Updated 9/16/18. We often think of Disneyland as a place for little kids, not the teens and tweens of the world. But in all honesty, you really can’t outgrow the Happiest Place on Earth.
My girls are 12 and 14, the good ‘ole tween and teen age group, and they still love to go to Disneyland. Visiting the parks can be just as fun with kids that are older because there are tons of fun activities late at night and fast rides they couldn’t ride when they were younger.
We have laid out a perfect day filled with thrill-seeking, sugar inducing, never-ending adventure. Follow these tips below to make your teens and tweens day at the Magic Kingdom unforgettable.
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Thrill Rides and Fun Attractions
Teens and tweens love the thrill rides. In Disneyland some fun rides to take your older kids on include Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, Star Tours the Adventure Continues, Indiana Jones Adventure, and Matterhorn Bobsleds. Disneyland’s California Adventure has some great rides, too, such as Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout (newly renovated and pictured above), California Screamin’ (soon to be Incredicoaster), Goofy’s Sky School, Soarin’ Around the World, and Radiator Springs Racers. There are some really fun water rides in each park as well. Splash Mountain in Disneyland has a 49-foot drop, while Grizzly River Run in Disneyland’s California Adventure is a whitewater rafting experience with multiple drops. Other cool rides in Disneyland include Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion.
Restaurants for Older Kids
There are some great restaurants that teens and tweens will enjoy. Blue Bayou Restaurant in New Orleans Square is one of the park’s most popular dining experiences. Kids will love feeling like they’re part of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has great Mexican food and a fun, outdoor setting in Frontier Land. Plaza Inn on Main Street has big portions and the best fried chicken ever. For more quick and casual food, Tomorrowland has Pizza Port and Galactic Grill, where kids can order burgers and chicken bites.
Disneyland’s California Adventure offers Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta. Flo’s V8 Café in Car’s Land has delicious comfort food, such as turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie. Award Weiners in Hollywood Land has several types of hot dogs, including the Bacon Street Dog and BBQ Crunch Dog. The Pacific Wharf is a great place to eat with older kids because there are several options in one area. Kids can eat at Boudin sourdough bread at Pacific Wharf Café, enjoy Chinese food at Lucky Fortune Cookery, and eat Mexican food at Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill. If you also want any specific type of cuisine or a special dessert, our Every Disneyland Restaurant Reviewed guide can help you find the best hidden gems.
Downtown Disney also has some great food options for older kids. Napolini, which is part of Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria, sells sandwiches and pizza by the slice. The Taqueria at Tortilla Jo’s sells burritos, tacos, and bowls. Rainforest Café appeals to kids of all ages with their expansive menu inside a mystical Incan temple with a large variety of exotic animals come to life.
Shops Teens and Tweens Love
The Star Trader in Tomorrowland has everything related to Star Wars. Teens and tweens can browse a large assortment of Star Wars clothing, buy comic books, and build their own lightsaber. There is another great Star Wars store in Launch Bay with some unique movie merchandise. The Gag Factory – Toontown Five & Dime is a fun shop to browse as well. The Disney Dress Shop in New Orleans Square has some fun skirts, dresses, and accessories that older girls will love.
Disneyland’s California Adventure’s Five and Dime and Elias and Co. both have a nice assortment of clothes and souvenirs. Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout has one of the more fun shops in the parks. Here you can listen to music from the movies and purchase Guardians of the Galaxy and other Marvel movie books and merchandise.
World of Disney in Downtown Disney is a massive store with clothing, toys, and souvenirs. Kids can purchase t-shirts, sweatshirts, key chains, mouse ears, and jewelry. The Lego Store has a wide assortment of Lego sets that even older builders will love. If you’re still looking for more places, take a look at the Best Disneyland Souvenirs, a perfect guide to know you’re hitting all the best shops before you leave!
Cooler Character Experiences for Teens and Tweens
Both parks now offer some cool character experiences for older kids. Along with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and the gang, teens and tweens can also meet Star Wars characters in Launch Bay in Disneyland. Here kids can meet Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, and Bobo Fett. You might also catch a glimpse of Stormtroopers patrolling Tomorrowland! Keep up to date on all things Star Wars with the Offical Star Wars website, so you can prepare for the Disneyland After Dark: Star Wars Nite on May 3!
In Disneyland’s California Adventure, kids can experience the Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance Off! where they can catch their groove with Star-Lord and Gamora, and also meet Groot (I am Groot!). Kids can also meet several Avenger’s characters, including Spiderman, Captain America, Thor, Loki, Black Widow, and Black Panther.
Hotels Tips with Older Kids
The fun part about visiting with older kids is that they usually want to stay late and close down the parks. If you stay at a hotel on the property or within walking distance, it is easy to go back to the room during the day. The kids can swim or chill for a couple hours. After relaxing you will all be refreshed, and you can head back in to play until late. Teens and tweens love hotels with fun pool areas and arcades. Also, many hotels offer suites where your family can spread out a little more.
Tips on Fast Passes
Teens and tweens love the thrill rides, and most of these rides offer Fast Pass options. Look for the Disney FASTPASS Distribution sign by the ride’s entrance and you’ll see the return time. If this time works for you, insert your park ticket or annual pass and you’ll receive a Fast Pass receipt. You will then scan your park ticket or annual pass when you return and head toward the shorter line. Your Fast Pass receipt will tell you when you can go get another Fast Pass. This is a great way to do the fun rides without standing in long lines. There is also the option of the Disney Max Pass feature which costs $10 per day per person. This feature allows you to select Fast Passes from your phone using the Disneyland App. Check out the Ultimate Disneyland FastPass Tips Guide for an extensive overview to make sure you’re getting the maximum amount of fun at Disneyland.
Letting Kids Venture Off by Themselves
As kids get older you can let them go off by themselves. We started off by letting our girls go on a ride without us while we relaxed in the shade or at Starbucks in the parks. Now that they’re a little older, we allow them to go off with friends or each other for a couple hours. If you do let them go off, select a specific meeting place even if they have cell phones. Our family has an agreement to meet at the Walt Disney statue in each park if we get separated. Sometimes cell phone batteries die, or cell service isn’t great, so it is a good back up plan with a place to meet.
Loading the Disneyland App on your phone and your kids’ phones is helpful for wait times and Fast Passes. Also, you can load money on Disney gift cards so that your kids can spend money without having to carry cash. Lastly, be sure your teens and tweens are aware of who to ask if they need help. Disney Cast Members are everywhere and are very helpful. Your kids can also go into Guest Relations in City Hall in each park for assistance.
Disneyland and Disneyland’s California Adventure can be so much fun with teens and tweens. Be sure to subscribe to our Disneyland deals newsletter for all of the latest information on deals and saving tips to help you save money and experience more! Sign up here.