Trip Reports

September 2019 Disneyland Trip Report – Part 2

If you missed the first installment of this trip report, click here to catch up!

Saturday morning saw us up nice and early, getting to Disney California Adventure for opening. The park had changed quite a bit since our last time there and we were eager to go experience everything new. Once inside we headed straight for one of those changes, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!

Mission BREAKOUT outside DCA

I’m way behind the times here so that’s why I’ve stayed away from a full-fledged review on the attraction. On first ride through, I came away unimpressed. I still haven’t gotten over the outside of the building. I think it’s an eye sore that can be seen throughout most of the park. Obviously, this is mostly just design preferences. Putting that aside, there’s an obvious issue thematically that has been beaten to death. This is a trip report and not going to be 1,500 words on why Mission: BREAKOUT! is a problem in terms of theme but the issue does bother me. Once there is an actual Marvel Land opened, the attraction won’t stick out like a sore thumb as much. Until then, I have a problem with it being in the park.

As for the actual ride, it’s a good amount of fun. The first ride through felt short and I thought the story was okay but nothing groundbreaking. After re-riding it about an hour later with a FastPass, I did enjoy it more. The soundtrack is great, as is the pre-show. Having the chance to get different scenes every ride is a nice touch. Unfortunately, I don’t find the story all that interesting and the ride system is far from my favorite. It’s a decent attraction but I don’t like it nearly as much as some people.

Luigi's DCA

After our initial ride on Mission: BREAKOUT! we walked over to Cars Land and rode the two minor rides while waiting to get a FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers. Both Mater’s and Luigi’s have minor Halloween overlays which is a nice touch. They aren’t at the level of Haunted Mansion Holiday, which pushes the attraction to maybe the best in the park, but they do add another festive element to Cars Land. I enjoyed the decor throughout the whole area, although I like it most at night. We eventually got our FastPasses for Radiator Springs Racers and went back to Mission: BREAKOUT! to redeem our first FastPass.

Grizzly River Run raft DCA

I did enjoy the second ride through with the Guardians more but I also felt worse after it. Something about dropping to almost certain death with an empty stomach doesn’t leave people feeling great. After some water and a quick break we walked over to Grizzly Peak to enjoy the mid-morning light. This is such a beautiful area and a land I wish was twice as big. With the line at Grizzly River Run under 10 minutes we jumped on. In fact, there were so few people there that we had the whole raft to ourselves for a very fun and, surprisingly, not very wet ride.

Avoiding the Extra Magic Hour at California Adventure or Disneyland may be a smart move. We purposefully went to the opposite park and always had very crowd free mornings. Of course, the park wasn’t very busy to begin with but I definitely noticed the first few hours being relatively empty compared to the rest of the day. If you do want to use the Extra Magic Hour, assuming it applies to your tickets, then park hop as soon as the hour is over.

Pixar Pier across water DCA

Pixar Pier was next on the agenda, as we got our first(?) look at the land. We walked around the area and rode Jessie’s Critter Carousel, a forgettable experience. I’ve got a full post on my issues with Pixar Pier coming by the end of the week so I won’t get in too deep here. What I will say, and what I’ve already mentioned on the podcast, is that I’m not sure a pier in general is a great idea for a theme park land. Sure, the idea is pretty Californian fitting the theme of the park but that may be the idea. All of the other lands in DCA are either idealized versions of themselves or won’t be found within driving range. From Disneyland, you could drive half an hour and find a pier with some of these amusement park rides. Obviously Incredicoaster is superior to most amusement park roller coasters but the rest of the attractions don’t really distinguish themselves. I have more nits to pick but I’ll save that for a different post.

Chili con queso cone Cozy Cones DCA

We walked back over to Cars Land for a bite to eat at the Cozy Cones. I love the Chili Bread Cone and Melissa tried the Mac n’ Cheese Bread Cone, which was good but I liked the chili more. Grabbing one of these and then sitting in the back, outdoor section of Flo’s is a perfect way to relax for a while with a somewhat cheap meal.

Our FastPass return window for Radiator Springs Racers was there but the attraction was down, which became a running theme for the day. Knowing that we’d be able to redeem the FastPass at any time during the day with the attraction down, we walked over to Incredicoaster and used the single-rider line there.

IncrediCoaster load DCA

We used the single-rider line a few times here during the trip and always ended up with a wait of about 10-15 minutes. It’s definitely a good way to go if the line has reached 30+ minutes.

Incredicoaster and Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! fall in the same boat for me. Both are makeovers of attractions that didn’t need a makeover. In the case of Mission: BREAKOUT! I liked the previous version, Tower of Terror, better. Incredicoaster and California Screamin’ is more of a toss-up for me. In places, Incredicoaster feels slapped together, like a fine overlay. Other parts look pretty good but somewhat out of place, like the show scenes at the beginning and the end. Nothing they did to Incredicoaster makes the ride worse than California Screamin’, I’m just not sure that the ride is markedly improved.

After the ride, we grabbed FastPasses for Toy Story Midway Mania and then walked back to our hotel for a break. I love college football and my team was playing at 12:30 and Melissa was quite tired so we rested for a few hours before heading back for the rest of the day.

DCA Toy Story Mania walls

Once back inside the park, I came away with a win on Toy Story Mania. We noticed that many of the parks marquee attractions were down, including Radiator Springs Racers, Mission: BREAKOUT! and Incredicoaster. Maybe we got unlucky but I’ve heard from a few others that this has been more common than anyone wants at DCA. Ride breakdowns are an unfortunate part of a theme park and there’s not really anything anyone can do about it once it happens. I have no reason to believe that proper upkeep isn’t being given to these rides as maintenance at Disneyland is usually quite good.

Eureka Grizzly River Run DCA

We opted to walk over to Grizzly Peak and enjoy the quiet over there for a while before dinner, eventually ending up on the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.

Tree path DCA

This playground/trail is a hidden gem in California Adventure and something everyone should check out. With a somewhat hidden entrance, I’ve never seen the area crowded and there’s a great mix of nature and entertainment for the kids. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail further enhances the beautiful National Park feel of the whole land and it’s one of my favorite areas to explore and relax in California Adventure.

Climbing through nets and around playgrounds makes you work up an appetite so we took the Grand Californian exit from DCA and grabbed dinner at GCH Craftsman Grill. As I said in the review, this place is a true hidden gem and one of the best counter-service restaurants in any Disney park.

Waterfalls DCA

After our leisurely meal we went back into the park and made our way across California Adventure to Cars Land. It was nearly sunset and we wanted to enjoy the land lighting up for the night. At Halloween, Cars Land’s lighting is a little different as the usual music starts up and is interrupted by “I Put A Spell On You”. There are also eyes in the city hall portion of the land bobbing around. I really like these small enhancements to Cars Land for Halloween.

Cars Land City Hall eyes DCA

We still had a FastPass to use on Radiator Springs Racers due to it being closed earlier in the day. The problem was that seemingly everyone else in the park had the same issue. With the FastPass line running all the way through the land we opted to hold off for another hour and went down to Pixar Pier to catch the tail end of sunset.

Incredicoaster in motion DCA night

We did end up riding Incredicoaster with a FastPass we’d gotten earlier int he day. The ride is more fun at night, as I think that’s always been the case. I do like the lit up red tunnels. Pixar Pier is one of the best areas to catch sunset at Disneyland Resort thanks to the somewhat open backdrop on the west side of the park.

Flo's night halloween DCA

Back and forth we went from Pixar Pier to Cars Land. All of the neon in the land still looks great and I think nightfall is still my preferred time to see Cars Land. The FastPass line had died down somewhat, although it was still a 20 minute wait, so we went for it and got our ride in. California Adventure has plenty of good attractions but a ride through on Radiator Springs Racers reminded me how much better it is than any other ride in the park. That’s not as much indictment on the other rides as it is a compliment to RSR.

Cars Land RSR night DCA

After taking our time in Cars Land we realized that the last Animation Academy class of the night was about to take place and hustled over there. I enjoy the attraction but Melissa absolutely loves to draw and is good at it, so we try to make it over there once a trip. I’m terrible at it but have fun and managed to make it out of the class without having to show anyone my interpretation of Mickey Mouse. It all started with a mouse but it would not have started with a mouse that I drew.

DCA Carthay Circle Halloween

Our original plan was to ride Mission: BREAKOUT again but the attraction was down for most of the night. Instead we went to check out some of the Halloween projections being shown on Carthay Circle before heading back to Pixar Pier for World of Color.

The weather was pleasant but not particularly warm at this point. For some reason this didn’t deter us from watching World of Color in the splash area. I’m happy with the decision though. Really, if you don’t mind getting a little wet then I recommend the splash areas. If you have a FastPass then you can generally get to those areas, right in front of the show.

World of Color lasers DCA

Having not seen the (mostly) original World of Color in many years, I’d forgotten how good the show is. It integrates Disney IP’s well and is mesmerizing. I’d forgotten how long the show is and always appreciate a longer nighttime spectacular. While I’d be happy to see a few tweaks to the show, I’m glad that it continues running and will always enjoy it.

World of Color finale DCA

With the park closed, Melissa and I took our time exiting this section of the park. Quick tip: Let the rest of the crowd leave and then take a peaceful walk out of DCA with a stop in Cars Land to take in one last look. That’s exactly what we did and here’s a few photos on the way out.

Cars Land night ground DCA
Cars Land sign Halloween night DCA

While California Adventure was closed, Disneyland was open until midnight. We park hopped over there for the remaining hour and a half. Unfortunately, we didn’t time it very well and entered right as the Main Street Electrical Parade was going through. I know some people have a lot of love for this parade but I’ve said goodbye to it twice now and was never all that attached in the first place. We ended up watching it for a few minutes but eventually headed down the bypass and had a second-dinner corn dog. If you’re waiting for a parade to pass, always get a corn dog.

We headed straight to Galaxy’s Edge and enjoyed the last hour of operation there. After another ride through on Smugglers Run and a little bit of shopping, I started taking a few photos and we simply enjoyed walking around the area. The last hour of the park being open is the best time to be in Galaxy’s Edge. You’ll see the lowest crowd levels and the lighting is gorgeous. I don’t know if the crowd patterns will still the same once Rise of the Resistance opens but I would imagine visiting right before park closing will still be the best time.

SWGE arches night DL

Wanting a few photos from the rest of the park, we exited Galaxy’s Edge the long way through Critter Country. It’s a peaceful walk and the soundscape is fantastic. The late night walk eventually brought us to New Orleans Square and here are a few photos from that area.

Haunted Mansion Holiday entrance DL
21 Royal sign stairs DL
PotC night DL

I was planning to keep going and include the next morning in this installment of the trip report but I’m well over 2,000 words already so I’ll save you all from further eye bleeding. Our next installment will wrap up the trip, with a full day in Disneyland

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