Anaheim, CA 92802United States
Activities & Resources
Disney's California Adventure551in Anaheim, CA 92802
Anaheim, CA 92802United States
about Disney's California Adventure:
Built on the old Disneyland parking lot, the 55-acre California Adventure takes visitors on a trip through the Golden State. The Park's rides and attractions are created around key "districts" in California, from the San Francisco Bay Area to Hollywood.
The entrance to the Park faces the entrance to Disneyland across a vast concrete Esplanade, where ticket booths buzz. No matter how you arrive (usually by tram from the shared parking lot, or on foot from one of the Disney hotels), this will be your starting point. If you're staying at the Grand Californian, however, you have a doorway into this park directly from your hotel.
Like Disneyland's Main Street, DCA's Sunshine Plaza is the "hub," reached by walking a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with colorful shops. A left turn at this hub takes you to the Hollywood Pictures Backlot. A Bug's Land and Golden Vine Winery veer off from the hub next, with Pacific Wharf and Paradise Pier further down that same offshoot. (DCA is not a perfect circle, and most attractions are actually off to the right as you enter.) Grizzly Peak, The Bay Area, and Condor Flats are on the right.
Though California Adventure is less crowded than Disneyland, it still pays to use the FASTPASS system, which allows you to reserve a spot on one ride for a specific time period, thus cutting wait time considerably. We suggest snagging FASTPASS tickets for the ride of your choice immediately upon arrival, and then securing additional tickets as soon as the time window allows (the bottom of your ticket indicates when you can get another). Check the daily Entertainment Times Guide for participating attractions, and don't stress too much about racing across the Park to an attraction before the ticket expires: Disney Cast Members won?t allow you to use a FASTPASS before the stated time period, but they're pretty lenient about entry past the stated end time.
Your first stop should be the amazing Soarin' Over California simulated hang-gliding experience in Condor Flats. This is a brilliant ride, and one of the most popular in the park, so you must ride early or use FASTPASS (though even a wait is made tolerable by Disney's trademark queue staging; in this case, a giant hangar echoing with stirring music and offering fascinating biographies of the heroes of California aviation). The ride may prove a bit of a challenge for guests afraid of heights, but it's truly a don't-miss experience, and extremely gentle. Once you're past the simple lift up and forward to the IMAX screen (in the dark), it's all cake. You won't soon forget the sensation of flying over the Golden State's most breathtaking vistas, and the experience is made even more lovely by crisp breezes and scented air. After a few rides, you may want to angle for a seat in the first row - it lifts the highest, and the magic is enhanced by the lack of riders' feet dangling from an upper perch.
After flying the friendly skies, true daredevils might want to check out The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot. The popular ride is one of DCA's newest and is most suitable for hardy tweens, teens, and brave adults. The ghostly backstory isn't all that frightening, but the 13-story, gravity-defying drop makes for a scream-sational experience! Two members of our party ramped up the terror meter another notch by raising their arms and lifting their feet from the floor (riders are seated and securely belted) prior to the plunge, while the, ahem, senior member of the group preferred white-knuckling the handgrips and keeping both eyes shut throughout the repeated drops and lifts. FASTPASS this one, and don't forget to check out the hilarious photos of riders as you exit.
Another favorite Backlot feature is the Hyperion Theater, where audiences can catch a Broadway-style performance of Disney's Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular. The lavish, 40-minute production includes terrific special effects and songs from the beloved animated classic. Tickets are distributed in advance; check the daily Entertainment Times Guide for showtimes and arrive early (seating is free but limited).
In A Bug's Land section, designed for smaller fry, the entire gang may enjoy the creepy crawly Tough to Be a Bug animated 3D movie (hosted by Flick from A Bug's Life), though a few sturdy boys we know (ages five, seven, and nine) found it terrifying and left early, even before the seats poked us from behind and bugs plunged from the ceiling. Other attractions include Heimlich's Chew Chew Train, Francis' Ladybug Boogie, and the Princess Dot Puddle Park (bring a towel!).
In the Paradise Pier area, the 10 and over crowd can catch their thrills on the California Screamin' roller coaster, with its catapult start, loop, and steep drop. Our roller coaster expert proclaims this ride supreme among coasters, and this is another FASTPASS must.
While not for the squeamish, the Maliboomer's 180-foot vertical launch will delight most teens. And if you're willing to ride as a single (in other words, if you don't mind not riding with your group), you'll find a special line that speeds you past most of the wait time.
The impressive Sun Wheel makes for a gorgeous photo opp (the boardwalk view of the giant ferris wheel and California Screamin?s famous Mickey head design is postcard-perfect) and offers exceptional views of the Parks and surrounding areas, but be forewarned: the ride's swinging gondolas are far scarier than they appear from the stability of terra firma. Unlike the stationary gondolas, the swinging cars also slide and whip back and forth to the point where we were afraid they would flip over. They won?t, but the fear doesn't seem that unreasonable when you?re 16 stories in the air. If you're prone to motion sickness, make sure to get in line for the non-moving gondolas (enter through the exit).
The Pier wouldn't be a pier without a boardwalk and games of chance; these storefronts are cash only ($2 per game), and if your kids are into this kind of thing, you'll need to bring plenty of extra cash - preferably in $1 bills, as the boardwalk spots are frequently out of change.
Another favorite ride is the Grizzly River Run, a deceptively gentle ride which features only two mild drops (14 feet and 22 feet, respectively). We understand the record for this ride is 42 consecutive turns, taken by a local teenager during a rainstorm. No matter how many times you go, you WILL get wet; we hope the park will follow through on an obvious opportunity and add a disposable poncho concession right in front of the line (for now, you can find ponchos at the Rushin' River Outfitters store to the right of the ride). If you?re toting souvenirs or expensive camera equipment, take advantage of the free storage lockers located near the ride?s entrance. A FASTPASS is desirable, but less important in the cool of the evening (locals know soaking wet underwear and socks take a long time to dry!).
Kiddos may enjoy a break at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, which offers more than two acres of wooded terrain and activity stations where restless tykes can climb, stretch, scramble, and slide (height restrictions apply to some challenges). Like the Bountiful Valley Farm (A Bug?s Land) and the S.S. Rustworthy (Paradise Pier), the trail offers interactive playtime and a respite from the typically hectic pace of an amusement park outing. Bench seating is available for weary parents.
Shops and eateries serve up the multicultural flavors of California. Choose from tacos and carne asada at Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill; hot, fresh tortillas at Mission Tortilla Factory; fragrant Boudin Bakery sourdough bread bowls at the Pacific Wharf Café; or Italian cuisine at the Wine Country Trattoria (note: unlike Disneyland, some DCA restaurants serve alcohol). Ariel?s Grotto (Paradise Pier) offers a character dining experience with Disney's favorite princesses, and for families who can't escape the golden arches, McDonald?s Burger Invasion serves an abbreviated menu of burgers, shakes, and fries. High chairs are available at all sit-down restaurants.
Live shows and parades are scheduled daily at DCA. Consult the Entertainment Times Guide or ask a Cast Member for more information.
California Adventure doesn't seem as inundated with Disney characters, but meet-and-greet opportunities still exist. Keep your eyes open for favorite friends in the Sunshine Plaza from 10am-4:30pm daily, in addition to other locations.
Holidays can be a great time to visit here; in particular Mickey's Halloween Treat is a fun-filled annual event.
Strollers and wheelchairs, if necessary, are available at the entrance; daily rental is $10 for strollers and manual wheelchairs, and $35 for ECVs (security deposit required for wheelchairs/ECVs). Lockers of various sizes are available at the Main Entrance and the Golden Gateway, as well; look for clearly marked signs. Like its predecessor, DCA has tons of clean, well-kept bathrooms, many with diaper-changing tables.
Note: Hours can fluctuate, so it's best to call the park the night before your visit to confirm hours of operation. California Adventure generally keeps shorter hours than Disneyland.
1) Arrive when the gates open. The Park quickly fills with crowds, and long lines, and this is the only way to ensure you'll fit in what you want to see and do.
2) Use the FASTPASS, a free system that allows you to make reservations for the rides you want. Here's how it works: Insert your park entrance ticket into a speed pass machine at the ride of your choice (only the most popular ones accept FASTPASS reservations) and out pops a "reservation" for a specified window of time. Return during that time period, flash your reservation ticket, and jump to the head of the line. Thrilling.
3)Target the attractions you want to visit ahead of time. We recommend using the free map you'll receive at the entrance gate to make a beeline to top-rated rides, and using your FASTPASS to book reservations on all of them. Only a limited number of FASTPASS tickets are distributed per time slot - when they're gone, they're gone.
4) Relax. Knowing you have reservations for all your favorite rides will allow you that luxury! Fit in less popular rides around those time slots, and the high price of admission will seem worth it.
5) Try to visit the park at off-peak times. Tuesday through Thursday are (relatively) light days, as are the winter months after Christmas. A visit on a Wednesday in the third week of January yielded no waits at the most popular attractions, which we walked onto as many times as we wanted.