Best age to take kids to Disneyland?
November 15, 2015 11:42 PM   Subscribe

We're considering taking out two girls to Disneyland next spring, when they'll be 7 and 3 1/2. Is this too young?

They'd love it regardless, of course, but it is a lot of time and effort, and I'm wondering if it might be better to hold off a year or two, so they're more able to handle the long active days (younger one) and have a better chance of actually remembering it (older). Or is this the age for peak Disney Magic ExperienceTM? They're both pretty into Frozen and they like the rest of the Disney movie canon well enough, though not rabidly.
posted by gottabefunky to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My family went to Disneyworld when I was three years old and I don't remember a single thing about it, although apparently I enjoyed it at the time. My older sister was five and does remember it vaguely, although she got sick and got to use my stroller while I walked around (I know this from photos). Our brother was seven and has clear memories of the trip.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:37 AM on November 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Disneyland in CA, or Disney World in FL?
posted by jrobin276 at 1:01 AM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't think there's any danger of a 7 year old forgetting Disney, but I think an extra year or two might make an awful lot of difference to the younger child. I went to Disney with my family when I was just turned 8, and I remember many things about that trip very clearly 30 years later.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:06 AM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm glad I went to Disneyworld (one and only time at any Disney park) when they still believed in the characters. There may be fewer memories at a younger age (like 3 or 4) but when the kid thinks Ariel really hugged her, and that the light zooming across the night sky really is Tinkerbell, it's a totally different experience. A 7 year old is still in the range to suspend disbelief -- I would go sooner than later.
posted by flourpot at 1:39 AM on November 16, 2015 [7 favorites]

Took my daughter to Disney World when she was three. The only downside was that we had to go on the It's a Small World ride five times! Thirty years later she has no recollection of going but does remember Disneyland where we went when she was eleven.
posted by TheRaven at 1:48 AM on November 16, 2015

7 is wonderful, but be aware that the 3.5 year old may really enjoy it but then remember exactly none of it (and will also be still needing a little more attention when it comes to things like restroom visits and sleep management.) I feel like a one year wait would be perfect for you - I went at about 8.5 and lost none of the magic, I'm sure your 7 year old will still be hype about it next year, and the younger one will be nearly 5 and much more apt to remember more, be able to do more, and get more out of it.

You wouldn't make a mistake going now, but waiting a year might be good too.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 1:49 AM on November 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

Agreed about waiting roughly a year, and will add the following: some elements of Disney parks can be profoundly terrifying to a child around age 4. (Speaking from experience... to be precise, the only concrete memory I have of DL at so young an age.) I'd advise buying one of those big guidebooks they sell at bookstores and abiding by its advice concerning "how young is too young" for particular attractions.

Don't let that dissuade you, though. Most of the experience will be great. (Plus IMO kids these days could use more scariness, but that's getting off on another topic...)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:09 AM on November 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would also suggest taking a look at the height requirements. There are 'tiers' of height for rides, if you will, that open up many more rides for your youngest. If another year of growth puts both kids into the same tier - less fighting over which rides/attractions to do.
posted by walkinginsunshine at 3:24 AM on November 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I was taken for my sixth birthday. Had such a magical time and seemed like the perfect age really!

One year wait sounds good to me.
posted by Kat_Dubs at 3:47 AM on November 16, 2015

The most helpful piece of advice that I got about Disney is to do it for me (as a mom). Enjoy watching the kids eyes light up, enjoy their amazement- because you can only guess if they will remember it as adults (even if they are 10 when you go). You'll have a better time there if you remember that the Disney experience is for you to watch your kids be joyful. Also, pleasepleaseplease, when the kids get tired, go back to the hotel for a rest. If they are unhappy, you are unhappy and then what is the point? My family does DisneyWorld a couple times a year and the saddest thing is to see parents push their child past their limit just to do 'one more ride'. Don't do that to yourself.

So, my vote is go whenever makes sense financially and for your schedule. Make SURE to check crowd calendars. If you can, stay on property. Bring snacks (you are allowed!). Take it slow. Our best days at Disney are 4-5 ride days with a nap in the afternoon. Do it for you, because you will have fun.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:41 AM on November 16, 2015 [9 favorites]

Any theme park will be an insane amount of walking, standing, and waiting in long lines. Are your kids up for that? How are they when they are tired? All the magic in the world can't survive a cranky kid.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:03 AM on November 16, 2015

Mod note: One comment deleted. Commenters need to stick to answering the actual question asked rather than offering unsolicited suggestions for unrelated activities. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:19 AM on November 16, 2015

My parents took us to Disney World when I was 7 and my brother was 8. I remember most of the trip 30 years later and am glad we went when we did.

My friend took her four year-old to Disney last year and as walkinginsunshine points out above, he wasn't able get on some of the rides (and he is tall/big for his age). Also, a couple of months ago I was asking my nephew if he remembered the house he lived in until he was three and he had absolutely no memory of it, but he does very fondly remember his trip to Legoland just a year later.
posted by futureisunwritten at 5:24 AM on November 16, 2015

Now that my kids are older, and having experienced with both young kids and old. I realized something important about Disney - it's all about remembering the trip when you were younger. Doing it when you are 3-7 makes it possible for you to enjoy it again at age 13 (and older). It's amazing to see a teenager become 7 again - and well worth the price of admission in my opinion.

So I would suggest, go early - 3.5 years is fine. I would also suggest Disney World over Disneyland, but that is a personal bias...

If you can afford it, stay in the park - with a young child we found nothing better than heading out early - running back to the room for a short afternoon nap and then hitting the park again over dinner. The ability to go back and forth easily really changes the experience for all involved.
posted by NoDef at 5:43 AM on November 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

7 is a great age for a first trip to Disney. The 3 year old, on the other hand, is more likely going to tire you out. You're going to be in "parent" mode all day.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:46 AM on November 16, 2015

I loved bringing my 3 year old to Disney! He sang the entire time. He was adorable with the characters. Everything was magical! He doesn't remember any of it now, at 18, but when I tell him a about all the sweet things that he did and said, his face lights up.

Right now is a good time to bring your children. You can focus on what the 7 year old wants to do and see while the little one is just there for the ride, taking it all in. Once they are older, they will have different interests and it will be a completely different trip.
posted by myselfasme at 5:48 AM on November 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

My kids went at 9 and 4.5 and that was perfect. I'd wait one year.
posted by escabeche at 6:05 AM on November 16, 2015

My daughter went when she was 4 and then again when she was six. It was great both times for different reasons. when she was for she was all princess princess princess. She Lost. Her. Shit. when we saw Cinderella, and she got to twirl with her. She was speechless for a good 10 minutes. She doesn't remember much about it now, but she *did* remember it and talk about it for months afterward, and it's still one of the happiest memories I have of her younger years.

When she was six, she could go on a lot more of the rides, and she wasn't really into princesses any more. She read the map and zoomed us around the park trying to pack in as much as possible. That was super fun too, in a different way.

All this to say, wait or go now, either way you'll have a great time, maybe in a different way.
posted by gaspode at 6:45 AM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing those who say "go now," more for the sake of the 7-year-old - the 7-year-old is definitely not "too young," and the 3.5-year-old will be fine as long as you're willing to split up when the 3.5 year old needs a break - one parent takes Funky3.5 back to the hotel while the other parent and Funky7 remain in the park, then you reunite later on, whether in the park or back at the hotel room.

It's a strong, strong argument for staying on-property, though - if you stay off-property and drive in, you've basically committed everyone for The Whole Day, which might be more difficult with your younger one (and this would probably still be an issue if you waited the year and went with Funky8 and Funky4.5 - long day full of excitement is long). I say this from the perspective of someone whose first trip to Disneyland was as a 2.5 year old, who, when I was done for the afternoon, threw a sit-down strike in the middle of the Main Street Electrical Parade. ;)
posted by Pandora Kouti at 7:36 AM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

My parents took me to Disney when I was 2 and 8 years old. I don't remember going at 2 at all, but I have fond memories of my second visit. At 8 I could be a "big kid" or a "little kid"depending on the moment. I could play on the playgrounds, get autographs for my autograph book, drive the go-karts, and ride the roller coasters.

I still give my parents a bit of a hard time for taking me to Hawaii before I could remember it, then claiming that they've "been there done that".

Thus I think waiting a year or two could work out well for your family, especially if you don't plan on repeating the experience anytime soon for your younger one.
posted by oceano at 8:13 AM on November 16, 2015

No opinion on the core questions about when, what age, etc.

Just record every single minute, there will come a time when you will forget the little joys and those recordings will make you weep with a warm memory. My son was an age when no simple video such as we have now was an option.

Entire years seem missing.

Also seconding the staying on or near property logistics, a nap is a powerful thing, a simple walk to the room and back later when the park is again fresh after the meltdown is a tool worth all the cost for your little one.
posted by Freedomboy at 9:50 AM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

My 2yo loved Disneyland when we went for her birthday in April, as in we still "play Disneyland" almost daily. At that age she was too little for most rides but was so, so excited about the characters. We have amazing pictures of her blushing and giggling like a besotted teenager when we met Minnie Mouse. I don't know if she actually remembers anything about the trip, but she definitely knows she wants to go back.
posted by town of cats at 10:14 AM on November 16, 2015

Not at all too young. We took our girl there for her 3rd birthday (the week before, while she still got in for free) and she loved it. You may want to bring a stroller for the smaller one. You can take your stroller on the train and the monorail, unlike at some other theme parks.
posted by w0mbat at 10:49 AM on November 16, 2015

We just took our 3.5-year-old to Disneyland and she had a great time! She was totally delighted to meet Mickey Mouse at his house, and she got to walk and hold hands with Pluto. We didn't do a lot of rides (It's a Small World once). She loved Goofy's Playhouse. She was afraid of the Grand Canyon diorama on the train ride so she had to get off the train. Oh, and the parades! We saw a daytime and nighttime parade and she was completely enthralled by both.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:54 AM on November 16, 2015

I went two years in a row, when i was 6 and when i was 7. That's like the perfect age. I went again earlier this year with my partner who never got to go as a kid and we still had a blast. Inversely, i think 3 is probably too young.

If i had to choose, i'd create a third option. Go now, then go *again* when they're 7 1/2 and 11 and get park hopper passes and go on the way-more-intense california adventure rides as well. There's stuff at disneyland that will still be super fun when you're 11, and holy crap would 7 year old me have been stoked on some of the california adventure stuff.

It's a strong, strong argument for staying on-property, though

Which is where i get in to the meat of what i was going to say. The first year we stayed at the cheapest motel my dad somehow found pre-internet and like... drove a rental car in? The second year we stayed at the disney hotel. They have awesome free snacks i still remember(and i've heard from friends this is still true), stuff like an RC boat pond, and most importantly you can just take the monorail there at any time. My mom ended up getting really sick on the second day... and she just took the monorail back and crashed out for a while and i got to keep having a blast with my dad.

If we had been staying outside the whole complex like we did the previous year either either my mom would have had to suffer or we all would have had to drive back(including leaving the park, getting to the car, etc), drop her off, then drive back to disneyland(or not?). With a 3~ year old you have probably more than double the potential issues. A parent could get tired/sick OR the younger kid could get tired/cranky/sick/etc.

As it was, we had to take a shuttle bus from the hotel we stayed at this year and it was sort of miserable. We somehow missed the last shuttle(it was driving away when we showed up) and ended up having to take a tiresome cab ride on the way back. Just, nah.

Also seconding the video/photos thing. My parents just dug up tapes from my grandpas bajillion dollar clunky handycam they borrowed i'm trying to convert for them and me now. It's a pain, but holy shit am i so happy they exist.
posted by emptythought at 1:21 PM on November 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just asked my son who was 3 at the time (he's 8 now). He doesn't remember anything except two things: (1) he tripped over his own two feet and whacked his head on hard tile and got a huge goose egg on his noggin and (2) the Toy Story ride.

Now, you should note that my son has a terrific memory. Your younger child will likely not remember much.

From a parent's point of view, we were dealing with him and his older sister who has significant disabilities, so that meant two strollers (handy hint: if you are in the same boat as us, go immediately to town hall and get the special sticker that marks your child's stroller as "equivalent to a wheelchair"). This meant time getting stroller parking before a ride and then trying to finding afterwards.

Pro Tip: before you go, if you are staying multiple days, reserve a character breakfast. They're silly (dare I say, Goofy?) and it also offers you the chance to say this to your child, "Hey, let's go have breakfast with Minnie/Mickey - s/he's a personal friend of mine." That goes over really well.

We're going again in the near future when we're looking at nearly 13 and nearly 9. The park(s) will be way more accessible for both of them, which will be a nice thing.
posted by plinth at 4:32 PM on November 16, 2015

Will you go back again? If so, and you have the funds, why not go now and enjoy yourselves? In my case our family will likely only go once. Because of this I waited until both kids were tall enough to do the major rides (48"). For us that equals 7 years old for our youngest. A side benefit of waiting for us was that I've been able to save enough for us to stay on property and have quite a long stay so that we can take things at a (relatively) reasonable pace.
posted by Cuke at 4:57 PM on November 16, 2015

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