As Tiffany mentioned in her fun Countdown to Disneyland post, we just took our families to the Happiest Place on Earth. Here are my top tips for doing the Magic Kingdom and California Adventures with teens. Tiff will then weigh in with her top tips for younger children.
#1 Don't miss the parades or the shows. It would be easy to miss a parade or a show assuming that they are too juvenile for teenage children. But my kids LOVE Fantasmic and the World of Color and wouldn't miss Aladdin and the Disneyland fireworks show even though they have seen each of these productions several times. This year we loved both parades as well as the new show Mickey and the Magical Map at the Fantasyland Theater. Nobody puts on a show like Disney.
#2 Don't forget the Kiddy Rides. Let each child pick a nostalgic favorite with one rule: no one can complain. We encouraged each child to choose a few favorite kiddie rides that they wanted to visit for old times sake. We enjoyed Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride among others. The kids loved trying to remember which rides were their favorite when they were small and we all enjoyed re-experiencing these classics since no one could complain.
#3 Do meet and greet the characters. One of my favorite memories is seeing my 18 year old compare hair notes with Merida of Brave fame. They both have wild, unruly hair and it was so cute to see them together! We had even more fun watching our teens talking to the characters than we did when they were little when they seemed to scream and bury their heads in our necks more than carry on a conversation.
#4 Do establish financial parameters beforehand. Our kids knew that we would pay for all of their meals and an ice cream treat in the middle of the day. Otherwise, they were on their own for any snacks and/or souvenirs. This made for an enjoyable trip for Mom and Dad as we watched our kids agonize over purchases made with their own hard-earned money while never getting nagged to open our own wallets.
#6 Do eat unique foods in unique places. I have heard complaints about the food at Disneyland and it can be overpriced and tasteless. This time we tried something different. We committed to not eat anything in Disneyland that we could eat at fast food places at home. So no burgers, pizza, or fried chicken. Instead, try some foods unique to Disneyland. For example: Enjoy eating Monte Cristo sandwiches while watching the Pirate Boats go by in the Blue Bayou. Or stop at the Cozy Cone Motel in Radiator Springs. We tried both the chili and the chicken verde in edible bread "cones" that were delicious. We also loved the Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches at the Hungry Bear Restaurant. And we couldn't resist the famous hand-dipped corn dogs from the Little Red Wagon on Main Street. They were amazing!
#7 Do spend plenty of time in Radiator Springs. Cars Land is absolutely incredible. Even if you don't have a Cars movie fan in the family, you must spend time in this fantastic place. I am still in awe of how the magicians at Disney made this movie come to life. Yes, the traffic light is actually slower every third blink!
#8 Try something different each trip. A few years ago we went to see Cherished Moments with Mr. Lincoln and were amazed at how realistic this animatronic marvel really is. This time around we took the Sourdough Bread Tour on Paradise Pier and watched the Asimo Robot Demonstration in the Innoventions building. Both were fantastic and worth our time.
#10 Enjoy every moment. Our days of going to Disneyland with our kids are numbered. We don't have to imagine the future any more. Our kids really have grown up too soon! It is wonderful that we share a love of Disneyland together. And before too long, we will be sharing that love with our grandchildren!