Dear Diary,

When my nephew was three-year-old, my brother decided it was time to bring the little guy to Disney World.  There were three determining factors.

  1. I was a past employee (Imagineer) and a friend  had the hook up.
  2. Age three seemed old enough to handle a day at Disney and remember it for years to come.
  3. I still lived in Florida, so they had free room and board.

So, my brother and nephew packed their bags, caught a flight and landed in the happiest place on earth–well, for kids a little big bigger. My poor nephew, who seemed fearless up to this point, was in total shock when we got on the first ride. Obsessed with Finding Nemo, I just knew that he’d absolutely love the imaginary underwater adventure.  I was wrong.  His eyes widened, and his brain overloaded! The experience was too much, too real and too big.

We realized the folly of our ways when he ran from Mickey Mouse. Everything was just too big for a 3-year-old to take in.  Maybe if he had an older sibling as a partner he would have enjoyed the experience. In the end, his favorite activity of all?  The park.  That’s right.  A little park outside of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  Literally the same type of park he could have enjoyed without leaving his neighborhood.

Disney is one of the top destination I recommend at my travel agency, but I advise parents to take their toddlers when they get a bit older. Plus, they should be a certain height to ride most of the rides. Until then, here are the best amusement parks for toddlers.

Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge, 12 locations across the US and Canada:  Great Wolf Lodge is number one.  Why you ask?  The lodge consists of wilderness themed rooms, such as Grizzy Bear Suites. Many of the rooms are flexible in the number of guests and provide in room entertainment. Activities at each location range from arts and crafts, bed time stories, a children’s spa, and an indoor and outdoor water park. The park features  warming pools, kiddie slides, a wave pool and toddlers are, like Chipmunk Cove. And don’t leave before you create your own stuffed animal friend!


Sesame Place-Langhorne, PA:  Although some children may be fearful of the costume characters, many toddlers are familiar with Sesame Street’s residents, like Elmo and Abby Cadabby. But be sure to test it out in advance at a Chuck E. Cheese arcade. Sesame Place is divided into three categories: Dry Fun, Wet Fun and Shows and Parades. The amount of attractions are very impressive and enough to keep a toddler occupied.  In June 2014, the park opened Cookie Monster Place, the largest renovation to date which features five exciting rides, a new three-story net climb, a soft play area and more. You even have six opportunities to dine with the characters. A hidden bonus that I would recommend when traveling with the little ones would be to rent a poolside cabana. It includes bottled beverage service, exclusive character interaction, souvenir towels, a ceiling fan, mini-fridge and lockable drawer for your valuables.  Purchase the cabana online before you arrive and you’ll save $40.  Some of the wet rides have tubes that accommodate a parent and a child. Oh, don’t forget your water shoes.


Disney’s Animal Kingdom-Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL:  This park is absolutely adorable and full of interactive animal fun!  You can sit and eat lunch in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and watch the animals roam about the property. A petting zoo is also on site.  This park is usually easier to ease into, because it is like a giant interactive zoo toddlers.  Many of the attractions are at a slower pace and aren’t as crowded. Make sure you visit the Boneyard, which is essentially a super-sized sandbox filled with dinosaur fossils. There are very few height restrictions and plenty of places to sit for a pit stop.  Don’t forget to bring an umbrella stroller. Strollers are permitted on the property but wagons are not.  If you don’t want to drag yours along, you can always rent one.

LEGOLAND California Resort-Carlsbad, California:  I love legos. And what toddler doesn’t enjoy building blocks? Everything at the ark is themed with the latest LEGO story lines: Pirates, Robots, Princesses, Space ships, Dinosaurs etc.  A bonus about this park is that you can bring in snacks with you (as long as you are ok carrying it around).  Another plus is that if you visit in the summer months, you can cool off in the splash areas found at the bottom of some water themed rides.  A family favourite is the fact that LEGO play areas are situated along the longer lines to some of the rides.  If you can’t make it to California, there is another LEGOLAND in Winter Haven, FL which includes a water park and DUPLO Valley. Duplo Valley brings the LEGO ® DUPLO line of preschool building toys to life with new farm-themed attractions, an air-conditioned indoor play area and a water play area all geared to toddlers ages 2 to 5.


Idlewild and Soak Zone, Ligonier, PA: Idlewild & SoakZone is rated the Best Kids Park in the World by Amusement Today magazine, and rated Best Park for Families by the National Amusement Park Historical Association. With two parks in one, this is what family fun is all about! The park is geared at toddlers, who can see stories come to life in Story Book Forest and climb through Jumpin’ Jungle, an interactive play area that includes a ball pit, slides, climbing nets and a suspension bridge. Daniel the Tiger meet and greets are held throughout the day, and children can watch Thomas the Train and Friends perform a live show. And the amusement park rides are for guests as small as 36 inches.

Hey DFTM Fam–What amusement parks would you add to the list? 

About The Author

Shalene Dudley
Travel Mom

Shalene Dudley is a married mom-to-be living in Toronto, ON. She writes about travel tips for couples with kids, family vacations and babymoons. When not writing for DFTM, Shalene wuses her degree in Interior and Architectural design and works as a project management professional.She also owns Latitude Concierge Travels, which is dedicated to providing personalized services no matter the scale of your trip.

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