I've only been to this park once, the year it first opened. Back then, there was only a handful of attractions and nothing oriented to young kids. We figured it would be a half day park, at best. We ended up spending a full day at this park, and enjoying it much more than Disneyland.
For one thing, it was not very crowded. Most rides were walk-ons, and the park has a much more open feel to it. This meant less noise and stimulation for Nolan, which made for a happier toddler. We also made a focused decision to avoid anything that might drive Nolan crazy (anything loud and dark), which meant finding outdoor rides.
The first thing we headed for was the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. This is an awesome outdoor playground with rope bridges, slides, zip lines, and rock climbing walls. We spent about 45 minutes here, and both boys absolutely loved it. Matt took off with Dennis, and Nolan and I spent the majority of our time in a special toddler section.
Nolan in a giant log on the Redwood Playground.
Matt and I rode the Golden Zephyr (a spinning ride), but Daddy stayed on the ground with Nolan. We weren't sure if he would like it, so we kept him on the ground. The height might have made him upset, but the ride was quite gentle.
We did head for Midway Mania, which is a very cool 3-D ride. We took off Nolan's hearing aids while standing in line, because the line passes directly under California Screamin', a rather loud coaster. Every time the coaster would pass overhead, Nolan would cringe. We took off his hearing aids and he was instantly happy again. The particular frequency of a roller coaster passing overhead must be particularly grating for this little hearing aid user! He rode the ride and actually wanted more (signing more and saying "wheee!" at the end of the ride). This was when we realized that we must remove his hearing aids for attractions in the style of a dark ride. Without his aids, he does just fine. With them, he is not a happy camper.
We went to lunch with an old friend who now works for Disney, and then went for a character greeting - sort of. We met Lighting McQueen from the Cars movie. Matt is so in love with the characters from that movie that he actually kissed the hood of the car.
Meeting Lightning McQueen
We headed to Bug's Land next, which has four or five rides. All are outdoor and suited to young children. We were able to get Nolan's aids on again, since nothing here was loud or dark. We did run into some unexpected water- there is a very slow and tame train-style ride called Heimlich's Chew Chew train. When you go under a watermelon slice, some "juice" drips on your head. Luckily the quantity wasn't much, because we had Nolan's aids on his head at the time. Nolan clapped at the end of this ride, proving that what other people find totally lame can be the height of enjoyment to others. Both kids liked all of the rides in this area, though Nolan was too short for the bumper cars. We avoided the Bug's Life movie, thinking it would be too intense for both kids.
Riding Flick's Flyers- a great ride for the under-3 set
There are a lot of water fountain activities scattered throughout this park, so that kids have an opportunity to get soaked. We avoided all of these, to the annoyance of our children. With a cool breeze blowing and highs in the low 60's, we didn't want either boy getting drenched. We were also worried about Nolan running under a sprinkler with his aids on. When will they make water proof hearing devices? I dream of the day!
We met up with my parents again and headed to Turtle Talk with Crush. We removed his aids in this area, since it was dim and we thought it might be loud. Talk about the coolest show, ever! An animated Crush the Turtle actively engages the audience with a Q&A session. He saw Nolan on my lap and said, "hey, look at that little grommet out there! Hello little grommet!" Nolan was oblivious, of course (not due to hearing, but due to not recognizing that the turtle was talking to him). I tried to get him to wave, but Nolan just stuck his hand in his mouth. Crush then said, "hey, little grommet! Hello! Focus little grommet!" It was pretty cute and funny. We all enjoyed the show, though Nolan required lots of raisins doled out during the show to keep him in my lap.
We also saw the Muppet Vision 4-D movie, and this was when we saw some issues with the "loud factor" again. We had left Nolan's aids in, and he cringed at the cannonballs. We ripped out his aids, and again had a happy kid.
We decided to leave after this event, since it was 5:00pm. We spent an entire day in California Adventure and hadn't seen everything! I was much impressed with this park and had a much better experience than the first time around. They are going to put in a "Cars" themed land, which Matt will absolutely love.
Anyway, for a recap,
What we did right this time around:
- Avoided almost all dark rides.
- Removed Nolan's aids at the first sign of loud or dark.
- Focused on outdoor rides for small children.
- Took lots of breaks.
- Took advantage of the giant playground to let little legs run.
- Found a park with fewer crowds and more open space.
- Stayed in a hotel the night before, avoiding a 2 hour drive on the day of park attendance.