Where do you head as soon you step foot into the Happiest Place on Earth? If you're like most people, you'll run straight for your favorite rides - the "classics" that have made Disney what it is today - including Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Peter Pan, and Dumbo.
Those attractions are famous for a reason and not-to-be-missed.
If you find yourself in the "Disney Daze," however, and you're not sure where to head next, take our advice and wander to one of these lesser-known (but very fun!) places on the guidemap.
Located along Main Street in Disneyland, it's easy to miss these quiet little buildings on your way to the glimmering castle. You might, in fact, mistake them for gift shops or cafes. Venture inside, however, and you'll be greeted with a miniature art museum of Disney-inspired pieces that are available for purchase or for admiring! Oftentimes, an artist will be live-sketching for little ones to watch. The "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" show next to the gallery runs continuously and is part-film/part Audio-Animatronics. Essentially, you watch a short historical film and then Abraham Lincoln discusses freedom. Beautifully done with an inspiring message, the show has been playing since 1965 (but perhaps you've missed it on past trips?). If you're in Orlando, be sure to visit Walt Disney World's version - The Hall of the Presidents in Magic Kingdom.
It's easy to write off Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Park as a small nearly-rideless corridor. But it's totally worth the trip! Walk into the Animation Academy for free animation lessons by Disney artists, running almost every 30 minutes. There will be a schedule at the entrance so that you can pick your favorite character. Our girls (ages 5 & 7) took 2 classes on our most recent visit - to learn to draw Minnie Mouse and Olaf. You'll enter a big workshop and be given a large clipboard, pencil, and paper. Afterward, you'll have your very own (free!) souvenir to take home.
While you're in the Animation Building, head down the winding hallway to the Sorcerer's Workshop where you can let Ursula "steal your voice" and use it in a classic Disney film. Lots of laughter happening in this wing! As a family of bookworms, we were also enchanted by Beast's Library. The Animation Building is an especially fantastic spot for sweltering days when you are looking for a reprieve from the sun and/or a place for baby to nap in the stroller without getting a sunburn.
While in Hollywood Land, stay for "Disney's Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular." Continuously running since 2003, this 45-minute musical has a set that rivals any Broadway show! Be amazed by the costumes, dance numbers, puppetry, and flying characters. We weren't fans of all of the "pop culture" references by Genie, but still enjoyed the production. Although Jafar is a central character and the large panther with glaring eyes is a bit scary, our young children did not seem frightened and I wouldn't describe it as being "intense" or "scary." Highly recommended for anyone who appreciates live theatre!
What are YOUR favorite lesser-known attractions at Disneyland and California Adventure?