Disneyland & Legoland for a Pre-Schooler

October 3, 2016, 12:05 PM

In less than two weeks I'm taking my 4 year old and his 4 year old cousin to Disneyland & Legoland. This is going to be my first time taking someone so young to the Disneyland parks and my first time going to the Legoland parks.

My question is what can I do to enhance the experience for a preschooler?
(other than the regular stuff of not overdoing it and making sure that he get some downtime.)

Last time I was at rope drop, I remember the band being just inside the gate and at the very least Alice was there playing games with the kids. It's things like these that will make his day...

I also wanted some thoughts on strategy. I was thinking to head straight for the Peter Pan ride and take on a bunch of the low capacity rides right off the bat (Snow White, Mr Toad, Pinocchio, etc). He is too short to ride the Mountains, so I'm wondering if that is the best idea...

I was also wondering how the Jedi Academy works and how long it takes. Is there a signup? Do we have to be there at a certain time?

Replies (7)

October 3, 2016, 9:26 PM

You sign up for Jedi Academy outside the exit of Star Wars Launch Bay first thing in the morning. It's first come, first served, and if you can't get in early on a Magic Morning, the slots might be gone by the time the "regular" park guests arrive.

Spend some time around the piano at Coke Corner, too. Mary Poppins and Bert often play with kids around there. Don't know about mornings, but I see them often in the afternoons.

Fantasy Faire Royal Theater can be a great show for kids that age, too. Sometimes that's a Fastpass, but sometimes it's not. If so, those are distributed via portable FP machines on the hub. Either way, get there early to get a spot in front of the floor.

And do not forget the world-famous, kid-sized, no-auto-flush porcelain toilets in the baby care center!

October 3, 2016, 9:39 PM

30 minutes in line with a preschooler can feel like hours. Confined spaces and the anticipation of riding the ride takes a toll. My best bet is after a few rides in Fantasy Land, take them to Toon Town. There are lots of interactive exhibits (Donald'a boat) and a playground to let them get some pent up energy out. By the time they've worked up a sweat, they'll be ready for a juice box and the Gadget coaster.

Edited: October 3, 2016, 10:41 PM

It's a bit unfortunate that you'll be visiting Disneyland at a time when some of the attractions that would be really good for a four year old (most notably Tom Sawyer's Island) are closed, but there should still be plenty to do to keep everyone occupied.

For ways to enhance the visit, I would suggest taking a look at the streetmosphere performance times and trying to work some of those into your day. A lot will depend on what the kids enjoy, but Disneyland offers a surprising number of small scale entertainment options that are often overlooked (such as the Coke Corner piano Robert mentioned). Additionally, you may want to allow some time to check out the various gags hidden throughout Toontown. There's stuff hidden all over, so just take a half hour or so and explore the entire land with the kids. Others who have preschoolers may have more advice for you here, but these are things I remember really enjoying when I was young. Lastly, shows and walkthrough attractions may be your friend, particularly in the middle of the day when lines are at their longest.

For strategy, this is going to depend very much on whether you're visiting on an early entry day or not. Disneyland currently does early entry on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. On these days, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland open one hour early for hotel guests and those with Magic Morning tickets. If you can participate in the early entry, it is an excellent time to tackle the low capacity non-Fastpass attractions in these areas. If you can't, however, it will put you at a disadvantage as lines will already be sizable at park opening (particularly in Fantasyland).

Assuming you cannot participate in early entry, if you are visiting on an early entry day I recommend starting with Adventureland and New Orleans Square. As it is in holiday mode, Haunted Mansion will likely be one of the longest waits in the park (at least for attractions without a height restriction), so it is a good idea to do this one in the first hour. Wait until an hour or two after the park is open before moving to Fantasyland, as this will give the early entry crowd time to disperse across the park. While lines won't be short, they will be shorter than they were in the morning and shorter than they'll be during the afternoon. You'll be able to use Fastpass on Roger Rabbit's Car-Toon Spin and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, but unfortunately everything else that offers it has a height restriction. The other good time to do Fantasyland is during the daytime parade, but that isn't an option if you plan to watch it.

If you visit on a day that does not offer early entry, your idea of doing Fantasyland first is the right approach. I recommend starting with the following (in order): Peter Pan's Flight, Alice in Wonderland, Mad Tea Party, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Casey Jr. Circus Train. After that, do the rest of Fantasyland in whatever order works best, then head to Toontown. Once you finish Toontown, head out to Haunted Mansion and grab a Fastpass (if available), then go from there.

As for the Jedi Training show, if your child wishes to participate in this you will need to head to Tomorrowland immediately to register them (the registration kiosk is next to the Star Wars Launch Bay). Once you register, you will be given a show time and told to report to the staging area 30 minutes before the performance. As there are less than 200 spots daily for the show, they will be gone within an hour of opening, and particularly on early entry days it can be extremely difficult to get one. Between the registration line, staging time, and the 20 minute show, you will invest at least an hour into this attraction if you choose to do it, so I'd recommend leaving it out if you only have one day at the park (if you have two days, however, it may be worth doing).

I did not include anything about Disney California Adventure because I am not sure if you will be doing that park (you didn't mention anything). Personally, I would recommend sticking with Disneyland only unless you have three days, as a child under 40" is excluded from about 2/3 of DCA's rides (including pretty much all E-tickets). However, if you will be visiting the park and want some advice on it let me know.

As for Legoland California, this park is an entirely different animal than Disneyland. Instead of all audience attractions that can accommodate young children, this park is full of children's rides that can accommodate adults, with only about 1/3 having any sort of height requirement (and only six of those having one of 40" or more). Unlike a typical kid's area, however, the entire park is nicely themed and some of the attractions are on par with a Disney D-ticket. If you're visiting on a weekday you really don't need any kind of strategy for this park, but if your visit is on a weekend I recommend starting at Ninjago and then heading clockwise around the park from there. In addition to Ninjago (an interactive dark ride that is new this year), I definitely recommend checking out:

-Coast Cruise: A narrated boat tour of the center area of the park.
-Fairy Tale Brook: A boat ride similar to It's a Small World, but outdoors and featuring Lego-matronic recreations of fairy tale scenes.
-Driving School: Kids get to drive small cars around an area. Unlike Autopia, this ride is not on a track and the area resembles city streets (though a 4 year old will probably be on the junior version, which is a simple loop with a stoplight).
-Fun Town Fire Academy: Possibly the most creative attraction at the park, this is a combination of a ride and a game where guests race each other to put out a fire.
-Lost Kingdom Adventure: Egyptian themed shooting dark ride featuring Lego characters.
-Miniland: Recreations of famous landmarks built entirely out of Lego bricks. Some of the displays are quite complex and some are interactive. There is also a Star Wars Area.
-Skipper School: Boats that kids can pilot around a semi-open course.
-The Hideaways: A gigantic playground in the back of the park. Most kids could easily spend 30-45 minutes here.

There's definitely more (including several attractions that involve building with Legos), but these are the highlights. Ultimately, just explore the park and try anything that looks interesting, as most kids in the 4-9 range will enjoy just about everything there.

October 7, 2016, 6:49 AM

Thanks for the input!

We are skipping California Adventure. The 4-year-old would see CarsLand and promptly have a meltdown if he couldn't ride it....15 minutes in and the day would be over.

Edited: October 7, 2016, 7:51 AM

You'll be missing some terrific attractions for 4 year olds. If you don't want to deal with the racers ride, don't walk all the way forward. Actually, you can pretty much skip Cars Land entirely. In California Adventure, a 4 year old will enjoy: Little Mermaid ride, Bugsland with Heimlich's Chew Chew Train as favorite, Frozen musical, Animation Academy (highly recommend Turtle Talk, Sorcerer's Workshop to draw characters, and Anna & Elsa Royal welcome), Soarin', Grizzly Rapids, Toy Story Mania, Mickey's Fun Wheel, and Jumpin' Jellyfish.

Don't forget the Marvel superhero meet and greets at the Hollywood section.

To avoid Carsland entirely, from Buena Vista Street, turn left to go to Hollywood Land or right to go into Grizzly Peak area. From Hollywood Land, you can enter into Bug's Land. From Grizzly Peak, you can enter into Paradise Pier.

October 7, 2016, 8:01 AM

The 4 year old isn't 40 inches? I would think they would be close.

October 20, 2016, 5:25 PM

If you're child is scared of going on rides do that plan but if you think they could go on dumbo and stuff more adventurous then do it! They will have an amazing time!

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