Disney California Adventure opened up the gates and welcomed guests inside on this day twenty years ago. The park has had quite a tumultuous history, flopping after opening and then rebuilding and developing several times. California Adventure’s current iteration is still flawed and with a few major issues but there’s still plenty to love about the park! In honor of DCA’s anniversary, this post will list twenty of our favorite things about the park.
There are no real rules here. I’m going to cover big items such as entire lands down to small details that make the park unique. Twenty may seem like a bit of a stretch but I should get there with relative ease. I’m really just practicing for WDW’s 50th anniversary in October! Since this is a celebration of the park and not the antithesis of that, I’ll try to keep most of my sassy comments about the park (and it’s horrible sightlines… Oops!) to myself. A few will sneak through but the park is kind of like the Star Wars prequels. The original is right there and you’d always choose that but eventually you come to terms with them and find parts that you enjoy. Anakin would hate California Adventure but he would hate sand way more. Let’s get to the list, in no particular order!
Cars Land – We’ll start with the big and obvious one. Cars Land reinvigorated a tired and dull park, adding one of the best (and first) IP based lands in the world. Almost a decade later and Cars Land is still fully enveloping, setting guests inside of the movie and freeing them to walk around the streets. Catching the land when the neon comes on at night is one of the best hidden gems in all of the park.
Carthay Circle – When the entrance to California Adventure was redone, the park decided to go with something understated yet beautiful as the center piece. Carthay Circle is a near perfect compliment to the charming castle next door. Inside of the icon is an excellent restaurant and lounge, offering one of the best meals in all of Disneyland Resort.
Chester the Cat – He (it’s actually a she…) goes by other names on different websites but we call the cat that hangs out near Grizzly River Run Chester. Chester is a beautiful feline and one of the more popular of the Disney cats that live in the parks. I’m sure she’s been grooming and getting ready to welcome us all back into the park. We love you, Chester.
Animation Academy – This drawing class in in Hollywood Land is always a hoot. Whether you’re serious about art or not, learning to draw some of Disney’s classic characters is very fun. The rotating Cast Members leading the class are top-notch and this is a very nice interactive attraction with a lot of personality.
Incredicoaster – No, I don’t like it as much as California Screamin’ but the coaster is still a blast. Modeled after the famous California pier coasters, Incredicoaster zips, zags and zooms throughout the pier. The light Incredibles theming is just okay, although I do like the last scene. More than anything, this is just a fun and lighthearted ride.
Lobster Nachos and Potato Skins – Sure, I could have just put Lamplight Lounge but there’s no need to beat around the bush here. If you’re going to Lamplight Lounge, try to get a table by the water but, more importantly, get the Lobster Nachos and Potato Skins. They are two of the best foods in any Disney Park. Now I’m hungry.
Bear Statues – A random list, huh? Not only does the park have the giant Grizzly Peak hovering above the rest of everything but near Grizzly River Run are several lovely bear statues. Some are huge and some are a little more subtle. I love them all and they’re the type of thing that DCA needs more of – unique characteristics.
Radiator Springs Racers – The park’s best attraction blends a dark ride and action ride seamlessly. The animatronics are a lot of fun, zooming past the waterfall is beautiful and the race is always thrilling. Skip the long lines and go for single-rider, if possible. Waiting less than 20 minutes for the attraction is a bargain!
The Pier at Sunset – I have quite a few issues with Pixar Pier but one thing hasn’t changed with this land through all of its iterations – the pier is gorgeous at sunset. There’s a lot of kinetic energy throughout the area and the colors blend well when the sun sets behind the Silly Symphony Swings. Taking it all in from near the entrance of Incredicoaster is my preferred spot.
World of Color – If I was to be more specific, I’d say the original World of Color. That show may not have the pizazz of a firework spectacular but the fountain show uniquely packs guests in around the water to watch Disney vignettes. While the projections are impressive, World of Color really takes off when the fountains soar with the music and the fire shoots out. It’s a nighttime spectacular that fits California Adventure perfectly.
Grizzly Peak – Retheming Grizzly Peak to an airfield along with the national parks section was a smaller move at the time but remains one of DCA’s best changes. The land is inventive, tells a story and is quite beautiful. I especially love the national park area that is loosely themed to the Redwoods. It is one of the most beautiful lands in any Disney Park and does a good job of showcasing natural beauty.
Soarin’ Over California – Over the last few years, California Adventure has brought back Soarin’ Over California for limited runs. It’s time to bring it back full time! The original is far superior to Soarin’ Around the World and it fits DCA much better.
The Cozy Cones – Like a cult classic movie, the legend of the Cozy Cones has grown over time. These individual snack stands offer a variety of treats, all of which are pretty delicious. On top of that, they look great and fit in with the land wonderfully. Guests can meet their favorite Cars characters there from time to time. Some of my favorite treats from the Cozy Cones include the Chili con Queso Cone, Prickly Pear Soda and the Garlic Bagel Twist.
The Rocket Raccoon Animatronic – No, I haven’t included Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! (GotG-M:B!) because I don’t think it’s as good as the original and the facade bugs me. But it’s still a good amount of fun and the pre-show featuring Rocket Raccoon is fantastic. That animatronic rummages up above guests and looks great doing it.
Golden Zephyr – Maybe the biggest surprise on my list. I’m not sure I’d say the Golden Zephyr is a good attraction but it looks very pretty at night and I like the somewhat unique ride vehicles. If I had to pick a cohesive theme for the pier to go with I would probably base it around the way the Golden Zephyr looks.
Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats – Who doesn’t want Monsters Inc.’s Abominable Snowman serving them Lemon Dole Whip while the Incredicoaster zips by? I’m confused why this isn’t a sno-cone stand but underneath that confusion is just happiness that it’s ice cream instead.
Off the Page – This gift shop in Hollywood Land has unique gifts and lots of artwork throughout it. Once in a while, there are artists inside the shop painting. This is California Adventure’s version of the glass making that goes on in Disneyland. It’s a beautiful shop and one of my favorite in Disneyland Resort.
Redwood Creek Challenge Trail – Another gorgeous area of Grizzly Peak that is more meant for kids. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail has a few nice paths to walk through and then a giant playground that has a number of sections to walk through. While it’s meant for kids, it doesn’t feel childish and isn’t dumbed down. This, along with the path that goes through Grizzly River Run, really augment the national park theme of the area.
Hollywood Land’s Punny Names – Award Weiners and Schmoozies are dumb names. Who am I kidding? But they always make me laugh while walking by and add a bit of levity to a confused section of the park.
The Back Entrance to Cars Land – I’ve talked about Cars Land plenty in this post already but have failed to mention my favorite part. The back way from Cars Land to Pacific Wharf is quiet and lovely. There’s some beautiful rockwork around and the path takes guests right past Radiator Springs Racers. This is one of the prettiest places in all of California Adventure and happens to be one of the quietest too.
Happy Anniversary, California Adventure! See ya real soon!
What are some of your favorite parts of Disney California Adventure? Let us know your thoughts, along with any other questions you might have, in the comments below. Planning a trip to Disneyland? Check out our Planning Guide here. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!