low pressure, high fun!

10 Low-Pressure, Magic-Filled Things To Do With A Five-Year-Old At Disneyland

Spoiler Alert: you can do the whole day with *zero* rides if you want to.

Wondering if there's anything to do with a five-year-old kid at Disney? Here's a list of 10 great id...
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images

After recently coming back from a trip to Disneyland with my five-year-old, I can confirm that it is, in fact, the happiest place on earth. Even if you’re not “into” the magic or haven’t been to Disneyland in years, there is something that Disney does to an adult that turns you into a churro-eating, Mickey Mouse ear-wearing, crying during the fireworks blubbering mess of a person.

Now, while Disneyland offers tons to do for adults or older kids, the theme park also has an insane amount of attractions, events, and sights to see with younger kids who might not be too keen on riding Space Mountain or some of the scarier dark rides.

Here are some of the best things to do in Disneyland with a five-year-old, and spoiler alert: you could do a whole Disneyland day with *zero* rides! That means no long queues or Genie+ panic, just an easy, breezy day at the parks.

1. Character Meet & Greets

No, but seriously — Disneyland is crawling with characters. From Snow White to R2-D2 to Peter Pan to the Big Mouse himself, we saw so many characters just walking around the parks, taking in the sights and sounds of Disneyland.

The queues to meet characters always flew by and even when we had to wait around 30-45 minutes to meet the princesses at the Royal Hall, the interactions these princesses had with my daughter were so heartfelt and touching that I bawled like a baby and had to wear my sunglasses inside.

2. Turtle Talk With Crush

Located in the Animation Academy at Disney California Adventure, Turtle Talk with Crush is a live, interactive experience with Crush, the surfer-bro turtle from Pixar’s Finding Nemo.

Kids can talk to Crush and ask him questions about anything. One of the best parts of Turtle Talk is that since each event is live, every chat is spontaneous. Each time you visit and chat with Crush, it’s a totally new experience. This attraction is great for kids and adults. I was cracking up the entire time not only because of Crush but some of the questions the kids asked!

3. Mickey’s Toontown

When we visited Disneyland, we roped-dropped Fantasyland and quickly scooted over to Mickey’s Toontown, located at the back end of the park. Walking into Toontown seriously felt like walking into an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Not only was Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway a total walk on, but my five-year-old was awestruck by the cartoon-like buildings and structures surrounding Toontown. There’s tons to see and do — buttons to push, levers to pull, and a full-sized playground — plus, Mickey and Minnie live there! Chances are you’ll see a character or two walking around. My daughter had a chance run-in with Pete, and they held hands walking down the road while my heart melted into a puddle of goo.

4. Fireworks

Stick around after dark for the fireworks show at Disneyland. We took a break in the middle of the day, napped in our hotel room, and then walked back into the park for an evening adventure.

Around 20 minutes before the fireworks started, we found a perfect spot for viewing — right in the center of Main Street, U.S.A. Set to familiar Disney music with projections on the Main Street buildings and Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the entire experience truly is captivating. I’m not sure my daughter blinked for the entire show. Keeping kids awake until 9:30 p.m. after a long day at Disney is hard, but if you can swing it, do it!

5. Disneyland Railroad

The Disneyland Railroad chugs along the classic Rivers of America in New Orleans Square takes a turn at Toontown, heads around Tomorrowland, and winds up back at the front of the park at the Main Street, U.S.A. station. The railroad offers a great rest for the feet (and the brain!).

While on the train, riders can see Walt Disney’s legendary dioramas of the Grand Canyon and Land of the Dinosaurs, where Audio-Animatronics dinosaurs come to life. There is something so classic and quintessential about riding the Disneyland Railroad and if your kid is like mine, the choo-choo train might be the favorite ride at the park.

Plus, there is usually never a long wait in the queues. Trains are scheduled to arrive every 5 to 10 minutes at most times throughout the day.

6. Parades

For parkgoers looking to optimize their time at Disneyland and get on every single ride with little wait, then watching the parades is probably not for you. However, if you’re a parent with a little kid who seems to be more excited about a wave from Goofy and Pluto than riding Big Thunder Mountain, you cannot miss a Disneyland parade.

Usually performed twice a day (though times vary!), Disneyland parades are not your hometown marching band and float with streamers, okay? This is the big leagues — giant, intricate parade floats, more characters than you’ve ever seen and music that absolutely slaps.

Disney cast members really keep things moving while the parade is going, so unfortunately, it’s hard to do an impromptu stop-and-watch on the sidewalk. Grab a spot on the curb at least 30 minutes before the parade begins for optimal viewing.

Disney mom pro-tip: Keeping your tired and cranky kid entertained while you stake out a perfect parade spot (I recommend right in front of City Hall!) might drain your Disney spirit, so mobile order some Mickey ice cream bars from Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.

7. Food, Food, And More Food!

You could most certainly have a fantastic, full day at Disneyland by simply tasting every single snack and food item they have to offer. From a classic churro to the viral pretzel garlic bread that I still dream about), Disneyland food is a theme park in and of itself.

My five-year-old dined on pizza flop overs from Café Daisy, a coconut-pineapple Dole Whip, Jack-Jack Cookie Num Nums, and about a million other delicious treats during our time visiting the Disneyland Resort (we had a veggie here and there too, I promise). Also, there is something about the popcorn at Disneyland that just tastes better. I cannot explain it.

Having a fed and happy kiddo is the key to a top-notch Disney experience, so just walking around the park and grabbing an interesting snack here and there — ones that we would never be able to have at home — was some of the most fun we had during our trip.

8. Downtown Disney District

Adjacent to the esplanade (that’s a fancy word for the space between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure), a sprawling land of shops, food, live music, and all-around Disney fun awaits in Downtown Disney.

We were in Downtown Disney for some of the best memories from our trip. My daughter and husband danced to fantastic live music on the lawn. A kind cast member handling the remote control R2-D2 outside the Star Wars Trading Post gave my daughter the time of her life as the two played chase while she giggled. We bowled at Splitsville Luxury Lanes™ – Bowling and browsed the never-ending selection of merchandise at World of Disney.

Downtown Disney is totally free to get into, and we had an absolute blast just walking around and taking it all in. There’s still so much Disney magic to absorb without even going into the parks.

9. Pin Trading

Disney novices might not know that pin trading is one of the favorite pastimes for Disney veterans (and for my five-year-old.) All around the Disneyland resort, Mickey Mouse-shaped pinboards are set up with an array of Disney pins. These pins have been traded in and out by other Disney guests.

We bought my daughter her own Mickey & Friends Starter Pin Set which includes four pins (two sets of identicals), a lanyard, and lanyard card. With doubles of pins, she was able to start her pin trading journey. She loved searching for pins she liked or checking out other people’s selections. One amazingly kind woman even gave her some of her own pins (vintage!) to help her start her collection.

She came home with a lanyard filled with pins, waiting for the chance to go back and trade all over again.

10. Catch A Show

Disneyland offers a variety of shows and entertainment including the Five & Dime band who roam around Buena Vista Street at DCA singing swing and jazz music and The Dapper Dans barbershop quartet who never turn down the opportunity to belt out an acapella version of “When You Wish Upon A Star.”

Disney also offers bigger live entertainment shows like Fantasmic! and World of Color. These shows take place in the evening and tend to require a little more planning (and waiting around), so it might not be the best for young kids.

Disneyland with preschoolers (who are not super into rides) is totally doable and actually a lot of fun! Prioritize the smaller moments and hidden magic of the Disney parks, and you’ll be planning your next trip before you even leave the park.