets are distributed outside the theatre in Hollywood Lane.
I would advise returning to line up for the show 40 minutes before start time to guarantee a decent seat. The show is excellent, and does a fantastic job of telling the Frozen story minus the scary bits.
What else should I know about that’s awesome at Disneyland?
My almost five-year old particularly enjoyed being turned into a princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and taking part in jedi training at the Trials of the Temple show.
Do you have any questions about how to plan the perfect Disneyland holiday?
One of the most unexpectedly fun activities we tried at Disneyland this year was the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple show. It’s a really clever idea. Kids aged 4-12 can sign up for “jedi training”. They then take part in a little show that runs 6 times a day, dressed up as jedis with light sabres, getting to live out their Star Wars fantasy to battle the forces of evil.
The show runs six times during the day – when we visited the times were 10:30am, 11:35am, 12:40pm, 2:25pm, 3:30pm and 4:35pm. When registering for the show you can choose the time you want. The staff will ask your child a few questions to make sure they know what they’re in for, and won’t freeze up of freak out on stage.
After registering we went on our merry way and returned at the time specified – around 30 minutes before show time. The kids had their names marked off and were taken into a group and given their special jedi robes. There were a lot of spots available from kids who didn’t arrive in time for the show, so at least 10 kids off the wait list were accepted into the group.
Once the group was complete, the kids were whisked off for some jedi training while the adults were guided to the nearby Galactic Grill stage, where the show would shortly commence.
The stage is quite wide and there are a lot of kids in each group, so it’s hard to know where the best spot is to place yourself to see your own child. I chose the front middle and lucky for me, Cheese was placed directly in front of me for the show.
The show kids off with the younglings entering in a group, and tells the story of a woman who wants to be a jedi – it’s really a story of her jedi journey with the kids as the supporting cast. She guides the kids through basic jedi training moves, just in time for the entrance of the villains – Darth Vader and a new enemy. The kids face off against the villains one-on-one on stage – surprisingly none of the kids freaked out either at the masked villains or the attention, so I’m guessing they were prepared for what was going to happen backstage.
The show is 26 minutes long, a perfect length both for the kids involved and the audience watching. It was a lot of fun for families to participate and also to watch. For those involved, it was the highlight of their day.
Need to know:
Participants must be between 4 and 12 years of age.
All participants must be present at the time of registration.
Register at the kiosk located outside the exit to Star Wars Launch Bay.
Registration begins when Disneyland Park opens for the day–including Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning.
Availability is limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
After spending a gorgeous time having a princess transformation at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (BBB) on board the Disney Fantasy, my daughter asked if she could also try the BBB when we visited Disneyland. I thought it would be a good chance to try and compare both experiences, so agreed and booked her in.
The BBB in Disneyland is located inside Cinderella’s castle in Fantasyland. It has a really cute shopfront that you can enter and just shop for princess dresses and accessories if you like. The boutique is at the back of the shop and is an absolute hive of activity. I had read that the boutique was popular, but was not prepared for how popular!
When we arrived for our appointment there was a mix up with our time slot – we had been booked in for a 1:30pm session, but when we arrived were told it was actually 1:50pm, which wasn’t a big deal, we were happy to look around the shop while we waited.
The fairy godmothers were obviously running behind when we visited as we didn’t get into the boutique to being the princess transformation until well after 2pm, closer to 2:30pm.
This time we chose the “Castle Package” that included the works – dress, accessories, make-up, hairstyle and also a photo package taken in a little room with Cinderella’s carriage and express entry into the Royal Hall to meet the princesses. The photos and express entry into the Royal Hall are only available with this package, which is why we chose it over using an old dress and just getting the make up. Full details on packages and prices at the end of the post.
Cheese chose Tiana this time, with the adorable wand and crown included in the package. She badly wanted the gloves too (“Because Tiana in the movie wears gloves!”) and I caved and gave into the gloves as well.
After choosing her dress, Cheese was led to a changing room that magically had her new outfit and accessories ready for her to change into.
Next it was into the chair and the transformation begun. We had two fairy godmothers working on Cheese at one stage, I assume because they were so far behind in their appointments.
While our fairy godmother was very sweet and did a great job, I did feel that the transformation was rushed in comparison to the one on the Disney Fantasy. Again I think this was due to the staff being really behind in their appointment schedule.
After the transformation was complete, we waited to have portraits taken in front of and inside the Cinderella carriage. This option is only available with the Castle Package. Photos in the package are prints only – the digital negatives need to be bought separately.
With the photo shoot finished, we waited outside to receive the prints, and for our fairy godmother to escort us into the Royal Hall.
The BBB was a lot busier and chaotic than I was expecting after the peaceful atmosphere on the cruise. I am assuming it’s because the BBB in Disneyland has to cater to a lot more “princesses” at a time. The staff were all extremely sweet and kind, but we did feel like we spent a lot of time waiting, and then had the transformation rushed through.
We had some issues with the hairstyle too, unfortunately. The first time Cheese had the princess bun hair style aboard the Disney Fantasy she kept it in for the next three days until it was starting to go a bit gross and we had to bribe her to take it out – this time, it was tied up too tightly and gave her a headache, so sadly we had to take it out a few hours later (I also thought it was a bit wonky, but I’m such a picky perfectionist!).
After the transformation, we were escorted into the Royal Hall to meet the princesses. I think this was my daughter’s favourite part of the experience. There is always a long wait for the hall, so it was really nice to be escorted to a special entrance and skip the queue. The Disney staff all gave her a special reception as she arrived, bowing to the “newly crowned princess” and really giving her the royal treatment.
Inside the Royal Hall, three princesses were waiting to meet us. It can be any three at the one time, and we met Snow White, Cinderella and Ariel.
The princesses were all sweet and friendly, especially Cinderella.
The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is definitely a special experience for little girls. My daughter had a wonderful time and felt so special, that it was definitely worth the money for us. Would we get it again? Probably not the full package now we’ve done it once, but definitely the hair and make-up.
The Crown Package
Starting at $59.95 (plus tax), this package features hairstyling, makeup, princess accessories and nail polish.
Princess sash and cinch bag
Hair Style Choices
Girls have the choice of one of 3 hairstyles:
The Courtyard Package
Starting at $99.95 (plus tax), this package features hairstyling, makeup, princess accessories and more.
Princess sash and cinch bag
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique t-shirt
Hair Style Choices
Girls have the choice of one of 3 hairstyles:
The Castle Package
For $199.95 (plus tax), this package features choice of hair style, makeup, princess gown, accessories and more.
Princess sash and cinch bag
Princess gown of choice
The Castle Package also comes complete with a portrait package, courtesy of Disney PhotoPass Service—which includes a photo taken near Cinderella’s carriage and assorted prints presented in a themed folder.
Hair Style Choices
Girls have the choice of one of 3 hairstyles:
The imperial experience continues as newly transformed Castle Package princesses star in a personally escorted mini processional from Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique to the ever-enchanting Fantasy Faire.
Upon arrival, newly crowned VIPs will receive priority entry to the Royal Hall, where some of the most beautiful and beloved Disney Princesses—from timeless tales like The Little Mermaid, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty—eagerly await! Have those autograph books and cameras ready!
The Disney Frozen Package
Starting at $164.95 (plus tax), this package features an Anna or Elsa hairstyle—complete with a braided hairpiece. You’ll even receive sparkling snowflake hair accessories!
Anna or Elsa hairstyle with braided hairpiece
Sparkling snowflake hair accessories
Anna or Elsa costume
Princess sash and cinch bag
12-inch Olaf plush
Please note that this package is only available with Anna or Elsa hairstyling.
The Disney Frozen Crown Package
Starting at $114.95 (plus tax), this package is perfect for Guests who already own an Anna or Elsa dress.
Anna or Elsa hairstyle with braided hairpiece
Sparkling snowflake hair accessories
Princess sash and cinch bag
12-inch Olaf plush
The Knight Package
Starting at $19.95 (plus tax), this package includes hairstyling, along with a sword and shield. Please note that all prices are subject to change without notice.
How to Book a Reservation
Reservations at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique can be made up to 60 days in advance and are highly recommended. To book your appointment with a Fairy Godmother-in-training, please call (714) 781-STYLE or (714) 781-7895.
Guests must be between 3 and 12 years of age in order to participate and must be accompanied by an adult (18 years of age or older).
Transformations take 30 minutes to an hour. Note: we were there for well over an hour with lots of waiting around in between everything.
We recently did the unthinkable — Disneyland with our 2.5 year old. And you know what? It was awesome. Hectic, crazy and overwhelming, but also totally magical. We had the benefit of the amazing Gina of In The Mouse House to book and organise the trip for us, and help us enjoy an easy and fun family vacation. We had so much fun that I wanted to share my top tips (a lot of these are thanks to Gina!) for getting the most out of Disneyland with a toddler.
1. Book a hotel near Disneyland. It does NOT have to be a Disney hotel. They are a lot pricier, and there are so many other budget but good quality hotels literally right across the road from the hotel entrance. We stayed at the Carousel Inn and Suites for a fraction of the cost and could not have been happier with our decision. Note: We did not use the pool, only because we didn’t have time in our schedule. If you’re traveling with older kids, choose a hotel like the Howard Johnson, which is a budget hotel with an amazing pirate ship playground in their pool.
2. Have a Disney vacation planner like Gina book the trip for you. Gina, as an authorised Disneyland travel agent, booked our hotel, park tickets, character dining (and could have booked more, like flights, if we’d needed it) at no cost to us. She also wrote us a day-by-day itinerary of how to best manage Disneyland with a toddler. For people who haven’t been before and have no knowledge of which rides are suitable and popular for different ages, this is an absolute must to take the stress out of each day.
3. Plan your time of year wisely. We went just before peak season, and every day the parks were absolutely jam packed with people by midday. Do not, unless you are totally insane, go during high season. Disneyland has a page on their site with details on the best times of year to go.
4. Plan each day. Our itinerary took the work out of it for me, and meant that we already knew which rides were suitable for our toddler, and in which order we should hit them up before the crows got too bad. E’s favorites were Cars Land in California Adventure Park (particularly the life-sized and moving Lightening McQueen and Mater) and Fantasyland in Disneyland. Her absolute favorite rides were the spinning tea cups and flying Dumbo. She wasn’t a fan of any ride that went through tunnels as she thought they were scary. High and fast spinning things, no problem.
5. Alternate lining up and riding with your partner. As the day went on and the crowds grew, there were huge lines for every ride. If your toddler is like mine, you’ll want to have one person lining up for the next ride while the other person is taking the child on the previous ride.
6. Arrive super early. You’ll enjoy the park the most even though it might be hard to fathom getting up that early for a theme park. How early? If you buy a three-day park pass, you get one “magic morning” included, where you get to enter the park an hour before the rest of the general public. The days we went, opening time was 8am, and magic hour was 7am. Before entering the park you need to go through security and line up in front of the turn styles, so arrive even earlier – at least 15 minutes if not half an hour earlier, especially for your magic morning hour. Seeing the park with almost no-one in it is eerie and peaceful at the same time. And yes, the only time in your parenting life you will refer to 7am as the “magical hour”.
7. Want to meet Anna and Elsa? They’re the current hot ticket, and we used our magic morning hour to arrive at the park at 6:30am and line up at the turn styles so that at 7am when the gates opened, were were able to walk (ok, run) to their “house” in Fantasyland and be first in line to meet them. Anna and Elsa were thankfully punctual and greeted guests from 7:05am, which meant that by 7:10am, we had met them and were on to the rides, while the queue behind us was already massive. Without a strategy like this, you will wait around two hours to meet Anna and Elsa.
8. Book character dining if your kid absolutely HAS to meet certain characters. We had dinner at Ariel’s Grotto and met all of the Disney princesses. We also breakfasted with Minnie and friends. It was such a wonderful experience for little E to meet her favorite characters in a setting like this — no lining up, just casual chatting and playing with the characters. It’s worth noting here that the character interactions were beyond my expectations. You expect the staff to be good with kids, but they were not just good, they were exceptional. E froze up each tim she saw one of her favorites come to life, and every single character took the time to chat with her and draw her out of her shell by asking her cute questions about her outfit, or a toy she was holding. It was the best three days of her life thus far.
9. Eat early or late. The best times to eat at a Disney restaurant are before 11am or after 2pm. During the middle of the day they get quite busy. The food at all the restaurants is pretty average, so I would also suggest bringing your own food if possible.
10. Take a break during the day. After your early morning, get your hand stamped and leave for a break or nap during the middle of the day.
11. Make time for the parade. It’s magical for kids to see (Gina advised us that near the It’s A Small World ride was a great vantage point for the parade, and she was totally right!). Disney has just added a Frozen float to the parade, so if you didn’t get a chance to meet Anna and Elsa (or didn’t fancy the line/early morning) you can still see them in the parade.
12. Use the “ride swap” for any rides you want to do that your kid is too small for. This means getting a fast pass when you get to the park (which tells you what time to return so you don’t have to line up), then, after you return during your time slot, one of you collects a ride swap from the attendants at the front of the queue and has the ride, while the other watches the child (our favorite was the Indiana Jones ride). Afterwards, the person who rides gives the ride swap pass to the other adult, who can then jump the queue. Yippee! Note: We tried to do to do this for the Star Tours ride, but when Alec got to the front and asked for the pass, they’d run out, so this is not a fool-proof plan.
13. Plan to spend one day at California Adventure Park and at least one at Disneyland. We didn’t do the park hopper tickets as we thought E was too little (and we were right! One park was enough per day for her.), but we did allow for two days in Disneyland so we could watch all the shows, take breaks, meet the characters, and not feel rushed. This was a great plan as we felt like we were able to see everything without rushing around like crazy.
14. Watch the shows! The calibre of the Disney performers is so high. Even the short musical performances are performed by extremely talented staff. Our particular favorites were the Aladdin mini show and the new Mickey and the Magical map show which featured several of the Disney princesses.
14. Get a PhotoPass when you enter a park. There are photographers all over the park who will take your photo with characters or in front of scenic points like the castle. Each time you’re getting a photo taken by one of the Disney photographers, if you give them your pass, all of your photos will be collected in the one place to buy at the end of your trip. They’re expensive, but if you use them a lot it’s worth the money to get your whole family in every picture.
15. Bring or hire a stroller. There’s a lot of walking and having the stroller gives kids a resting place throughout the day. You can park strollers out the front of the rides so no need to worry about where to leave it.
16. Feel the magic. The only way to really enjoy Disneyland is to ditch your usual cynicism and enjoy the best showmanship on the planet. Disney puts on a performance like absolutely no other — something even non-Disney-lovers like my husband can appreciate if they want to.