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The 17 Best Rides for Toddlers and Preschoolers at Disney California Adventure

After working as a chemist at a biotechnology company, I enjoy writing about science, travel, and gardening.

Toddler Rides at California Adventures

With two active children and a love for Disney, I frequently travel to Disney theme parks and have extensive experience with young children and the entertainment options at Disney California Adventure.

California Adventure has several rides suitable for very young children. Discover twelve of the best options for toddlers and preschoolers at this theme park.

California Adventure has several rides suitable for very young children. Discover twelve of the best options for toddlers and preschoolers at this theme park.

Disney California Adventure Rides With Height Requirements

The following rides have height requirements, preventing toddlers and preschoolers from riding:

  • Jumpin' Jellyfish: 40" (102 cm)
  • Goofy's Sky School: 42" (107 cm)
  • Silly Symphony Swings: 40" (102cm)
  • Soarin' Around the World: 40" (102cm)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout: 40" (102cm)
  • Grizzly River Run: 42" (106cm)
  • Incredicoaster: 48" (122cm)
  • Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters: 32" (81 cm)
  • Mater's Junkyard Jamboree: 32" (81 cm)
  • Radiator Springs Racers: 40" (102cm)

Web Slingers Ride Through Video (No Height Requirement)

Attractions Appropriate for Toddlers and Preschoolers

The following rides and attractions have no height requirement, and will be loved by most toddlers and preschoolers:

1. Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure

Help Spider-Man conquer escaped, buggy spider-bots by slinging webs from the WEB Slinger Vehicle. This ride uses 3-D glasses, is dark, spins around corners, and has loud noises. Some timid toddlers and preschoolers may be intimidated by this ride. As one of the newest rides in the Avenger's Campus area of the park, this ride can only be accessed by using the virtual queue option on the Disneyland Mobile app. Be sure to download the app and obtain a virtual pass for this ride starting at 7:00 am on the day of the ticketed park reservation. If you don't get a reservation, don't panic: guests can try again at 12:00 pm for another chance at a spot in line.

2. Turtle Talk With Crush

The animation building might be overlooked by a first-time visitor, but it is packed full of air-conditioned activities and shows for preschoolers. Turtle Talk with Crush is an amazing, interactive show with the beloved turtle from the Finding Nemo movie. The animation building also contains the Animation Academy, where children can learn to draw their favorite Disney characters.

3. Sorcerer's Workshop

Located within the animation building, this hands-on experience features two magical encounters. The first exhibit is a "magic mirror" that demonstrates how still images are animated. The second exhibit is an interactive magical book from the Beast's library, allowing guests to discover which Disney character best aligns with their personality.

Inside Out Whirlwind is a mild spinning ride with no height requirement.

Inside Out Whirlwind is a mild spinning ride with no height requirement.

4. Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind

Gently spinning balloons themed from the "memory movers" from the Inside Out film are a wonderful ride for very young toddlers and preschoolers. There is almost nothing about this ride that is frightening for young children.

5. The Golden Zephyr

This ride looks impressive, and is surprisingly smooth and mild. The silver zephyr cars glide above the park, and children love flying high! There is no height requirement for this ride, and children can sit right next to their parent on this ride. This ride also gives a lovely view over the park, allowing guests to view the rides from a high-flying perspective. This is a ride the entire family can enjoy together.

6. Jumping Jellyfish

This ride has a 40" (102 cm) minimum height requirement, so toddlers will not be able to ride. Adventurous preschoolers will love the gentle dropping sensation as this parachute-style ride slides toward the ground.

Ride this classic carousel filled with toys from the Toy Story movies. There is no height requirement and all ages will enjoy this attraction. Be aware that this ride closes early on some nights to accommodate the World of Color show.

8. Pixar Pal-A-Round

A massive Ferris Wheel on Paradise Pier, Pixar Pal-A-Round is visually appealing to kids. Families with younger riders can ride in a stationary car, while families with adventurous preschoolers can try one of the "free mounted" cars that slide along a track! Be aware that the sliding cars are quite thrilling and may frighten timid preschoolers.

Riding on one of the sliding cars on the Pal-A-Round  is thrilling for older children, but smaller kids may prefer the stationary cars.

Riding on one of the sliding cars on the Pal-A-Round is thrilling for older children, but smaller kids may prefer the stationary cars.

The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail offers various climbing and sliding opportunities for toddlers and preschoolers.

The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail offers various climbing and sliding opportunities for toddlers and preschoolers.

9. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

Cargo nets, slides, bridges, and the ability to run free create a preschooler's paradise. This area also has a toddler-safe cargo net area, with a smaller weave so little feet don't get caught in the nets. A word of warning: children love this area so much, they may not want to leave!

Toy Story Midway Mania is extremely fun for all ages (as long as the height requirement is met)!

Toy Story Midway Mania is extremely fun for all ages (as long as the height requirement is met)!

10. Toy Story Midway Mania

A headline attraction with amazing effects, this ride has no height requirements. While young toddlers may not keep the 3D glasses on, they will still love this ride as it zips around a midway filled with Toy Story themed midway games. Preschoolers will love "shooting" 3D rings, darts, and more at the various game stations. This is a ride the entire family will adore, and want to ride again (and again, and again)!

The Little Mermaid Ride Through Video

11. The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Adventure

Guests travel "underwater" in this new dark ride. Ariel's grotto, Sebatian's orchestra, and Ursula's lair are featured in this ride, and each "shell" ride vehicle turns backwards and head "under water" through a series of special effects. There is no height requirement for this ride, and all children may ride with their parents through this gentle, entertaining ride. The seagull Scuttle helps to narrate the story through the ride, to fill in any gaps for people who may not have seen the movie.

A "meet-and-greet" area has been set aside next to the ride, for young children to meet Ariel and get autographs.

Mike and Sully to the Rescue Ride Through Video

12. Monster's Inc: Mike and Sully to the Rescue

This fun dark ride takes guests on a tour of Monstropolis, looking for Boo, the small girl from the movie. The ride vehicles travel through the Child Detection Agency as the agents there continue their search for Boo - culminating in the hall of bedroom doors. The character Randall wants to destroy Boo's bedroom door, but is thwarted by Mike and Sully. This ride is quite fun and has no height restrictions. Children who are frightened by the dark or by audio-animatronics may be fearful of this ride, but most preschoolers enjoy it.

13. Mickey's PhilharMagic

This 3D movie stars Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Lasting only 12 minutes, the movie is a fantastic diversion for kids of all ages. Set to tunes from several Disney films (including "I Can Fly" from Peter Pan), the movie will keep the attention of young children. There are some surprise additions during the movie, including some gentle sprays of water and wind blowing. Most children will not be frightened by this movie, though the most sensitive children may not like loud noises or wearing 3D glasses.

14. Soarin' Around the World

For preschoolers tall enough to experience this attraction, the feeling of flying over an African savannah with elephants just under your feet is incredible. With a minimum height of 40" (102 cm), most children ages four years and up will be able to ride.

Radiator Springs Racers Ride Through Video

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree is a fun ride, and is not scary in any way.

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree is a fun ride, and is not scary in any way.

3 Cars Land Rides for Preschoolers

Cars Land is a 12-acre area based on the Pixar movie Cars. Cars Land opened in 2012 and is one of the most highly immersive and themed lands in any Disney park. All of the rides in this area have minimum height requirements, though most children over the age of 2 years will be tall enough to enjoy Luigi's Roadsters and Mater's Jamboree.

1. Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters

This ride is extremely fun and not scary in any way. Sit in classic cars as they perform a line dance to a fun musical tune. This was one of our kids' favorite rides in Car's Land (though Radiator Springs Racers is the ultimate favorite)!

2. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree

This spinning ride features Mater. The minimum height to ride is 32". Riders sit in a trailer behind Mater, and are pulled in circles.

3. Radiator Springs Racers

This fast racing ride covers half of Cars Land - a six acre race around Radiator Springs thrills adults and children. The minimum height to ride is 40", which means that most very young toddlers will not be able to ride. This is considered a thrill ride, so pregnant women and those with health considerations should also not ride.

Which Is Better for Toddlers: Disneyland Park or California Adventure?

While Disneyland offers a plethora of rides targeted to toddlers and preschoolers, California Adventure is a different story. Many of the current rides have strict height requirements, which means fewer attractions are available for any person with a height under 40" (102 cm). There are several rides that are accessible, but if your family has time for only one park, the choice is clear: choose Disneyland. There are many rides for children as young as the age of one year at the Disneyland park, but California Adventure offers less bang for your buck with a toddler.

Rides That Frighten Toddlers: What Scares  Kids

Rides That Frighten Toddlers: What Scares Kids

A Word of Warning: Consider More than Height Requirements

Height requirement alone does not determine the appropriateness of an attraction for young children. Some very young children may be frightened by any ride in the dark, for example, so take your child's temperament into consideration before riding a ride like "Monster's Inc." When a ride lacks a height requirement, read the attraction details by the ride entrance or talk to a Cast Member to determine the appropriateness of the ride for young children.

What Rides Can a 1-Year-Old Ride?

One year old children are able to ride all attractions that have no height requirements, but be aware that WEB Slingers and Toy Story Midway Mania have fast spinning motions that may be upsetting to some one year old babies. The best rides and attractions for one year old toddlers are:

  • Jessie's Critter Carousel
  • Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
  • Monster's Inc. Mike and Sully to the Rescue
  • Little Mermaid Ariel's Adventure
  • Mickey's PhilharMagic
  • Turtle Talk with Crush
  • Pixar Pal-Around (fixed cars only)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Leah Lefler

Comments

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on October 18, 2015:

We love Disney. It is a fun place to go! I need to update this article since there are new rides at California Adventure (the Little Mermaid and Radiator Springs Racers) that small children would enjoy.

Nope on July 24, 2015:

I like reading the secrets of disneyland

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on February 08, 2011:

Thanks! Both of my little guys are too small for many of the rides at theme parks, but we went to Disney in California last July and we were surprised by how many things they could do!

freecampingaussie from Southern Spain on February 08, 2011:

I don't have young kids anymore but its a great hub!

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