Disney California Adventure Park houses some fantastic rides for both the timid and the brave – all themed and based on Disney, Pixar, and Marvel Comics. To help you plan the most magical trip, read the following to Disney California Adventure ride and attraction guide. I’ve provided a brief description of each ride, what to expect, and ride tips.
My best advice for first-timers to Disney California Adventure Park is to know before you go! Plan to spend the entire day at this fantastic park since there is so much to experience! All height restrictions, thrill levels, and hours of operations can be found by following the attraction links.
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Buena Vista Street
Your first steps into Disney California Adventure Park will take you back in time to Los Angeles streets in 1925. You will see how Los Angeles looked back when Walt Disney would have seen it when he arrived with only a suitcase and a dream!
Red Car Trolley Take a memorable glide down Buena Vista Street in style on a Red Car Trolley! There are four locations to board and disembark and you can find these locations at the Main Entrance, Carthay Circle, Hollywood Boulevard near the Disney Animation Building, and Sunset Boulevard past the Hyperion Theater. What to Expect: Expect to wait awhile for the trolley to make its way up and down Hollywood Boulevard. Yes, walking would be faster; however, gliding past the crowds is so worth the trip on this nostalgic trolley ride! Ride Tip: Ride early in the morning if you can because you’ll have a better chance to board the trolley. Or hop aboard the trolley at the end of its route, which is next to Guardians of the Galaxy where lines tend to be shorter. Check the Red Trolley schedule because the Red Trolley Boys use the trolley for their shows throughout the day.
Hollywood Land has gone through some changes over the years and one of those main changes has been the additions of Marvel characters, Marvel themed attractions, and entertainment centered around the Marvel franchise.
Disney Junior Dance Party Shake your stuff with such characters as Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First in this giant dance party. What to Expect: Dance party runs 18 minutes. Tip: This dance party caters to preschoolers and young kids.
Disney Animation – Escape the weather or the crowd by visiting the Animation Building in Hollywood Land. Inside this massive building, immerse yourself in Disney music and movies that play on giant screens that surround you!
- Animation Academy Learn how to draw your favorite Disney characters! What to Expect: Don’t be discouraged by the crowd that builds for this experience. You do not have to be one of the first guests to enter the classroom either because the room is large enough to accommodate lots of people. And seating doesn’t matter because all seats in the room are fine! You can be the worst artist in the land and still come out with an awesome-looking drawing! Tip: In front of the entrance you will find a schedule listing the times and characters to be drawn. Plan your time in the Animation Building around your favorite character drawing because there is lots of things to do as you wait!
- Sorcerer’s Workshop This attraction has lots of interactive experiences from learning how to create your own animation to finding your Disney self. What to Expect: I don’t think many people know of this hidden gem so there is hardly any crowds. And when there is, they seem to move through pretty fast because there is so much to do! Tip: If you love Beauty and the Beast, visiting the Beast’s Library is a must!
- Turtle Talk with Crush This is an interactive encounter with Crush from Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo. What to Expect: Expect to participate because Crush likes to talk!
- Elsa and Anna Royal Welcome Enter Elsa and Anna’s castle where you will have the opportunity to meet and take pictures with Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, or Olaf. What to Expect: As with most character meets, the line is slow moving, especially if you have a talkative guest in front of you! Although Elsa and Anna are always there to meet, Olaf and Kristoff switch. So, if you are dying to meet Olaf, ask a Cast Member if he is off enjoying summer or if he is meeting guests within the castle.
Mickey’s PhilharMagic –This new to Disneyland show premiers in April at the Sunset Theater. This show is a favorite of fan at Walt Disney World and now it is coming to the Disneyland Resort. Expect to see Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck along with other Disney favorites in this 3D show. What to expect: 3D show experience that includes other family friend effects along with music to classic Disney songs.
Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! If you are a fan of the movie Monster’s Inc., than you have got to ride Monster’s, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! Climb aboard a yellow cab that takes you through Monstropolis to help Mike and Sulley return Boo back to her bedroom. What to Expect: At the end of the ride, Roz may target you for a laugh, so be prepared! Also, if your little monster is afraid of the dark, you may have to skip this ride because the ride is dark. Ride Tips: Plan to go on this ride in the early morning. In the afternoon, on crowded days, the line can get long. However, when the line is long, it does move fast and the wait is definitely worth it!
Frozen – Live at the Hyperion Theater This live show is a must-see for all fans of Frozen. Watch the animated movie come alive with a Broadway-worthy production of Frozen! What to Expect: Seeing the show requires planning. You must get a Fastpass ticket to reserve your seat using your admission ticket. Ticket distributions kiosks are located to the left of the Hyperion Theater. Tickets are on a first-come, first serve basis so if you really want to see this show, get your ticket right when the park opens. Tickets are distributed for each show until they book out. Once they book out, the second performance will become available and so on. Attraction Tip: Since the show is 1 hour long, use the bathroom beforehand so you can avoid leaving during the performance. Keep in mind how long the show is, especially if your child cannot sit silently for the 1-hour duration of the show. See our review here.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! Not for the faint of heart, this Guardians of the Galaxy themed ride brings you high up into the air just to be dropped into a free fall (several times, too!). What to Expect: Expect to wait anywhere from 1 to 2 hours for this new ride! And yes, the wait is long and tedious! Ride Tip: Get your Fastpass for this ride (located across from the entrance) early because once all Fastpasses are gone, you will be forced to withstand the long wait!
Cars Land is one of the most impressive areas to see in California Adventure! The amazing amount of detail in this land will transport you right to Radiator Springs. We highly recommend not missing out on this area!
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters –This ride has you sitting, spinning, twirling in miniature colorful cars who just happen to be Luigi’s cousins! You twist, turn, and spin to music. What to Expect: Don’t let the semi-short line fool you! This line is slow-moving. And when the line is long… forget it! Ride Tip: Ride earlier in the day to avoid the long wait.
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree- Board one of Mater’s tractor-trailers as they square dance around each other to some fun hillbilly tunes. Hang on tight as you are whipped around the track! What to Expect: This ride has two tracks so if the line looks long, it moves fast! Ride Tip: Although this is a fun and exciting ride, hang on to the bar in front of you! The ride whips you around sometimes squishing your riding partner.
Radiator Springs Racers- By far one of the most popular rides in the Park! Guests board a race car and roll through Radiator Springs becoming part of the action. The excitement is ignited when two race cars line up and are sent on a fast-paced race to the finish line. What to Expect: Expect to wait in a line anywhere from 1 to 2 hours regardless of how busy the Park is. It is also good to note that if your child is sensitive to loud noises, the volume on this ride is very loud. Ride Tip: Get a Fastpass for this ride early in the morning! Once all Fastpasses are given out for the day, they are gone! The single rider line is also a good option since it does limit your wait time.
The Pacific Wharf, inspired by Cannery Row in Monterey, California, is where you go to find a smorgasbord of food flavors. Relax on the pier as you satisfy your hunger with Mexican, Asian, or American tastes. Find such favorite restaurants as Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill, Lucky Fortune Cookery, and Boudin Bakery. Check out our restaurant reviews to learn more about these restaurants (and more) at the Resort.
The Bakery Tour- This self-guided tour, hosted by Boudin Bakery, is a welcome escape when you want to get out of the sun (and away from the crowds). Learn all about the process of how sourdough bread is created. And don’t forget your free sample!
Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop– This sweet shop offers guests a delicious treat that is welcome on any day, hot or cold! Tip: Cast members hand out a free sample to each guest who enters! Yum!
Pixar Pier is the name of the newly renovated pier in California Adventure that was once called Paradise Pier. This area underwent a large face lift as Disney transformed the pier into an all Pixar theme including Pixar themed restaurants, attractions, and plenty of character meet and greets.
Incredicoaster– This high-speed roller coaster will catapult you at lightning speed up, over, and upside down. What to Expect: Expect long wait times for this attraction when it opens! If roller coasters are not your thing, this may be a ride to skip since it is super-fast and has a lot of twists and turns. Ride Tip: Get a Fastpass. Fastpasses are located right outside the entrance to this ride.
Toy Story Mania!- Ride a carnival car through a 4D toy world, hitting targets with your Spring-Action Launcher, competing for the highest score. What to Expect: The wait for this line can be long and sometimes uneventful. Ride Tip: Fastpasses for this ride are located on the boardwalk; however, they run out quick!
Pixar's Pal-A-Round- Climb aboard a small Pixar themed gondola that will bring you 150-feet into the sky to witness some beautiful Disney sights. What to Expect: There are two ways to ride this attraction. One way is on a stationary gondola that is your typical Ferris wheel-type ride. Another way to ride this attraction is on a moving gondola that glides on an interior rail as the wheel turns. Ride Tip: If you are afraid of heights, I definitely would skip this ride. But if you are willing to brave it, choose the stationary gondolas. The swinging gondolas are quite terrifying!
Jessie's Critter Carousel-This newly themed Toy Story carousel recently opened- this classic carousel stars Jessie from Toy Story! The woodland creatures on the carousel are inspired by Woody's Roundup from Toy Story 2.
Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind- This attraction is in the space occupied by the Maliboomer years ago and features the five emotions from the movies, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. What to Expect: this is a younger family friendly ride featuring light spinning.
Silly Symphony Swings- Sore through the air on this spinning swing ride. What to Expect: Expect to get a tad dizzy on this ride! Ride Tip: Hang on tight as this ride does take you for a spin!
Jumpin’ Jellyfish- Colorful jellyfish brings you up into the air where you will witness some great views of Pixar Pier. Before you know it, you are bouncing up and down back to ground. Ride Tip: The line is slow-moving, whether it is long or short. I would say that this ride is geared more towards children 10 and under.
Goofy’s Sky School- As with any ride associated with Goofy, expect to laugh with both fear and excitement as you ride along a thin track, twisting and turning, with stomach-turning drops. What to Expect: The biggest problem with this ride is having to board and disembark while the car is moving! You and your party must be ready to hop on as soon as possible. The Cast Member will slow it down for you if they see you struggling, which can help. Ride Tip: Be prepared to board and disembark in a timely manner! I would recommend leaving your backpacks or fun souvenirs with someone because there is little storage space on the ride! Also, if you don’t want to wait, get a Fastpass for this ride!
Golden Zephyr- A large silver bullet-shaped spaceship spins you through the air with breathtaking views of Pixar Pier! What to Expect: Lines move fast for this ride since each spaceship can fit up to 12 people! Just buckle up for safety and don’t forget to enjoy the view! Ride Tip: This ride shuts down when the wind picks up.
The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure- Explore under the sea on your very own clam shell in this Little Mermaid ride that takes you through the movie! What to Expect: Whether the line is long or short, the line moves quickly through shaded and air-conditioned areas. If you love the movie, you’ll love this ride! Ride Tip: Any time of the day is a good time to experience this attraction!
Redwood Creek Challenge Trail- This fun explorers’ dream trail offers many unique and exciting opportunities for the whole family! Explore a trail filled with rock walls to climb; glide down rock structures; walk across rope bridges; and more! Attraction Tip: While this area is fun, it does get crazy with little kids running all over the place. Keep a close eye on your children because there are so many places they can hide.
Grizzly River Run- Don’t let the beauty of the terrain fool you in this fast-moving, heart-pounding rapids ride! There is no telling where you will end up, but know one thing… you will definitely get wet! What to Expect: Expect to wait in a long, slow-moving line when the weather gets warm! Also, you may want to purchase a poncho at the Rushin’ River Outfitters shop next to this ride. Some riders look as though they come from the ride absolutely drenched! Ride Tip: Get a Fastpass for this ride so you do not have to wait in the long line. Fastpasses are located in front of the entrance. It is also good to know that rafts slam against the sides of the track and jolt you around so hold on tight!
Soarin’ Around the World- Soarin’ takes you on a hang-gliding ride through many breathtaking wonders of the world. Ride Tip: The front row is by far the best seat in the house! You are high above the other “gliders” and can only see what is in front of you (and that doesn’t include another glider’s seat!).
You will have to wait until 2020 to enter the anticipated new Super-Hero-themed land where you can play with such superheroes as Spider-Man and the Avengers! But never fear, the exhilarating Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout ride gives us an exciting little taste of what's to come!
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