Last Updated on March 17, 2016
We were very skeptical about taking Madison to Disneyland at one year old. After all, she wouldn’t remember any of the trip. It turned out that seeing her reactions and excitement of taking in all the Disneyland sights made the trip worth it, and more. I loved having Madison in my arms as I saw her excitement and delight as she stared in awe during a ride and happily pointed at all the sights. Though Madison won’t remember this trip, we will still have plenty of photos and videos to show her, and the rest of us definitely won’t forget the magic.
It is best to arrive at the park for opening to avoid as many of the lineups as possible. Once we had to wait for Dumbo for thirty minutes, Madison fell asleep during the wait and she ended up sleeping through the ride. The second time we went right when the park opened, while Madison was fully awake, so she could enjoy the breeze on her face as she soared through the air on Dumbo’s back.
Here are ten of the rides from Disneyland and California Adventure that Madison seemed to love the most:
- It’s A Small World (Disneyland)
This is a funny ride. As a teenager or adult, you go on it and the thought of another round (or even finishing the first ride) as the song plays on loop is enough to make you cringe and then the song is stuck in your head for a long while afterwards. But, something magical happened on this ride. Watching the wonder and sparkle in Madison’s eyes as we floated through all the dolls and cutesy setup really brought a lot of joy. Though the song may drive me nuts, I love that this ride is an important piece of Disney history.
- Carousels (Disneyland & California Adventure Park)
Both carousels were a hit. In Disneyland you will find King Arthur’s Carousel and in California Adventure you will find King Triton’s Carousel. We rode both and were happy when the lineups were never long. A carousel is always magical, even when you’re an adult. It is a great ride to turn even the fussiest kid into a happy one when you’re able to get aboard so fast.
- Dumbo (Disneyland)
Who can’t love Dumbo? Even though all you do is go in a circle and up and down a little bit, you can’t go wrong with this ride. It is legendary for a reason. It’s whimsical and bright. Plus, there are no surprises there and that appeals to little ones as they can see what is happening even before it really does. It is a great starter ride if you have a little one unsure of the whole Disneyland thing. Dumbo is a slow moving line and can get long, so try to get on it early.
- Flik’s Flyers (California Adventure Park)
Flik’s Flyers is much like the Dumbo ride, just A Bug’s Life version. You sit in a discarded food box and are swung in a circle. Unlike Dumbo though, you can’t control when you go up or down. It would be another great starter ride for an unsure Toddler.
- Mad Tea Party (Disneyland)
Madison’s 1st Birthday was Alice In Wonderland themed, so we were extra excited when she liked spinning ‘round and ‘round in an over-sized teacup. Madison liked “spinning” it “herself” and seemed to like going faster and faster!
- Ariel’s Under Sea Adventure (Disney California Adventure Park)
Go under the sea in a clam shell through scenes from The Little Mermaid that are showcased using advances in audio animatronics. Madison responded so positively that we ended up going on it a few times and there was never much of a wait.
- Jungle Cruise (Disneyland)
Madison has a love of animals, and seeing all the ‘animals’ on the jungle cruise was no exception. The elephants seemed especially interesting for her and Madison happily squealed at many of the sights. The skipper’s commentary was quite funny and at times the corniness just made you shake your head and smile.
- Mickey’s Fun Wheel (California Adventure Park)
When you ride Mickey’s Fun Wheel, you can choose a gondola that sways back and forth and one that is stationary as you go around the wheel. We chose one that was stationary, though one that swayed probably would have been fine with Madison after seeing her positive reactions on all the other rides. The ride is absolutely spectacular in appearance, featuring an enormous Mickey head in the middle of its wheel. Plus, the views of the surrounding park are fabulous.
- Disneyland Railroad (Disneyland)
Madison really had her eyes peeled on this ride. She kept wanting to look over the railing in front of her and it was obvious she did not want to miss a thing. Most of the ride just took you to different stops around Disneyland, but if you rode the train all the way from Main Street and back, you are taken through a short stretch that passes dioramas that show the Grand Canyon today and back when it was filled with prehistoric dinosaurs. You can climb aboard or disembark at Main Street U.S.A., Tomorrowland, Mickey’s Toontown, or New Orleans Square.
Other great rides for the young ones:
- Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train (California Adventure Park)
On Heimlich’s you actually ride on a Heimlich shaped train. You can hear Heimlich’s German accent throughout the ride which takes you through giant replicas of food he’s munched his way through. There is nothing scary about this one.
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Disneyland)
The psychedelic hefalump and woozle scene could be a bit scary for kids, but Madison didn’t have a problem with it. If anything, it caught her attention and wonder even more. The ride is based upon the film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, itself based on the Winnie The Pooh books by A.A. Milne.
- Alice in Wonderland (Disneyland)
The line can get long but it does move fairly quickly. It is considered to be one of the dark rides, but it really does not seem to be as loud and scary as some of the others. It is based on the animated Disney adaption of the same name, the attraction resides next to a second ride, the Mad Tea Party, based on a scene in that same adaptation.
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (Disneyland)
The ride is dark, a bit bumpy, has scary content and may scare young ones. This line tends to be fairly long. It is one of the few remaining attractions that was operational on the park’s opening day in 1955, although the current version of the ride opened in 1983. The ride’s story is based on Disney’s adaptation of The Wind in the Willows (1908), which is one of the two segments of the film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr.Toad (1949).
- Peter Pan’s Flight (Disneyland)
The ride is dark, a bit bumpy, has some scary content and may scare young ones. It is one of the few remaining attractions that was operational on Disneyland’s opening day in 1955.
- Pinocchio’s Daring Journey (Disneyland)
The ride is dark, a bit bumpy, have scary content and may scare young ones. This ride is based on Disney’s animated film version of the classic story, which was the studio’s second animated feature film.
- Snow White’s Scary Adventures (Disneyland)
The ride is dark, a bit bumpy, have scary content and may scare young ones. It is one of the few remaining attractions that was operational on Disneyland’s opening day in 1955. The ride’s story is based on Disney’s 1937 film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, their first animated feature film.
* Note that each child is different. The lists feature the rides that our 1-year-old really enjoyed. As a parent you will know what your child will like and what they would find scary. Use your own judgment before taking your kid(s) on a ride.