General Disney California Adventure Tips for First Time Visitors

Last Friday, I gave some tips for visiting Disneyland. Today, I’ll focus on the other theme park at the Disneyland Resort…Disney California Adventure.


There are two things that you’ll want to arrive early to this theme park for. First, you’ll want to get back to Cars Land and obtain your fast pass for Radiator Springs Racers.

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This is the most popular attraction in DCA. Fast passes typically sell out within the first couple hours of the park being open. Lines for this ride can swell to 2 hours. So, you’ll want to make sure to get a fast pass. If you are unable to get a fast pass, you always have the option of going in the single rider line. Keep in mind that the ride vehicle seats 3 across in 2 rows. So, there is always the possibility that, if your group is 2 people, you could be in the same ride vehicle. However, if your group is larger than that, you probably will be separated. Is Radiator Springs Racers worth the 2 hour wait? That depends on what you wish to accomplish in the day. I say that if you’re a first time visitor, this attraction should be your top priority. It’s a great attraction that combines elements of a dark ride with just enough thrill elements to keep the thrill seekers satisfied not too much of a thrill to scare off those that can’t handle the more intense rides. I’m not a roller coaster kind of person and LOVE this attraction. The race at the end is amazing!


The other thing you’ll want to get to the park early for is getting fast passes for the World of Color show. The first show fast passes will sell out quickly and the second show will do the same. One way around this, if you don’t want to rush out to DCA, is to make a World of Color dining package reservation. There are two options that I find worthwhile. The first is to dine at the Carthay Circle Restaurant. Many people will want to dine here anyways. So, why not get the World of Color dining package and kill two birds with one stone? The second place is the Wine Country Tattria. The advantage of these dining packages is that, not only will you get good food, but you get a World of Color fast pass for viewing the show in the center section (the best section for viewing) and you don’t have to worry about getting to the park early. When I see the World of Color show, this is the way I go.

Toy Story Mania!  at Disney's California Adventure (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)

Unlike Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there are no fast passes for Toy Story Midway Mania. The typical wait, from my experience, is 45-60 minutes. So, if you use the app I recommended last time (or any other app that gives wait times), and find a wait time under 45 minutes, you should go to Toy Story Midway Mania right away. Like Radiator Springs Racers, there is also a single rider option for this attraction. So, if you’re looking for a way to go on this attraction without the wait, the single rider option may be your best bet.

If you’re looking for a shaded area to hang out, the Paradise Garden is wonderful for just chilling out.

I just saw this video of the Ellis Island Boys that play there and thought it was kind of cool.

If you want a place to cool off, indoors, go into the Art of Animation building. This place is also awesome for recharging with Disney magic. There is a large lobby indoors where you can sit. The walls have oversized images from Disney animated films that rotate.



Also, from there you can visit Talking with Crush (my wife’s second favorite thing to do at DCA), The Animation Academy (where you learn to draw one character and get to keep your masterpiece), and the Sorcerer’s Workshop (a really fun place to go with kids). I also like the Sorcerer’s Workshop because you can take a quiz, in the Beast’s Library area, to find out which Disney Character you are.

The best show at any North America Disney theme park if the Aladdin show in DCA. The show lasts 45 minutes and is almost Broadway quality. The Genie is the star of the show. From what I’ve read, the main actor who plays Genie has been in this role from the time the show originated. His ad-libs are hilarious and he keeps the ad libs current. This show is very popular. So, make sure to plan on arriving early to get a seat. If you go to DCA once, you absolutely must go to this amazing show.

If you love roller coasters, you absolutely must ride Screamin’. I don’t like roller coasters. However, my friends who do tell me that Screamin’ is, in most cases, the best roller coaster at Disneyland. This roller coaster is not easy to miss.

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One smaller ride that could go overlooked is the Monster’s Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue. The ride itself isn’t close to being thrilling. However, the queue line is so immersive. It’s like going into Monstropolis. So, I really like this ride just for that.

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The other dark ride that I like and is my wife’s favorite is Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. Now, the queue line isn’t nearly as immersive as its Florida counterpart. However, if you love The Little Mermaid, you’ll like this ride as well. It has all of the great songs from the movie. More on this attraction when I do my comparison blog. However, this ride is really fun and usually has a short wait.



I can’t think of anything else at the moment. However, you should, if time permits, take in the ambiance of Buena Vista Street (the Main Street U.S.A. of DCA).



The work that the Imagineers did on this street upgraded this theme park in ways that can not be measured. Also, take time to take in Cars Land as well. The first time I went to Cars Land, I think I spent around an hour just taking it all in. The details of Buena Vista Street and Cars Land are truly special and an example of Disney Imagineering at its very best. While I miss the C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A out front…

And the Golden Gate Bridge that the monorail used to travel over…

I think that Disney California Adventure 2.0 is a superior theme park and one worthy of spending an entire day exploring and enjoying.

3 thoughts on “General Disney California Adventure Tips for First Time Visitors

  1. You are the best, seriously! I’ve been working on Disneyland dining reservations this past week and have now added Carthay Circle to my list. World of Color was not out yet during our last visit (2008), so this is definitely something we gotta see! Bookmarking these pages!

    1. I’m glad I could help. World of Color is an amazing show. Just so you know, if you watch the show from up front, you absolutely will get wet. I’ve never viewed the show from the front because of that. My wife and I usually try to find a place around mid way back. Also, if you go to the first show, if you walk back to Buena Vista Street, you can see the Disneyland fireworks pretty well. Cars Land also has a decent view of the fireworks at Disneyland.

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