Due to the opening of Cars Land, Buena Vista Street, and the conclusion of a huge 5-year construction project at Disney California Adventure, a lot of you are probably planning a trip to Disneyland Resort. If you are, you might be wondering which Disney California Adventure rides are best. Our list of the top Disney California Adventure attractions includes plenty of recognizable names, along with a few sleeper-picks that we think a lot of people overlook, but are actually really enjoyable.
Our top pick is Radiator Springs Racers, which is the best attraction from the newly Cars Land opened and Buena Vista Street. While we don’t recommend skipping any attractions based upon the advice of others if you have the time to experience them all (why not form your own opinion–you might like something totally different than us!), if your time is limited, here are the must-see rides and attractions in Disney California Adventure.
Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular - Aladdin is the most humorous and well-done stage show at Disneyland Resort (or at Walt Disney World, for that matter), and the production quality is incredibly high. The show focuses on Genie, who is a non-stop source of laughs and entertainment as he carefully threads topical humor into the show. It’s never the same show twice, which really helps add to its re-experience-ability.
Radiator Springs Racers – The most succinct way to describe Radiator Springs Racers is by saying it uses the basis of the ride system of Test Track to combine dark ride elements and outdoor race sequences through the detailed Ornament Valley. It’s also rumored to be the most expensive attraction Disney has ever built, and is reportedly the new best overall attraction at Disneyland Resort (both parks!) by those who have ridden it. Make sure to get there early or use FastPass, as Radiator Springs Racers promises to have long lines for years to come! We CANNOT WAIT to experience Radiator Springs Racers!
Red Car Trolleys – Okay, so these are trolleys modeled after the Pacific Electric Railway that travel between Buena Vista Street and the Tower of Terror in Hollywood Land. However, they set the tone for the ‘new’ Disney California Adventure, and really immerse guests in the experience and period of Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Land. There’s no better way to get from Buena Vista Street to Tower of Terror.
Grizzly River Run - Grizzly River Run takes the white water raft ride concept to the next level, offering some beautiful visuals along the way. While I think the beautiful details found in Grizzly River Run are great, it would nice to see a bit more to make this a “next level” Disney attraction. Still, it’s something you should experience at least once if you don’t mind being soaked!
California Screamin’ - Quite simply the best rollercoaster you’ll experience in a United States Disney theme park. There is some theming in and around the queue, and on the track itself, but California Screamin’ is unabashedly a ride more about thrills and fun than it is about Disney attention to detail.
Luigi’s Flying Tires - The modern day rebirth of the Flying Saucers ride in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, this divisive attraction is one we really enjoy. It allows guests to hover around, bumper-car style. We recommend experiencing this attraction alone (one guest per saucer) for best results.
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree - Mater hosts his junkyard jamboree, where his tractors spin and whip around guests. To get an idea of what to expect, think Mad Tea Party, except with guests in freely moving trailers attached to the tea cups instead of in the cups themselves. Like all of the attractions in Cars Land, we expect long lines for this one, so you may want to just peak in to check out the queue details if you’re short on time.
The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure - - Ariel’s Undersea Adventure is a classic Fantasyland dark ride (in Disney California Adventure) with some 21st century technology used to spice the concept up. It’s a very enjoyable attraction that goes beyond what you’ll find in Fantasyland, but it is admittedly a bit disappointing that it’s not on par with classics like Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean in scale or scope.
Muppet*Vision 3D - Muppet*Vision 3D is a classic 3D film in the Disney theme parks. I find it to be one of the best examples of “Muppets humor” there is, and it’s a non-stop source of laughs from the time you enter the queue (through the excellent pre-show) until you exit the attraction. That said, if you regularly visit Walt Disney World and are short on time in Disney California Adventure, skip Muppet*Vision. The digital projection and better queue of the Florida version make it the superior incarnation of this otherwise cloned attraction.
Soarin’ Over California - Soarin’ is a Walt Disney World fan-favorite, and it’s also pretty popular at Disney California Adventure. This attraction simulates the sensation of flight with a huge screen, effects, and an impressive ‘hang-glider’ ride system. The queue and video quality are both better in Disney California Adventure, and the lines are typically shorter here than they are in Epcot, so visit if you have the time!
Silly Symphony Swings - Silly Symphony Swings is a dressed-up off-the-shelf ‘wave swinger’ attraction that spins guests in circles in a somewhat thrilling manner. The highlight of the attraction is the views it offers of the gorgeous Paradise Pier area. Make sure to see it at night of our a beautiful blue-sky day!
Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar - – This ‘attraction’ was born thanks to the huge expansion of Disney California Adventure, but it lives on even as the construction is complete. Blue Sky Cellar features interesting models and videos, and is worth a quick walk-through if you have the time. Given the time it will take, it’s well worth checking out!
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - The original Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is one of the best attractions that Disney has ever created. Disney California Adventure’s Tower of Terror follows the same general formula, with minor changes as to how this dropping-elevator thrill ride is executed. The Walt Disney World version is better, but if you are a big fan of that version or of the Twilight Zone, you really ought to check it out at Disney California Adventure, as the differences are substantial enough to make it worth a look.
Toy Story Midway Mania - This interactive 3D game featuring the characters from Toy Story is one of the most popular attractions in all of Walt Disney World thanks to its placement in a park lacking rides for kids. In Disney California Adventure, the better balance in attractions plus the lack of FastPass makes wait times for Toy Story Midway Mania much shorter. The line moves quickly and it’s a fun game for the normal 30 (or so) minute wait to experience it. Expect longer wait times in Summer 2012 as everything in Disney California Adventure becomes busier!
Redwood Creek Challenge Trail - When Disney originally created Disney California Adventure, they did the Golden State area right. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail is evidence of this, as it’s a beautiful play area to explore–even for those without kids. Check out the elevated rope bridges for great views of the park!
World of Color – A day in Disney California is capped off with this nighttime, water spectacular. Featuring projections, fire, and other amazing effects, the dancing fountains of Paradise Bay present a jaw-droppingly beautiful montage presentation of Disney animated classics. It’s almost impossible to articulate how awesome World of Color is, but luckily we have a photo gallery of World of Color to help us out!
I’ve listed a lot of attractions here, but plenty didn’t make the list, too. There isn’t a single attraction from ‘a bug’s land’ (many of which you’ll want to hit if you have small children) as are a couple of popular (but off-the-shelf) Paradise Pier attractions. That said, if you have the time, experience everything in Disney California Adventure. If you arrive right at park opening, you should be able to accomplish most of the attractions in Disney California Adventure in a single day (assuming you don’t get stuck in multiple hour long Cars Land lines!).
If you’re planning a trip to Disneyland Resort, we highly recommend you check out our comprehensive Disneyland trip planning page. It will assist you with everything from hotels (off-site or on?) to dining and beyond! Also make sure to check out our Best Disneyland Rides page!
If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments. If you’ve been to Disney California Adventure, let us know what you think of our list!