The 10 Best Things to Do on Your Kid's First Visit to Disneyland or Magic Kingdom
by SUNNY CHANEL
For a Disney fan, taking their kid to Disneyland or Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is a rite of passage. It is a big deal, akin to losing that first tooth or taking that first step. That said, as a parent planning a visit to the happiest place on earth with our cherished offspring, we feel an immense, deep need to make it the BEST DAY EVER! Yeah, no pressure.
While it might seem freeing to waltz in willy-nilly and let the day unfold on its own, for those wanting to hedge their bets, it's best to walk in with a game plan. You only get to take your kid to Disneyland for the very first time once! To assist you on this mission, we’ve put together 10 must-dos for your trip to Disneyland or Magic Kingdom. But don’t worry if you’re reading this after already having gone to the parks with your little ones – all of these ideas still apply, especially if your kid was super young the first time (‘cause they so won't remember!).
Note: Some of the experiences mentioned in this piece may not be available due to safety and social distancing protocols. Please make sure to check the Disneyland or Magic Kingdom websites prior to your trip!
Snag a First Visit Button
Ya gotta love a freebie. Disney Parks gives out various complimentary celebration buttons for birthdays, graduation, weddings, and anniversaries. But for that all-important inaugural visit, make sure to get your child the "1st Visit" pin. These souvenirs can be picked up at City Hall on Main Street, U.S.A.
Purchase a Pair of Mickey Ears
Although there are a gazillion choices for Mickey and Minnie ears, for that first visit, go old school. The simple Mickey Mouse ears, inspired by Walt Disney's The Mickey Mouse Club, are totally classic and timeless. Swing by the Mad Hatter, right near the entrance at Disneyland, or The Chapeau in Magic Kingdom to pick up a pair. Make sure to have your child's name embroidered to upgrade from standard issue merch to personalized memento.
Sit for a Silhouette
One of the most unique and personal souvenirs available at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom is the hand-cut portrait. These stylish silhouettes are carefully created by a bevy of talented artists who are well-versed in the ways of a wiggly child. In just a few minutes, they'll snip out your child's likeness and paste it onto a quaint paper frame. Not only is this a sweet keepsake to bring home, but it's also inexpensive – around $10 per silhouette.
A Photo with Their Favorite
Almost everyone has a favorite Disney character, and many can be found in the parks (sorry, Stromboli fans, you're out of luck). While the likes of Peter Pan and Alice can be spotted wandering around Fantasyland, others, such as the oh-so-popular Disney Princesses, hold court at scheduled times in their own meet-and-greet areas such as the Royal Hall in Disneyland and the Fairytale Hall in Magic Kingdom. If you have a little Star Wars fan, make sure to take them to Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland or Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World to meet Rey, Chewy, or (if they are brave) Kylo Ren.
Meet a Cast of Characters
If you want to meet oodles of iconic characters in one fell swoop, consider booking a character lunch or dinner. Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World have a menu of unique dining experiences, such as the Minnie & Friends Breakfast at the Plaza Inn in Disneyland and Cinderella's Royal Table at Magic Kingdom, where characters come to your table for photos, autographs, and conversation. Seeing a kid's face light up when their fave Princess comes to pay a visit is worth every penny.
Get Their First Haircut in Magic Kingdom
If you're willing to wait, getting your child's first haircut at the Harmony Barbershop on Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom is worth it. This old-timey barber shop offers a “My First Haircut” package that includes a pair of commemorative Mickey Ears, a keepsake lock of hair, a milestone certificate, and, of course, the haircut itself.
Take Them for a Ride
Choosing which attraction should be your child's first is a tough call! Even after taking their height into consideration, there are plenty of rides to pick from. A few of my personal favorites for the smallest of guests include It's a Small World, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Jungle Cruise, and Peter's Pan Flight. Keep in mind Peter Pan always seems to have a long line, so make sure to factor wait time into your decision.
Introduce Them to One of Disney's Iconic Treats
Disney Parks snacks and treats have become as beloved as the attractions themselves, complete with their own T-shirts, pins, and keychains. Make sure to work in one (or more) of Disney's iconic treats, like a fresh churro from one of the many carts or Mickey-shaped beignets from the Mint Julep in Disneyland's New Orleans Square. Don’t miss DoleWhip from the Tiki Juice Bar or The Tropical Hideaway in Disneyland, or at the Aloha Isle in Magic Kingdom.
Dress for the Occasion
There's nothing more adorable than a little kid dressed up as Snow White or Peter Pan frolicking through the parks. To do your part in bringing more cuteness to the lands, dress your kids up for the occasion. If you're up for splurging, you can take your princess-loving kid to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for a royal transformation with hair, nails, and makeup. They also have a large selection of Disney Princess dresses for sale. If you want to save a few bucks, consider buying a Disney costume for your little one online before you go.
Embrace the Bubble
If you can swing it, stay in the Disney bubble 24/7. This makes for a more magical and immersive vacation. While Disneyland has only three Disney hotel resorts, Walt Disney World has over 25, each with their own unique theme. If your trip is focused on going to Magic Kingdom, book a room at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, Disney's Contemporary Hotel, or Disney's Grand Floridian since each of those are just a short monorail ride away from the action.
Sunny Chanel has written thousands of pieces for sites like Business Insider, Brit + Co, Buzzfeed, and Disney's Babble (as well as other places that don't start with the letter B). Currently she is finishing up her coffee table book, Bring the Magic Home (Disney Editions - Fall 2022), about Disney Parks design. When she's not writing, she is, of course, plotting her next trip to the happiest place on earth.
PHOTO CREDITS: Disney Parks, additional photos provided by Sunny Chanel