California Adventure

nullCalifornia Adventure opened its doors on February 8, 2001. It is a totally separate theme park from Disneyland, but they both reside within the Disney Resort complex.

The park started with five areas but was remodeled recently to include 8 distinct areas:

  • Buena Vista Street
  • Hollywood Land
  • Cars Land
  • A Bug's Land
  • Paradise Pier
  • Pacific Wharf
  • Grizzly Peak

Each area represents various aspects of California, its culture, landmarks and history. It is home to Disney’s only real rollercoaster, a must see hang-glider ride and a unique Ferris wheel. 

To learn more about the history of the park, go to here.

nullThis park is full of rides, shows and parades to enjoy - so plan your visit ahead of time. Your plan should take into consideration the ages of your kids, the length of your stay and your endurance power.

To make your experience more enjoyable and stress-free, plan your visit by going to Disney’s website. The site allows visitors to filter for attractions by “Thrill Type”, “Interests” or “Age”. For example, you can choose “Big Drops”, “Slow Rides”, “Teens”, etc. But before you go there, stick around and learn about the park from a local.

I live practically around the corner from the Disney Resort and spend a lot of time at the parks. I would like to share my experiences with you. Hopefully, it will help get the most out of your visit. 

The park is usually open from 9 AM to 8 PM on weekdays and from 8 AM to 11 PM on weekends and holidays.

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Tip: Most rides offer a single rider line. Even if you don't see a sign indicating "Single Riders", ask the attendant. They will give a special ticket and direct you to the "secret" line. You can take advantage of this feature even if you are with a group. If you don't mind being separated during the ride, just go for it.

nullSo, what is the best way to enjoy the park? What are the best rides? It really depends on your preferences, but here one way to experience the park:

Buena Vista Street

As you enter the park you will be on Buena Vista Street, which was named after the actual street in Burbank where Disney studios sit. The street leads to the central plaza that represents Los Angeles in the 1920’s. 

Before you reach the plaza, turn right onto Grizzly Peak area for some great fun.

Grizzly Peak

nullTake a hike through California’s national parks with Redwood trees, whitewater rapids and high mountain peaks.

Soarin' Over California

I always like to make this my first ride of the day. If you are anything like me, you will end up going on it multiple times. 

The ride simulates flying in a hang-glider through California. It goes above San Francisco, Redwood Creek, Napa Valley, Monterey, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Palm Springs, Camarillo, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego, Malibu and back Los Angeles.

nullThe ride ends with a flight over Disneyland at Christmas, with a Christmas parade traveling down Main Street, USA, decorations on Sleeping Beauty Castle, and the fireworks grand finale.

The amazing scenery passing right under your feet is so realistic and the smells (yes! You heard it right: Smells) are so invigorating that you can very easily forget you are in a simulator. 

Soon the ride will be transformed into “Soarin' Around the World”. <FastPass Available>

Tip: Some rides offer FastPass. It is a way to avoid long lines at some rides. For example if you go to Soarin' Over California and find out that the wait time is too long, get a FastPass. It will specify an appointment time for you to come back. When you come back you will go through a different line which is usually very short. Be aware that you can only have one FastPass at a time (per rider). In other words, don’t expect to get Fast passes for several rides at the same time. Look for the symbol next to rides offering FastPass.

Books about the Disney Resort

The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2016 

Disneyland Secrets  

Grizzly River Run

nullAs you exit Soarin' Over California turn right and walk towards Grizzly River Run. This is a whitewater rafting ride. 

The attraction's name comes from Grizzly Peak, the bear-shaped mountain that the rapids flow around. You are guaranteed to get wet on this ride so go during warm weather, or you can buy one of the plastic smocks and avoid the worst of the drenching. <FastPass Available>

Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

nullRight opposite to Grizzly River Run, you will find this wilderness themed play area. This place can be great fun for both kids and adults.

You can climb the rocks, glide on rock slides, climb up wooden lookout towers with rope bridges or slide down a rope in a suspended tire.

Don’t forget to go through the Spirit Cave to discover your mystical animal spirit. 

If you prefer to relax and let the kids run amuck, benches are available.

Tip: this play area is very large with many fun things to do. On the way in, inspect the large map to decide which way to go.

Paradise Pier

nullAfter your adventure at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, turn right into Paradise Pier. Step back in time and take a walk on the beach boardwalk where you will find carnival rides, parlor games and fast food. The area surrounds a large manmade lake where the “World of Color” show plays.

Goofy's Sky School

This is a crazy rollercoaster ride where Goofy will "teach" you how to fly. It is based on Disney's animated cartoon "Goofy's Glider".

nullThe ride has a lot of turns, drops and sudden stops, but it is not very fast. The sides of the tracks are wide open. This gives the rider the feeling of falling off on sharp turns. The open sides and the sudden drops may be unsettling for small children.

As you fly in your gliders, billboards on the sides of the tracks show Goofy giving step by steps instructions on how to fly. <FastPass Available>

Jumpin' Jellyfish

nullAt the Jumpin’ Jellyfish, the younger kids can enjoy a parachute jump through a Kelp forest. The secure seats will take them up to a height of 40 feet and then drop them gently to the ground. On the way down they can enjoy a nice view of Paradise Bay.

Tip: If you have loose shoes or slippers on, take them off before the ride or you will lose them.

Silly Symphony Swings

nullHuge spinning swings rock you back and forth as they spin you round and round - synchronized to the music of "The Band Concert". 

As you spin, you have a great view of Paradise Bay and the other rides around you.

California Screamin

This is the only real rollercoaster at the Disney resort. It is currently the fastest steel rollercoaster in the US and features a full loop.

The ride starts with very quick acceleration through the water in Paradise nullBay and splashes most of the riders. 

The 55 mph speed and all the twists and turns make this ride the most thrilling ride in the Disney parks. <FastPass Available>

Tip: Another way to beat the lines and Disney parks is the single ride line. If you are traveling alone (or willing to pretend you are alone) you can go the single ride line which goes faster than the regular line.

World of Color Show

nullTo end your day at California Adventure with awe and wonderment, you must plan to view this spectacular show. 

The show projects various movie clips from the vast Disney and Pixar collections on a giant screen of water and mist – with a fiery display of pyrotechnics. Accompanying the spectacular display is a magical musical score.

The show also utilizes lights, water, fire, fog, and lasers. Expect to see clips from The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, Fantasia 2000, WALL-E, Toy Story, Aladdin and many more.

Tip: The show plays 2 times on the weekend and one time on weekdays. It is immensely popular so you will need to plan ahead.

nullThe best way is to head straight to Grizzly River Run ride and get FastPass tickets to the show. Those free tickets run out quickly, so make it your first stop when you arrive at the park. You can combine those FastPasses with other ride FastPasses.

Another option is to reserve a dining package at one of the sit-down restaurants surrounding Paradise Bay (Ariel's Grotto, Carthay Circle Restaurant, Wine Country Trattoria). Dining at those places is a little pricey, but if you were planning to have dinner anyway, this it is a good way to catch the show too. <FastPass Available>

Lunch Time

California Adventure offers many dining options. You can get a quick snack from places like “Corn Dog Castle” or “Cozy Cone Motel” or you can get lunch for a casual dining place like “Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill” or “Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta”. If you really want to enjoy an upscale experience, try “Carthay Circle” or “Wine Country Trattoria. My favorites:

Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill

Grab your authentic Mexican tacos, burritos or tamales and take them to shaded outdoor patio. 

Smokejumpers Grill

nullRight next to “Soarin' Over California” you can enjoy cheeseburgers, chicken and ribs. You can customize your burger by adding your own toppings.

Carthay Circle

A fine dining restaurant that offers mouth water dishes like “Crisp Duck Confit” or “Herb-Crusted Lamb Scaloppini”.  For dessert, you should try the “Tahitian vanilla bean crème brûlée tart” or the “dark chocolate mousse bar”.

Paradise Pier Ice Cream Company

For a snack, you have to visit this soft serve ice cream stand. The lines are long, but it worth the wait. They serve the usual cup or cone – vanilla, chocolate or swirl. But they also serve coke or root beer floats. 

Cars Land

nullThis is the newest addition to California Adventure park. It spans 12 acres and contains 3 rides and several dining places. 

Radiator Springs Racers

nullThis is a car driving experience through the town of Radiator Springs. After you board your 6 passenger car, you will cruise through town and be greeted by familiar faces from the “Cars” movie. 

Passing through an Archway, a valley and under a waterfall, you will end up at the race starting line. Expect some surprises along the way as you pass through a dark and mysterious area.

At the start line, your car will race another car to the finish line going through some exhilarating sharp turns and steep drops. The cars in this section of the ride can go up to 40 miles an hour. 

nullWhile you race away, notice the “Cadillac Range Mountains”. The peaks resemble the tail fins of classic Cadillac models from 1957 to 1962. <FastPass Available>

Tip: At one of those sharp turns with a drop - towards the end - your photo will be taken. Be ready to make your goofiest pose for the camera.

Cars Land also has 2 additional attractions that are more appropriate for smaller children:

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree: Ride a trailer that is pulled by a funny looking tractor. 

Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters: You sit in your vintage cars then the cars start dancing around the yard.

A Bug’s Land

nullIf have small children, you may want to stop at the Bugs Land area. It is themed after the Pixar movie “A Bug’s Life” and has several rides that are suitable for the young ones. Try a funny 3-D show, go flying on Flik's Flyers, drive bumper cars or ride the Heimlich's Chew-Chew Train.

Flik's Flyers

A spinner ride in which riders climb aboard floats made by bugs out of empty food containers. 

Heimlich's Chew Chew Train

nullRide on the German caterpillar Heimlich (from the movie) and eat your way through oversized food like carrots, watermelons and candy corn.

Princess Dot's Puddle Park 

Run around and through an oversized garden hose and a giant spigot that spurts water.

It's Tough to Be a Bug!

Done your 3d glasses and get immersed in a bug’s life. You will find out that it not so easy to be a bug. Flick from the Pixar movie tries to convince you that bugs are your friends.

Hollywood Land

nullStep into the golden age of Hollywood in the 1930s and enjoy the magic of cinema and theater. Stroll through Hollywood streets and catch a show at the Hyperion Theater or go on a terrifying ride at the “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror”.

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion

If you loved the movie, you will enjoy this theatrical rendition of the story. This show replaced the Aladdin show at the same theater.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

nullDo you like to be dropped from high places while experiencing the freefall sensation? Then you have to go on this ride.

First, you go through the lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. After you check in, an attendant takes you to your room on the service elevator.

Then you unwittingly pass through the twilight zone and into a world where anything could happen - and it will happen to you! 

I don't want to spoil the ride for you too much, but expect to be airborne for a few seconds.

This ride is not for the faint of heart, but if you can handle it, then it is a thrill you don't want to miss. <FastPass Available>

On Jan 2nd, 2017, the ride will drop its last passenger to make room for the new adventure “Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout!”. It will still feature the free-fall drop but with characters and effects from the Marvel comic. 

Animation Academy

nullDid you always wanted to draw Disney characters but didn’t know how? Then join this session with a Disney animator to learn the basics of animation. At the end of the session, take your creation home with you.

Dinner Time

The gang must be hungry after all this excitement.

If you are in the mood for something casual, go to “Award Wieners” where they serve delicious sausage and hotdogs.

For food truck experience, try the “Studio Catering Co.” for some corn dogs, chips or caramel popcorn.

For desert head to “Schmoozies” for some great fruit smoothies.

Muppet Vision 3D (currently not running)

nullIf you are like me, growing up watching the Muppet Show, you will definitely enjoy this 3-D show. You will get to watch the main characters doing their silly routine and you will be introduced to a new computer-generated Muppet. Waiting in the line is part of the fun. You will pass through Muppet Soundstage where you can view several displays and props. Don’t forget to grab your 3-D glasses on the way in.

Disney's Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular (Cancelled)

The name says it all. This is a theatrical show that lasts Approximately 45 minutes and is filled with wild imagination, dancing genies and flying carpets. Watch your favorite characters from the Disney movie Aladdin and a brand new song written especially for the show.

Disney Deals

Southern California Pass

If you are staying in the area for a week or more, you can purchase Southern California Pass. It includes 3-Day Disneyland Tickets, tickets for one day each at Universal Studios, SeaWorld and your choice of a ticket to the San Diego Zoo OR San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park: Find City Pass here

Multi-day park hopper

You get a better value for your dollar when buying multi-day park hopper passes. They come in 2, 3, 4, 5-day packages: Get Disney passes.

California Adventure FASTPASS Attractions

FastPass is a way to avoid long lines at some rides. For example, if you go to space mountain and find out that the wait time is too long, get a FastPass. It will specify an appointment time for you to come back. When you come back you go through a different line which is usually very short. Be aware that you can only have one FastPass at a time (per rider).

Rides that offer FastPass:

  • World of Color (distributed near Grizzly River Run) 
  • California Screamin’
  • Goofy’s Sky School
  • Grizzly River Run
  • Radiator Springs Racers (distributed near It’s Tough to Be a Bug)
  • Soarin’ Over California
  • Toy Story Midway Mania!
  • Coming soon: Guardians of the Galaxy.

California Adventure Single Rider Lines

Another way to beat the lines and Disney parks are the single rider lines. If you are traveling alone (or willing to split from your group when you reach the ride) you can go to the single rider line which goes faster than the regular line. On a recent visit, the wait line for my ride was 75 minutes. I was able to get in within 5 minutes through the single rider line.

Rides that offer single rider line:

  • California Screamin’
  • Goofy’s Sky School
  • Grizzly River Run
  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Soarin’ Over California.

Rider Switch (Swap) Rides

Do you have small children but you don't want to miss out on the thrilling rides? Line up with the whole group and when you reach the attendants let them know you would like to swap. One adult will stay with the young children and the other adults can go on the ride. When the first ride is done, the adult that stayed with the children can now enjoy the ride while the others wait.

Rides that offer rider swapping: 

  • California Screamin'
  • Goofy's Sky School 
  • Grizzly River Run
  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Silly Symphony Swings - Single 
  • Silly Symphony Swings - Tandem 
  • Soarin' Over California
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 
  • Tuck and Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies.
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