Julia is 5 which I think is the perfect age for Disneyland. She loves the princesses and was excited about exploring the castle. The last time we took her to Disneyland, she was really little. This time was definitely MAGICAL and one she’ll remember.

I bought us 2-day passes to enjoy the parks during the holidays. I timed buying our tickets on dates that are blackout dates for SoCal pass holders, which I figured would minimize the crowd. It worked! It was during the end of the week in the latter half of December (but just before most people get out for Christmas break, which I think helped too.) You do pay a premium on peak days, but I felt the experience was worth it.

Julia’s favorite rides had a 5-minute wait! Some were 10-15 minutes, including Pirates of the Caribbean. The longest we waited was at Minnie Mouse’s house, which took about 20 minutes. I’ve been to Disneyland on really packed days so I know how different those waits can be.

We went on rides multiple times! The Carrousel, the Teacups, It’s a Small World, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Storybook Land, Minnie Mouse’s house, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, the Royal Court, and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. We also easily found a spot on Main Street to watch the 3:30 pm holiday parade. We left the park at about 7 pm. “We’re out so late mama!”

These are all great rides for a 5-year-old. Pirates does have a small drop, but if your kid’s adventurous, they’ll love it. Julia went on it twice!

Highlights for Julia were the carousel, meeting Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White, Minnie Mouse, and Moana, these fun blue slush drinks, and Pirates of the Caribbean. My highlights were the Teacups, exploring the castle together, and getting so many cute photos and videos.

Of course, we had to get some souvenirs! The Mad Hatter shop near the Teacups is perfect for cute hats. Julia got some princess toys and surprises at the shop near the castle. The Main Street shops are a great place to find a special Christmas ornament and other treats.

My tips for parents planning Disneyland trips with little kids:
  • Get the Disneyland app. I bought my tickets through the app, which you scan at the entrance. It gives you wait times for rides and lets you know which characters are around the park. It also connects to your FastPass and PhotoPass.
  • Bring fully charged phones!
  • If you’re hoping for a beautiful keepsake photo—at the Castle, or with a princess—plan that early in the day before any messy snacks. Chocolate ice cream happened to us and it might happen to you.
  • Pack water, juice pouches, a snack you can share while you wait in line. A small backpack is a smart choice.
  • Even if little kids aren’t in strollers anymore, they’ll still need breaks. Great time to get popcorn or an ice cream!
  • We spent most of our time around the Castle, FantasyLand and Mickey’s Toontown. We took the train at Toontown back down to New Orleans Square to explore the opposite side of the park. The ride is fun and gives everyone a chance to rest their feet.
  • You’ll do lots of walking (and maybe some carrying) so everyone should wear comfy shoes.
  • Be OK with cutting the day short depending on what your kids can handle. We stayed until evening but left before the light shows or fireworks because #sleepykid.
  • Wear layers. We started and ended the day in sweaters but it was hot midday (even in December.)