Theme Park Insider show this week, we asked how old a child ought to be to visit (or go off in) a theme park all by themselves for the first time. But let's back it up a bit and ask a more fundamental question — when are kids old enough to go to a theme park at all?On our
Obviously, children of all ages visit theme parks. I've seen some children at Disneyland young enough that they ought to be wearing an "I'm Celebrating..." button with the tag "Being Born Earlier Today!" My first Disneyland memory was bring carried back to the car at night, only to be awakened for a moment by the roar of the monorail passing on the track above the parking lot. (Today, that would be a spot on Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure, which begins to suggest that I'm not exactly young anymore.) I was about three at the time. I'm told that I visited the park before that, but I have no memory of those visits.
Children under age three get in free at the Disney theme parks, but if you're taking a child that young into the parks, it's not for them — it's for you. Kids that young won't remember anything more than a brief snippet of those visits, if they remember anything at all.
That doesn't mean people shouldn't bring infants and young toddlers into the parks. If everyone else in the family has an annual pass, for example, why stop visiting just because you have a baby now? With child swaps, baby care facilities, and abundant places to take a break during your day in the park, taking an infant to a theme park is easier than many other popular tourist destinations. Heck, I'd rather see babies at Disney World than in my local movie theater.
Once kids are walking and potty trained, the issue becomes "how many rides can they get on?" With many 40-inch height requirements (which the average four-year-old can meet), the Disney theme parks offer plenty to do for the three- to nine-year-olds using child tickets. But other parks, with coasters whose height restrictions run up to 54 inches, might be less attractive options for kids until they get into their later elementary or middle school years.
A child's stamina plays into a parent's decision, too. Not just for visiting a park, but for getting there, too. The decision when to first visit a park is much different for an Orange County family who lives a few miles from Disneyland, Knott's, or Legoland than for a family in the Midwest that's thinking about a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. Can your child handle the trip to Orlando, as well as spending several days in the parks?
Every family is different, but having been through this more times than I care to count, I wouldn't blame a family for waiting until their children were out of car seats before making a 1,000-plus mile trip like that. Maybe starting with the local coaster park when your child's tall enough for that isn't a bad choice, after all.
Well, there are no bad choices here, just different ones. Parents of children of all ages find ways to make theme park visits work. But parents of children of all ages can learn from other parents... and from kids, too. So we'd like to the parents among us when they first took their children to a theme park. And if you're not a parent, we'd like to ask at what age you were brought to the parks for the first time.
What lessons did you learn from those first trips that you now wish you'd known in advance? Share your story with us, in the comments.
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