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Want to plan the perfect 1 Day Disney Itinerary for a family with young kids? I have you covered with all you can accomplish from making Genie Plus reservations, to visiting attractions, choosing foodie restaurants, meeting characters, and catching nighttime entertainment.
Check out our 1-Day Disneyland VLOG video…
See more tips from Jenna Loves Magic on YouTube…
What you can do in 1 day at Disneyland with young kids…
Here’s an example of all we accomplished in the video above in 1 day at Disneyland in Anaheim, California…
1. Arrive at Disneyland for the day
As you’ll see in the video below, it couldn’t be easier to leave the Grand Californian Hotel and walk less than 10 minutes through Downtown Disney to Disneyland Park.
Read more about getting from the Grand Californian to Disneyland…
2. Walk through Downtown Disney
On the way to the theme park, you have to walk through Downtown Disney.
When you go through security into Downtown Disney, you are all set and don’t need to go through another security checkpoint (atleast at the time of writing this article).
You just need to show your Disneyland tickets to get in the park.
3. Entering Disneyland Park
Most people who are used to staying in Orlando at Disney World resorts are surprised the first time they visit Disneyland because the parks are right across the street from each other.
4. Walking Down Main Street USA
There's so much to take in when you arrive inside the gates of Disneyland.
If you have the time before getting on a ride, check out one of the Disneyland Vehicles like the horse pulled trolly or the double decker bus.
Here’s a quick video of them…
5. Jolly Holiday Bakery Foodie Stop
Don’t miss out on whatever seasonal items are on display in the case!
You can mobile order to skip the line.
6. Walking through the castle
So there isn’t a ride in the castle, it’s just a covered area to walk through, but on the other side are some great family friendly Disneyland rides to enjoy…
7. King Arthur Carrousel
This is a great first ride at Disneyland for kids (unless you booked a Genie + for a popular ride).
The wait time is moderate most of the time (I’ve never waited more than 15 minutes) and you get to check out the other rides in the area and enjoy the music.
8. Eat a turkey leg
Nothing like a high-protein snack.
Our family of 3 can easily split one of these and enjoy a slushee at the same time, too.
Look for a food cart or small quick service spot that has them.
9. Ride Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
This is an easy going ride without a height requirement.
I will add a video sometime in the future!
10. Visit Pirate’s Lair Island
This area is so fun to explore - you can easily spend 30 minutes enjoying in Disneyland Park…
First, you take a boat ride / raft ride - you’ll find it across the way from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
And when you arrive on Pirate’s Lair Island, you are free to explore many bridges and caves and climb stairs all around the island…
While taking in beautiful canoes and other big ships sailing by (which are also rides / attractions that you can check out after).
11. Grab lunch at Red Rose Tavern in the Fantasyland area
We enjoyed a quick, tasty lunch at Red Rose Tavern…
I tried a seasonal salad, dessert, and some really interesting tater tots that were both delicious and weird at the same time! Definitely an interesting foodie find…
12. Ride Casey JR train
We rode this no less than 4 times on this particular day in Disneyland park! (and I could have ridden it even more!)
It’s not too fast, not a roller coaster - that’s for sure… and the music and views are lovely.
I think it’s a great ride for kids - try to get the caboose for a different view!
13. Ride Storybook Land boat
A BIG favorite kids ride in the area of Fantasyland – right next to Casey Junior train ride – is the Storybook Land boat ride…
Along the very peaceful and slow-ride journey, you’ll see small fairy-like houses from your favorite storybooks and Disney movies…
14. Ride Pinocchio's Daring Journey
This is similar to Snow White’s ride… sometimes there is a long ride, other times you will luck out so keep checking the Disneyland app…
15. Ride Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Similar to the Snow White ride and the Pinocchio ride, this is not a thrill ride and our crew likes to ride it over, and over, and over again!
16. Go on the Mad Hatter Tea Cups ride
A family favorite Disneyland ride, sometimes you can catch a very quick line…
17. Alice in Wonderland ride
I find this one usually has a long wait, but for us, 25 minutes of a line is worth it because this ride is cute and fun…
It goes both indoors and outdoors and is NOT a thrill ride.
I will add a video sometime in the future!
18. Take a Snack Break for Frozen Slushee and Pretzel
There are always interesting new foodie finds at Disneyland.
The slushee can really help in the heat after a long day of walking and having fun…
And when I see a new menu item, like the parmesan cheese pretzels I found on a recent trip, I like to give them a try.
19. Spend a while exploring Mickey’s Toontown
Mickey’s Toontown is a hot find in Disneyland!
One of the reasons I love Disneyland is because it has so many areas for kids to burn off energy…
And this specific area is a big attraction for playgrounds, slides, and physically interactive environments…
There is even a designated small children play area here with softer surfaces that is gated off from big kids.
20. Roger Rabbit’s ride
Located in the Mickey’s Toontown area, I’d say this ride is not too thrilling, but a bit more engaging than Snow White’s ride, for example.
Our family loves it, though!
21. Return to your resort and relax!
At the end of a long day at Disneyland, I was happy to be staying so close on property at the Grand Californian Hotel Resort!
In the lobby of the resort is a very cute sitting area for kids to enjoy right-size rocking chairs.
Now let’s get to specific tips for planning a 1-Day Disneyland Itinerary…
Why plan out your Disneyland day?
Planning a trip to the Disneyland Resort is an exciting and rewarding experience, and a one-day trip is a great way to make the most of it.
With the right strategies, you can maximize your time and get the most out of your visit.
Planning ahead will allow you to do things like purchase Genie Plus, a mobile app system that lets you choose and reserve ride times in advance, so you can start booking rides when you wake up, before heading to the park for the day.
So below are tips to plan the perfect one-day trip to the Happiest Place on Earth…
Arrive early to start your day at Disneyland!
We aren’t necessarily Disneyland rope-droppers, you know…
They are the people who are there about 45 minutes before the park opens and are ready to run through the entrance and get to their favorite ride.
But I do believe in getting to Disneyland as fast as you can, as early as you can…
To make the most of your Disneyland 1 day ticket.
So for us that means getting ready at the hotel, and heading to the parks to enjoy breakfast onsite at a tasty place like Jolly Holiday Bakery, where you can find seasonal breakfast and lunch items.
As the lines for popular attractions begin to form closer to noon, you'll want to maximize your time first thing in the morning.
Check the official Disneyland Resort website to stay informed about all the latest attractions and experiences that are available and those that are unavailable for refurbishments, etc.
Get your Disneyland bucket list ready…
Make a list of the attractions you want to experience, and plan your day around them.
Double-check the opening and closing times of Disneyland and the particular attractions you want to visit. Some days the parks may close early for events.
Knowing this in advance will help you plan and adjust your itinerary accordingly.
Prioritize the popular Disneyland attractions
Be sure to get Genie Plus or head to your favorite attraction early…
Popular classic Disneyland attractions like the Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Matterhorn Bobsleds will be busy later in the day.
Plan for Disneyland food and treats…
When I’m waiting for rides, and it’s getting near snack or meal time, I like to pull up the Disneyland app and check out the food options nearby.
I will often have a restaurant in mind, and be ready to order from it in the mobile app as soon as I’m done with the ride - sometimes before.
Usually the pickup times for mobile orders at quick service dining locations are within 30 minutes or so.
Personally, I like to skip all the breakfast options and coffee spots that line the entrance of Main Street USA when you enter the gates to Disneyland, because in the morning the lines can be very long and I don’t want to waste time!
For a fast Disneyland breakfast… I like to head over to Jolly Holiday, which is halfway between the entrance to Disneyland and the Castle.
It’s on the left side and usually has delicious seasonal and holiday bakery items to try.
For a character Disneyland breakfast… book something like “Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park” which is at the Plaza Inn at Disneyland Park.
At this unique character dining experience, you’ll see Minnie and other Disney friends while eating an “all-you-care-to-enjoy breakfast buffet”.
Definitely book any fine dining or character meal in advance, like weeks and weeks in advance online, to make sure you get a spot if you want one.
Though don’t be disappointed if you don’t have the reservation the day-of as sometimes time slots open up and walk up options may be available.
For lunch, there are so many good options!
Usually we are busy, but need a short rest so I order ahead in a mobile app and we find a cool place to enjoy a meal.
I like to enjoy specialty seasonal menu items that are just at Disneyland for a period of time.
With young kids who are 2-3-4-5 years old, I find it’s best to go with their energy and for us, that doesn’t usually mean a sit down dinner at a fancy restaurant is ideal.
I like to order from the mobile app and find something tasty to eat and help us power through to fireworks at the end of the night.
See a Disneyland parade
Check in advance to line up your day around Disneyland parades with your favorite characters.
Catch Disneyland fireworks before heading out
As your one day at Disneyland winds down, check out any beautiful fireworks displays in the evening.
People start laying out towels and blankets on the ground to watch the show early, around 7 or so, even if a show doesn't begin until 9pm.
But I don’t think that is necessary - you can see the fireworks from many locations throughout the park if you aren’t picky!
Tips for planning a Disney World trip
Shop my favorite things to buy in advance for a Disney World trip:
- Disney outfits for women
- Brooks sneakers for women (see more on shoes for Disney)
- Matching Disney adult and kids hats
- 2 pack of ponchos
- best neck fan for Disney World
Get more Disney World travel tips...
- See the ULTIMATE GUIDE to Disney World resorts
- Get tips for booking Disney World tickets
- See this beginners guide to Disney World packages
- Tips for flying to the closest airport to Disney World
- Learn about taking a Skyliner ride during EPCOT fireworks time
- Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
Top Disney World ride guides
Top Disney World restaurant guides
- What to order at Topolino's Terrace for dinner at Riviera Resort
- Sanaa bread service
- Where to get breakfast in EPCOT
- Joffrey's Disney coffee
- Le Cellier
See top Disney World hotel tips and guides...
Disneyland travel tips...
- When Halloween starts at Disneyland
- Complete guide to Halloween at Disneyland
- 1 Day Disneyland Itinerary Example
Enjoy a fun day trip to Disneyland with this guide!
Hope that answers all your questions about planning a day at Disneyland with a kid-friendly itinerary.
And I hope you are stoked to head to Disneyland Park for a magical one-day adventure!
I’m confident that with a little bit of careful planning and the ability to wing-it when the time calls for it… you can maximize your time at Disneyland in Anaheim and get the most out of your visit.
Ready to book your Disney World trip? Reach out through our contact form for assistance.