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Avoid the Disneyland Meltdown! – List of Quiet Spots in the Parks

Top tips on avoiding the Disneyland Meltdown including quiet spots in the park and helpful advice.

Think that the Disneyland “meltdown” is unavoidable? You can potentially avoid the Disneyland meltdown, with just a little pre-planning, these tried-and-tested tips and some visits to the quiet areas throughout the Disneyland Parks.

With a 12-year old child on the Autism spectrum (as well as another 12-year old, a four-year old and a newborn), our family goal when going to amusement parks is to completely eliminate the dreaded “meltdown”. We’ve done pretty well with this plan!

Avoiding the Disneyland Meltdown

A quiet spot of seats at the entrance to bug’s land

Take it easy

Take the day at an easy pace and by adding in plenty of breaks. This might mean that you leave the Parks mid-day to recoup at the hotel for a swim or a nap. If you have kids that are prone to meltdown you need to go at their pace and not the schedule you have set for the day. You just can’t cram too much activity into the day because that is a recipe for meltdown.

Tired Legs

If your child gets cranky with excessive walking consider bringing your stroller or renting one at the Park. Even big kids (who don’t usually nap) might find they appreciate reserving their energy or will take a cat nap if they are able to ride in a stroller.

Feed me

Snacks and drinks should be kept at close hand. Pack a bag with healthy snacks (like nuts and fruit) and hand them out frequently to keep blood-sugars level.

Don’t Skip Naps

If your child always takes a nap mid-day, be sure to make a point of sticking to that schedule. If you don’t want to leave the Park, head for one of the quiet resting spots so they can sleep. Naps in an amusement park are never quite as refreshing as one in a bed though, so you might want to get them back to the hotel for a more restful sleep.

Be aware

There tends to be a build up of bad moods before the big meltdown occurs. Stopping and redirecting immediately if we see a change in attitude or if we sense that a meltdown is developing is crucial. There is no attempt to try and squeeze in “one more” event; We immediately head for one of these quiet spots at the Disneyland Resort for a little decompressing. These would also be great places to sit with a child who is sleeping in their stroller!

Spots to Rest and Recollect

How to Avoid the dreaded Disneyland Meltdown! - A List of Quiet Spots in the Parks {Saving Up for Disney}

DISNEYLAND

-Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island has many shaded areas to sit, relax and people-watch from across the Rivers of America.

-On the right hand side of Sleeping Beauty Castle is Snow White’s Grotto. The water-feature with the twirling fish is rather hypnotic! Toss some change into the Wishing Well.

-Our daughter wanted to meet Tinker Bell in Pixie Hollow. We requested an alternative waiting area (instead of the noisy line in the sun). We waited as long as everyone else (about 30 minutes that day) but were given a shaded area where she could spread out and not have the noise or crowd.

How to Avoid the dreaded Disneyland Meltdown! - A List of Quiet Spots in the Parks {Saving Up for Disney}

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

-The waiting areas at each Train Station have covered seating. Except for when the train pulls in, these are fairly quiet places to rest. The train is also a great distraction!

-At the exit to the Jungle Cruise, just outside of Aladdin’s Oasis is a quiet spot to sit and have a snack. I like to pick up a beef skewer from Bengal Barbeque and sit here to enjoy it.

-On the lower deck of the Hungry Bear Restaurant, tucked all the way in the back is a sweetly shaded resting spot overlooking the Rivers of America. It’s also where the ducks gather so toss them a few bread crumbs!

How to Avoid the dreaded Disneyland Meltdown! - A List of Quiet Spots in the Parks {Saving Up for Disney}

-Next to the entrance of Rancho Del Zocalo Restaurante is a covered walkway with tiled seating and a restroom nearby. It’s particularly pretty here in the evenings.

-Take a slow walk inside the coolness of Sleeping Beauty. If your child doesn’t like tight quarters or can’t handle the stairs, there is an accessible space to view the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough on a high-definition screen. It’s a quiet location with little trinkets on display.

-Take a trip around the Rivers of America on the Mark Twain Riverboat. Lots of benches in the shade and you’ll get a cool breeze across the water.

quiet10

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

-Around the side of Harbour Galley is a quiet and shady dining area.

-Between “it’s a small world” and the Matterhorn (next to Edelweiss Snacks) is a quiet boat pier overlooking a lovely water feature. It has a covered awning and bench seating and is a perfect place to rest between rides.


DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE PARK

-In Hollywood Land, just outside of Monsters Inc. are benches under shade. Arrive before dark, when the very loud and rambunctious Mad T Party starts!

-Stop over at Sonoma Terrace for a snack in the covered patio that overlooks the Pier.

How to Avoid the dreaded Disneyland Meltdown! - A List of Quiet Spots in the Parks {Saving Up for Disney}

-The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail offers not only busy-body activities like rope swings and rock climbing walls but a few restful benches under the trees.

-Rest yourself on one of the benches around the covered promenade underneath the Silly Symphony Swings. You’ll get a nice overview of Paradise Pier (though this area isn’t exactly the most quiet it does not have much foot-traffic).

How to Avoid the dreaded Disneyland Meltdown! - A List of Quiet Spots in the Parks {Saving Up for Disney}

-In front of the Tower of Terror there are places to sit in the shade. Even better, in front of the shop by the exit of  the ride there is an out of the way bench. After a while, you won’t even notice the screams!

-Walk Grizzly Trail behind Grizzly River Run for a quiet and cool pace and perhaps a refreshing mist from the water ride!

quiet11

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

-The umbrella-covered tables in Paradise Garden Grill are an out-of-the-way locale for lunch.

-There is a relatively quiet path between Cars Land and “a bug’s land”. It’s a peaceful walk and transition between Lands.

How to Avoid the dreaded Disneyland Meltdown! - A List of Quiet Spots in the Parks {Saving Up for Disney}

-Likewise, just as you pass under the rock formation in Cars Land into the Pacific Wharf area there is a quiet shady space. You can rest here against the guard rails but technically, there is no seating.


BEST LAID PLANS

Sometimes despite our best efforts our kids sometimes do have a mini-meltdown. Fortunately we’ve been able to avoid anything catastrophic at the Happiest Place on Earth but we live and learn through each situation.

Tips for avoiding the dreaded Disneyland Meltdown

The last time we had anyone in our group upset was because we didn’t plan our fireworks viewing area properly. When the lights went out and Guests rushed into our area to see the show, our daughter was pushed out of her spot and under a tree where she completely missed seeing Tinker Bell fly across the sky. She didn’t appreciate the tight quarters, the jostling or the blocked view. As you can see in the photo above she was very upset and had been crying. After the show, we were able to stay tight in our spot until the crowd cleared and we regrouped. After a rest she was ready for a few more rides before we ended our evening.

Having learned our lesson on that trip, we were able to choose a better fireworks location on our last visit where she had more space around her and an open view. Making your Disney day enjoyable is as much about doing your Park research as it is about knowing, listening and watching your child for potential break-down.

How to Avoid the dreaded Disneyland Meltdown! - A List of Quiet Spots in the Parks {Saving Up for Disney}

Keep in mind that if you have a special needs child, the DAS (Disability Access Service) is available. More about that program in my post, Disneyland’s Disability Access Service (DAS).

DAS- pin

I also recommend minimizing line waits by purchasing your park tickets ahead of time on Park Savers (affiliate link). You’ll also save yourself a few dollars.

Park Savers affiliate link

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Disneyland’s Disability Access Service (DAS) – Tips on Making It Work for You

Disneyland's Disability Access Service (DAS) - Tips on Making It Work for You and Your Family

Nobody wants to spend time at what is supposed to be the “Happiest Place on Earth” managing meltdowns but it’s the life of parents who have children with special needs. Prolonged exposure to bright lights, long lines, loud noises and the  over-exuberance that is Disney can be trying for any child, but especially one with sensitivities. Proper use of Disneyland’s Disability Access Service (also known as DAS) can be wonderful, if you know these tips on how to make it work for you and your family.

DAS for special needs children at Disneyland

Riding King Triton’s Carousel

Disneyland offers a Disability Access Service (DAS) for guest with special needs. This was previously called a Guest Assistance Card (GAC). We have been able to use the GAC on several trips and it worked out nicely for us. In the past with the GAC we would show it to the Cast Member at the front of each ride and they would then instruct us where to go, which was either through the Fast Pass line or through the exit. Sometimes the Cast Member would give us an alternate waiting area where she had a bit more room instead of being held in a tight line. We used Fastpass when we could but when the line was quite long, in the bright sun or was a tight space we used the GAC. We allowed time in the day to go back to the hotel and take a break in the pool. We used the GAC on three trips and each time our daughter was tantrum and melt-down free!

With the newly introduced Disability Access Service (DAS) we were nervous to try this new system. The old system had worked out well for us and I’d heard not-so-good things about the DAS. I completely understand the need for change. The GAC system was being abused. Some visitors felt it offered “front of the line” privileges that were unfair. It’s definitely a hot-button subject.

DAS for special needs children at Disneyland

Finding Nemo Submarines make some special needs kids nervous because of the tight quarters & lack of fresh air.

I recommend purchasing your Park tickets ahead of time from Park Savers and avoid the long lines to buy at the front gates. You’ll also save a few dollars off the price so that’s a plus.

The Disability Access Service (DAS) system has morphed a bit with several notable changes.

Inside City Hall, you will be asked to explain to the Cast Member what the possible issues might be (in our case, it’s anything from a full-blown tantrum with hitting and screaming to laying down on the sidewalk and refusing to move). The Cast Member will take a picture and print out a card that shows the dates you are visiting, the number in your party and instructions of use. My daughter wasn’t cooperating that morning and refused to pose for the photo inside City Hall but the Cast Member was kind enough to take a photo of a photo from my husband’s camera phone so there would be an image for the scanner. The Cast Member even told us where we could get free ear plugs (at First Aid) in case any of the attractions were too loud.

Disneyland's Disability Access Service (DAS) - Tips on Making It Work for You

Start here at City Hall

From this point, guests  visit special kiosks scattered through out the Park (they are marked on the Park maps) to receive a designated return time for a particular attraction. Once there a Cast Member will look at your DAS and ask you which ride you’d like it for. You can choose any ride or attraction in the park, not just one in that “Land”. Then the Cast Member will refer to the wait times on their laptop computer and tell you a check-in time  to get on that specific ride.  You are expected to keep note of this time yourself. Also, you can show up anytime after this point and there is no “window” of time (like with Fastpass).

Disneyland's Disability Access Service (DAS) - Tips on Making It Work for You

Handheld scanner at Fastpass entrances

Cast Members can only assign one ride at a time on your DAS. When your check-in time rolls around you’ll show the DAS and Park tickets to a Cast Member at the entrance/Fastpass line of that ride.  Cast Members have scanners which scan each ticket and the photo of the Guest pops up on their screen with the number of people in the party and the designated return time for verification.

DAS for special needs children at Disneyland

We were allowed a separate waiting space in the shade to wait for Tinkerbell.


On the plus side:

  • I will greatly admit that having a special needs child is a challenge in itself because you never know what you might get one day (or moment) to the next. Having the DAS that eased on the line waits or allowed us to stand in a less-stressful waiting area make a huge difference in the enjoyment level for her (and actually for all of us).
  • There were no less than six times that she got to the front of the line and then decide she did NOT want to ride after all. A few times she got back in line again after bailing out and would go on the ride. I think being able to have that ability (for her to think it over and then try again) was very helpful. I know that if we’d been standing in a 30-minute…60-minute…or goodness, a 90-minute line only to have her say she didn’t want to ride would have been very frustrating for everyone. And Cast Members were very patient about letting us get in and out of line!
  • The assigned wait time that the Cast Members gave us was never terribly long. It allowed us time to either walk to the ride and have a snack in the shade first or we rode on something else in the area with a short line wait.
  • The DAS can be used in conjunction with Fastpass.
First time on Autopia cars. She will not ride anymore...doesn't like the noise or the smell of gasoline!

First time on Autopia cars. She will not ride anymore…doesn’t like the noise or the smell of gasoline!

Not so good:

  • Some of the kiosks are really spread far away from each other. In Fantasyland the rides are close together so there isn’t as much walking back and forth. For example after getting a DAS for Peter Pan, my husband took back the DAS to get an entry time for Matterhorn while I took the kids on Snow White. In other areas of the park the kiosks are a bit more spread out and there is a considerable amount of walking back and forth (sometimes through very congested areas) if you want to use the DAS.
  • This would be very challenging to accomplish with only one adult in your group. We tried the system on a busy Saturday in early summer. Lines were long and the park was packed. It was helpful that my husband and I were able to trek back and forth between the rides and the DAS while one of us stayed in a ride line. Having to take the kids back to the kiosk each time would be hard if you were the only adult and also dealing with a special needs child.
Paradise Pier

Sunglasses are helpful to ease the annoyance of sun in her eyes. Earplugs were good for loud attractions.


Bottom Line: The DAS did work for us but it’s definitely work. Having to go back and forth to the kiosk each time really dragged down the day. It took a bit more planning than usual. Trying to do the DAS for a child with more severe disabilities would be a challenge because there is much more back and forth and lots more waiting.

For more information, see Disney’s FAQ about the Disability Access Service.

Disneyland's Disability Access Service (DAS) - Tips on Making It Work for You


 

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