Guest Blog – “Free Play” Areas

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This guest blog is by Michele, a play fanatic who catalogues local playgrounds on Fun Orange County Parks — and inspires play experiences on her related Spotlighting Play blog.

“Free Play” Areas at Disneyland and California Adventure

“Lots of parents in Orange County have passes to Disneyland. We went the season pass route this year and have already got our money’s worth out of it. Season passholders develop their own routine and figure out which parts of the parks are busiest at which times. Seems to me, the “free play” places become underdog attractions when compared to the big rides. But when you hold them up against your simple, neighborhood playgrounds – they are absolutely incredible. So let the kids’ imaginations soar and spend the WHOLE day exploring these lesser-visited attractions. No rushing, no lines. Let the kids lead the way.

Disneyland, Anaheim

* Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island – This has been updated since we were kids! You’ll feel like you’re two steps behind Jack Sparrow exploring the caves, treehouse, and the fort to find treasure. It’s the best place to get a good look at the Mark Twain Riverboat and Sailing Ship Columbia.

* Tarzan’s Treehouse – Used to be the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse towering above Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean. Climb and explore, then play jungle instruments and cook on camp stoves back on the ground.

* Play house in Mickey’s Toon Town where toddlers can climb in houses from classic Disney (Chip and Dale’s Treehouse, Mickey’s House, Minnie’s House, Donald’s Boat, etc.). Lots of stuff to “touch” – no “hands off” rules here.

California Adventure

*S.S. (T)rustworthy Fireboat – At the farthest end of the park from the entrance. A fun fireboat with all sorts of opportunities for interactive play.

* Bountiful Valley Farm teaches about the farming community in California while providing water play at the Irrigation Station. Located in between Sam Andreas Shakes and the off the entrance to “A Bug’s Life.”
*Princess Dot’s Puddle Park provides more water play.
* Redwood Challenge Trail – I first found out about this from Just Spotted. Read their rundown for details.


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  1. 1
    kelly says:

    the "free play" at Disneyland and DCA is great! We often go to the parks, and leave without riding a single ride! & you know we LOVE the redwood creek challenge trail!

  2. 2

    Love every guest post Michele has written! This might be my favorite! We absolutely love the free play areas. My kiddos spent most of last Saturday afternoon playing in the SS Trustworthy area at DCA. We also love the irrigation station water area at the entrance to A bug’s land. The kids go crazy! We are actually heading over this afternoon to play either in the redwood challenge trail or check out the playhouse in Mickey’s toon town.
    Thanks again Jen for the fantastic guest posts you have featured!

  3. 3
    Jen says:

    Thanks to all my fabulous guest bloggers for their awesome tips and finds!!! 🙂

  4. 4
    Sharlene says:

    I haven’t been on Tom Sawyers Island/Pirate Lair since I was a kid. I bet my kids would love it. Such a great idea. As soon as we stop getting blacked out thats where we will be heading.

  5. 5
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