Just a couple weeks ago, Olive had the time of her life visiting Disneyland for the very first time. As longtime Disney-philes (Erik and I have been to Disney World in Florida 2x, Tokyo Disney, and are previous Disneyland annual pass holders), we had been eagerly awaiting this milestone with her. But, I am glad we ultimately waited until she was nearly 2 to make this special trip. I think she was at the perfect age to really soak in everything around her, interact with some characters and remember (in the short-term, anyway!) things about the day. If we ask her about Disneyland, she can recount to us the rides she went on, the characters she saw, and on and on. ;-) It was a perfect first Disney experience.
Our visit was facilitated by our dear friend Jackie whose husband, Brendan, (Erik’s longtime friend — he was in our wedding and Erik officiated Brendan and Jackie’s wedding!) works for Disney. That means she can sign us in (woohoo!) when we are in town. ;-) A biggggg thank you goes out to Jackie (and baby X!) for making our day so special; we can’t wait to revisit with Brendan joining us!
her Mickey from home had to join us! She didn’t love her 1st visit button so this is the only pic of her wearing it.
Erik and I weren’t sure what to expect with Olive’s first visit. Would she be terrified of the characters? Would she be overwhelmed by all the sights, sounds and activities? Would she be too scared (or too small) to go on any rides? When would she nap and where? Would we push her in the stroller or let her walk? Would we have any fun? Well, here’s a recap of our adventure and a few suggestions I’d offer to anyone planning their own child’s first Disney trip!
We got to Disneyland about an hour after opening and it was just right. We didn’t have to stand around waiting for the park to open and we didn’t have crazy parking drama from arriving too late. We parked quickly, grabbed a stroller and got straight to it! We decided to do both parks that day (Disney CA Adventure + Disneyland) so we started at DCA. Olive’s first ride was Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. The Little Mermaid was my favorite Disney movie growing up so I thought it was only appropriate. ;-) Olive was fascinated overall but did find some parts (with Ursula) “too scawy.” Other rides we hit in DCA were: The Golden Zephyr (maybe a little too fast for her.. she got nervous toward the end but luckily the ride was already winding down at that point), Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train and Francis’ Ladybug Boogie (a teeny version of the teacups). Our lunch stop was the Lucky Fortune Cookery at DCA. Their rice bowls are pretty yummy and filling. (My other quick DCA fav is clam chowder in a Boudin bread bowl!)
After lunch, we headed over to Disneyland. As we were walking through the gates, we spotted Mickey Mouse in front of the Main Street Cinema. It was perfect timing as we only waited about 5 minutes to meet the mouse. Olive’s initial Mickey meeting was better than I could have dreamed. She walked up to him slowly, then held both of his hands and asked gently, “Mickey??” They hugged, she kissed him on his nose, and they cuddled some more until I realized we probably should let the other families in line have a turn. :) As soon as we had finished, we bumped into both Donald and Pluto so we had to meet them, too! Since we were able to get photos with 3 characters in one place, we decided not to spend any additional time that day standing in line to meet other characters. We’ll save Minnie and co. for next time. ;-)
Rides we went on in Disneyland: Dumbo (2x), the carousel, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (I love the nostalgia of it but it is a pretty disturbing ride! Olive deemed it “too scawwy” as well.), Storybook Land Canal Boats, Casey Jr. Circus Train (a must for my Dumbo-loving girl), Pirates of the Caribbean (Olive was half asleep for most of it, haha) and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. We also made a requisite stop for Dole Whip (which resulted in a near meltdown when Olive got a taste and wanted to desperately shovel the rest into her mouth. Erik took her for a walk while I finished it off!). What did we expect? Everyone knows Dole Whip is irresistible. ;-) We chose the ubiquitous Mickey ears for her first souvenir and she still can’t get enough of them. Even with the personalization, they were quite a bargain and well worth the price.
Olive usually runs on a very normal schedule. She naps like clockwork everyday for 2-3 hours. So how did she do with all the stimulation at Disneyland? Well, she fell asleep in line for Casey Jr. (at her typical nap time) but we chose to wake her up when we finally got on the ride because we knew she’d love it. And of course, she was completely enthralled when she heard the song cue up and we began moving. Unfortunately she never truly fell asleep again, aside from another quick catnap in the evening. Erik and I decided to take a chance and go on Pirates with her on my lap and it paid off. I’m glad we got to enjoy one of our favorite rides together. I think Olive did really well sans nap (aside from the Dole Whip incident, no other meltdowns occurred) but I know this will vary from kiddo to kiddo. If we were visiting the resort over a few days, I’d probably return to the hotel in the afternoon for her nap to keep her happiest.
We ended up staying until closing (at 8p) but skipped World of Color (the spectacular nighttime show in DCA) this time. It was a fantastic day filled with so much laughter and joy and wonder.
getting sleepy on the Storybook boats
Dole Whip, pre-incident
Here are my tips for anyone planning first trips with their little ones:
- Start early — I’m glad we began our day early when Olive is generally the most energetic and happy. It also meant we got to ride a lot of rides without much of a wait, avoiding the burgeoning afternoon and evening crowds. And although we skipped World of Color, we did get Fast Passes for the show (which run out very quickly in the day) because we arrived early.
- Pack snacks — Disneyland is great about letting you bring in your own bottled water and snacks. We brought a bunch of goodies including Plum Organics pouches, almond crackers and fresh fruit. It helped us keep Olive content and well-fed throughout the day, especially when she suddenly needed a snack and we were smack in the middle of a line.
- Rent a stroller — we went back and forth about bringing our own nice stroller but ultimately didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of leaving it at the entrances of rides. Instead of buying an umbrella stroller (which would never use again), we rented a Disneyland stroller. It was roomy, comfortable, had a better height than most umbrella strollers (Erik is 6’4″ so pushing short umbrella strollers is awkward for him!) and had room for storage under the seat. The canopy is also really big which was great for sun protection and some extra storage (we put Erik’s backpack on top of it). We still carried our valuables onto each ride but it was great to not worry about our stroller in the park.
- Let your kiddo set the pace — We knew that taking Olive meant going for her. We are both huge kids at heart and we love rides so it was different going to the park and not hitting any of our favorite attractions. But, we ended up riding things we had never gone on before (!) and enjoying the experience in an entirely different way. With adjusted expectations, we were able to enjoy our visit so much more. That said, I still can’t wait until Olive is tall enough to go on the “big rides” with us!
- Be flexible — We didn’t have a real plan or list of things to do or see. We went with the flow and never pushed the pace. I felt like we were never rushed but we were still able to do and see a lot!
last pic of the night!
I hope you all are having a great week! It has been such a busy few days that I am in disbelief that it’s Thursday. Wasn’t it *just* the weekend?? I’m off to run errands with Olive; see you again soon!