With a 10-year old child on the Autism spectrum (as well as another ten-year old and a two-year old), our family goal when going to amusement parks is to completely eliminate the dreaded “meltdown”. We do this by taking the day at an easy pace and by taking plenty of breaks. Snacks and drinks are frequently handed out to keep blood-sugars level and we never cram too much activity into the day.
Stopping and redirecting immediately if we see a change in attitude or 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!
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.
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!
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.
Inside the 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.
Pet the goats in Big Thunder Ranch – the perfectly calm way to decompress.
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.
After you pet the goats in Big Thunder Ranch, mosey back through the gates to the usually quiet picnic benches. It’s a shaded spot that perfect for break-time (if a band isn’t playing on the stage).
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.
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.
The umbrella-covered tables in Paradise Garden Grill are an out-of-the-way locale for lunch.
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).
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!
There is a relatively quiet path between Cars Land and “a bug’s land”. It’s a peaceful walk and transition between Lands (though I don’t recall any seating).
Likewise, just as you pass under the rock formation in Cars Land into the Pacific Wharf area there is a quiet shady space.
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.
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 sit tight in our spot until the crowd cleared and 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 here 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.
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) – How We Made it Work for Us.