Theme parks for kids are everywhere, but there is some special about Disney in particular says Carolyn Moore. In 2013 the mother of two toddlers and her husband Nathan decided to do a Disney-trifecta tour – they visited three Disneylands in one year: Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, Disneyland Hong Kong and Disneyland and Disney’s Californian Adventure in the Ahanheim in the US. She tells suitcases&strollers why, in her opinion, Disneyland really is the happiest place on earth – when it comes to theme parks for kids.
Why do you love Disneyland for kids so much? What makes a Disney park different from other theme parks for kids?
What makes the parks so appealing is that you know that as soon as you walk through the gates that you are going to have a great time. I don’t think it is possible to not have a great time at a Disney park; they are so incredibly well appointed, coordinated, the staff are exceptionally well trained, all of the acts – whether they are the choreographed shows or the impromptu “pop-up” acts – are extremely well produced. In short, you feel engaged from the moment you walk into the park until the time you drag your very weary bodies home. The other thing that makes Disney parks so great is that there is literally something for everyone and you can choose your own adventure during the day.
There are numerous reasons why we keep going back to Disney parks:
· They are really set up to ensure that everyone has a great time, not matter what their age, culture or ability levels are. There is ample stroller parking throughout the park and wheelchair access to pretty much everything, so everyone is catered for. The classic Disneyland parks (Tokyo, Hong Kong, Walt DisneyWorld and Paris) are great for kids of all ages, as is Disney’s Californian Adventure. If you have a family with young children and teenagers, my recommendation is that a multi-park pass for Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea will keep everyone amused for a couple of days.
· The rides vary in size, duration and thrill-level, again, accommodating everyone. I love rollercoasters and thrill rides. My husband, much less so. He would take Ariel’s Undersea Adventure over California Screamin’ any day. With small children, there are still plenty of things we can take them on and for them to do such as the carousels, Mickey’s PhilharMagic and It’s a Small World, just to name a few.
· The stories that we have all come to know and love that are produced by Disney are woven so well throughout the theme parks. There are little details everywhere that you may not even notice at first – like Mickey’s profile in a street lamp – the level of detail is incredible and supports the story.
· Even when the park is crowded, it is well organized and you can find something to do without feeling frazzled or overwhelmed.
· The performers and crew are all exceptionally well trained and are highly engaging as well as being entertaining. [To see some amazing pictures of a suitcases&strollers kid engaging with the Disneyland characters, see the suitcases&strollers story Playing the Disney Princess.]
What are your tips for parents planning a trip to Disneyland with kids?
They are popular and, hence, get crowded particularly on holidays and weekends (this applies to all parks, but even more so in Tokyo). Try to go midweek if you can and not during school holidays. If that’s not possible, then it’s best to take a couple of days at the park as you will spend quite a bit of time queuing for the more popular rides.
Shaded areas in some of the parks or near some of the rides (for example around the Cars area at Disney’s Californian Adventure) can be hard to come by so pack hats and sunscreen and keep hydrated!
Food options aren’t fantastic and if you or your kids have dietary restrictions, you are best off taking your own snacks and foods to get you through the day. [For more travel tips on travel-friendly foods, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
I love carnival food as much as the next person, but even I get tired of hotdogs after one meal. I do love a Mickey waffle with strawberries and cream and I adore the different popcorn flavours at Tokyo Disneyland and Sea. If you are looking for a good, nutritious, hearty meal at Disneyland, I would suggest you bring your own. Personally, I am happy to accept that for a day or two we are going to be eating hamburgers and hotdogs! [For more travel tips on healthy eating while traveling with kids, see the suitcases&strollers interview with a nutritionist here.]
Disney has great interactive forums and maps on their websites that allows you to research and plan your trip – make use of these so you can maximize your fun time but be flexible enough to deal with the occasional closed attraction or long queues.
What is the most suitable age to take kids to Disneyland?
The minimum age I would recommend would be 2 to 3 years old. From this age there are enough attractions at most parks to make this worthwhile. Hong Kong Disneyland, in particular, is smaller and geared towards young families so it is ideal for families with children under 8. Tokyo Disneyland is fabulous for children of all ages (and adults too), as is Anaheim Disneyland, Disney’s Californian Adventure, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris. Tokyo DisneySea, whilst having some attractions suitable for younger kids, will appeal more to the 8 and up age bracket.
[To find out more about why kids love Disneylands, see the suitcases&strollers interview with 11-year-old Alex Pizel about Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea.]
What are your top 3 favorite things about Disneyland for kids?
1. The Rides! As a consummate thrill-seeker, my all-time favourite rides are: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Tokyo DisneySea, Walt Disneyworld, Disneyland Paris); Journey to the Centre of the Earth (Tokyo DisneySea); California Screamin’ (Disney’s California Adventure); Pirates of the Caribbean (Disneyland Anaheim, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong).
2. The Shows! The Lion King Production (Hong Kong Disneyland) is fabulous, as is Mickey’s PhilharMagic (an interactive 3-D film-based attraction).
3. The Details! From the well-thought out parks to the details in every single shop, sign or lamp post to the training of the staff that ensure your day is great – Disney focuses on all of the details to ensure that everyone has a great time.
What are your kids’ top 3 favorite parts of Disneyland?
1. The Smaller Rides The Carousel, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (Disneyland Anaheim), Pooh’s Honey Hunt (Hong Kong Disneyland).
2. The Adventures Even when you’re not on a ride, there’s so much to see and do – Snow White’s Grotto (Hong Kong Disneyland), Main Street (all parks) and Mickey’s Toontown (Disneyland Anaheim and Hong Kong Disneyland).
3. The Merchandise Disney produces a large range of high quality merchandise – everything from toys to t-shirts, waffle irons to individualised paintings. There’s something from everyone’s taste and budget and kids are over-awed and thrilled with all the options…Disney princess hairclips and Mickey bowls and cups are winners in our house.
Any insider tips for how to beat the queues or coordinate your family's itinerary to see as much of the park as possible?
· Check out the Disney theme park websites before you go. Use the interactive maps to plan what you most want to see and do. Check out which rides have fast passes and go directly to the more popular rides and fast pass your ticket upon arrival. At Tokyo Disneyland, for example, some fast passes sell out for rides within the first hour that the park opens so if you desperately want to go on a popular ride, you need to get there at opening time. Hong Kong Disneyland is doable in a day, but the other parks (especially with smaller children) need a good 2 to 3 days to really see everything they have to offer. Also, make sure you check out the daily program – which is also available on the Disney websites – so you don’t miss the parades and other “pop-up” entertainment around the park!
· Take into account the appropriateness of the attractions. Height restrictions apply on many of the thrill rides – especially those with fast drops and loop-the-loops – so they aren’t appropriate for small children. Older kids will also get bored in places like Fantasyland and Toontown that are geared up for small children, so make sure there is enough for your family to see and do during the time you have there.
· Expect crowds, even during off-peak days. And if you are going during school holidays or weekends, you need to expect a lot of queuing so you may want to tag-team with children who can get bored waiting 45 minutes for a ride that takes 2 minutes!
For more about theme parks for kids in general, see the suitcases&strollers interview with Theme Park Guy.