Heading to the Happiest Place on Earth this summer? Disneyland and California Adventure Parks and Resorts are full of wonderful and exciting attractions, entertaining shows and dining options for every person in your entourage. Sometimes the trouble is finding the right ones that suit your families needs and interests. With so many fun and exciting things to do, the choices can feel endless and a bit overwhelming. Here are my top three Best of Disneyland and California Adventures not-to-be-missed spots to put on your Magical Memories List.
Best Disneyland Attractions for Princesses
The all new Fantasy Faire will delight princesses (and princes!) of all ages. Take a moment from all the non-stop energy of the park to sit in the Royal Theater to watch reproductions of classical storybook adventures featuring your little one’s favorite princesses. Once finished, take a walk through the village where the princesses live, including Rapunzel, and stroll through the Royal Hall to meet and greet with the Disney Princesses. There are individual meeting spaces for three different Princesses. In addition, Belle (from “Beauty and the Beast”), Rapunzel and Flynn Rider (from “Tangled”) greet guests following their shows in the Royal Theatre. Remember to bring an autograph book and your PhotoPass or camera for plenty of photo opps. For Brave little fans, Merida has her own presentation near the Small World attraction.
Bippity Boppity Boutique will transform your little girl into a princess who is practically perfect in every way. Choose from several different packages and styling options. For the full effect, be sure to bring her favorite Disney princess costume to wear to enjoy her princess make-over even more. Get the camera and video ready as she is presented by her Fairy Godmother to the Magic Mirror at the end of her session.
Aerial’s Grotto is one of our favorite character dining spots. Located in California Adventure, Aerial’s Grotto is an ocean themed castle and banquet room with a nice selection of healthier food options and a pretty as a princess presentation. Throughout the meal, Disney Princesses will make their way through the dining room and meet and greet with your princesses. Aerial’s Grotto is open for breakfast or lunch, and reservations are a must. A fun tip: consider the World of Color Dining Package if it is on your list to see both the show and meet the princesses. The World of Color show does start late in the evening, so keep that in mind when making the reservation.
Best Disneyland Attractions for Adventurers and Explorers
Jedi Training Academy is a an awesome adventure at the Tomorrowland Terrace to train like a Jedi and meet some of the top Star Wars characters. Check the show times and arrive about 10 minutes early. This is an audience participation show and children are selected from the crowd to learn Jedi moves and recite the sacred Jedi Oath upon completion of the training. There may or may not be a surprise visit from the Dark Side (keep in mind if your little ones scare easily). Plenty of photo and video opps here, and whether your kids are big Star Wars fans or not, they will still enjoy participating in all the fun. After the show, Die-Hard Star Wars fans will enjoy making their own Light Saber at The Star Trader.
Redwood Creek Challenge Trail keeps kids moving and exploring in a simulated Redwood Forest, while you can unwind for a few moments. It is quieter and usually not as crowded. Kids can meet Wilderness Explorer Russell and Dug, the friendly dog from Disney·Pixar’s Up, and earn their Wilderness Explorer Badge. Rope bridges, trails, slides, tire swings and rock wall climbing still allows for some adventure without the long lines and big crowds. Tip: a few of the attractions like the tire swing and rock wall have height requirements.
Radiator Springs Racers is hands down, my favorite ride in all of California Adventure. Disney Imaginears did such an impressive job of recreating the lovable classic Cars movie into a ride. In fact, it is such an great ride, it is everyone’s favorite. The first thing you should do as soon as the California Adventure park opens is head straight away to the Fast Pass line and get yours. Promise, they won’t last, and both the Fast Pass Return line and Stand-by can be long waits. Fast Pass Return can still be up to an hour, while Stand-By can be up to 3 hours. Tip: Though the ride is mostly compared to a Sunday stroll, there is one “fast” segment that does not last too long. There is also a height requirement, so be sure to check before waiting in line.
Best Disneyland Attractions for Littles
The newest live entertainment show to hit Disneyland is Mickey and the Magical Map, and it’s adorable. The best way to introduce young children to live theater is to do it at Disneyland. Performing at the Fantasyland Theater daily, Mickey, dressed as his Apprentice character from Fantasia, is guided by a Magical Map. The map leads him to different spots all over the world where he finds new and old friends, like King Louis from The Jungle Book, the Disney Princesses: Rapunzel, Mulan and Pocahantas, lands in the middle of a Mardi Gras party with Tiana and dances up a storm with Aerial and Sebastian. It really is non-stop fun for the whole family, not to mention, in a seated, shaded area. The Fantasyland Theater underwent recent renovations in order to produce the show. There are some impressive use of props, lighting and affects throughout the performance.
Fans of the Disney Jr channel shows will love the new Disney Jr. Live on Stage at California Adventure. Now featuring your little’s favorite Disney Jr. characters- Mickey, Jake, Doc and Sofia- invite the kids to stand up, sing, dance and clap. Be sure to check for show times.
Carsland + Bugsland have pint sized attractions for pint sized park goers. At Carsland, littles will love feeling like they are walking right through the middle of Radiator Springs. Night time is even better when the shops and rides light up, reflecting the moment when Lightening took Sally on a stroll through Memory Lane. Bugs Land offers age appropriate outdoor rides for all ages, like a hot air balloon ride made out of take out containers and animal cracker boxes, a train ride through a hungry catepillar’s eating escapades, and even a water splash pad area for kids to cool off.
Best Disneyland Attractions for Mom
Mandara Spa at The Grand Californian- need I say more? The facility itself is tiny, so you really only need exactly one hour to get a massage, grab a cup of tea and regain your sanity. See if Dad will take the kids for dip in the pool while you relax for an hour or two. The services are phenomenal, and the products smell devine. Just as if you were in a Balinese spa. OK, so you might need 2-hours. Book a half day cabana for the kids and Dad, and book yourself for half-day at the Mandara Spa. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
When you book your spa appointment, give yourself a buffer to enjoy a hot coffee and fresh beignets from the New Orleans original, Brennen’s Jazz Cafe at Downtown Disney. The coffee is some of the best you will find at Disneyland, and the beignets are made right there, right in front of you, fried up and served in a white paper bag filled with powder sugar. This is my guilty pleasure, and it’s budget friendly.
Best Spots to Eat
For character breakfasts, my favorite is Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel. Inside the park, I enjoy the fresh tossed chef’s salads at Carnation Cafe. Healthy snacks? Try Bengal Barbeque in Adventureland. Just to the right of Paradise Pier is an outdoor eating area with many options to choose from like Mexican, Soups and Chowders, and Asian. This is one of my favorite spots to go with my kids because I can get a variety of food to please all their palates. The Lucky Fortune Cookery has rice bowls, fresh mango slices and edamame. The Pacific Wharf Cafe offers soups and chowders in bread bowls from the Boudin Bread Co., and the Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill has tasty Mexican options.
Downtown Disney options include our family favorite, Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria. ESPN Zone actually has a great Kid’s Menu and treats dad to a little “Me-Time” catching up with the games. In the morning, or afternoon, I like to grab a shot of wheatgrass and a juice at the Jamba Juice, in hopes it will keep my energy up for a good portion of the day.
Best Spots for Adult Conversation
If you are lucky enough to get a bit of a break, or maybe your kids are just that good and you can take them anywhere, here are some great adult spots to enjoy a cocktail and unwind from the long day at the parks: Cathay Circle Lounge at Cathay Circle Restaurant in California Adventure, Uva Bar at Catal in Downtown Disney and Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel, poolside. Wine lovers might enjoy the outdoor ambiance of the Alfresco Lounge at the Golden Vine Winery where you can sip on vintages expertly selected to provide a tasting tour of the Golden State.
Did I leave anything out? Tell me some of your Best Disneyland Parks spots!
Disclosure: I was invited as media guest to experience the new show, Mickey and the Magical Map, the Mandara Spa and the Princess Fantasy Faire. Everything else was experienced on my own accord. All thoughts, opinions are all my own.