What do you get when you combine the magic of Disney with the best that California has to offer? Disney California Adventure of course!
Opened in 2001 as the second of two theme parks built at the Disneyland Resort complex in Anaheim California, the park celebrates California, the land of promise, opportunity and glamour! Walk through its gates and you will be transported to a California of yesterday and today, where you can take a ride on the Red Car Trolley in 1920s Los Angeles, take a raft down the rapids, travel down Route 66 and brave a white knuckled roller coaster ride at a seaside amusement park. Whether you prefer action, comedy or romance, this 72-acre park has something for everyone!
The concept of a theme park dedicated to California arose from a meeting of Disney executives in 1995, following the cancellation of the WestCOT project. Construction of the park began in 1998, and was completed by early 2001. Disney initially projected high attendance rates at the new park, but a series of preview openings held in January 2001 led to negative reviews, and after the park officially opened to the public on February 8, 2001, the company’s attendance projections were never met.
Disney spent the next several years incrementally adding new rides, shows, and attractions, and implementing other promotions aimed at boosting attendance. In 2007, Disney announced a major expansion of the park as well as a major overhaul of a significant portion of the park. Construction lasted for five years and was completed in stages, culminating with the opening of Cars Land in June 2012.
Today, Disney California Adventure is divided into eight themed areas called “districts”. Buena Vista Street is the main thoroughfare where you can catch the Red Car Trolley or dine at various restaurants lining the street like the Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Café or the Carthay Circle Restaurant.
To the left of the bustling Buena Vista Street you will find Hollywood Land, home to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, The Hollywood Backlot Stage, Muppets Vision 3D and Monster’s Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
Catch the musical spectacular, Disney’s Aladdin at the Hyperion Theater or pick up a quick hotdog to snack on at the Award Wieners stand before heading over to “a bug’s land.”
“a bug’s land” is designed for the younger Disney visitors in mind with rides and attractions such as Francis’ Ladybug Boogie where kids can take a spin on a ladybug’s back, Flik’s Flyers where they can soar in a hot air balloon made of leaves or bump around under a big top umbrella in Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em Buggies. As Disney so aptly put it in their brochure, “The smaller you are, the bigger the fun in this play area for kids” will be.
Not far from a bug’s land you will find the newly added Cars Land featuring Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Radiator Spings Racers among several rides. If you are feeling a little hungry, stop off at Flo’s V8 Café serving up rotisserie meats, home-style sides and pies.
The Pacific Wharf district is based on the attractions in and around San Francisco and offers tours of the famous Boudin Bakery, incredible ice cream creations at the Ghiradelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop, and a place for Disney’s adult patrons to relax. Here visitors can sample the hand crafted beers from Karl Strauss at the Pacific Wharf Distribution Co., cool off with a frozen margarita at Rita’s Baja Blenders or enjoy various wines and snacks or a full course dinner at one of the three establishments based on the various California wine regions which include Mendocino Terrace at the Golden Vine Winery, Wine Country Trattoria at the Golden Vine Winery and the Sonoma Terrace at the Golden Vine Winery.
From there you can wind your way to the Paradise Pier district based on the old boardwalk entertainment establishments in California. Test your skills at the Games of the Boardwalk, get a bird’s eye view of the Disneyland resort on the Mickey’s Fun Wheel Ferris wheel or for the more adventurous, try California Screamin’, DCA’s high speed roller coaster that reaches speeds of 55 mph!
If that is not enough adventure, trek on over to Grizzly Peak and test your courage on the whitewater rafting ride called Grizzly River Run. From there, try and earn your Wilderness Explorer badges at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail!
Finally, if you have enough energy left, visit Condor Flats where you can swoop over famous California landmarks on the Soarin’ Over California ride or just rest up and enjoy some burgers at Taste Pilots’ Grill.
When the sun goes down and if you can find a nice viewing spot, enjoy the World of Color show which takes place on Paradise Bay in front of the roller coaster and Ferris wheel rides. It is a nice alternative to the fireworks show at the Disneyland Park.
The holidays are always the best time to visit the parks as far as I am concerned. Every corner of Disney California Adventure is decked out for Christmas as only Disney can! However, be mindful that everyone else basically has the same idea and the large crowds can be very frustrating. Get there early to find the best parking spot. You can park at Downtown Disney for free for the first 3 hours, definitely worth it to save the $16 parking charge at the main Mickey and Friends parking structure.
Have fun and make Disney a part of your holiday family tradition! You will be glad you did.