TR: Disney California Adventure
Place: Disney California Adventure
My first visit back to the Disneyland Resort in 16 years was definitely one of the best trips I have had in quite some time. On my last visit, California Adventure was the Disneyland parking lot, Downtown Disney didn’t exist, and I didn’t have to park a few miles away in a small covered city and be shuttled over to the main entrance. Regardless, I was looking forward to my first ever visit to California Adventure and I have to say that I was not disappointed. As I mentioned in my quick thoughts post, DCA is definitely worthy of carrying the Disney name as it was spotless, well themed, and had a unique selection of rides and attractions to enjoy. The entrance and Hollywood Land area reminded me a lot of Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, but that’s where the similarities end. The rest of the park has a character all its own and is a very enjoyable place to just wander through and take in the sights. Since I’m already way behind on getting these TR’s up, I’m just going to review the attractions that I experienced and not break it down by day. As old as I am getting, I can’t quite remember what I did and when, so I hope this format works.
- Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley To The Rescue (rode twice, wait time < 5 mins. each trip). This was a big surprise to me. The exterior façade of this ride suggests that the inside is going to feature plywood cutouts and cheap effects, but in fact it is the exact opposite. Riding in a yellow taxi cab, we encounter Mike Wazowski and Sulley from the Disney-Pixar hit film as they try to get Boo’s door back so she can get back to the human world. The animatronics are decent, the special effects are well done, and when I got to the scene with the hundreds of doors from the movie, I actually said out loud “this is awesome”. I was definitely amazed at the level of detail that went into this attraction. Even the videos shown in the queue area are hilarious. I like going in to a ride I haven’t been on with low expectations and being pleasantly surprised afterwards. I also have to mention that at the end of the ride, guests stop in front of an animated Roz figure (the nasty lady slug from the movie). She makes a comment about someone in the car, which is usually quite funny. I was the target of Roz’s affection on both rides, as she told me that she gets off in a few hours and that we should have dinner. Nice to see I’ve still got it. ;)
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (rode twice, wait time < 25 mins. each trip). Here was another ride that surprised me. I had read so many negative reviews about the California Tower being inferior to the Florida version, but to me, I thought they were both equally good. While the DCA version lacks the forward travel portion, it makes up for that with a neat special effect that I absolutely loved. On one floor that we stopped at, the doors open and directly across from you, riders can see everyone in the car in a mirror. “Rod Serling” tells us to wave goodbye to the real world and all of a sudden everyone fades away leaving an empty car staring back at us. Not sure why but I enjoyed that effect. The drop sequence was amazing as I seem to remember bouncing up and down a lot and then getting shot all the way to the top for one last free fall into blackness. Good stuff!
- “It’s Tough To Be A Bug” (saw once, no wait). Even though I saw this at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it was so hot the day I saw this that I needed a break in an air-conditioned theater. This version is identical to the one at DAK, which means it is one of the best 3D/4D films out there. I have always enjoyed the spiders that fall from the ceiling, the stinging hornets, and of course, the fun finale that always seems to catch people off guard. It may be 15 years old, but it has held up relatively well.
- Soarin’ Over California (rode twice, wait time < 20 mins. each trip). Another attraction that I had already ridden in Florida. Soarin’ is a ride that most people truly enjoy. I always hear people of all ages coming off saying how much fun it was, which is probably what Disney Imagineers were going after when they designed it. The ride itself is simply an Omnimax movie with “floorless” seats that move gently with the on-screen action. The end result is the sensation of gliding over various California landmarks. While the transitions from scene to scene are rather abrupt and I still think the picture could be cleaner (perhaps that’s the word I was looking for… the black specks on the projector seem to ruin the illusion sometimes), Soarin’ is a great attraction in my book.
- Goofy’s Sky School (rode once, wait time < 5 mins. using Single Rider Line). I basically rode this for the cheap credit. This standard Mack Wild Mouse was surprisingly brutal for a Disney attraction as the car whipped around the hairpin turns and navigated its way past various “flight lessons” from Goofy. The plywood theming seemed cheap (like the Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom in Florida) and the ride isn’t quite what you’d expect at a Disney park, but regardless it was still fun and since I didn’t have to wait much, I wasn’t complaining.
- Golden Zephyr (rode once, walk on). A Disney replica of the old Traver Circle Swings, Golden Zephyr was actually quite fun and brought back memories of riding the Rocket Ships at Geauga Lake back when I was a kid. There really isn’t much to this ride as you just sail around and around in your silver rocket on a rather short ride cycle, yet there I was, grinning and smiling the whole time. One of the 400 daily Disney parades was going on while I was aboard, so I got to see that from a neat perspective.
- Silly Symphony Swings (rode once, walk on). Ok, the last thing I thought I’d ever see is a standard Zierer Wave Swinger at a Disney park. I wasn’t even going to give it a chance, but since there was no line and I had plenty of time, I figured what the heck. I am so glad I hopped on as Silly Symphony Swings was awesome. It’s amazing that all Disney had to do was play some classical music while riding and it makes the experience fun and unique. Another pleasant surprise that I certainly didn’t expect.
- Mickey’s Fun Wheel (rode once, wait time < 20 mins.) Seeing that this is one of only two “eccentric” ferris wheels in the USA, I had to give this a try. I of course opted for a swinging car, which actually had me nervous while I waited due to the loud screams emanating from the cars that seemed to be swinging way more than I anticipated. Once onboard and the car began to slide, I thought “oh, this isn’t so bad”. Once the car rounded the top of the wheel and slid down the track and appeared that it would fly right off the edge had me holding on to the screen enclosure with all I had. That is definitely a freaky sensation! One of the other riders in the car with me clung to the side of the car the entire time and seemed genuinely relieved that the wheel only went around once. I enjoyed my ride on Mickey’s Fun Wheel. I may have to get the other eccentric wheel credit in NYC someday…
- Toy Story Midway Mania (rode twice, wait time 35 mins. both trips). Seeing that there was no FastPass or Single Rider Line available for this, I bit the bullet and decided to wait it out with the rest of the many guests as I had heard good things about this ride. After riding it the first time, I immediately wanted to go back and ride again. Toy Story Midway Mania is essentially a ride-through interactive 3D movie where each rider gets to play a series of Toy Story themed carnival games. By using the blaster in your car, you’ll play ring toss, hit the bulls-eye, break the plates and other target-based activities while trying to rack up as many points as you can. It’s an absolute blast and I can see why guests line up for long waits just to ride. On my second trip through, I had the highest score of the vehicle, which gave me a smug sense of satisfaction! Midway Mania ranks very highly on my list and is one of those Disney rides where they truly did everything right. The animated Mr. Potato Head at the ride’s entrance was also quite entertaining.
- The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (rode 3 times, walk on all 3 trips). Yet another well-done Disney movie turned dark ride. This one has guests riding in a giant sea shell (using Disney’s Omnimover system) as they are taken past various scenes from the popular movie. At one point, waves and bubbles are projected onto the ride vehicle, making it appear that you are diving underwater. Once “under the sea”, you’ll sing that song with Sebastian, encounter the huge and rather realistic Ursula The Sea Witch, and celebrate as Ariel becomes a real girl and all ends happily. The set pieces here were very well done and weren’t of the plywood cutout variety. Nicely done in my opinion.
- California Screamin’ (rode twice, wait time < 5 mins. each trip using Single Rider Line). When I first rode Cal Screamin’ on Tuesday, I came off and said it was a decent ride. It was fun, relatively long, and offered nice views of the park. On my second ride Friday, I changed my opinion dramatically. California Screamin’ is a GREAT ride. Why the change? Well apparently there is a soundtrack on the ride that wasn’t playing on Tuesday. Not sure why that was, but when I heard music in my headrest on my second ride, I started laughing and giggling like a school girl. I am a sucker for Disney coasters with music, and since Space Mountain was down (it apparently re-opened an hour after I left Disneyland for the last time on Friday… d’oh), Cal Screamin’ gave me the musical coaster ride that I was craving! The ride did seem to break down a lot while I was at the park, but considering it’s an Intamin, that’s no big surprise. ;)
- Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (rode once, walk on). When you combine a Cuddle Up with a Whip, I believe that Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is the result. Each car is shaped like everyone’s favorite tow truck (Tow Mater of course) and as the 4 platforms spin, each car snaps around like a Whip as it transfers between the platforms like a Cuddle Up. It’s a fun little ride experience and to top it all off, you get the smooth vocal stylings of Larry The Cable guy to accompany your ride as he sings songs about how great Tow Mater and Radiator Springs are. Simple, silly fun.
- Radiator Springs Racers (rode three times, wait time < 20 mins. each trip using Single Rider Line). This was THE reason I wanted to come to the California Disney parks, to see the highly publicized Cars Land and its various attractions. When Disney puts enough time and money into something, the results are usually spectacular and Cars Land is certainly that. The minute you walk in, you feel like you have literally stepped into the Disney-Pixar movie “Cars”. If you haven’t seen that movie, then that feeling probably won’t be there, but you still can’t help but be impressed with what they have done here. Landmarks from the movie such as the Cozy Cone Motel and Flo’s V8 Café are here, as are Luigi’s Tires, Mater’s Junkyard (home of the aforementioned Junkyard Jamboree), and of course, Radiator Springs and Ornament Valley.
As for the ride itself, once you’ve waited in what is usually a 75-100 minute stand-by line, you’ll board your Test Track-style car and head out on your adventure. Radiator Springs Racers takes riders on a 4 minute trip that starts off with a scenic drive through the mountainous terrain and past a beautiful waterfall before entering the crazy world of the Cars characters. Mater, Lightning McQueen, Hudson Hornet and all their pals are here and you’ll get up close and personal with each before the ride’s big finale. You’ll line up alongside another car and race to the finish line on a high speed run over several dips and turns. The final dip under a rock formation even offers a nice pop of airtime! At the end, everyone is a winner, even if they lost the race because that’s just how things go in the world of Disney. This may be the best ride Disney has done in the US since Indiana Jones. In my opinion, Disney hit it out of the park with this one, and judging by the quick sell out of FastPasses and the huge lines all day long, the GP are enjoying it as well.
Overall I very much enjoyed Disney California Adventure. It features enough attractions to keep you busy, has some decent food (I had the roast beef meal at Flo’s V8 Café in Cars Land and it was surprisingly good), and has a fun, laid back atmosphere. I certainly hope to visit again sometime in the future and hopefully not wait another 16 years before I set foot in the Disneyland Resort again.
Link to DCA Pics below and video attached. Video contains footage of The Little Mermaid, Monsters Inc, and a trip on Radiator Springs Racers.
Thanks for reading!
I liked the movie Cars and I can't wait to one day walk thru that replica of the town. It's pretty impressive. The ride: is it 2 entrances or is it like the track splits in the middle and then you are set to race the other car?
Speaking of Test track, I had no idea they gave the Epcot one the 'tron' makeover. I haven't been on the ride since the change so I'll have to see for myself if the change was good or not. (i will admit I did enjoy Tron Legacy.)
Overall, nice tr! I'd love to go to Disneyland and DCA one of these years. But I also can't wait to see the new Fantasyland expansion at disney world. My main gripe is the 7 dwarfs mine coaster won't be ready till next year.
You wear the videographer/editor hat quite well; excellent quality to it all.
Liz & I are both itchy for some more Disney (she brought it up first!) and this whets the whistle even more. Won't be this year, probably next.
Only issue is which to return to first.
The ride: is it 2 entrances or is it like the track splits in the middle and then you are set to race the other car?
The track actually splits right before the race starts. You'll either pass through Luigi's Tires or Ramon's Paint Shop and then the cars meet up alongside each other as the race begins. The technology of the entire attraction is very impressive. While Test Track has a faster top speed, RSR to me is the more immersive and more fun of the two. Of course, I haven't been on the new version of Test Track either, so I guess that sort of invalidates my opinion!
And Mike, go to Disneyland. :) Thanks for the compliment as well. I honestly think that the two Disney videos are not my best work as I was more concerned with having fun while I was out there. Not to mention a lot of the footage I shot just didn't turn out (Haunted Mansion, Finding Nemo, most of Snow White, etc).
Anyhow, thanks for reading!
I've been to Southern California twice, but never to Disney. There's a good chance we'll be taking the kids within a year.
It's reports, photos, and videos like yours that make me pretty excited to final experience the place.
Off to read your Disneyland report now...
Coaster to Park Ratio: 4.94 / Steel to Wooden Ratio: 2.56 / Wooden Coaster Percentage: 28%
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