Recently, my baby girl turned 1! I am in serious shock over this, still! To celebrate her first birthday my husband, parents and in-laws took Sofia to Disneyland. We had the most amazing time. She loved the rides, but not the characters, loved the parades, but not the Tiki-Room and most of all we loved seeing her face light up. I consider myself a Disney connoisseur. I have been going there on vacations for as long as I can remember, many years more then once or even twice. I have stayed at all three hotels on property and quite a few "good neighbor" hotels. I know my way around without a map, can tell you where just about any restroom in the park is and I am also the first to help those poor wanderers wondering about where certain rides are. Traveling with a toddler is a whole other ball game! Here is what I learned...
Watch the parade, preferably, at night! Disney knows how to outdo themselves when it comes to parades: the music, the costumes, the characters, the story that unfolds as it marches past you! But it is so much cooler at night when the floats light up. Sofia was enthralled...definitely a hit!
Watch the fireworks from New Orleans Square. We did this by default, because we were eating dinner right there (make reservations ahead of time for Disney resort restaurants if you can), but it turned out to be fantastic. It was not nearly as crowded as main street which meant Sofia could get down and we could wander around to find the "sweet spot." It was also not nearly as loud which is perfect for little ones! The downside, the "show" might not make as much sense since you can't see ALL of the extras Disney is so famously known for. But for me, who has seen the fireworks show countless times, it was the perfect way to watch with a toddler.
Beware that not all kids like the characters! Sofia liked them from afar, but SCREAMED once they came near. We did try multiple times, but it wasn't going to happen. Just be prepared to possibly not get those cute photo's of kissing Mickey's nose or grabbing Pluto's ears. The plus side, not waiting in those long lines to meet Mickey and Minnie and we were able to go in through the back to see Minnie's house and still got all of those cute pictures!
If you can, bring your own stroller, makes for more comfortable napping for baby! We didn't have to head back to the hotel for nap time. Sofia usually naps better in motion anyways, but it was super nice to have our own stroller that could lay flat for her to sleep. It would have been nice if the hotel was a little closer (we stayed at the Hilton across the street, which isn't a far walk, but was too far for just a nap) but having our own stroller was worth lugging it through the airport for sure.
We had a fantastic trip and we are headed back there in just a few weeks. I'll post an update if there is anything else I learn on the next adventure.