There is a reason they call Disneyland the Happiest Place On Earth. There is something magical that happens to families when they step through the gates. For many families, Disneyland is a place where everyone can be a kid and the whole outside world melts away. It’s what Disney likes to call “immersive entertainment.”  Where else can you get a 5 year old to stand in line for nearly an hour without a complaint? Let’s face it – Disneyland can feel a bit overwhelming, but we love to watch the joy on our kids faces as they experience the magic unique to Disney. Here’s HipTravelMama’s perspective on where to stay, eat and most certainly play in Disneyland with kids. Use this as your guide so you can get right to the stuff you know you will love to do from a mom like you!

Where to Stay: I am a big fan of the Disney Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. We’ve stayed there the last several years on our own dime and would always recommend it as the most convenient and luxe hotels of the Disneyland Hotel properties. Check out HipTravelMama’s recent review of the Disney Grand Californian to learn more about the amenities, perks and new family friendly villas.

Where to Eat: I have not counted, but I suspect there are more places to eat in Disneyland then there are rides. While the food is abundant, we try to avoid fried food and find good healthy alternatives within the park that taste good, with the occasional treat. Most of the street vendors in Disneyland now offer fresh fruit, giant pickles and veggie sticks to munch on. These snack spots can be found on Main Street, in Tomorrowland across from the Star Tours gift shop and in Adventureland in front of the Jungle Cruise.  If you are looking for a real meal, here are some of our favorite places to eat in and around Disneyland:

Character Breakfast at The StoryTellers Cafe: We’ve done them all – with the exception of the new Surf’s Up Mickey and Friends breakfast at the Paradise Pier Hotel. Our favorite is still the The StoryTellers Cafe at the Grand Californian. While you will miss the traditional Mickey and Minnie Mouse characters here, the food in our opinion is the best of them all.

Lunch at the Red Wagon Corn Dog Stand on Main Street: Inside the park on the end of Main Street sits a little corn dog stand called The Little Red Wagon that has the most amazing corn dogs we’ve ever eaten. I won’t lie – they are not the lowest calorie food you will ever have, but they are so good! You must try them once while you are there (and then go for a run afterwards). For more healthy alternatives, Jamba Juice in Downdown Disney has really good wraps, sandwiches and salads in addition to great smoothies. 

Dinner at Tortilla Jo’s Downtown Disney: Sit out on the patio and enjoy some yummy Mexican food, great margaritas and people watch at Tortilla Jo’s in Downtown Disney. Most nights, there is a balloon artist who comes by the table to make the best balloon creations I have ever seen. Case in point: my daughter’s custom Tinkerbell backpack. 

Dessert: There are no shortage of sweets in the park. At night you will catch the aroma of sweet cinnamon Churros on many corners of both parks. Make sure you stop off for a late night Churro or Ice Cream at Disneyland Main Street. We also love the Pineapple sorbet at the Tiki Room in Disneyland. 

Where to Play: This place was made for play. Here are some of our favorite spots to play:


Disney Princess fans: If you have girls and they are under the age of eight like mine, they are likely in love with the Disney Princesses. If so, the best places to get some 1:1 time with Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, Snow White and Tinkerbell and her gang is at The Disney Princess Fantasy Fair and Pixie Hollow in Disneyland and breakfast or lunch at Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure Park.

Star Wars Fans: Like many young ones right now, my oldest is really into StarWars. In Tomorrowland, your kids could get the chance to cross light-sabers with Darth Vadar and Darth Maul and receive their honorary Jedi training certificate at the Jedi Training Academy. Our daughter was a mighty warrior as she fought and defeated Darth Maul all dressed up in her princess dress.

Disney California Adventure Park

Toy Story Ride: located in Disney California Adventure Park, this ride is so fun and worth the wait for all ages. You’ll have so much fun blasting the various targets and fun imagery inside that you’ll want to do it again and again!

Pixar Parade: Our family really enjoyed this parade through California Adventure Park. One of the best viewing spots to sit and have some food, wine and watch the parade is at the Wine Country Trattoria. For a casual meal, you can also grab wine and a cheese platter and watch in the bar area.

View from Grand Californian Hotel

The New World of Color Show: We can not say enough amazing things about this show. It was spectacular and definitely worth the wait. The pictures do not do it justice. For best viewing, we recommend making a dinner reservation at either The Wine Trattoria or Ariel’s Grotto. You can call (714) 781-DINE to make reservations. Check out the Disneyland blog for World of Color Viewing Tips.

What are your favorite places to stay, eat and play in Disneyland? Post them in the comments!

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