This article is continued from last week’s Cars Land With a Toddler: Part 1, which begins our story of visiting Disney California Adventure during its Grand Re-opening on June 15, 2012. Having covered rides and characters, I move on to dining…
We started taking Nathan to Disneyland when he was four months old, and his eating habits seem to change the most. We went from formula and baby food to milk and kids meals all in a year. Toddlers don’t typically enjoy a long sit down meal, and Nathan is very hit or miss when it comes to his eating habits outside the house. We plan by bringing more cookies and treats than we would normally give him, because it really keeps him occupied in a line or while he is in the stroller. We always have Goldfish, Nilla Wafers, and baked pretzels. I put them in a cup with a baby proof lid that he has complete control over. This makes him feel independent and keeps him occupied. However, we still try to give him something that contains nutritional value, so we do still attempt actual meals! Cars Land has a ton of new food options and, of course, we wanted to try them all! Whenever possible, we try to just feed Nathan from our food. Portion sizes at Disneyland and California Adventure tend to be big for adults, and the kids meals are really meant for kids ages 3-9. I can’t always justify spending $5.99 on a something he may take three bites from.
At the Cozy Cone Motel we bought popcorn in the Lightning McQueen bucket. which was worth its weight in gold! Nathan not only ate the dill pickle popcorn (a first!), he also spent hours playing with McQueen for the rest of the weekend! We also sat down at Flo’s V8 Café for two meals, breakfast and lunch on two different days. For breakfast we got Nathan his own meal: waffles that had Mater stamped into them. He loved the fact that Mater was on the waffle, so he happily ate those up. I also brought along table toppers, a plastic disposable placemat you stick on the table that was Cars themed. He had never used the Cars themed ones, so he was pretty happy to play on the placemat with his cars and eat his waffles. At our lunch, we decided to share with him and not get him his own meal. I got the vegetable tater casserole, and my husband got the pork tenderloin with Coca-Cola BBQ sauce. We chose mashed potatoes, corn, and BBQ vegetarian beans as our side dishes. We also picked up an apple cheddar pie and a milkshake. Nathan really enjoyed the casserole, beans, and mashed potatoes. He normally likes corn, but after two bites he wouldn’t take anymore. He wasn’t a fan of the pork at all. We didn’t end up sharing the milkshake or the apple cheddar pie, as we limit the amount of sugar he gets. But the pie was outstanding! It had a sweet cinnamon apple flavor with a crunchy buttery crust, and somehow that cheddar cheese just added to the sweet and savory combination really well. The milkshake was only alright. They add “gravel” to the milkshake for theming purposes. I thought the road gravel would have been oreo cookie crumble, which made sense to me. But instead it was little pink and blue candies that looked like Nerds. Every time I sucked one up through the straw, I was sort of surprised! And I wasn’t crazy about that sensation.
Nathan has the attention span of a toddler when it comes to sitting in a highchair, but Flo’s has seating that overlooks Radiator Springs Racers, so Nathan was more than happy to sit and watch Cars go by. I highly recommend sitting in the seating overlooking the ride. It’s not only beautiful but incredibly entertaining for the kids.
Finally, we decided to take a serious risk and eat at Carthay Circle Restaurant. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect as we heard that Carthay Circle was similar to Napa Rose at the Grand Californian, so we were expecting a white tablecloth type of meal. We have never attempted to take Nathan to a fancy sit down meal before, so this was a serious experiment.
We were eating with another family who had a toddler, so we thought this could either work really well, or be a huge disaster. The key to a successful meal with a toddler is fast service and lots of distractions. Not knowing anything about the service (it was slow), we brought along our iPad and loaded it up with the movie Cars. The other toddler was watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on her Kindle Fire. With the kids mostly distracted, I decided a kids meal would be easier here because the adult meals seemed too fancy for a child. I ordered him a grilled cheese sandwich. It was supposed to come with vegetable crudite chips and ranch dressing. When the world’s smallest grilled cheese showed up with a couple pieces of broccoli and carrots, I realized this was not worth $7.00. I asked the waiter many times what a crudite chip was, and he said he would be back with the ranch and the chips. By the end of the meal, he came back and said the vegetables are the crudités and he forgot the ranch. I wasn’t impressed and didn’t believe him. The other toddler got four small hot dogs wrapped in pastry puffs with fruit – this was the better option: definitely more bang for your buck. Nathan happily ate his grilled cheese and was mostly distracted by his iPad and his toy cars. Although, by the end of the meal he was trying to throw his cars and the iPad (much to Daddy’s dismay).
Carthay Circle has a few different rooms, and we were placed in a room adjacent to the balcony and away from the main dining room. It’s a small room and only has four tables and is not nearly as fancy and ornate as the main dining room. At first, I was a little upset we were getting a plain room off to the side, but I realized it was a blessing with two small toddlers. They were able to yell and throw toys without interrupting anyone else’s meal. And at the end of the meal, when everyone was relaxing with a glass of wine, I took Nathan onto the balcony to watch the shows on Buena Vista Street. The balcony is perfectly situated with a view onto Buena Vista Street, the park’s center stage. It’s also a great viewing spot for Disneyland’s fireworks, but we were there too early to experience that.
Cars Land at Night
Around sunset, Cars Land rolls out its best moment every night. As the sun starts to set, the lights in Cars Land must be turned on. And if you have ever seen the movie, you know what’s about to happen. The sound of the music “Sha-Boom” blasts through the air, and the neon lighting of the signs lights up one by one down the street. It becomes a fun party, and you can hear the oohs and ahs across the land. This is Nathan’s favorite scene in the movie, so his eyes lit up, and he started dancing! It was another precious moment for all of us. Once it’s dark, the street entertainment rolls out in the form of DJ the car. The crowd was too heavy around him, so we didn’t get a good look at him, but the music was blasting, and Nathan was boogying away! He didn’t care about seeing DJ; he only cared about the music.
The bottom line when it comes to enjoying yourself at a crowded theme park with a toddler: enjoy each precious moment as it comes along. Those are the ones you will remember forever. After all, experiencing precious family moments was Walt’s inspiration to build Disneyland.