For at least a couple years, as annual Disneyland and California Adventure pass holders, my older son has been asking to go to California Adventure. I always instead hyped Disneyland only as I’m a huge fan of Walt’s original park and there really wasn’t nearly as much to do at California Adventure. I sort of viewed it as Disneyland’s Cinderella-ish ugly stepsister and decidedly less magical. And although I’d casually followed California Adventure’s multi-year building of Carsland, I was pretty bummed because I figured that by the time it was finally completed my boys, 8 and 5, would be over their Cars phase. Oh boy, as Mickey Mouse would say, was I wrong.
I got to visit California Adventure and Carsland last week as part of the Disney In Home Bloggers trip, promoting a slew of fabulous upcoming DVD and theater releases. I’d heard great things about how realistic the imagineering of Ornament Valley and Route 66 are, and how you felt like you were in the movie. But until you see it in person, you cannot even fathom how awe-inspiring it is. I’m pretty sure my jaw actually dropped. The attention to detail is staggering. It’s both whimsical and realistic, which is a pretty fantastic combination. It’s literally like walking into the movie. There are all sorts of fun details everywhere you look, such as the gardens with blooming flowers made of car parts like vintage head and tail lights.
Flo’s Diner is there of course, with classic Disney whimsical touches like fun menu items written on the windows and dining areas next to retro gas pumps as you get your fill, um, of human food. The Cozy Cone Motel is full-sized in all of it’s glory, serving different snacks at each cone. The cars of Cars make character appearances there, perfect for photo ops and just general fun stargazing. My other favorite hydrate and snack stop was Fillmore’s Taste-In, in all of its psychedelic glory.
Besides strolling down Route 66 and reliving the Cars movies in stunning detail, the biggest highlight of Carsland is the Radiator Springs Racers ride. The ride landscape is huge, in a “so real it’s confusing” setting including cliffs, waterfalls, bridges, cactii, trees and shrubs. Because Disney is in charge, and therefore it’s pretty much perfectly executed, I spent alot of time double taking trying to figure out what was real and what wasn’t (the cactii still have me boggled).
Thanks to having our own private tour guide, we amazingly got to line skip (but didn’t skip the jealous and/or death stares of long-waiting patrons) and head straight to the front of our rides, especially a boon with the otherwise 95 minute line for the Radiator Springs Racers. The showpiece of Carsland, I had pretty high expectations and was NOT disappointed.
Each convertible racecar, all with different clever and pithy license plates, seats six passengers. Hopping in you start your journey through Ornament Valley in all it’s glory, with the Cars road trip music playing in your car. After a bit of slow winding down the road you enter the dark portion of the ride. You get to relive some moments from the original film and will randomly get either your tire changed at Luigi’s or a new paint job at Ramone’s. With your car all tricked out, the race portion of the ride begins. Yours and your neighboring car zoom parallel out of the darkness and begin a screeching, turning, curving race to the finish line. Also randomized, it’s a ridiculously run drive that has you cheering the whole time. (Not that it really matters, but my car won). ,,
Our Disney In Home Bloggers group enjoyed a practically whiplash-inducing number of rides over three hours thanks to the aforementioned guide: Indiana Jones (who doesn’t want to experience Harrison Ford in the dark?), Star Tours (great technology, very bad motion sickness), Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Big Thunder Mountain and the renovated Matterhorn. With a refreshed exterior and interior, a Yeti cosmetic make over (this is Southern California after all) and new sleds, this ride is still one of the best and now even better. My favorite part of its revamping had to be the three mountain climbers, in lederhosen no less, scaling the side of the mountain up and down all day. It was fun to watch and even more fun to ponder what their job interview had been like.
All in all, even without a private guide, and having to wait amongst the people, a trip to Disneyland and California Adventure should be on your must do list. If it has been a while, or never, now is the time to visit.