I never thought we’d be those crazy people to bring a new baby to Disneyland, but we joined that club. It was a perfect storm that made it almost impossible not to. It was my birthday. We hadn’t been in months due to that whole pregnancy thing. And our annual passes are set to expire in August and it’s unknown if/when we will renew (the answer, I’m sure, is yes). So we just kinda … had to go.
Disneyland with Madelyn was a routine that we finessed in the past two years. I’d even done a few trips with Madelyn just by myself with no help. So when it comes to taking a toddler to see The Mouse, it’s a no brainer. But with an almost three-month-old in the mix? We were nervous. We had considered leaving Arielle at home, but with the boob thing and imposing on others to watch her, that was almost impossible. So, we went into it with low to no expectations and figured it would just be a difficult day.
Well. I’m glad to say we were wrong! The beautiful thing about taking a new baby to Disneyland is that the baby just sleeps the day away. She had no idea — nor any care! — about where she was, and frankly, that was OK with us. Madelyn still got to enjoy all her usual favorites and we had the bonus of extra storage in the double stroller! Score! (I will mourn the day my kids are out of strollers and we will have to utilize Disney lockers again!)
Having Arielle with us just meant that if she was sleeping or couldn’t go on a ride due to size requirements, Bryan and I would split up and one would stay with the baby and one would go with the big kid. We took turns doing just that, and I didn’t even mind the breaks with the baby because sitting and people-watching at Disneyland is almost as fun and entertaining as the attractions.
Our favorite ride is Soarin’ Over California at Disney California Adventure and we were so excited that Madelyn was finally tall enough to go! Thank goodness for a couple wisps of hair because she just baaaaaarely made the 40-inch minimum. She went on with Bryan first while I waited with a snoozing Arielle and all I could think about was that Madelyn would lose her mind over going up in the glider — and not in a good way. She doesn’t even love the swings at the park, so motion and a big movie with a total sensory experience seemed like a bad idea, but hey, I was outside relaxing with a baby while watching a family in all matching t-shirts figure out how a Fast Pass works. A Madelyn Meltdown was Bryan’s problem. So, color me wrong when 20 minutes later, a proud Bryan walked behind a galloping Madelyn with the greatest smile on her face. “MOMMY!! WE WENT OVER THE OCEAN AND I SMELLED TREES AND IT WAS LIKE A PLANE WITH NO WINDOWS!!!!!!!!” She loved it.
So then I got to take a turn with my girl! It was so much fun to see her reaction a second time around. And I loved it more than I ever had before.
DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #1:
Rider switch is so great!! When you get to the cast member at the front, tell him or her that you have a baby that is staying with one parent. That way, when the other parent wants a turn to go on the ride, the other parent doesn’t have to re-wait in line again and they move on to the “on deck” portion of the line (basically, the second parent avoids the zig-zags). This is called Rider Switch or Child Switch — they’ll know what you mean. Since we had Fast Passes for Soarin’ Over California, we really waited no time at all, maybe ten minutes each time.
We decided to take advantage of a baby who continued to sleep and eat lunch. As all parents know, the moment you get hot food in front of you, that’s when babies decide to wake up and be needy. Thankfully, Arielle cooperated while we enjoyed lunch right next door to Soarin’. Having an extra adult IS helpful since while Bryan ordered for us, Madelyn and I snagged a table that also accommodated the bus. I mean, double stroller. While we waited, Maddie and I talked about all the things we wanted to do the rest of the day. She’s such a little Disney expert. ‘
Our first ride that included Arielle was The Little Mermaid ride, Madelyn’s all-time favorite. While Arielle stared out into the acid trip that is music, colors, and movement by cartoony mannequins, Madelyn danced and sang along with each part of the ride, narrating to her rookie little sister what was happening. Arielle could not care less. Another day in babyland.
DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #2:
When it comes to rides that babies can go on, have one parent handle the big kid and the diaper bag and another parent handle just the baby. On some rides, babies can be worn in a carrier, but I didn’t even whip out my carrier because it was just too hot to wear the baby and she was totally fine laying down in the stroller. It was less stressful to assign this combination between us parents because getting on and off rides can sometimes resemble a gymnastics event, and only having to think about the baby (instead of the baby and the bag and the big kid) was less stressful.
We meandered through California Adventure for a few more hours with no agenda whatsoever. It was easy to avoid the area that caters toward older kids and instead, we just found ourself moseying around and enjoying whatever we stumbled upon.
Like Vintage Minnie! Madelyn is still a big time Minnie fan, so she was super excited to meet her in this great outfit. Minnie signed Madelyn’s autograph book and then spent some time with Arielle. She played with her toes and gave her lots of kisses. Arielle stared blankly at her, not even fazed by this gigantic mouse with eyelashes in her face. Oh, babies.
Then Minnie used her amazing Mouse Sign Language to ask what her name was and when Maddie told her “Arielle,” Minnie, ever so original, proceeded to hold her nose and dive down, as if she were a mermaid swimming in the water. “Oh Minnie,” I told her. “It’s Arielle, not Ariel!” and then she silently giggled and wrote in the air with her gloved hands “R,” “E,” “L” and then I high fived her. Madelyn loved all the attention both she and her sister received from Mrs. Mouse.
Maybe it was having her little sis with her for the first time, or maybe she is just growing up, but Madelyn was suddenly eager to go on rides that she used to be afraid of. The sounds and darkness of the Monsters, Inc. ride always frightened Madelyn so I’ve been conditioned to walking right by it. But this time, she saw the big pink door that belongs to Boo and asked to go on. I was shocked. But happy! I love that little ride and it’s one that we can all go on together, so that was a nice bonus.
Instead of being scared, Madelyn protected her sister with, “Don’t worry, Arielle! They’re monsters, but they’re not really mean!” Arielle breathed a deep sigh of relief. Or passed gas. Who knows.
Around the corner from Monsters, Inc. was the new-ish “Frozen” pavilion that we hadn’t seen. It opened up just around the time I stopped going to Disneyland a few months before Arielle’s arrival. We walked over to see a super short line to meet Olaf. Madelyn is not a typical Frozen Fanatic like a lot of other girls her age. She likes it and all, but doesn’t aspire to be Elsa or Anna, so I even though she didn’t go totally gaga over the friendly snowman, we all figured we would enjoy some warm hugs on a hot day because it was new.
And conveniently, the “Frozen” sing along show was next door so we decided to give that a whirl in the name of trying new things. It replaced the Muppet 3D show which I adored because Muppets. I was looking forward to seeing this new “Frozen” show because I assumed it would be stellar and entertaining. Oh, and there was air conditioning. As we waited to go in the actual theater, Arielle fell asleep but then as soon as it was time to go in and get seats, she got hungry.
DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #3:
Shows make great places to feed babies since you can multitask; family fun isn’t interrupted and the baby gets to eat. Everyone wins. Bonus points for breastfeeders: dark theaters give you a little privacy and everyone is so focused on the entertainment that nobody is looking at your boobs. Usually, shows are dark and there’s lots of ambient noise, so the baby can go to town without too many distractions and you can also look at something while you’re feeding.
The “Frozen” show started and I was quickly underwhelmed. Five minutes in and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. It was a really super loose script that narrated the chunks of the movie during which the screen played the song parts of the film with words to sing along with. The live narrators were fine even though their material was horrible, but the live “Frozen” characters that sporadically came out totally phoned it in. I expected a lot more from Disney on this attraction. It was tossed together and quality was sacrificed, but oh well because “Frozen” lovers will love it anyway. Even Madelyn seemed bored and I thought the best part of the whole show was the indoor air conditioning and the rest that my feet got.
We crossed over to Disneyland for some old fashioned Disney fun, and went straight to It’s A Small World. I was curious to see if Arielle would react because the famous Sherman Brothers song is one that always works to get her calm when she’s crying, but as usual, she just looked around and had no idea what all the fuss was about.
Our only “Oops” of the day happened as we were exiting the boat. Bryan’s long, lean legs got a little excited and too close to Madelyn’s face, so as he stepped out, his foot made contact with her cheekbone. I saw a bruise already forming so through her screams — oy! the guilt! — we rushed over to the first aid center to get some ice. The deed was done, though, and she endured some swelling and black-and-blue there. The nurses could clearly see the anguish in the poor dad’s face, so they wrote up a coupon for a free ice cream to redeem anywhere in the park by the end of the day. Madelyn cheered up — which was a relief to Bryan — and we were on our way, beat up but not beat down.
You know what makes little girls feel better after getting kicked in the head? Princesses. We caught up with the girls at Madelyn’s favorite stop in all of Disneyland. As usual, the line was about 45 minutes, so Bryan stood in line while Madelyn and I walked around with Arielle in the stroller.
DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #4:
Want your baby to sleep in the stroller? Both my kids have successfully napped at Disneyland without having to go back to a hotel all thanks to the magical Disney cobblestone. There’s sleep dust in that groundwork. As long as the stroller is moving and going over cobblestone or wooden paths or anything with a bumpety-bump, my kids sleep. I imagine kids who cry in the car won’t have success with this, but kids who go to sleep with motion (mine! yay!) will also conk out in the stroller as long as they’re moving over ground with texture. This is how we got Arielle to sleep the day away and make things easy for us!
We stood in front of the castle and I snapped pics of Madelyn with the diamond anniversary decor. We also killed time by walking over to Snow White’s wishing well and we listened to her sing. Finally, we browsed some shops and Madelyn made friends with mannequins as she does when we shop anywhere. Time passed quickly, and then we were ready to see the princesses.
When we went in, we knew we’d see Snow White and Cinderella, but there was also a surprise princess. For the first time, Madelyn met Jasmine and she was a little timid as she took her in. By the end of their meet up, though, they were good friends. That must’ve been some magic carpet they were standing on. Ba-dum ch!
As dinner time drew close, we were getting hungry. We were unsuccessful landing reservations at our favorite restaurants the day before when I looked online for slots, but we tried to get in on standby at the Thunder Ranch BBQ and we were seated shortly after. This is the best meal and deal at Disneyland! The food is delicious and plentiful! It’s all-you-can-eat BBQ and it’s REALLY yummy! The service is great and there’s usually a little show that the kids enjoy during dinner.
For what you get and the quality of food, it’s reasonably priced too (for Disneyland at least) so I highly recommend it, especially to big groups. They also accommodate diet limitations, and since I’m ditching dairy and soy in exchange for a happy breastfed baby (OMG Arielle was a nightmare until I did this), the chef came out to talk to me and shared how I would be accommodated and still enjoy my meal. I was and I did!
DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #5:Since the restaurant is right next door to the Big Thunder Ranch petting farm, while we waited for our table, I took Madelyn to see her goat friends. They’re so cute and well behaved. So many people don’t know about this little petting area. Sometimes Clarabelle the cow and a horse are there, but the goats are almost always out. It’s a great way to let little ones run around in a contained area, especially if another parent and the baby are waiting in line somewhere else and the older kid doesn’t have patience to wait. Keep in touch with the cell phones and voila! Happy children and happy parents! Also, hand washing stations there for the win! Sometimes I go there just to wash hands when I want to avoid crowded, stuffy bathrooms, assuming I don’t have to actually use the potty.
It was almost parade time and I heard that the new parade was not to be missed; that it was like the Electrical Parade on crack. So while Bryan and Madelyn set up camp and got a spot on Main Street to wait for the parade, I fed Arielle in the Baby Care Center just off of Main Street.
I’d always heard what a haven this place was, and it really was. While I am OK with nursing in public, it was kind of nice to also have a mostly private area and legit chair to sit in and feed the baby.
DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #6:
There are outlets in the Baby Care Center. That may mean pumping area to some, or phone charging stations to others. So yes, I fed my baby and fed my phone. It was truly a win-win. Also, a serving of air conditioning.
I met some nice moms in there and it became a breastfeeding support group. Disneyland is magical that way. It was kind of funny that we all agreed we were comfortable nursing our babies throughout Disneyland, but that we came solely for the cooling off. Really, though, this place is great and I recommend it since they also have a large baby changing area, tiny potties for older tots, and a kitchenette with a microwave and high chairs.
The new parade was awesome, despite being very loud. I would recommend bringing ear plugs or covering a baby’s ears. You can’t really avoid the speakers — they’re everywhere! It’s a super cool parade to watch, but I have major concerns about the damage that the sound is doing to kids’ ears. Other Disney pros told us to stay on Main Street for the new fireworks show that would happen shortly after the parade. But, it was not to be. About 3.75 raindrops fell from the sky and a leaf fluttered once or twice on a nearby tree and it was Storm Watch 2015. The fireworks show was canceled and we were so sad! Madelyn cried. Actually, lots of kids cried. And then we were stuck in a waterfall of angry people who wanted to get out of the park.
Once we got out of the crowd, we continued walking around the different lands. Bryan and Madelyn went on Pirates of the Caribbean while a sleeping Arielle and I watched nighttime happen around the park — romantic couples, kids with light up toys, teenagers on the prowl.
We explored a few more areas and then at 11 p.m., we redeemed that ice cream voucher at Gibson Girl that we received from the nurses at first aid.
DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #7:
If you want a treat before you leave the park — we always do! Holding onto Disney magic in our hearts… and on our thighs — go to the Gibson Girl for fancy ice cream desserts DURING “Fantasmic!” because once it’s over, the rest of the park makes a mad dash to leave and they have the same idea about one last taste of Disney deliciousness. This is good when you have sleepy kids and you just want to get home after your final treat.
Madelyn was so, so tired, but she soldiered on to enjoy her strawberry sundae with her Daddy. I scowled at them in my no-dairy bubble and Arielle slept through the whole thing.
So, the outcome of taking an almost four-year-old and a three-month-old to Disneyland? Piece of cake. Really. It might be harder later on when Arielle wants to move around more or has opinions to express, but as a blob of a baby — let’s face it, that’s what they are for the first few months — it ended up being a very successful and rewarding day.
And yet, I’m excited for this sleepy little baby to wake up a little bit, too, because she will absolutely love Disneyland once she’s old enough to truly enjoy it. Some of Madelyn’s happiest memories in her short little life have been made there. Mine too.