Disneyland California: Parades, Shows, and Disney CharactersDecember 30, 2010 No Comments
On our recent family trip to Disneyland, our three-year old son had a blast going on all the kid-friendly rides and attractions, (see the article “Disneyland, California: Rides and Attractions for Young Children”). Now that he’s a bit older, we also found that he enjoyed a number of the parades, activities, and shows that the Magic Kingdom has to offer as well. Since we were also traveling with two new babies and six adults, we had the opportunity to discover what worked well for large family groups and small children and what didn’t! Some of our son’s favorite activities—and the tips and hints we picked up along the way—are included below!
1. Character Pictures and Autographs – Our son had a lot of fun spotting his favorite Disney characters as we walked through the park. We stopped several times over our three-day adventure so he could have his picture taken with Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Mickey, Pluto, Sully (Monsters, Inc.), Woody and Jesse (Toy Story), and Jack and Sally (The Nightmare Before Christmas). While the characters can be seen walking around Disneyland at almost any time during the day, many of them have special hours where they can be found at a certain place in the park to sign autographs and take pictures. A schedule of characters with their ‘visiting hours’ and spots can be found at the end of Main Street just before the entrance to Frontierland.
Something to keep in mind when it comes to picture times: the lines to visit with the various Disney characters can sometimes be almost as long as those for the rides. The characters are usually at their ‘picture places’ for a set amount of time and their handlers will give five minute warnings to those still in line as the time limit draws closer. If the time limit is reached and you still haven’t had a chance to meet the character, the handler will let everyone know when and where they can be found again. On our most recent trip, we were the very next group in line when Pooh Bear had to leave but after a very short break (and no doubt a quick costume switch to another Cast Member), he was back again before anyone could feel too disappointed!
Also, pictures with the Disney Princesses are among the most popular and people often beginning lining up for them quite a bit in advance. Photos with Mickey can also get very crowded but he can always be found at his house in Toontown and his regular hours for pictures are posted outside his door.
2. Character Dining – Our son—and truthfully, our whole family—really enjoyed our Character Dining experience while at Disneyland. Since we were staying at the Grand Californian, we scheduled ours for the Storyteller’s Café where we got to meet Chip ‘n Dale and some of their friends. Inside Disneyland Park, the Plaza Inn Restaurant, (located just off of Main Street right before the entrance to Tomorrowland), hosts Minnie and Friends Breakfast in the Park. Character Dining experiences are great ways to meet a number of the Disney characters without having to wait in long lines or follow their appearance schedules. While you’re eating, the characters rotate through the restaurant and stop at each table to take pictures, visit, and sign autographs. They’re usually able to take a bit more time with your children during the dining experiences than they are if you meet them somewhere else in the park.
Reservations aren’t required for Character Dining, however, Disney does strongly encourage them; especially if you’re traveling with a large group like we were. After seeing how crowded the Character Dining gets though, I have to admit that I’d make reservations for a small group as well; that way no one will be disappointed if you can’t get a table!
3. Parades - Disneyland does a spectacular job with their parades and coming from me, that means a lot; I don’t usually enjoy them. We watched a couple on our recent trip and they were both excellent! The music was fun, upbeat, and easily recognizable since most of it was from popular Disney movies. In addition, the performers were all top quality and did a great job getting the audience involved. Our son really had fun watching all the dancers and singing with the songs he knew. He also enjoyed pointing out all his favorite Disney characters as they came by.
The parades and their schedules change throughout the year ,the most recent information on their times and themes can be found on the Disney website. This information can also be found on the Disneyland maps that are available at the Park’s entrances. If you’re planning on taking in one of the parades, you should be prepared to grab a seat along the route as early as an hour before it’s due to start. The sidewalks and pathways along the parade route are carefully roped off and there is no sitting or standing allowed outside the designated areas. The view is best on the curbs right along the street and be warned that even if you’re lucky enough to snag one of the benches on the sidewalk, you probably won’t be able to see anything once the parade starts; everyone packs in and stands up once it gets going!
4. Shows and Fireworks - Our son loves music so we made sure to take in a couple shows during our trip. The Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland has a number of short musicals during the day and there’s also the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland. This last show opened in 1963 and was the very first to use Audio Animatronics Technology. It feels a bit outdated when compared to the modern rides and attractions in the rest of the park but it’s a unique experience that’s worth the 15 minutes! Our son liked seeing all the birds, flowers, and Tiki statues singing together in the darkened room. He also thought the simulated thunder shower was pretty cool!
Then of course, there’s always Fantasmic. This takes place outside New Orleans Square on the Rivers of America and combines most of the popular Disney characters, music, fireworks, and some impressive giant puppetry to make a really spectacular show. Even though it first opened nearly 20 years ago, it’s still one of Disney’s most popular shows and draws a huge crowd. Premium seating near the French Market is available but there are a limited number of seats and tickets must be purchased. Everyone else who wishes to see the show should be prepared to get there at least an hour in advance and depending on the time of year, even earlier to get good seats. It’s worth the wait, though! Disney’s ‘standard’ fireworks show also runs most of the year though the times and themes change depending on the season. Fireworks set to music are set off behind Sleeping Beauty’s Castle for a truly beautiful display that our son really enjoyed!
On a quick side-note: our family party included one person in a handicapped vehicle and for the most part we found Disney to be very accommodating to their special needs guests. The parades and shows usually have special handicap seating areas for both the person in the vehicle and everyone else in their party. If your trip will included anyone with handicap needs, be sure to check with a Cast Member a couple hours before show time to find out any special instructions.