The Best California Theme Parks for Toddlers

Summer vacation brings summer travel and fun activities for the whole family, and with so much new free time, the possibilities and pressure for a perfect summer seem endless. Living in California, there are even more options for how to spend the summer than many other places. From the beach to the mountains, the sun shines and the potential to make amazing memories with your family hangs in the air. 

One of the most popular ways to spend the summer holiday is to go to an amusement park, and in California there is an abundance to choose from. From Disneyland to Six Flags to Universal Studios, California is home to some of the most popular, most exciting theme parks in the world. But not all of them are young-child friendly, and if your family includes a toddler, you might have to think a little harder about where to travel to and what to do. You might find yourself wondering about how you can ensure your little one has a good time and doesn’t end up overwhelmed and in tears or bored and in tears, asking to go home.

It’s hard to know whether or not your child will like a theme park before you’ve visited, especially a young child who doesn’t have a lot of experience with them. And let’s be honest: theme parks can be a lot. The good news: they can also be a lot of fun!

No one wants to accidentally bring their two-year-old to what they didn’t realize had no activities or rides suitable for little kids, not to mention no designated Baby Area or amenities like microwaves for baby food or nursing stations. With that in mind, here is a list of some of the best theme parks in California to visit with your toddler, based on height requirements for rides, restaurants, pricing and more:

Number 1: Disneyland

1313 Disneyland Dr Anaheim, CA 92802

Price: Highest

The “happiest place on earth” probably will actually make your toddler (and you!) pretty happy. From child-friendly rides and experiences to the Baby Care Center, Disneyland is a great option for families with toddlers and will not disappoint. 

Disneyland has a multitude of rides without height requirements, perfect for small children, including fan favorites like It’s a Small World, Mad Tea Party, and Dumbo. Plus, if your child is at least 32” tall and you accompany them, they can enjoy the fun of Autopia and several other rides.  

Disneyland also features Mickey’s Toontown, a world specifically designed for younger children with smaller rides, visit Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy’s houses, snack and shop. Toontown is a great place to visit, especially if your child prefers to observe the magic of Disney rather than hang out with characters or go on rides. 

If your toddler is afraid of amusement park rides, Disneyland has many other options, including the Main Street Cinema, where you can watch old Disney cartoons inside out of the heat, and the Mark Twain Riverboat, where you can see the sights from the river without having to endure flashing lights, loud noises or overwhelming speeds. There are also an abundance of characters walking around, so if your tot wants to take a photo with Mickey and Minnie, it’s free and easy. Worried your toddler might find the characters scary? The actors in the suits understand that they have to cater to a wide audience and will be more than willing to let your child interact with them in the way they are most comfortable. 

When it comes time to eat, Disneyland has a great selection of restaurants that are toddler-friendly. From Alien Pizza Planet, which has lots of seating, speedy service, and plenty of kids options, to Carnation Cafe, located on Main Street near the front of the park in case your kids need a meal ASAP. There are also four character dining cafes if you want to see all your favorite cartoon characters at once. You do have to make a reservation, however, kids under three dine for free! It’s worth remembering that many young children do find the characters to be a bit overwhelming. But if your kid enjoys them, character dining is the way to go. 

Located at the end of Main Street, the Baby Care Center at Disneyland is a wonderful amenity for parents with toddlers or infants. Not only does it have changing tables and toddler size toilets, there’s also a vending machine with products as varied as sunscreen, diapers, and juice, for the times when you realize you’ve forgotten or underpacked something very important. 

The best news? Children under three have free admission to Disneyland, so while it’s a bit pricey for the rest of the family, your two year old gets in for absolutely no money at all. Once they turn three, however, tickets start at $98, the most expensive for this entire list.

Tip for Disneyland: The lines can be very long, and will feel even longer for your toddler. Investing in Lightning Lane passes, and going early is a great way to beat the lines (and the heat) and get in as many rides as your toddler wants. Doors open at eight. See you there!

Number 2: Knott’s Berry Farm

8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620

Price: Lowest

If the magic of Disney seems a bit too much, drive on over to Knott’s Berry Farm. Originally created to entertain hungry customers as they waited in line for the Knott family’s famous fried chicken, Knott’s Berry Farm quickly became a bona fide theme park in its own right. 

As soon as you enter, take a right, and you’ll end up in Camp Snoopy, a section of the theme park designed specifically for youngsters and featuring some of the most iconic cartoon strip characters of all time: the Peanuts gang! Your toddler can meet Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the bunch and attend one of their shows, where the characters dance, play and even sometimes invite the audience onstage. 

Camp Snoopy is home to a baby nursing and changing station, and a microwave that families can use for baby food and formula. 

Toddlers can go on some fun rides by themselves (as long as they are 32” tall) like Huff and Puff and Flying Ace, and you can take them on other rides with no height requirement if they’d prefer not to go alone. 

Next to Camp Snoopy, there is a cave with a waterfall that toddlers will be fascinated by, and that promises cooler temperatures and shade for when the summer sun gets just a little too hot. Unfortunately, the area is not stroller-friendly, so you’ll have to park your stroller outside. 

While Knott’s Berry Farm does have many large roller coasters that toddlers cannot ride and will not enjoy, it also has Calico Ghost Town, a replica of old Wild West towns that is historical, fun, and educational. Want to take a photo dressed up like the 1880s? Calico Ghost Town is the place for you. Toddlers will also appreciate the calm energy of the place, where you can learn about spinning wool, making horseshoes and even visit the Old Schoolhouse, an actual schoolhouse from 1879 that offers insight into what school was like more than 150 years ago. Calico Ghost Town is also just a great place to go if your toddler is feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole theme park experience and wants a quieter place to recharge. 

When they get hungry, your toddler will have many options for food. Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant is the restaurant that launched Knott’s Berry Farm, and once you eat there you’ll understand how an entire amusement park could be born of one fried chicken place. That being said, if you’re not into fried chicken, Knott’s Berry Farm has several different restaurants. The Grizzly Lodge in Camp Snoopy is a great option for younger kids, and has food they’re sure to enjoy, like pizza and chicken tenders. Tired from chasing your toddler around all day? Head to the Knott’s Berry Farm Starbucks for a caffeinated pick me up. 

Children under two get in free at Knott’s Berry Farm, while regular tickets start at $59.99, the cheapest on our list. Knott’s has a variety of ticket options, so be sure to check out their website for the best options and deal for you. 

If you love your summer visit so much you want to go back, come again during the holidays, when Knott’s puts on Snoopy on Ice and other fun seasonal shows that toddlers will love. 

Tip for Knott’s Berry Farm: Don’t go during Knott’s Scary Farm! Seriously, “scary” is not used lightly. Your toddler will not enjoy it. Please avoid it at all costs. 

Number 3: Legoland

One Legoland Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008

Price: Middle

What kid doesn’t love Legos? Although the first Legoland opened in Denmark in the late ‘60s, Legoland California is undoubtedly a classic California theme park. Legoland is a great option for families with toddlers, as there are many small rides, and some that toddlers can do on their own. Plus, Legoland is a theme park specifically designed for kids ages 2-12.

Rides like Coast Cruise, Lego City Deep Sea Adventure and Legoland Express are perfect for younger kids and the right balance of fun and interesting, while not being too scary. For most of the rides, children do have to be at least 34” tall, but if your tot doesn’t quite reach 34”, Duplo Playground is an enclosed play structure where toddlers can climb, play, and have a good time! 

Legoland’s Baby Care Center features baby changing areas, rocking chairs for nursing, and refrigerators and microwaves for food and formula. It is located in Fun Town, which is a bit of a walk from the entrance. 

Legoland Hotel has three restaurants where visitors can also eat: Mini’s Lounge, Skyline Café and Bricks Family Restaurant. At Bricks Family Restaurant, breakfast is free for hotel guests, while visitors to the park have to pay. However, dinner is free for children under three-years-old! Additionally, Legoland has food stands inside the park, where you can buy burgers, ramen, ice cream and more. (Try the Apple Fries, a culinary hit invented in Legoland!)

Children under two can visit for free, but you will have to purchase a ticket for your toddler. Currently, Legoland has a Kids Tickets deal that will be going on until September 13th, 2024, where the purchase of one Adult Ticket allows you to buy up to four Kids Tickets for only $39 each. Usually, however, tickets start at $79 per person. 

Legoland also has a guide called “What To Do When You Are Two,” designed to help parents of toddlers create the best possible visit for their child. 

Tip for Legoland: Introduce your kids to Legos beforehand! If your kid does not play with Legos or Duplos, they will still enjoy the trip, but it would be more fun for them if they could connect this park with their toys at home.  

Ultimately, the best theme park for you and your family is something only you can choose. That being said, these options make a great first theme park visit for your toddler and for the whole family. It’s helpful to remember that while for older kids and adults, rides may be the most important part of a theme park, going on rollercoasters is not the only thing to do while at a park. Most parks host several shows, have characters you can (but don’t have to) snap a picture with, and are just fun to experience! So why not buy your tickets and pop in the car? It’s an experience that everyone will love. 

Excited about your upcoming theme park trip but worried about the drive? Check out our blogs about Potty Training on Car Trips and Preventing Toddlers from Choking on Road Trips to ensure you have the cleanest, safest trip you can.


Back to blog