Cars Land is the shot in the arm that California Adventure theme park needed. Judging by postings on the park’s Facebook page, I’m not alone in my thinking as many said it even exceeded expectations.
Thousands waited in line starting at 11 p.m. Thursday for Friday morning’s opening that led to up to six-hour waits at Cars Land’s anchor ride, Radiator Springs Racers. The wait tapered off some on Saturday and has been averaging 2 hours 15 minutes.
Walt Disney Co. raised the curtain Friday on the culmination of a five-year, $1.1 billion makeover that included the introduction of two new lands: Cars Land, and Buena Vista Street which carries guests back in time to 1923 Los Angeles, when Walt Disney first arrived in California.
The much anticipated 12-acre Cars Land, modeled after the 2006 animated Disney-Pixar movie “Cars,” does just what Walt Disney wanted his theme park attractions to do – bring guests into the story they are telling.
Its centerpiece, Radiator Springs Racers, is the best new ride at Disneyland Resort since Tower of Terror opened in California Adventure in 2004. It’s awesome. Riders buckle up in a six-seater convertible that looks like the cars in the movie, right down to the eyes in the windshield – and they rev like a sports car. You begin your approximate 4-minute trip down Route 66 at a comfortable cruise speed, meeting Lightning McQueen, Mater, Mack and other characters along the way.
The track is smooth, no hard jolts. It’s awesome.
Cars Land also includes Luigi’s Flying Tires bumper cars type ride and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree with its dancing tractors.
There are also shops and places to eat, including Flo’s V8 Café, which replicates the drive-up diners with gas pumps one would find along Route 66. At Crazy Cone Motel, everything is served in a cone. I tried the Mac and Cheese and it was good.
At night, it’s all neon lighting and signs, similar to what you would have seen when cruising along Route 66.
Cars Land is exactly what guests expect in a Disney theme park, and what finally makes California Adventure feel like a Disney park, rather than Six Flags.
Buena Vista Street is also a wonderful addition with its Red Trolley Cars. All of the buildings just inside the park’s entrance have been given a 1923 look. There’s even a 5 and Dime, though I didn’t find anything priced for a nickel or a dime.
The numbers on the trolley cars are also significant. The 623 is for June 1923, when Walt arrived in L.A.
The 717 is for July 17, 1955, opening day of Disneyland.
Oswald’s old-time gas station bears the name of Walt Disney’s first animated character. It was the loss of Oswald over lack of copyright that brought Walt to create Mickey Mouse. It’s nice to see Oswald get some recognition.
Carthay Circle Restaurant’s façade is reminiscent of the theater where Walt Disney made history with the world premiere of the first ever animated full-length feature film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” in 1937.
There’s also a statue of Walt and Mickey.
The one oddity that I will never get used to is Starbucks on Buena Vista Street. It just doesn’t fit there. If Disney felt compelled to add a Starbucks, why not put it in Hollywood Land? Seems like a much better fit there.
The five-year makeover has included the addition of The Little Mermaid and Toy Story Mania rides, World of Color laser water show and now Buena Vista Street and Cars Land. Collectively they make California
Adventure a lot more fun and a place I would now recommend friends visit. That said, there is still room for improvement, and my guess is there will be more changes and additions down the road, though probably not as extensive.
- FastPass will get you a reserved ride time, but be sure to get one right away when you get to the park because they may run out.
- Single Rider: If you’re alone or your group doesn’t mind splitting up, this line option can cut a lot of time off your wait. On Saturday, while people were standing in line for more than 2 hours, single riders were looking about 25-minute waits vs. the more than two hours standing in line. Ride operators draw from this line when there is an open seat in the six-seater cars. I go through this line a lot even with family on major rides such as Indiana Jones and Splash Mountain in Disneyland and Soarin’ Over California in California Adventure.
- Wait to go: If you live in Southern California and you can wait until mid-August or even after Labor Day, crowds at both parks will have thinned, especially midweek, making for shorter lines until around mid- to late October when the holiday fun kicks in. Disneyland also tends to have special admission deals for So Cal residents after summer as well.