When compared to Disneyland, California Adventure has a reputation of a more “grown up” park. There are bigger thrill rides like Incredicoaster and Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s plenty of wine and beer available throughout the park. While Disneyland has kid-focused Fantasyland and Toontown, California Adventure skews a bit older with lands dedicated to the Avengers and National Parks.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your toddler to DCA. On the contrary, California Adventure has some amazing rides and attractions for the littlest of kids. Here’s how you should spend your day at Disney California Adventure with your toddler.

Table of Contents

  • Best Rides and Attractions for Toddlers at California Adventure
  • Rides Where You Should Use Your Own Judgement
  • Best Activities for Toddlers at California Adventure
  • Where to Find Characters at California Adventure

The Best Rides and Attractions for Toddlers at California Adventure

Toddler Favorites With No Height Requirement

Ariel - Journey of the Little Mermaid - Magic Kingdom Attraction

The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (Paradise Gardens Park) – This is my favorite ride for toddlers at California Adventure for two reasons. First of all, it’s a modern Fantasyland-esque dark ride with a ton of colorful characters and catchy songs. Secondly, it usually has a very short line due to its omnimover ride system. Being able to spend less time in line with a squirmy toddler is a huge plus when it comes to rides at Disney.

Disney Jr. Dance Party (Hollywoodland)This was easily one of the top 3 things we did in all of Disneyland for my one year old. With huge screens, upbeat songs, and magical effects like snow and bubbles, this show was completely mesmerizing for my little one. He danced and wiggled along to the music, and he was genuinely enchanted by seeing snow falling and then Mickey Mouse.  Tip: When we went, the first show of the day was cancelled, but instead they used the space for a distanced meet and greet. This was a great way to get pictures with the characters that show up in the show, like Doc McStuffins and Minnie Mouse.

Jessie’s Critter Carousel (Pixar Pier)A carousel is always a hit with a small child, and the bubbly cartoon animals that act as your vehicles for this ride make it even better for a toddler. The typical short wait makes this an even bigger slam dunk for including in your plans.

Monster’s Inc Mike & Sulley to the Rescue (Hollywoodland)California Adventure’s other dark ride is not quite as toddler-friendly as Little Mermaid. It’s a little darker and there are no songs. But this is still a really good option for little kids. The only downside is that the wait time can get up there. I wouldn’t wait longer than 15 minutes for this ride with a toddler. Make this part of your plans early in the day, or consider Genie+ to skip the wait.

Turtle Talk with Crush (Animation Building – Hollywoodland)Crush from Finding Nemo comes to life and interacts with the audience through what can only be described as Disney Magic. This show will best be enjoyed by kids slightly older than toddlers, but a giant talking turtle should also be a hit with the littlest ones too.

Red Car Trolley (Buena Vista Street) – Unfortunately, this ride is not available right now. But kids love trains, and the Red Car Trolley is train-adjacent. If the trolley is running when you are at California Adventure, consider taking your toddler on a ride down Buena Vista Street.

Toddler-Friendly Favorites with Height Requirements

Both of these Cars Land rides will be a blast for taller toddlers.

Luigi’s Rollicking Roadsters - California Adventure Toddler Guide

Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters (Cars Land) – 32” – The cars gently dance around and spin in sync. Your toddler with have as much fun watching the cars dance as you wait in line as they will going on this ride.

Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (Cars Land) – 32” – Do-si-do with some tractors in tow! This ride doesn’t quite spin you, but it does whip you from side to side. It’s a sensation little kids should find really fun, but hold on to your toddler tight, as the momentum can whip you from side to side. With fun songs and kinetics, this is also a ride your toddler will enjoy watching as well.

Other Toddler Friendly Rides

Both of these rides have no height requirement and basically spin you around. They are more akin to typical carnival rides, so they aren’t included in our favorites for toddlers, but they could be fun if you and your child don’t mind getting a little dizzy.

  • Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind (Pixar Pier)
  • Golden Zephyr (Paradise Gardens Park)

Rides Where You Should Make Your Own Judgement

Pixar Pal Around - California Adventure Toddler GuideThese three attractions have no height requirement, but they all include 3D. The American Optometric Association doesn’t recommend children watch 3D movies or games until the age of 3. https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2011/06/3d-is-ok-for-most-kids-says-the-american-optometric-association/index.htm Of course, you can make your own call if you want your toddler to go on these rides. They don’t need to wear the 3D glasses, but they might not be the most compelling attractions for your child.

  • Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure (Avengers Campus)
  • Toy Story Mania (Pixar Pier)
  • Mickey’s Philharmagic (Hollywoodland)

The next attraction that you can make your own call on is the giant Ferris Wheel in Pixar Pier. The Pixar Pal Around has two types of cars: non-swinging and swinging. Neither has a height requirement, but I wouldn’t recommend the swinging cars, as that is intense even for an adult and could possibly be too scary for your toddler. The non-swinging cars provide a gentle ride with mild movement, and you will have to judge whether your toddler will be bothered by the heights. Also, if you don’t love heights, there’s no reason to do a ride that could scare you just for your toddler.

Best Activities for Toddlers at California Adventure

Places to Roam

Redwood Challenge Trail - California Adventure Toddler Guide

Toddlers love to move around and explore, and there are a few areas where you can let your tiny person run around to their heart’s content. Well, to a point. As I mentioned in the 10 Surprising Must-Pack Items for Disney, my wife and I found that using a toddler leash / harness actually gave our son more freedom to roam safely, without us having to chase him around.

Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (Grizzly Peak)– This is a massive playground with slides and places to run around. Toddlers will probably be too little to enjoy some of the ropes course-esque areas, but there’s plenty more to enjoy here. Be sure to head to the cave in the very back to discover your spirit animal.

The stretch of Cars Land near Radiator Springs Racers and Flo’s DinerThe main drag of Radiator Springs can get crawling with people throughout the day. But the road between Radiator Springs Racers and Flo’s Diner that leads to Pacific Wharf is usually pretty uncrowded. This is a great spot to let your toddler explore with supervision, as they will get a huge kick out of seeing the cars racing by on the biggest ride in Cars Land.

Animation Building (Hollywoodland)There’s a ton to do inside the Animation Building in Hollywoodland. The main lobby is a large carpeted area, with giant screens above playing Disney songs. The Sorcerer’s Workshop has some fun interactive activities that might just be a little beyond a toddler’s understanding (like the quiz to see which Disney character you are), but they still will enjoy seeing the intricate props and scenery.

Live Entertainment

If your toddler is anything like mine, they will be engrossed by musical performers. Here are a few ways for you and your child to enjoy some music while at California Adventure.

  • Five & Dime (Buena Vista Street) – This jazz quintet is the bee’s knees, especially when Goofy joins the fun.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance Off – See Groot  and friends dance to classic rock hits.
  • Mariachi Divas – Look out for this awesome Grammy Award-winning band by Paradise Garden Grill or by the Pacific Wharf restaurants.

It should be noted that California Adventure is not currently running a parade. In the past, they’ve run the Pixar Play Parade and Paint the Night, which both would be a hit with a toddler.

Where to Find Characters at California Adventure

Lightning McQueen - California Adventure Toddler Guide

One of the joys of being a parent at Disneyland is watching your child see their favorite characters in real life. It can be a really magical moment. Disneyland still hasn’t brought back traditional meet and greets, but there are plenty of opportunities for your child to encounter Disney, Pixar, and Marvel characters.

  • Buena Vista Street – See Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy dressed in dazzling 1930s style.
  • Avengers Campus – You’ll be able to see Marvel superheroes walking around, as well Spider-Man flying through the sky.
  • Pixar Pier – Meet Pixar Pals from the Incredibles, Toy Story, Inside Out, and more. Also keep an eye out for the Green Army Men, who perform a roaming show.
  • Cars Land – Meet Mater, Lightning McQueen, and others throughout Cars Land.

Be sure to check out our other articles meant to help you enjoy Disneyland with a toddler:

Do you have any other recommendations for taking a toddler to Disneyland or California Adventure? Let me know in the comments below!