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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™

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Disneyland and California Adventure with Young Children

How to Avoid Meltdowns and Create Lasting Memories while at Disneyland with children.

With careful planning (and a little spontaneity!), your family will have so much fun at Disneyland and California Adventure that you will start thinking about a return trip before you've left the park for the night. The characters, rides-both old favorites and new thrills, fun treats, parades, live shows and little moments of joy combine to create a jam-packed day of a celebration of fantasy.

Here are the tips for creating a successful day with your family with young children:

1. Get to the parks early! Try to park and be in line before the park opens. You won't be sorry! The parks get more crowded as the day goes on and if there is a specific ride you wish to go on, it's best to go there first and get in line or get a fast pass to come back later.

2. A great way to meet your favorite characters is at the Minnie and Friends: Breakfast in the Park on Main Street. If you make advanced reservation you can even get in the park early to eat a delicious buffet meal and mingle with the likes of Minnie and more.

3. If there is a parade, especially during the holidays, find a spot and wait: you won't be disappointed. Many families report that the parade is the most memorable part of the experience for the 5 and younger set, as they get to see their favorite characters live, singing and dancing. It could help to bring a few small toys to entertain the kids while you wait (or reserve battery life in your cell phone)!

4. If you are staying at a nearby hotel, go rest during the afternoon. Your toddler will feel refreshed and so will you!

5. Check out Tom Sawyer's Island. Just getting there on the small boat will build the excitement for adventure. The rope bridges and caves are delightful for kids and it gives them a chance to burn off some energy.

6. Tomorrowland Terrace is a great place to eat lunch: there are kids meals and also a live Star`Wars show, complete with Jedis pulled from the audience.

7. It's a Small World, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and  Heimlich's Chew Chew Train are great rides, not scary and have no height requirement. Fantasyland also boasts a beautiful carousel with great picture taking opportunities. Little ones who are afraid to go on the animals can ride on one of the benches with their parents!

8. Make reservations for dinner, especially if you are going during a busy time, like the winter holidays or on an Saturday night. Wait times at Ariel's Grotto (California Adventure) and at many of the restaurants in Downtown Disney can be long and no child (or the cranky's child's parent) likes to wait! Storyteller's Cafe, the buffet at the Grand Californian, is a terrific choice for dinner as there would be no waiting to get food and there is so much to choose from.

9. Don't miss Playhouse Disney- Live on Stage! The show provides a great opportunity to take a seat and watch as the characters from Disney's TV programs come to life in a hilarious song and dance show. Handy Manny, Little Einsteins and more will blow bubbles and encourage your kids to sing along to their favorite songs. has enjoyed this venue more than once, and remember, for young is often not about the rides.

10. If you are looking for a fun ride and want to avoid a wait, the Jungle Cruise is always a good choice, even on a busy day. The guide will keep everyone laughing and there is a lot to see as you glide through the water. It's a great way to unwind and will bring back (and create new!) memories.