Disneyland, it all started with a Mouse!

Soundsational Parade
Little traveller meets Cinderella
Alice and Little Alice in wonderland

Who wants sugar in their tea? The Mad Hatter asked. Everyone cheered. It is at this moment when I realised the greatest thing for the ‘little traveller’ was the parks unique way to bring treasured favourites to life, such as a favoured classic, Alice in wonderland.

Many years on from its opening on 17 July 1955, Walt Disney’s theme park has sparked the imagination and captured the hearts of thousands that have passed under the rail bridge entry, entering a world of "yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy". 

Main Street conceptually based on Walt Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri serves as a conduit to all the parks many experiences, leading to a central point (directly in front of Cinderella’s European styled castle). From which the Parks main attractions of Adventureland, tommorowland and age old family favourite Fantasyland can be found.

As you will notice, Main Street is possibly my favourite part of the park, housing the Magic shop, Penny Arcade, old time candy shops and parlors. Some of its lesser-known features include the Disney Gallery, which is a great place to not only pick up a unique art piece for your home, but also view original Disney artworks. The artist in focus on our visit was Mary Blair who is the conceptual designer behind "It’s a Small World" the little travellers favourite attraction and one of the most retro experiences the park has to offer.

In Main Street you can find the market house coffee shop offering the parks only bottomless gourmet coffee cup, on the left the Penny arcade, which is a candy and gift shop containing some original coin-operated attractions in the park and was one of Walt’s favourite places within Disneyland.

Another fantastic feature of Main St is the Silhouette Studio, if you are lucky you can find the legendary Sylvia who has worked in the park for over 32 years and has hand-cut over two million silhouettes of park visitors since 1979. She works with a folded piece of paper offering the guest a second sillouete image as a free memento that is both reasonably priced and a hit with grandparents.

Within minutes of arriving in the park we have seen a fire engine whizzing through the streets containing a number of Disney characters including Pinocchio, Donald and Snow White, minutes later a marching band lead by Mickey Mouse. One of the best things about Disneyland are the roaming performers who bring to life the beloved characters of children’s classics and the Disney films, with random street performance and activities.

Be sure to ask any of the ever-so friendly staff when such performances will be playing as they are clearly a highlight of the children’s days. Far better than any animatronic ride or played out story of a child’s fantasy tale. Simply due to direct interaction with the cast and characters, bringing to life the classic Disney tales.

Fantasyland is the perfect starting point for under five’s, but be warned height restriction/acceptance is no indication for the suitability of a ride for a young one, Snow White’s Scary adventures is just that, A scary adventure. If you have a three year old or under, I would recommend to stick to the outdoor rides but do make an exception for the wondrous Peter Pan ride. A flight simulation for all ages that recounts this lovely tale in a gentle and engaging fashion.

There are two parent sanctuaries that all should know about, one is the Mint Julep bar in the New Orleans square (just above Pirates of the Caribbean) here you will find a hidden culinary delight in the way of mickey shaped Beignets and Non-alcoholic cool aid Juleps. This was our favourite location when the little traveller took a much-needed nap on account of Disney overload.

The second, is at the gateway to Adventureland, I am speaking of the Enchanted Tiki Room best enjoyed around midday, this attraction is a surefire family pleaser with an animatronic singing bird display, best of all it is indoors, getting you and the little traveller out of the heat. Also available outside this ride is an age old Disney Culinary experience the Dole pineapple whip/float, beat the heat with this chilled fruity delight but don’t queue on street side head into the attraction and purchase your refreshments inside the wait area.

Near to that attraction is one of the more gentle and family friendly rides the classic ride the Jungle Cruise, with lo-fi animatronics and corny jokes from your boats captain, this little adventure is a delight for all ages and seems best enjoyed in the light of late afternoon.

Another ride with calming properties for child and family alike, is ‘It’s a Small World’ a gentle indoor boat ride with animatronic miniatures singing there tune of equality and brotherhood and despite updated character inclusions, the ride is a little dated, but in hindsight was one of the ‘little travellers’ favourite attractions, possibly for the relentless cheer of the music and the little mechanical ambassadors.

When lunchtime arrives, be sure to find your way to one of the more cool/shady areas of the park, ‘Village House’ located around from the new "Tangled" character meeting room is a great place to dine with indoor and outdoor facilities. It offers a large menu with a Bavarian dinning feel and is home to Snow White’s apple strudel bites a pleasant pit stop at anytime.

When approaching the park it is highly recommended not to stick to a set pattern or battle plan, as some Disney mum’s prepare, especially in off peak times, as some rides go from virtually no queue to something rather substantial. Do not be afraid to keep moving on from an attraction that you wish to visit and returning to it later. Queuing is for the 90′s now we have ‘Fast Pass’ which can be collected near to the most popular ride of each land at any point in the day. The pass has a designated time for you to return to the ride and queue jump to the start of the ride.

So you want to meet the characters. Your little boy wants to meet Mickey in person and your little girl wants a photo with Snow White with no wait, how do you find them? Apart from roving performances the best way to catch your beloved characters is by attending the shows. After the show it is not uncommon to find characters return to the front of house to meet with children and offer pictures and autographs.

This is the best time to get face time with the more popular characters, take for example, the Princess Fantasy fair situated just behind ‘it’s a small world’. Here a budding young prince or princess may have a dance session or etiquette class delivered by their favourite characters. Followed up with a chance to meet after. 

Sundown is the ideal time to ride the paddle steamer, this is when the River’s of America section comes to life, the tranquility of that area of the Park and the gentleness of this particular ride is perfect for that time of the day. Be sure to ask a cast member for a visit to the Captain’s Cabin as you may have a chance to sound the whistle or turn the wheel. The end of the ride places you in a good location for a meal at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ restaurant, one of the best yet lesser-known dinning experiences in the park with a communal and relaxed lamp lit setting for an "all you care to eat" rustic American style BBQ with a mellow but festive dinning option. 

The park comes alive at night, an equally different face equally as enchanting but different, this is a great time to head to Tomorrowland, a night ride on the Astro-orbitor with your little one cannot be beaten, the neon qualities of this area in the park are just spectacular at night.

Be sure to head straight to the popular rides/attractions, immediately after attending the must see ‘Disneyland Parade’ as many visitors follow on with after parade activities giving the savvy family a chance to jump straight to the front of an otherwise big queue. A good example would be the Finding Nemo Submarine attraction, which is just awesome for everyone but the claustrophobic in the group. The popular Nemo ride is not affected by daylight and in fact seems to be better crowd wise in the evening.

 This is also a great time to visit or revisit fantasyland, as the majestic King Arthurs carousel is simply magic at night.
Now, to be honest, you need a bear minimum of two days to cover the Disney park (not including California Adventure park) cover your highlight attractions first giving you the chance to experiences your favourite rides twice.

Possibly the best advice from one parent to another is to book your visit for week days as opposed to weekends, the lines to attractions are much smaller and more manageable. 

Lastly, don’t buy your souvenirs in the park … unless unique attractions like the silhouette studio. World of Disney mega-store houses nearly all items for sale in the park which can be found in the downtown Disney precinct, keeping you hands free to enjoy the park.

Top ten Best rides for under five’s:

Tiki Room
Finding Nemo
Jungle Cruise
Alice In Wonderland Ride
Alice Teacups Ride
Dumbo Ride
Astro Orbitor
It’s a Small World
Peter Pan Flight
Toon town – Goofy’s Playhouse

Source = e-Travel Blackboard: Suzy Psaltis
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