We just got back from our mother/daughter birthday trip to Disneyland and I can hardly wait to do it again! It was a whirlwind trip with one day at California Adventure and one day at Disneyland but we managed to pack in a lot in. It was originally supposed to be just myself and my daughter, but a friend decided to come along too with her two older children, aged nine and twelve, and the five of us had a really good time. It was her family’s first trip to Disneyland and it was fun to show them some of our favourites and to experience it together.
It was also interesting to see how older children experienced the park compared to little ones. We’ve only gone with small children and this trip was my daughter’s first chance to experience some of the “big kid” ride since she has finally passed the magic 40 inch mark. The older kids, on the other hand, were immediately drawn to the rides like Tower of Terror and California Screaming. Even the same ride was a very different experience for the different kids. The older ones came off Toy Story Midway Mania comparing scores while my daughter was just thrilled to be riding through the scenes and randomly shooting at things.
Overall, I found California adventure to have a great range of attractions for all ages. The theming of Carsland was appreciated by the adults and older kids even thought the rides weren’t especially thrilling. The kiddie rides in a Bug’s Land may have been a bit boring for the older kids, but at least there were lots of cute details to look at. Soarin over California was at hit with everyone in the group. And there was always a show or musical number going on somewhere.
While there were a lot of things for different ages to do together, we did find it necessary to split up a few times to make sure everyone got to do everything they wanted. My daughter had a great time singing and dancing along with the under six set at the Disney Junior Live on Stage show, but I’m sure the older kids wouldn’t have wanted to be caught dead in there. (On a side note, the show is on a low stage with seating on the floor, so most of the little kids spend the show bouncing happily in their parent’s laps. At the end of the show it’s really funny to see the kids jump up and scamper happily out the door while the adults unfold themselves painfully off the floor and limp stiffly after them.)
There are also not a lot of character opportunities in California Adventure compared to Disneyland. You can get pictures with the Cars Characters, which move their eyes and say a few phrases, but don’t really interact with the kids. We met Daisy Duck on Paradise Pier in the morning and I saw Phineas and Ferb greeting a few times but that’s about it. Since I had a little girl with an empty autograph book who’s top priority was meeting princesses , the only way I could make that happen was to book a character meal at Ariel’s Grotto. It was a fancy meal that was sort of wasted on a small child, but I considered it money well spent since it would save us several hours of waiting in lines to meet each princess individually the next day at Disneyland. The meal had Ariel, Cinderella, Jasmine, Aurora and Snow White circulating around and interacting with the kids and my daughter was in heaven, especially since we had the last seating and the characters had a lot of time to visit each table. It also gave my friend and her kids a chance to ride California Screaming three times in a row without us having to wait for them!
Overall, I felt that California Adventure had a lot to offer families with kids of all ages. It doesn’t quite have the little kid appeal of Disneyland, but with recent additions such as Carsland and the Disney Junior and the Little Mermaid ride it’s a strong runner up. And older kids who like thrill rides will find plenty to enjoy. I just hope that when my own kids are old enough for those rides that I’ll be as brave as my friend was about going along with them!