Boasting over 80 attractions across both parks, we donned our mouse ears to discover “the Happiest Place on Earth” really did live up to a lifetime of hype. From bejewelled princesses and bedazzled fairies to bolshie bad guys, brave and bumbling superheroes and a certain beloved mouse, there were Disney characters at every turn.
The rides are spectacular, but what really sets them apart are the stories they tell, too. These aren’t the usual white-knuckle-brownpants scares. Before its big drop, Splash Mountain brings Br’er Rabbit to life with entertaining animatronic puppets, while the Indiana Jones Adventure sets up Indy’s new mission as you queue deep inside a temple.
Unlike Universal Studios, there’s also plenty for younger kids; my daughter loved the spinning teacups, the Dumbo ride and a special pre-booked breakfast with Minnie Mouse. Meanwhile, my son went mad for the Matterhorn and Space Mountain, and totally lost his sith at the Jedi Training show, where young Jedis are taught to battle Darth Vader and Kylo Ren live on stage. Criminally, it’s for kids only – cue one sad dad.
Sugary, Disney fun in Anaheim
When darkness falls, the excitement amped up with the epic Fantasmic! fireworks at Disneyland Park and the spectacular sight of Disney characters soaring into life in a flurry of fog, laser, fire and water in World of Color at Disney California Adventure Park.
After clocking up 20 hours of hardcore, sugary Disneying over two days, we left elated but exhausted. With so much to see and do at both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park, if you have the time and budget, plan a longer stay.
It’s worth noting that you can commute to Disneyland from LA, but staying in Anaheim is really where it’s at. After a big day out, the last thing you’ll want to do is load your tired tots into the car and drive an hour.
Where to stay
A great place for families is the Clementine Hotel & Suites. Located within walking distance of Disneyland, Clementine’s family-friendly accommodation includes spacious open layouts, full kitchens and luxuriously comfy beds, in configurations to suit families of every size and shape. There’s also free Wi-Fi for guests to share the day’s best Mickey moments, a grocery shopping service, laundry and barbecue facilities. Plus there’s a heated outdoor pool and an arcade games room to keep the kids entertained when they’re off Disney duty.
Other kid-friendly attractions in Anaheim
Consider extending your stay to take in some of the other incredible attractions in the Anaheim area, including a selection of other theme parks such as the kid-friendly Knott’s Berry Farm and its water park, Soak City.
And last, but most definitely not least, is the epic Six Flags Magic Mountain, an hour north. With some of the fastest, tallest, wildest and most heart-pumping rides, Six Flags Magic Mountain is said to have more adrenaline-pumping ‘coasters than any other amusement park in the world. Its newest ride, CraZanity, is a 17-storey pendulum ride that reaches staggering speeds of up to 120 kilometres per hour.
Thrill-seekers come in every size, so you’ll find plenty of flying, spinning, magical rides for littlies, including four kids’ ‘coasters designed with the park’s littlest adrenaline junkies in mind. There’s plenty of entertainment too, with live shows and character meet-and-greets with Justice League Superheroes and Looney Tunes favourites.
If the kids feel like cooling off, Huntington Beach, better known as Surf City USA, is just 30 kilometres from Disneyland. The wide beach has an iconic public pier, great waves and rental shops and schools if the kids want to ride its world-famous surf. If you visit during the holidays, you can buy a s’mores kit and toast the chocolatey confections over one of the firepits on the beach.
It’s also worth catching a little all-American sporting action, complete with mandatory hot dog. Hot tickets include a baseball game at Angel Stadium or seeing the Anaheim Ducks ice hockey team, allegedly founded by Disney after the successful movie, The Mighty Ducks.