Sunday, November 20, 2016

Our One Year Old's First Trip to Disneyland

Before taking our one year old, Bailey, to Disneyland, I did A LOT of research. I read every blog post and every forum. Stories of other parents who took their one years old and stories of other parents who said that you should never take your child until they're at least three or even five!

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.

Napa Rose
On Sunday, my father and I drove down with my son, and my husband, who was busy at our restaurant for the day, drove down late to meet us. Our first night, we ate at Napa Rose, the hotel's fine dining restaurant. Upon arrival, we waited in the lounge for our table to be ready and we let Bailey walk around. Because we're restaurant owners, he's so comfortable walking around restaurants in general...maybe a little too comfortable! He walked off to each individual table waiting in the lounge, stopped, and waved. What can I say, he's a people person! Being gluten-free (and having a list of many other allergies), I always worry that I will have trouble finding food. My son is gluten-free as well. At Napa Rose, we had absolutely no problem and had a delicious meal. Bailey, who's tastes are ever changing, had gluten-free spaghetti with marinara sauce and cheese. He gobbled it down and enjoyed himself immensely. He also shared some of my dad's short rib and my lamb. When he started to get ancy, Bailey occupied himself by flirting with two women at the table across from us.

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
After that, he was chasing after all the characters, including Stitch (who I personally find a bit scary!), and photo bombing other peoples photos with Daisy Duck! What can I say? He was a bit too quick for us sometimes! On the way out, we stopped by to see Mickey Mouse again and this time, he was having a wonderful time interacting with him. As far as Character Dining experiences go, I'd rate Disney's PCH Grill a 9/10. The food was great and the characters were a lot of fun to interact with. They truly spent as much time as they could at each table, despite being a very busy restaurant. The only reason I can't give this experience a 10/10 is because the next one stole the show for us!

Bailey and Mickey Mouse
After breakfast, we walked to Disneyland and went to the Winnie the Poo ride. This is where it was definitely my mistake. I've never been on it before and went off of recommendations online saying little ones will like it. Bailey was scared of the dark on the ride, as well as the scary noises. I would not recommend this ride at all at this age unless your child isn't phased by these things. Gwith and I kept clapping and saying "Yay!" throughout the ride to try to keep him calm. He never full on cried because of this but he definitely wasn't happy.

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
After Bailey munched on some cheerios, we took him to Mickey's House to meet Mickey Mouse once again. While waiting in line, Bailey enjoyed the cartoon they played on the screen. He was even giggling at parts! He had a wonderful time playing with Mickey Mouse again for the photos. We were all hungry afterwards but lunch was the only meal I did not make reservations for. I wasn't sure what Bailey's schedule would look like during the day and wanted to play lunch by ear. We stopped at Redd Rockett's Pizza Port. I had read online they had gluten-free pizza and gluten-free pasta. Unfortunately, they did not have the pasta. Bailey ended up having his first taste of junk food by eating a slice of my pizza! It's not something I'd normally do but unfortunately, without a reservation in Disneyland, you're not left with much options. He did eat a banana as well. After lunch, we went to Dumbo. While waiting in line for 15 minutes, we occupied Bailey's time by playing with him a lot. I also put him down to stand a few times and walk when the line would move. When we were on Dumbo, he was unsure about the ride but warmed up to it and started clapping part way through. I would definitely recommend Dumbo! I'm guessing if he went on the ride a couple more times, knowing what to expect, he'd really love it. After Dumbo, we went to the Mad Tea Party. Bailey didn't hate it, but he also didn't love it.

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?

California Adventure
My dad spent a lot of time playing with Bailey (or walking around while Bailey napped), while giving Gwith and I the chance to enjoy a few rides. I'm a huge Little Mermaid fan so I'm not going to lie, I absolutely loved the ride. If it wasn't for the darkness at the beginning and the scene with Ursula, I'm pretty sure Bailey would've liked this ride too because of the music. After Winnie the Poo though, we've decided to wait a couple years for Bailey to go on any rides that get dark...however, I definitely thing he'll be ready for this ride long before he's ready for the Winnie the Poo ride! While Bailey was awake, we walked along the Boardwalk where Gwith and my dad played quite a few games and won Bailey a few stuffed animals. Bailey had fun watching the games being played and just relaxing.

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
On Wednesday morning, before heading back home, we went to our final character dining experience at Goofy's Kitchen, located at the Disneyland Hotel. To be honest, unless Bailey becomes a big Goofy fan when he's older, I would never go to this experience again. It was incredibly crowded and the characters weren't friendly. They breezed by each table for a quick photo and hardly any interaction at all. While the Chip n' Dale experience was uniquely personal because of the lack of crowds, I could easily compare this crowd to that at Mickey's PCH Grill breakfast. Both were crowded yet the Mickey breakfast was far more engaging. The food at this buffet was lacking as well. All in all, I was not impressed by this experience and we will not be going back.

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:

  1. Napa Rose at Grand Californian Adventure Hotel: great food & very accommodating; fine dining but still kid friendly.
  2. 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.
  3. PCH Grill at Paradise Pier Hotel: The breakfast buffet was wonderful and the characters were very friendly and personable.
  4. Cafe Orleans at Disneyland Theme Park: the food was decent (although I prefer Blue Bayou if you can get a reservation!)
  5. 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!
  6. 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!