Now that we’ve covered Disneyland, it’s time to turn our attention to the other theme park…Disney California Adventure (or DCA). Like my tips from yesterday at Disneyland, this is not like my Virtual Disney trips. Once I finish up the virtual trips to Disneyland, I’ll be heading to Disney California Adventure. As I do, I’ll be updating this blog post with the links.
Virtual Disney California Adventure – Pacific Warf and Paradise Pier (coming soon)
Virtual Disney California Adventure – Grizzly Peak and Condor Flats (coming soon)
First things First
The very first thing you should do at Disney California Adventure is make a quick trip to It’s Tough to be A Bug to get a FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land. People will line up early, before the theme park opens, to make sure they get these coveted FastPasses. Typically, if you do not get your FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers in the first hour to hour and a half, you will not be able to get them. They sell out that quickly. Let me tell you…you do not want to have to wait in the long lines that happen for Radiator Springs Racers. The queue line looks a little like this…
You do not want to wait the typical 90 minutes you might have to wait for this attraction if at all possible. Is it worth the wait? Probably. It all depends on how many days you’re going to be in the theme parks. If you’ve got one day to be in DCA, it might not be worth it to spend an hour and a half in line for ONE attraction. Radiator Springs Racers is the BEST attraction at DCA in my humble opinion and should NOT be missed. Some folks compare this with Test Track at EPCOT. It uses the same technology but is a vastly different experience. After all, this ride combines all the fun of a Disney dark ride with just enough thrill ride parts to keep the thrill seeker happy. It tells the story from the first Cars movie. Also, the fast part is a race where you never know who will win.
The second thing you need to do, if you haven’t decided on utilizing the World of Color Dining Packages I mentioned before, is to get a FastPass for the World of Color show. This FastPass is distributed by the Grizzly River Run attraction. This is the ONLY way you are guaranteed a viewing spot for the World of Color show. Not every spot is a good spot. This is why I highly recommend the dining package. With the dining package you are put in the center section of viewing. The FastPasses fill out the viewing area. Of course without a FastPass, you could view the show from behind on the Paradise Pier area. I’ve done this and it isn’t nearly as cool as viewing the show from the front. So, if you want to see this show, and you should, go with either the dining package or get a FastPass.
The World of Color show is AMAZING! I’m not as big of a fan of this show as I am with Fantasmic. However, this show is totally worth fitting into your plans. Especially if this is your first visit. You can watch the show on YouTube and it won’t even come close to the experience of being there in person. Like Fantasmic, the first show of the night will have the largest crowd. So, if you can stay for the later show, you might find yourself with a slightly better viewing in the second show. However, if you’re there for the races, you probably won’t be doing the second show on the night before you run. Those 5:30am race times don’t accommodate late nights at the theme parks.
Also, if you’re coming out for the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon, they might be running the Holiday version of the World of Color show. They premiered this version in 2013. So, I can’t remember exactly when they started running it. However, if they do, you will not want to miss it. After all Olaf makes a wonderful MC for the show. I think this version of World of Color is far better than the original.
Attractions – Rides
Okay, now that you’re set with Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses and your World of Color seating, we can move on to the other important decisions. Here is the list of FastPass attractions at Disney California Adventure…
Radiator Springs Racers
World of Color
Soarin’ Over California
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Grizzly River Run
Goofy’s Sky School
Of these choices, the next FastPass I’d worry about is Soarin’ Over California. If you love Soarin’ at EPCOT, you’ll love Soarin’ Over California at DCA. After all, it’s the exact same film and same ride. I’ve found it kind of funny that Disney didn’t do a different film for EPCOT because the end of the Soarin’ films has you landing at Disneyland in California. So, this attraction makes much more sense at DCA than it does at EPCOT. The lines for this attraction can get long at times which is why you’d want to get FastPasses for it.
The only other FastPass I’d worry about at DCA is Grizzly River Run. Why? You can try to get a time that’s in the hot part of the day. On this ride, you will get wet and many people come off the attraction pretty soaked. So, be prepared for this before you decide to ride. If you’re staying at the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, you might want to work a trip back to your room to dry off after your ride on this attraction. After all, the special entrance to DCA from the Grand Californian is close by. The wait times on this ride can vary wildly from my experience. Sometimes, it’s long, sometimes short. So, if you choose to get the FastPass, do so as a time organizer rather than a time in line saver.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is another attraction that should not be missed. It is different from its counterpart at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. So, if you love that attraction there, expect some differences. The version we have at DCA is the one that’s used at all other Disney theme parks (other than Disney’s Hollywood Studios). The lines on this attraction really don’t warrant a FastPass. However, they are available if you want them. On a Saturday last August, we found wait times to be in the neighborhood of 15-20 minutes without a FastPass.
If’ you’re a roller coaster lover, you absolutely MUST ride California Screemin’. This ride is the one on Paradise Pier that is rather easy to spot because it’s huge! I am not a huge roller coaster person. So, it’s not for me. However, my friends who are roller coaster lovers have told me they think it’s the best roller coaster at the Disneyland Resort. So, I would highly recommend this roller coaster for all you thrill seekers out there. Even though there are FastPasses for this attraction, my experience is that they are not really needed. The wait times aren’t too long. Keep in mind that they will shut this attraction down somewhere close to a half hour to an hour before the first World of Color show. Plan accordingly.
My second favorite attraction at DCA is Toy Story Midway Mania. I LOVE this attraction! Unlike its counterpart at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there are NO FastPasses for this attraction. I’m kind of baffled about why there is this difference. It is the same attraction with a different queue line. Admittedly, this queue line leaves a lot to be desired and is nowhere near as cool as the queue line at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. However, once you’re on the ride vehicle, it’s the same thing. If you’re willing to split up your group, they do offer a single rider line which will shorten your wait time. If you choose not to split up your group, any wait time under 40 minutes is a cue for you to head over to Toy Story Midway Mania right away. I’ve found that wait times of 40-45 minutes are pretty typical. It can get up to 60 minutes. So, use whatever app you like to watch the wait times.
My wife’s favorite attraction is The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. The wait times for this attraction are typically in the 5-15 minute range. If you see it longer, wait and you’ll see it drop. As is typical, the queue line for the corresponding attraction at the Magic Kingdom is way cooler than the one we have out here. However, the ride itself is pretty much the same. Although, they’ve made a few upgrades recently to the ride that have enhanced the experience. I still wish they’d add a scene towards the end. However, it’s still fun to go under the sea with Ariel.
Outside of the Radiator Springs Racers, the other must do attraction in Cars Land is Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. I don’t do spinning rides. So, I have to sit this one out. However, my wife loves it! Plus, the wait times usually hover around 5-15 minutes. So, it’s quick to get on. This attraction doesn’t completely spin you around like the Tea Cups at Disneyland. However, it does whip you around pretty good. Mater’s narration during the ride makes this so much fun.
One ride that’s kind of fun is Monster’s Inc: Mike and Sulley to the Rescue. This is a true dark ride and not very thrilling. Also, it’s tucked away in the back of Hollywood Land. However, I really enjoy the theming of both the queue line and the ride itself. If you have to wait longer than 15 -20 minutes, I’d skip this attraction. However, there are a lot of times where the wait time is rather short. So, this isn’t a MUST DO, but it also isn’t a ride to avoid.
Another ride that’s kind of iffy for me is Luigi’s Flying Tires in Cars Land. The wait time usually hovers around 20-30 minutes (if it’s longer wait it out). While I do enjoy the feel of the air that blows up to allow the ride vehicles to move, it’s not fun enough to wait very long to ride.
However, the queue line is pretty impressive. So, this is another one that I would neither recommend nor tell you to avoid.
Attractions – The Shows
Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular is a MUST SEE show. Crowds will line up early for this show. I love everything about it. The Genie is the star of this show. He keeps his jokes current. So, even if you’ve seen the show years ago, you will find something new seeing it now. I could not recommend any show more than this one. Keep in mind, however, that the show runs around 40 minutes. So, it’s a long show for Disney theme park standards. However, it’s so worth it.
When Buena Vista Street opened up, Disney added these little street shows that are pretty fun. I loved the 5 & Dime show.
Also, I liked the Red Car News Boys little street performance.
Another fun little show happens in Paradise Bay with Instant Concert!…Just Add Water featuring Goofy. It’s a really short show and the music that Goofy conducts is different every time. It’s nice to see the World of Color fountains used for other purposes!
Of course, there’s the Pixar Play Parade which is the big parade at DCA. I don’t like this parade as much as the parade at Disneyland. However, it is fun to see all those Pixar characters out on parade!
If you’re into dancing, the Mad T Party is right up your alley. Of course, for me that means missing the World of Color (which I don’t want to do). However, I did venture back here once and it seemed like fun. If you want a place to dance for a while, hit up the Mad T Party. Also, they have some unique adult beverages there.
Attractions – The Experiences
My favorite hang out on a hot day is the Art of Animation Building. The lobby is seriously amazing! Being surrounded by images from the Disney animated movies and the music is amazing! I want one of these rooms some day. If you need a bit of Disney magic in your day, venture into the Art of Animation Building and take it in.
Once in the Art of Animation Building, you’ll see some of the different experiences you can venture off to. Both my wife and I love Talking with Crush. They have this same experience at EPCOT in the Living with the Seas Pavilion. I’m not sure how they do it and don’t want to know. It’s just so much fun to watch the little kiddos as they get to interact with the animated Crush.
Also, inside the Art of Animation Building is the Animation Academy where you can learn to draw some of your favorite Disney characters.
If you want to know which characters are being taught, check out the schedule outside the Art of Animation Building. After getting your FastPasses for Radiator Springs Racers and World of Color, you might want to stroll by to see when they are teaching your favorite character to help plan your day.
What I enjoyed about this is that you get another free souvenir. Yep. the drawing you make is yours to keep (or throw away).
The last thing to highlight is the Sorcer’s Workshop in the Art of Animation Building. There are three parts to this experience. First you go through the Magic Mirror Realm where you can choose to draw your own animated reel or watch other pre-made reels and see how the magic of animated motion works. The second part is my favorite. The Beast’s Library. Here, you can find out which Disney character you are. This area can be pretty crowded. So, you’ll need some patience. However, it’s pretty fun to go through all the questions and have your character revealed. The last part is Ursula’s Grotto. Here you can put your voice into several animated sequences and hear them back with the animation. This whole area is very interactive and cam be a lot of fun.
Lastly, even though it feels like I’ve just about highlighted every single thing, make sure to take time to walk through Cars Land. There are so many great picture spots. The details of this land are unparalleled at any Disney park (in my opinion). It’s literally like you’ve just walked into Radiator Springs from Cars. Notice the details like the fact that the main strip is paved (because Lightning McQueen had to re-pave it in the movie). The other roads are not. They have the one blinking traffic light, just like in the movie. There are two entrances to Cars Land. The first one looks down the main strip. However, if you go through the Pacific Warf, you’ll find the second entrance.
I love this spot! Especially at night! You need to experience Radiator Springs both in the day and at night when it’s all lit up. The retail shops in Cars Land sell only Cars themed merchandise and California/Route 66 themed merchandise. So, seriously take the time to wander around and notice all the details. The Imagineers did such an amazing job with this land that it would be a shame for you to miss out on their great work while you’re going from attraction to attraction.
If you want to learn more about this theme park before I can get around to a Virtual Disney California Adventure blog post, check out the Disney Tourist Blog’s Disney California Adventure 2.0 Information and Guide. Tom and Sarah Bricker are amazing photographers who capture the beauty of these theme parks so well. On this page, you’ll find a link to Tom’s look back at DCA, the original version. You’ll see how the changes that have been made have improved this theme park dramatically. There are also links to his photos of some of the attractions at DCA 2.0. Also, check out Touring Plans article on how to best use the FastPass at DCA. I hope that, in some way, this post gives you some tools to help you plan your visit to Disney California Adventure. Check back tomorrow as I talk about dining at the Disneyland owned hotels at the Disneyland Resort.