How Disney’s California Adventure Has Changed

I was lucky enough to be able to visit California Adventure during its first year and I have to say, looking back it wasn’t too impressive. In all reality, the park itself was fairly empty, but had lots of room for potential. There were only a few “big name” rides and lots of other attractions that would soon be updated or changed all together (does anyone else remember that Hollywood Taxi ride with Regis?). Disney’s idea of celebrating all that is special about California was creative and inventive, but the way in which it was presented was essentially a flop. Reviews from critics and park guests were primarily negative and many left the park feeling that expansion did not do justice to the Disney Magic that could be found just next-door. However, there was a lot of room for potential, and Disney got to work.

Catharay Circle

Over the past decade Disney has made many updates to the park and from the addition of rides like Twilight Zone’s Hollywood Tower of Terror, to whole new lands such as A Bug’s Land and Cars Land, guests have been pleasantly surprised. But, with each of these additions, the park continued to feel like something was missing. Then, Disney completed their massive remodel of the park’s main plaza and the atmosphere completely changed. While some have praised these changes, others have yearned for the old look and feel of the park that they had come to know and love. Here are a few of my thoughts on some of the newest, and biggest, changed to Disney’s California Adventure Park.

Paradise Pier

In my personal opinion, the recent updates to California Adventure are exactly what were needed in order to turn the park into a true Disney attraction. This most recent overhaul to the park included refurbishing the entire entrance plaza and the addition of a new land – Cars Land. For more specific details about Cars Land and what you can find there, you can visit Melissa G.’s post all about the area.

Cars Land at night

Prior to the renovations, the entrance plaza of California Adventure seemed to be an awkward area of the park. The entrance did not seem to flow together with the rest of the park and, though it included some iconic California landmarks, it simply did not feel like it was part of a Disney park. There was just some magic missing. In my opinion the remodel of the entrance makes it feel as if you are leaving the “real world” behind and entering a whole, new land. I absolutely love how they, in a way, took Walt Disney’s ideas for Main Street U.S.A. and put a different twist on it in order to honor the Disney roots. The park feels much more inviting with these new updates and it surely feels like there is more going on. In addition, I absolutely adore the fact that they have made this area of the park more interactive for their guests. All throughout the day there are small shows taking place, shows which try to bring you into the world of young, working Walt Disney. It is an incredible touch to have the guest so drawn in from the moment they walk through the gates. I must admit though, there is one aspect of the old entrance that I really miss – the music. I am really a big fan of background music/soundtracks at Disney parks and I absolutely loved all of the instrumental versions of popular tunes celebrating the Golden State.

Catharay at night

Cars Land is a brand new addition to branch out the park. This land is one of the most well-done areas in either of the Disneyland Resort Parks. The Imagineering team has done a wonderful job of recreating Radiator Springs in a way that is both realistic and true to the films. This magical area is fun for both children and adults and has been an extremely popular addition since it was opened. Again, I am not going to focus on this so much since Melissa G. did such a wonderful job, but feel free to go and check out what she had to say!

Cars rock

Overall, I think that these updates and a wonderful stepping stone for Disney. Even though there was much speculation about these renovations, most have been pleased by what has been done. I think that this may be motivation for Disney to begin to update and expand upon some of the other less than spectacular areas in their parks. I am excited to see what they do next!


– Melissa Hoyt

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