26 Jan
2017
Posted in: travel
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California Adventure in One Day

Our runDisney Star Wars 5K race marked the third time we visited Disneyland. We chose to only spend one day in the park, just in California Adventure, enabling us to also spend a little time playing tourist in Los Angeles during our quick trip to California.

Paradise Pier California Adventure at night

The last time we visited Disneyland was in 2012, a few months before Cars Land opened. Our mission was to fully explore Cars Land this trip, and it’s now one of my favorite areas of Disney parks on both coasts. I’d go as far to say Radiator Springs Racers is my all-time favorite Disney ride. Members of my family disagree, but that ride has everything I love about Disney.

Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure during ride

Racers tells a story before turning into a ride that pits you against another car in a race through the area around Radiator Springs. The ride reminds me of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. The cars in Racers sit six people which is perfect for our family. One of my favorite parts is when Luigi “fits” the car with new tires and a curtain opens revealing a mirror for you to get a quick glimpse of the car and everyone in it. It adds to the attraction to race another car once you move out of the story portion of the ride.

Radiator Springs Racers photo during ride

The Extra Magic Hour at California Adventure is for Disneyland Resort Hotel guests, which didn’t include us. We arrived at the park 50 minutes before the scheduled opening after finishing our 5K. No one was in line and only signs saying Extra Magic Hour were displayed at the ticket counters. I asked a Disney employee where she wanted us to wait. She proved Disney just wants its guests to be happy by making magic and allowing us early entry. This was a game-changer for us. Radiator Springs Racers, located in the back of the park, can have waits as long as 150 minutes and runs out of FastPass tickets before noon on most days. Being allowed into the park early allowed us to ride Racers multiple times with negligible waits. Our boys rode it later in the evening utilizing the single rider line which only had a wait of 20 minutes.

Route 66 Carsland at night

The other draw in Cars Land for us was the attention to details. Route 66 is a new paved road, the buildings look like they’re straight out of the Cars movie and even the flower beds are the same as the movie. It reminded me of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in that it felt like you had stepped into the movie.

boys riding Mater's Jamboree California Adventure

There are two additional rides at Cars Land: Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. None of us were incredibly impressed with Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. I think it’s geared toward families with younger children. You sit in cars that seem to slowly dance across a large dance floor. The boys were annoyed that I wasted their precious time on that ride as opposed to the roller coaster California Screamin’. The best part of Luigi’s attraction is the details in the queue which winds through Luigi’s and a garden with planters and topiaries shaped like tires of various sizes.

Radiator Springs mural California Adventure

I feared Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree would be much like Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, but we were pleasantly surprised. The details in the queue are worth taking time to read the different signs and junk littering Mater’s Junkyard. The tractors are equipped with a trailer that riders sit in. The tractors spin around in a figure-eight pattern with the trailers whipping from side-to-side. This was a favorite ride for our daughter. It’s the perfect amount of thrill for the younger set while still keeping teenagers and adults entertained.

Another benefit to being allowed early access to the park was moving to Toy Story Mania early after riding Radiator Springs Racers a couple of times. Toy Story doesn’t have FastPass, so the only option is to wait in line. The line for this one can get really long early and stay that way all day. We arrived in line at Toy Story around the actual park opening time and only had a 20 minute wait. By the time we finished the ride, the wait was 45 minutes. It’s a 4-D shooting game that is great for all ages. Our boys would ride it all day to try and one-up each other with their scores.

Mickey signing autographs

The first time we visited Disneyland we had three children, and our youngest was 15-months old. It was fun and magical, but also more work. Disneyland with a teenager, tween, 9-year-old and 7-year-old was the best of all worlds. Our youngest still finds the characters endearing and wants to gather autographs. Our oldest three can utilize single-rider lines. We don’t need a stroller which makes it easier to navigate the park. We carry small backpacks with snacks and water. Everyone can wear a coat or tie it around their waist. There were no tantrums, and we can chat while waiting in line to pass the time. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this trip even more without toddlers in tow.

Disney has remade it’s Soarin’ attraction to encompass the world, not just California. I’m not a fan of heights, so I always do this ride begrudgingly. I did enjoy it more soaring over different countries of the world vs. the previous incarnation of the ride. My favorite part is the smells associated with different places like Fiji and India. I think the queue for Soarin’ could use more details. Soarin’, California Screamin’ and Radiator Springs Racers have some of the longest wait times in California Adventure. If you’re going to use FastPass, these three are excellent candidates (since Toy Story Mania is excluded from FastPass).

Heimlich's Chew Chew Train ride California Adventure

Bugs Land Flik characyer California Adventure

A Bug’s Land is a part of the park I fear may not have much life left in it. There was no wait for anything all day and few people were in the land. Our kids are familiar with the movie A Bug’s Life and enjoy the illusion of shrinking as everything else in the park is larger than life. This is another favorite part of California Adventure based on the details through the area. It’s geared toward younger children. The day we were in the park there were more adults than children or adolescents. I’m not sure if that’s because it was a Friday in January or because it was the day of the Star Wars 5K or a combination of both. A Bug’s Land may have been less busy because of the lack of young children during our visit. We have met countless characters while visiting Disney theme parks and wasn’t aware Flik was available to meet. We followed the poor ant for a bit in order to snag a photo.

Mickey sourdough bread

One of our favorite food items is in California Adventure at the Bakery Tour hosted by Boudin Bakery. The giant sourdough Mickey Mouse-shaped bread is a must-eat for us when we visit. We bring peanut butter, jelly and honey into the park to enjoy with our bread. They also have a Mater-shaped loaf of bread available at Fillmore’s in Cars Land.

We managed to ride all of the attractions except Mickey’s Fun Wheel. The first time we visited Disneyland we experienced an earthquake while in the park, which is a blog post of its own. The day after the quake we were riding Mickey’s Fun Wheel during an aftershock and ended up stuck near the top of the wheel when all the rides were forced to stop. I have yet to ride the wheel again.

happily ever after sign Disneyland

We also made time for the Frozen show at the Hyperion Theater. Our boys were less than thrilled to take an hour of their day to watch a live show instead of visiting other attractions, but the entire family enjoyed the show proving, once again, that mom knows what she’s talking about. The actors were brilliant. The singing was amazing, and the magic of Disney is evident throughout the program.

Cozy Cone motel California Adventure

Flo's Cafe at night California Adventure

Spend time in Cars Land at night. Trust me. The neon is plentiful and bright. It’s like no other place in the park. We lingered there once the sun set, soaking in the vibe of Route 66. We made our way out of the park at closing with stops for final photos with Mickey and Minnie and a few last minute elongated pennies. Disney is good at what it does, and we always enjoy our visits.

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