First Time at Disney California Adventure Park with a Toddler and a Baby
We all love going to theme parks but the idea of waiting in long lines with a toddler and a baby sends a shiver down my spine even in the hot SoCal weather. So, when Alex had off school on Friday, we decided to make our first trip to Disney California Adventure (DCA) to avoid the weekend crowd! After all, we needed to visit both theme parks before Alex’s birthday so he can make an informed decision on which one to go to for his 3rd birthday. I was less enthused about this trip since the theme park is right next to Disneyland and what could compete with Disneyland?
The day started stressfully because Zoe was sick and was still feverish when we left the house. Moreover, Marc had a work call right when we exited the elevator from the parking structure at Disney. The good news was that Alex was so happy that we were going to DCA that he had no problem listening to me when I told him to go through security and get in line for the tram. The bad news was that he insisted on pushing Zoe’s stroller and poor girl got pushed into the curb, the bushes, people’s legs, etc. I swear toddlers have the worst attention span of all animal species out there. Thankfully, right after we entered the park, Marc was able to get off the call and help with the kids.
Off we go to a fun day of adventures!
- We saw Minnie Mouse shortly after we entered the theme park. Alex was so excited to meet her! Minnie danced with him, gave him hugs, tried tickling him, and did everything she could to make Alex smile, but Alex’s poker face prevailed. Then when it was time to take a group photo, Minnie reached over and touched Zoe’s hand, and she just freaked. I never seen her so scared in her life. We took a picture anyway but now we know to keep the characters away from the baby!
- After taking pictures with Goofy, we spotted the Red Car Trolley and hopped on it. Alex was so happy to be on the trolley – it’s so funny how boys are content just riding around on a motor vehicle. They did not allow strollers on the trolley so we left it in a corner next to a water fountain and hoped that there were too many strollers in the park for people to steal ours. The ride was short and Alex was upset to be leaving the trolley, but he perked up immediately when he saw the sign for A Bug’s Land.
- We were impressed the moment we walked into A Bug’s Land. There were several rides for younger kids and a water play area that looked like a giant splash pad at the Princess Dot Puddle Park. It’s too bad that we didn’t do enough research and planning beforehand and neglected to bring a swim suit for Alex and Zoe! The weather was perfect too! Marc and Alex hopped on the Tuck and Roll’s Drive ’Em Buggies and had fun driving around bumping other cars.
- Next, we all jumped on Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train. I thought this was going to be like any other train ride when I started smelling the sweet scent of watermelon. Apparently, we were going through a food-filled garden and smelled each tasty treat the hungry caterpillar chomped on. What a cute concept! Alex went through the entire ride saying “nom nom nom” as if he was eating the yummy morsels.
- As we are pretty tough with our kids on screen time, we debated whether or not to go to the 3D film and live show, It’s Tough to be a Bug! We figured that since this may be the only time we visit DCA this year and the show was only 10 minutes, we would allow it. One thing that we didn’t expect – it was more of a 4D show than a 3D show. We had air blown in our faces, water sprayed on us, our seats poked us… all of which normally would be fun, except we had Zoe with us. She was so scared by all the special effects that she started screaming, so I ended up nursing her through the whole thing. Alex had fun though and was super amused by the 3D and 4D effects, despite a couple of seconds that he got scared by the spiders dropping from the ceiling.
- Since Alex is obsessed with princesses, we booked a reservation at Ariel’s Grotto for lunch. Before eating, Alex got to meet Ariel on the way to the dining room. We were seated outside, which I normally would dislike but it was such a beautiful day that I didn’t mind. Plus, we had a good view of Mickey’s Fun Wheel, which kind of blew my mind. Besides the stationary gondolas, the wheel also had swinging gondolas that glided on interior rails. What a creative design! It made me dizzy just looking at it! Anyhow, the waiters came and took our orders, and informed us that kids under 3 did not have to order. Whew! At $40+ a meal, I would think we’d get enough food to share with the kids. As we were enjoying our crab bisque, which I would say was one of the best soups I ever tasted, the princesses started coming out. Alex got to meet Belle, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Tiana. He hugged them so carefully as they all had such pretty and big dresses, and you could just tell that he was amazed by the whole experience. Heck, I don’t ever spend that much money on a meal for myself, even on special occasions, but it was definitely worth it to see Alex so happy. Plus, the food was actually good!
- What to do after we stuffed ourselves at Ariel’s Grotto? Head to The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, of course! We were really impressed by the way the characters were crafted and animated in this ride. I also liked the way our “clam-mobile” rotated from side to side instead of just looking straight, so that sometimes I could see Marc and Alex in the clamshell in front of me and wave hello.
- On the way to Cars Land, we stopped by The Bakery Tour at the Boudin Bakery. I guess it was interesting to see how bread was made in an industrial setting, but I didn’t understand why it was an attraction at DCA. We basically just saw people making bread with a few signs explaining the machines they used and the process. Oh well, at least there was no line and we each got a piece of delicious, fresh-baked bread from it.
- We reached Cars Land and got in line for Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. Little did we know that it would turn out to be Alex’s favorite ride in the park. Basically, as you rode in the trailer attached to a tractor that was whirling around in a figure-eight pattern, you got whipped every time there was a tight turn. The adults probably should put an arm around the child because the ride did whip us pretty good and Alex would have bumped his head on the side of the trailer had we not put an arm around him, but he just loved being thrown around.
- We wanted to catch the show, Disney Junior – Live on Stage! so we headed toward Hollywood Land. We took a look to see if our stroller was still there on the way, and it was! Whew! We also happened to see Daisy Duck with very few people in line so we jumped in and took a few pictures. Unfortunately, when we reached the building, we found out that all shows were canceled for the rest of the day. Argh. I wish they could have put some kind of notice on the Disneyland app that we were using! We could have spent more time in Cars Land!
- We did get informed by the Disney workers that we should get to the Frozen – Live at the Hyperion show at least 45 minutes early, so we decided to just hang around Hollywood Land. And who did we see? Olaf! I wish I could find words to describe Alex’s face when he saw Olaf. I guess the other characters were either humans or animals, but Olaf was a snowman. Not just a man. But a man made out of snow. He was so happy dancing and playing with Olaf and we even managed to squeeze a family photo in without Zoe being scared of the character.
- We were nervous that we were going to have bad seating for Frozen, but Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! was right next to Olaf so we figured we would run in for a quick ride. Marc and I both thought it was just an okay ride, nothing too exciting, but it could be just because the story itself wasn’t too dramatic.
- When we arrived at the line for Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, we were shocked. We were about 40 minutes early, but there were already tons of people waiting. They divided up the lines into different sections – orchestra, mezzanine, and balcony – and it was first come, first serve. We managed to be the last people allowed into the mezzanine section. Now, let me tell you, the show was worth the wait and more. We had no clue that the show was basically a live Broadway production of the Disney movie! The set was stunning with tons of special effects, and the actors and actresses were splendid. We actually thought Anna was the best actress and singer out of everyone, though we were impressed by the entire production. For the life of us, we could not figure out how Elsa managed to change from her queen costume to the famous sexy, ice-blue dress in the blink of an eye. Alex was just in heaven. He sang the whole “Let It Go” song with Elsa and clapped so hard every time a song ended. Even Zoe, who woke up in middle of the show, was bouncing around on my lap and clapping her hands happily. It was truly an unforgettable experience for the whole family.
- What do we need to do after seeing Frozen? Meet the princesses, of course! We got there before the rest of the crowd and were able to meet Anna and Elsa without waiting much at all. The princesses were so nice and kept talking to Alex, who was just captivated by the fact that he was actually in the presence of his two favorite princesses. I mean, we play songs from Frozen anytime we are in the car and every night before bed. We read the book at least once a day, sometimes multiple times in different languages. I don’t know what it is about Frozen that gets the kids so addicted, but hey, why not, they are only little once.
- We only had a little time before we should head out for dinner, so we went back to Alex’s favorite ride, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. We got a Rider Switch pass so Alex could ride it twice without waiting in line a second time. Again, he loved it. I loved it. It is now my favorite ride at both Disneyland and DCA!
- We were going to visit A Bug’s Land again and then leave for dinner, but then we saw Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters on the way and decided to jump in line. Zoe had been good so far, mainly because she was sick and was groggy so she either slept or cuddled with me in the carrier all day. However, the sun was going down and she was getting fussy so instead of waiting at the exit like I usually do, I went off to a bench nearby to nurse her. Then I realized… Oh no, I did not have my nursing cover. Marc had it in the book bag and he was in middle of tons of people in line. I was not about to let the lack of cover stop me from nursing my child, so I just casually took out my boob, latched Zoe on, and placed my baby carrier on top of my chest for a cover. Some people walked by and looked at me funny, but too bad, Zoe was hungry and tired and I wasn’t about to hide in the bathroom to feed her. Marc and Alex came out after the ride – which they enjoyed – and I was supposed to go in with the Rider Switch pass with Alex. But Zoe had fallen asleep at that point so Marc went in with Alex again. Oh well, next time!
With an exhausted Alex (and mommy and daddy as well!) we exited the park, hopped on the tram, and found our car. We debated whether or not to eat in DCA or Downtown Disney, but restaurants with good quality food had a long wait and we just did not feel like giving our kids junk food for dinner. So, we quickly found a close-by Chipotle and ate dinner, dressed the kids in pajamas, and drove home. The kids both were so tired that they passed out right away once they were in the car.
Which theme park will Alex pick for his 3rd birthday? You know what, surprisingly, I think he liked DCA better than Disneyland. The wait time was much shorter at DCA so we got to go on more rides, and there were more rides that were more enjoyable for toddlers. We will ask him again closer to his birthday which one he wants to go to, but I have a feeling that Frozen trumped them all. All hail the ice queen!
Which theme park does your kid like better? Disneyland or DCA?