Our trip to the The Magic Kingdom was at 23 months. I debated whether to take Kota here at such a young age because it seemed to have nothing he was interested in (cue long lines and large crowds) except for Mickey! I don’t regret it one bit however because they are only little for so long and I wanted to look back on our Disney photo ops with an audible “aww”. I got exactly what we came for, much needed uncle and auntie time combined with the must have Mickey pictures!
Being originally from Southern California I’ve been on all of the rides in the park multiple times yet it is still magical walking under the train bridge and on to main street. Sleeping Beauty’s castle still feels a bit eerie and the Tiki room is still relishing little ears with the classics. Having worked in Downtown Disney House of Blues for 5 years I used to go and ride the train around the park to relax on stressful days. Crazy… I know, but admission was included with your employment as a park partner and I took full advantage.
We arrived at Disney, Uncle Joe & Aunt Suzi in tow just as soon as the gates opened. I did my research and found it was best to head to Fantasyland immediately if you have children. We hit up the classic Peter Pan’s flight as our first ride, which already had a 30 minute wait time. I could not wrap my head around the insane the amount of people in the park. It was the summertime and a Pixar event was opening, so I recommend Disney during the offseason if you can. Be prepared and really decide what you want out of the day ahead of time. For me, it was a few classic photos and things I knew my toddler would enjoy, such as:
- Tarzan’s Tree House: I might have carried him a bit on this, but there is so much to touch and see for toddlers as you make the climb up.
- The marching bands: He was in love with the classic marching band. We actually followed them around the park for about an hour. Kids want what they want, you know?!
- Dumbo’s Flight: He was into this one as well, however the wait was a bit long at that point in the day & nearing nap time, but we made it.
- Sleeping Beauty’s Castle: Dark and scary just how I remembered it! He was a bit spooked but really interested in the scenes that were illuminated in the walls, just watch out for the one part where the goblin jumps up at you. Scared me too!
- Toon Town & Mickey’s House: Note to parents, there are what seems like a lot of “play cars” in the area, however this is ground zero for toddler meltdowns. Kids are on the cars, don’t want to share, parents begging children that it’s time to give Jimmy a turn, etc. Just be forewarned! The character houses are the best because they are basically like a giant maze of things to look at and climb on, all toddler friendly and forward moving!
The highlight of the day was MICKEY! Kids and their faves… If you get there early there is Mickey front and center close to the magic shop on mainstreet and you can get that coveted picture. But, you guessed it, there’s a line for this too! I was lucky to have taken Kota’s Aunt & Uncle (So. Cal residents) to help entertain Kota while we waited in line for things. I mean even adults hate waiting in lines, so just because we are at Disney doesn’t mean that a toddler is going to respond well. I am all for teaching patience, but we bought the tickets knowing he was going to crap out mid day…. and boy did he! One small meltdown and a belated nap later, we hit one more ride and left.
Looking for that coveted nap spot? They are hard to find with so many people in the park! I found several fellow napping parents in the path connecting Fantasyland to Frontierland. There are also some quiet spots if you swing around the back of the park by Splash Mountain. Lots of shade and not a lot of people makes that area a great nap zone too!
In hindsight, I wish we had stayed at the park hotels because I love being able to go back to a hotel and just chill (toddler moms relish in their chill time!) Kota could have cared less about the rides, but he loved Mickey and the marching band. Disneyland trips at this age are really for us parents because we love the kind of magic you see when small children experience things straight out of their imagination.
Tips & Insights:
Skip renting a stroller unless your kid does the stroller thing, mine doesn’t and it just became a glorified purse holder. Plus the stroller place seemed a little on the slow side even though there were only 3 people in line with us.
Sunscreen (really sunscreen everywhere, but Disney especially!)
Travel light: Even though it might not feel heavy when you set out, your toddler will want to be picked up, over and over again. You will wish your backpack wasn’t so full, trust me!
Bring snacks & water, but admit to yourself the temptation of the food will be too much. Splurge for the classics, like a Dole Whip from the stand in front of the Tiki Room or the classic Main Street Plaza Ice Cream Parlor.
Write down where you parked. I know, I know… you aren’t that dumb, but trust me on this! After a long day all the characters and colors look the same. I’m not going to tell you how I know this but just learn from my mistakes (or Aunt Suzi’s)!
Next time we make these homemade Mickey Ears! Clearly, mine will be Maleficent & Kota’s will be Captain America (I know, that’s Marvel, but he doesn’t!)