The fact is, if you're considering taking your little one to Disneyland, only you will know if it's right for your child. Our son gets bored when at the zoo, loves stimulation, and is generally very happy. At one, he was already walking for three months, so the most complex part of the trip was his want to walk. While in the parks, he stayed in the stroller but he walked around whenever we were at the hotel.
First of all, even though we're from Southern California and could've just driven down for the day, we decided to stay at The Grand Californian Adventure Hotel for a few nights to make the days as smooth as possible. I couldn't have asked for a better hotel to stay at! It was incredibly convenient to the parks, allowing us to go in and out whenever our son needed to stretch his legs or whenever we wanted a little down time.
On Monday morning, we went to our first (out of three) Character Dining experience at Disney's PCH Grill at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. The hotel is located right across the street from The Grand Californian (about a five minute walk). Bailey has been watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for months now so he recognizes the characters. At the beginning of breakfast, before being seated, we got to take a picture with Mickey Mouse. He was a little unsure about the giant Mickey at first...definitely hesitant! However, once we were seated for breakfast, he started to really warm up to the experience. Pluto came by the table first and he played with Pluto's whiskers a little before going back to eating. His tune suddenly changed drastically once Minnie Mouse arrived at the table. I'm pretty sure it was love at first sight! His entire face lit up and he kept reaching out for her.
|Bailey and Minnie Mouse|
|Bailey and Mickey Mouse|
After the ride, Bailey fell asleep in his stroller. This is, of course, where having a grandparent along for the trip really comes in handy! My dad watched Bailey while Gwith and I went on the Roger Rabbit ride. It was a 30 minute long wait but we got lucky...when Gwith went to get fast passes for us, he found two that someone else had left. So we ended up getting on the ride straight away. When we got off, Bailey had just woken from his nap and was ready for a snack.
Side Tip: While Disneyland may say that you can't bring food into the park, security has no problem with you bringing in a couple of small snacks. We brought in cheerios and a clementine for Bailey.
|First time on Dumbo|
We didn't get to go on It's a Small World because it was closed while being refurbished for the holidays. I'm pretty sure he would've loved it because he loves music...but we'll have to try it another time!
Afterwards, we walked around the park and Bailey dosed for another nap. He took a very long nap this time and slept through our dinner at Cafe Orleans! During dinner, I was able to eat their salmon salad and have their french onion soup. I really enjoyed the soup, but out of our meals this trip, Napa Rose was definitely still my favorite.
After dinner, Gwith took my dad on a ride that neither of them had ever been on before and they knew absolutely nothing about...Hyperspace Mountain. That's right. Gwith had no idea it was rollercoaster! While they were on the ride, Bailey woke up from his nap and snacked while we waited. When the two of them got off the ride, they looked like they were in shock...and not feeling very well since they had just eaten dinner! I'm pretty sure that's the last time my dad lets Gwith talk him into a ride! Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel and went to the Storyteller Cafe, where Bailey ate dinner and I enjoyed a gluten free brownie for dessert.
The next morning, we went back to the Storyteller Cafe (located at our hotel) for our second Character dining experience with Chip n' Dale! This experience also included Pluto and some giant bear (who again, I personally found scary looking!). Because the characters at this experience aren't as popular, it was by far the least crowded of all three experiences!
I'm honestly not even sure how I can describe this experience. It was nothing short of magical. Bailey fell so in love with the two chipmunks...I'm actually convinced he would've taken them home with us if he could've! When Chip arrived at the table, Bailey was instantly drawn to him, giving him endless cuddles and kisses.
He liked the bear and Pluto as well, but nothing could compare to his affection for Chip and Dale! About ten minutes after Chip left, he came back for more cuddles...and then Dale came over to join! Before we knew it, Bailey was being tickled and cuddled by both of them and was laughing hysterically! He was over the moon by this experience and part of me wants to drive down to Disneyland on a monthly basis just so he can do this breakfast again and again!
As we were leaving the restaurant, Dale came running up to us to wave goodbye to Bailey and give him an "Honorary Disneyland Citizen" button. All in all, this dining experience rates a 10/10 because the characters were incredibly friendly and were able to spend ample time with the tables.
After breakfast, we headed through the hotel's private entrance to the California Adventure park. I've never been to this park before and truthfully, it became a quick favorite! The crowds were minimal and there were plenty of rides to go on with minimal wait times (less than five minutes!). While Bailey took his late morning nap, Gwith and I went on the Grizzly River Run! As a rollercoaster hater and a water ride fanatic, I was in love with this ride. It was a hot day too, so getting splashed with water was definitely very much appreciated! We didn't get soaked the first time on the ride...but Gwith got drenched when we back on in the late afternoon! So it's definitely a gamble!
Bailey didn't end up going on any rides at California Adventure. He was just enjoying strolling around the park...We did take him to meet Toy Story's Woody, which he did enjoy, although it was hitting 90 degrees outside and Bailey was far more interested in holding a cold water bottle than interacting! Who could blame him?
I truly think that's the best thing about California Adventure. It's much easier to relax and walk around without feeling claustrophobic or overwhelmed by crowds. Not too mention, the rides are great!
Gwith and I decided to go on the Radiator Springs Racers, which had an hour long wait, but also offers a Single Rider line with no wait. We went in the single rider line and managed to be put in the same car (just different rows). I had a lot of fun on this ride and told Gwith that as far as the drops were concerned, this was probably the max I could take! We also went on Soarin' (which we did at Disneyworld on on our honeymoon), and loved it.
For lunch, we headed back to the hotel and ate at Storyteller Cafe. Afterwards, Bailey walked around the hotel lobby and walkway outside the restaurant. He had a lot of fun waving at all of the people walking around and exploring the grounds! I already was pleased with the convenience of this hotel to the parks, but this solidified it. It was a great way to break up the day and let Bailey safely roam!
When we returned to the park, we went on a couple more rides and in the future, we definitely plan to take Bailey on Flik's Flyers and Heimlich's Chew Chew Train. We went on Heimlich's Chew Chew Train during the evening and while as adults, it's probably the most boring ride you could ever imagine, I believe it would be a great first ride for little ones. There is nothing scary (or one could argue, interesting) about this ride and it stays outdoors.
For dinner, we went to the Carthay Circle Restaurant, which was nice and fairly accommodating for my allergies, however, the meal I received was pretty simple once all of my dietary issues were taken into account. Napa Rose still wins by a landslide! That being said though, Disneyland and California Adventure are very accommodating for allergies and no matter what, you will find something you can eat.
|Us at Goofy's Kitchen|
For us, taking Bailey on this trip was a fantastic experience and definitely worth it! This time around, I'd say the rides were more for Gwith and I but the character dining experiences were a big win for all of us! That said, you are really the only one who can judge if this trip is right for your little one. If you can, I'd definitely recommend taking a grandparent along as a helping hand!
In summary, here's my ranking of character dining experiences and restaurants in general:
- Napa Rose at Grand Californian Adventure Hotel: great food & very accommodating; fine dining but still kid friendly.
- Storyteller Cafe at Grand California Adventure Hotel: If your little one doesn't care which character he/she is meeting, this is the friendliest and most personal experience you'll receive. The breakfast food was good as well. We also dined here for dinner and lunch and enjoyed all of our meals.
- PCH Grill at Paradise Pier Hotel: The breakfast buffet was wonderful and the characters were very friendly and personable.
- Cafe Orleans at Disneyland Theme Park: the food was decent (although I prefer Blue Bayou if you can get a reservation!)
- Carthay Circle Restaurant at California Adventure Theme Park: the design of the restaurant is an experience all in it's own and the food is enjoyable, as well as the drinks. This restaurant is definitely the least kid friendly of all the ones we visited. There was a definite vibe from some customers that they weren't happy a baby was in the restaurant, even though Bailey is very well behaved and this restaurant is located in a kid friendly theme park!
- Goofy's Kitchen at Disneyland Hotel: Honestly, I didn't even want to list this here because it's such a vast difference from the other five restaurants I listed. This was not an enjoyable character dining experience at all and the food was lackluster.
I hope this post helped in your decision about taking your little one to Disneyland for the first time! Remember to just relax and go with the flow! That will always make the experience a blast no matter what!