Cars Land Tips & Tricks


Cars Land at Disney California Adventure has solidified its place as one of the most popular theme park lands at Disneyland Resort, with guests rushing to Radiator Springs Racers, and waiting hours in line for it other times of the day. While Cars Land is a big draw for this one attraction, there is a lot to see and do in Cars Land.

From saving time in line for Radiator Springs Racers to slowing down and enjoying the details of Cars Land, this post covers some of our tips and tricks for Cars Land.

With that said, let’s get rolling. (Okay, sorry for that awful pun…but it’s pretty consistent with the generally corny writing style of this blog, so are you really that surprised?)

5. Saving Time

Rope drop at Disney California Adventure might as well be called the “Race for Racers,” because you’d have to be crazy to go to Disney California Adventure first thing and have anything else in mind other than Radiator Springs Racers. There are a few different ways to approach Radiator Springs Racers to minimize your time waiting in line.

(NOTE: Disney California Adventure is constantly changing the way it treats Radiator Springs Racers in the early morning hours; the practices may differ from day to day or week to week. Be aware of this and act accordingly if what you observe when you visit differs from the advice here.)

The best option is if you’re a Disneyland Resort on-site hotel guest going during Extra Magic Hours. If this is the case, you want to get in line for Radiator Springs Racers at least 15 minutes before normal park opening (Radiator Springs Racers doesn’t open until normal park opening, but a line usually forms inside the rope drop area before park opening for on-site guests, and if a line doesn’t form, you’ll be in the front of the pack) and go directly to the attraction.

If you’re not a Disneyland Resort hotel guest, your best bet is to go on a day of the week that doesn’t have Extra Magic Hours (so there are theoretically fewer people who can get in front of you in line), and arrive early. Probably about 30 minutes before official park opening, as the turnstiles usually open before the official opening time. Please note that Disney California Adventure is constantly tinkering with how they handle Radiator Springs Racers in the morning, but typically there is just a standard rope drop occurring near Carthay at official opening time. We’ve also heard of them doing a line for Radiator Springs Racers prior to rope drop; if that’s the case during your visit, revise the below plans accordingly.

Are you a fan of Cars? Then you'll love our Cars Land Facebook Covers! http://www.disneytouristblog.com/cars-land-facebook-covers/

From here, you have to choose between getting in line for FastPass, or racing to Radiator Springs Racers. It’s actually not much of a race as they tend to walk you back there with the rope, but whatever. The FastPass distribution spot is on the way to Cars Land (it’s nowhere near the attraction), so this works out. Since the line for Radiator Springs Racers usually gets backed up around the corner of the attraction, one of us usually goes to grab FastPasses while the other gets in line for Racers, with the FastPass getter running (literally) to catch up.

Even then, this strategy barely works/doesn’t always work. An alternative is to go straight to Radiator Springs Racers, then immediately go for FastPasses after. The benefit of this is you’ll probably get a FastPass with a nighttime return (if you read on, you’ll understand why this is a benefit). The drawback is that during busier seasons at Disneyland Resort, FastPasses may be gone by the time you’re done with Radiator Springs Racers.

Another strategy is getting in line 5 minutes before Disney California Adventure closes for the night. The line usually dies down a bit by this point, but the real benefit is that you’ll be “wasting” your time waiting in line after the park is closed, anyway, so it’s not like you’re missing out on valuable park time.

The final option (well, besides just getting in the regular standby line during the middle of the day like a total n00b) is to do Radiator Springs Racers via the Single Rider line. Wait times via the Single Rider line are totally unpredictable, but we’ve walked right on with this method. If this line is backed up to near the bridge, we recommend getting out of line and coming back later.

As for Luigi’s Flying Tires, morning or late at night are the best options for avoiding long waits. Wait times are never really all that bad for Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. Make no mistake, though, these are just minor diversions in comparison to Radiator Springs Racers. Think of them as the piece of orange sometimes garnishing a plate with the delicious burger you might order at a restaurant. Sure, oranges are fine, but no one is ordering the burger thinking, “OH MAN, I CAN’T WAIT TO GET MY ORANGE WEDGE!”

4. It Has Great Food

There are two restaurants in Cars Land: Flo’s V8 Cafe and Cozy Cone Motel (click on each name to read our full reviews of those restaurants). There’s also Filmore’s Taste-In, but it just sells fruits and other nonsense that no one wants. Stupid hippy.

We’re not exactly enamored with Cozy Cone Motel, but it does have some decent options. Plus, other people seem to love those “handwich” cones, even if we think they’re disgusting. We recommend sticking to the generally good desserts here. (Consider yourself warned.)

However, the main draw in Cars Land dining is absolutely Flo’s V8 Cafe. It has amazing breakfast options (it currently is not serving breakfast, although breakfast is rumored to return) and lots of great comfort food options for lunch and dinner. Our picks: Brioche French Toast for breakfast and the Pork Loin with the Coke BBQ for lunch or dinner. Both of these and numerous desserts at Flo’s V8 Cafe are contenders for our Best Disneyland Counter Service Foods list!

3. Nightly “Sh-Boom” Lighting Moment

Every night immediately after sunset (no, we cannot give you an exact time…for reasons that should be obvious), the lights go on in Cars Land. You can get the exact time by asking a Cast Member in Cars Land, but in our experience they often don’t know.

Your better bet is to pull up the sunset time on your phone, and to position yourself in front of Flo’s V8 Cafe about 5-10 minutes before this time. The lighting typically occurs about 1-5 minutes after sunset. By positioning yourself in front of Flo’s, you’re right in the middle of the action.

This is just a little thing, so don’t go in with overly high expectations, but if you’re like us, it’s one of those magic moments like the Kiss Goodnight at Walt Disney World that might make your eyes leak a little. There are a lot of videos on YouTube of this moment, but we aren’t going to link to any of them, as we think watching it ahead of time sort of ruins it…

2. Cars Land Hidden Details

Disney is quick to tout the “Disney Details” as the difference between it and competitors. In general, this is the general meticulous level of detail in any (good) project that Walt Disney Imagineering completes. Frankly, this was something that was generally lacking in Disney California Adventure 1.0, with few exceptions (Golden State being the land that immediately comes to mind). Both new lands, Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, rectified this problem in a big way.

In Cars Land, the Disney Details take two forms: layered organic detail and Easter Eggs. The layered organic details are just the types of thing you’d expect to find in an actual environment like this along Route 66. They give the land depth and make it feel real and lived-in, rather than an artificial theme park environment. This is my favorite type of detail, as I think it allows you to lose yourself in an environment, and forget you’re in a theme park. Disney’s best work, from New Orleans Square to World Showcase to Tokyo DisneySea, excel in this department. You can add Cars Land to the list of those preceding three examples.

Easter Eggs are a bit different (and more divisive among fans). These are things that do not organically belong in the land, but don’t necessarily detract from it, and give guests familiar with Disney (or whatever is being referenced) a pleasant surprise when they stumble upon them. We have a list of Disneyland Easter Eggs, but that doesn’t cover Cars Land. These are essentially trivia book and scavenger hunt fodder. A good example of this type of detail is Hidden Mickeys. Cars Land takes this to the next level, with lots of Pixar in-jokes, car culture references, and, of course, Hidden Mickeys. A partial list can be found here (be careful, it contains spoilers).

1. It’s Better at Night

The Pacific Wharf entrance to Cars Land has the most awesome

Cars Land looks better at night. Much better. So much better that we highly recommend your first visit to Cars Land being at night, if possible. Obviously this is not going to be possible for many people especially if you’re following our advice about saving time (or if you only have a couple of days at Disneyland Resort), but if you have a longer trip and you can do your first day in Disneyland and Park Hop to Disney California Adventure that night, you won’t regret it.

If you can, here’s exactly what we recommend doing: when you get to the main entrance to Cars Land, instead of turning onto Route 66, keeping walking towards Paradise Pier. On the way, you’ll see a bridge to Pacific Wharf on the left. Take that. Walk all the way through Pacific Wharf, and you’ll come to a bluff that’s part of Cars Land (see the photo above). Walk through that for a real “wow” moment.

Even if that’s not practical, make sure to take the time to visit Cars Land at night. Ornament Valley and the Cadillac Mountain Range in Cars Land are lit beautifully at night, which makes a ride on Radiator Springs Racers at night especially awesome. This is one of the main reasons we recommend trying for a FastPass at night (to the extent that you can plan that type of thing), so the beginning and race sequences of the ride seriously take on a totally different feel at night. Luigi’s Flying Tires is also prettier at night, as it’s many strands of popcorn lights plus that beautiful Italian music really make for a peaceful experience. It’s not as improved of an experience at night as Radiator Springs Racers, but the lines are shorter at night anyway, so hey, why not?

RIP Luigi's Flying Tires beach balls! 2012-2012.See more Cars Land photos by Tom Bricker: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/cars-land-photos/

Then, there’s the neon lighting. So much glorious neon. If you are like me, you will be enamored with these neon lights like a raccoon who has just found a shiny piece of tinfoil in the trash. Not that the neon lighting is anything like tinfoil that’s been found in trash, but you get the idea. Thanks to the neon, Cars Land at night truly feels like the “set” from the movie Cars. We know animated movies don’t have sets, but you’ll know exactly what we mean when you step foot in that land at night. Radiator Springs Racers might be the most popular Disney ride anywhere right now, but that land itself at night is the true E-Ticket experience. Do not miss it.

It’s also pretty awesome at night during Christmas at Disneyland Resort. The decorations sort of combine #1 and #2. Some people don’t like them, but we love them.

That covers our tips for visiting Cars Land. By following these you can save yourself a lot of time and potentially improve your experience, but they just scratch the surface of what Cars Land has to offer. The important thing to keep in mind is that Cars Land isn’t just a land to run through to get to Radiator Springs Racers. It’s a place that should be slowed down and savored. If you do, you might be surprised at just how much time you spend in Cars Land!

For actual Disneyland trip planning tips and comprehensive advice beyond these quick and random tips, make sure to read our Disneyland Trip Planning Guide and related articles.

For updates on Disneyland and Walt Disney World, the latest news, discount information, and tips, sign up for our free monthly newsletter!

Your Thoughts…

If you’ve been to Cars Land, what else do you recommend for the best possible experience there? Any tips to add? If you haven’t been, what interests you more: the general ambiance of the land or Radiator Springs Racers? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!

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41 Responses to “Cars Land Tips & Tricks”

  1. Cynthia Parks says:

    The line for Radiator Springs Racers starts before the park opens (when we went a few weeks ago we got in 15 minutes before park opening and the line was at Off the Page in the Hollywood area….).

    If you have never been to Car’s Land then you should definitely go on Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. It may not be an E-ticket ride like RSR but it’s one of my favorite rides in DCA now and it’s a lot more fun than it looks (I promise). I feel like this ride is overlooked a lot and everytime I get people to go on it with me they end up loving it.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Thanks for the feedback on the Radiator Springs Racers line. I had heard about that, but we have never seen that in practice. I swear, they tinker with how they do Radiator Springs Racers in the morning constantly. I’d love to hear what anyone else has experienced. In July, September, and December when we did rope drop, it was the “standard” procedure, but I know even then they were toying with things.

      Totally agree with you about Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree–we also really like Luigi’s Flying Tires, although that’s not the common sentiment. It cannot be stressed enough that these are not large scale rides like Radiator Springs Racers, bu I think they’re “cute” and very well done for what they are!

      • Cynthia Parks says:

        Have a CM update on the RSR fastpass lines at park open!

        “During Extra Magic Hour days in Disney California Adventure Park, guests who wish to ride Radiator Springs Racers during this hour will be directed to the attraction. Also, Fast Pass distribution for RSR will begin at park open daily and lining up before park open in Hollywood Land for an RSR FP will no longer be available. This change will allow everyone to spend less time in line and enjoy this extra hour prior to park open. “

  2. Kara says:

    Hi Tom! Love your site…and your photos are gorgeous! I did my first ever DL trip in Sept 2013. My dad & I were at DCA on an early entry morning, and went right to Toy Story Mania. No line at all! We did it 3 times in 30 minutes. (WDW veterans know that is impossible in FL.) anyway, right before 9am, we ran over to Cars Land & jumped in the standby line for the Racers before the park opened to off site guests. It worked out perfectly. Toy Story & Racers, best of both worlds! I would love to see Racers come to WDW someday.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      That sounds like a great strategy. It’s quite the shock going from the long lines of Toy Story Mania at Walt Disney World to the short lines at Disney California Adventure, isn’t it?!

      I think it’s only a matter of time before Cars Land comes to Walt Disney World. My preference would be for Star Wars Land first, but I think both will eventually come to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

    • Richard says:

      Every time we go that is exactly what we do.

  3. Steph says:

    I went to Disneyland for first time at the beginning of this month. At that time, we were able to ride radiator springs during extra magic hours in the morning, and got FP at night. Agree. Much different experience at night. Love ur articles and pictures!!

  4. Ace says:

    2 words CONE 4 (but to clarify, the apple freeze drink it amazing)!

  5. Duy says:

    Hi Tom. Sinnce im familiar with Tokyo Disney Resort but not Disneyland Resort, so I have few questions.

    Does guests run to the attractions at the opening time like in Tokyo? No at all or just lesser?

    How long for the queue of RS during normal and peak day?

    And finally, you mentioned that we should do it 5 minutes before the park closeing time. For Tokyo, it wont happen. Even on very low attention day, tokyo wont allow standby for E tickets 30 minutes before park closes. Does this case apply for all rides and even low or peak day at DLR? I think that the both resorts follow different management method. Thats why I have these weird questions.

    Thank you

    • DRToohey says:

      There’s a (relatively) firm “no running in Disneyland” policy. People “power-walk” to their favorite attractions at rope drop, not bolt like they do in Tokyo (though, man, that IS fun). As for average wait times, on normal days (i.e. weekdays non-peak season) it varies 75-90 minutes. On weekends it’s like 100-140. On peak days (i.e. weekends in summer, Christmas time, etc) it could be up to 180 minutes. And yeah, one of hte benefits of the American parks is that lines close pretty much at park closing (well…not a benefit for castmembers working on them I suppose). It was a bit of a shock to see otherwise in Japan(though it makes sense).

  6. Marygrace says:

    Hi! Going to DL the Thursday before Easter, what would your advice be? Try to get fast passes for Racers at opening, or go to the park before it closes and do standby? I’m thinking that maybe all the families with little ones might be leaving the parks and the standby might be worth a shot?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Both strategies should work, but the big thing is PATIENCE. You’re going during one of the busiest weeks of the year. Good luck and have fun! :)

  7. Jennifer says:

    Good morning Tom, love your site & thank you so much for the tips & great pic of CarsLand! When do you think Disney will bring CarsLand to Orlando? We go to WDW once a year & our 4 & 6 years old LOVE Cars! Wonder if it’s worth it to take them for just 1 day to see CarsLand next May before a family wedding near Carmel if we can swing 2 nights in Anaheim beforehand. Or should we just wait till CarsLand opens in Hollywood Studio? Thanks in advance for your thought on this!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Look at it this way…if Walt Disney World does get Cars Land, it won’t be before 2018. Your kids will barely be kids at that point.

      I’d take them to California now. Just my two cents, though! :)

  8. Alexandra says:

    When we were at DCA in Late August/September, the rope drop took you straight through Radiator Springs and into line for the Racers. My husband and I were amonth the first 2 dozen people in line and when they asked for a party of 2 you know our hands shot straight up. The park had been open for less than 10 minutes when we got on the ride. Granted that doesn’t count the time we spent waiting for rope drop but hey, we were at Disney.

  9. Kelly M says:

    Thank you for this article Tom! I have booked my first ever trip to California (from the UK) and can’t wait to get to Disneyland and DCA in September.
    This will go into the pack along with all of your Disneyland Resort tips!

  10. FredK says:

    Best to arrive in morning to get Fastpasses. If you’re in line before 10am, you’re likely to get it. Otherwise, take advantage of single rider line, but this isn’t always available. The advice on visiting at night for the first time as a WOW moment is unnecessary. At Disneyland, there are many nighttime activities. You have to prioritize your time.

  11. Richard says:

    Don’t forget to stop in any of the Cars Land stores and ask for your free buttons! They’ve got 6 or more just for the asking!!!

  12. Sarah Warren says:

    I truly truly adore and love this incredible awesome fun exciting amazing wonderful fun magical place! I an in such awe by all the Imagineers have come up with they are truly inspirational people! RADIATOR SPRINGS Is the very first thing that my boyfriend and I go to when we are at Disney’s California Adventure! Walking down Cars Blvd is so so magical! We have been many many many times and I have taken lots andlots of eexciting fun photos! IT REALLY IS A WONDERFUL MAGICAL PLACE!

  13. DRToohey says:

    Nice list!

    Cars Land really is one of the best parts of Disney Parks…the level of thought and detail is incredible. I only wish the billion dollars going to MyMagic+ had instead been devoted to more projects like the DCA reboot.

    Though I’d compare Mater more to a delicious side dish than an orange (and yes, I agree that tires gets a bad rap). And, as is the case with Flo’s beans, I sometimes do crave the sides just as much as the main dish.

    Cones has really grown for me because of the MVP that is the Apple Freeze (which I know you’ve given props to in the past). It’s sneaky in how good it is – a perfect cool-down drink on hot days…and the perfect compromise to not getting a Dole Whip because the line is insane (I think Dole Whip Wait Time = Degrees F minus 65). Refreshing, sugary, and I think the worst I’ve ever waited is three minutes.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Very fair point about Mater (and Luigi’s, in my opinion). My point wasn’t to make them look awful, just not NEARLY on the same scale as Radiator Springs Racers.

      They’re still enjoyable attractions.

      I’ll admit, Cozy Cones is growing on me. That first year, it was a huge pain. It has gotten better since, and it does have some good treats. I still think those handwiches that everyone seems to love are gross, though.

  14. Lauren says:

    I want more trip reports :( I know the blog has evolved since you started it, but it was trip reports and pictures of you guys on your travels that began it and brought many us here in the first place. I know you’re going more with the Guide/Tips/Info and that TRs are time-consuming but throw us a bone here :)

  15. Angela from Ohio says:

    Just got back from Disneyland last night, 1 st time in 12 years, been doing 8 days in the World last few years. Carsland was impressive. We spent 2 days ( well a little bit of time in paradise pier) in Carsland. Park opened at 9 am, got there at 9:45 waited 35 mins in fastpass line ,… Got it for 7:30 pm. My boys loved it and my husband even more. The details, walk around and look. Eat at Flo’s. watch the DJ car or Red drive into town. I even liked the fresh oranges from Filmores for breakfast.
    P.S. thanks for the tips on World of Color views

  16. Hello Tom,

    First let me say your pictures are awesome. Thanks for the information you provide in this blog. It really helped me on my recent trip. There is not a lot on Disneyland out there. We went in early March and Radiator Springs was one of the highlights of our trip! As far as RSR we got fast pass tickets around 10:30a.m, and our return was 8:30 that night. I think regular wait was 90 long all day. It is an awesome ride and if you can go there it definitely is a must.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Thanks so much for providing feedback from your experience. 10:30 am…not bad! That definitely gives you time to use the strategy of ‘ride first, FP later!’ :)

  17. A says:

    We just went to DL at the end of March and stayed at the Disneyland Hotel. During both Magic Morning Hours we attended they had RSR open. We got through the line into the parks around 8:30am, went straight to the Single Rider line and walked on the ride. Then scooted out past the rope drop to hit Tower of Terror and make it over to Disneyland just in time for park open. It was perfect!

  18. Kevin says:

    Early August last year, we were in line 15-20 minutes before rope drop. But with a 5–year-old we couldn’t “power walk” as well as some and still ended up waiting 45-60 minutes in line. We rode it again later with FP.

    I actually didn’t think the ride was all it was cracked up to be, although we still enjoyed it quite a bit. Maybe expectations were too high. But I’ll agree with the previous poster – I found Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree to be quite a bit of fun!

  19. Angela Erickson says:

    Question… I have 6 kids, hubby and I going to disneyland in 5 weeks. We want to ride the racers first thing and I was wondering if you would send the little ones with hubby to get in line immediately in morning while the 2-3 of us go get fast pass to ride it again? Hopefully to ride again in evening? I have a feeling they are going to want to ride it at least once or twice a day while were there….( 4 boys LOL) and we will be there 4 days….

  20. MaryAnne says:

    I am planning a trip to Disneyland late April, early May and was wondering what you think my best shot is to get on RSR? I’m hoping the parks aren’t crazy busy…my last visit in may only allowed me on the ride once, but since I am taking a Disneyland virgin with me we MUST get on the ride.

    Is it true that they no longer allow the Fastpass line for RSR to start before the park opens??? That was a huge issue on my last trip!

    Also, I have yet to watch World of Color…would you recommend it?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      The current policy is no FastPass line before park opens. Whether that will still be the case in early May is anyone’s guess. They change policies often for Radiator Springs Racers at park opening.

      My recommendation would be to arrive first thing, ride, and then try for a FastPass. They should still be available so long as you go directly to RSR, ride, and go directly back to the FastPass machines. If you need to ride it more, go again at the end of the night.

      Have fun! :)

  21. Deb says:

    We are in our 3 days out of 4 in DL right now. We found during the parades at DL is a great time to head over to California and do Toy Story Mania and Cars Land. Same as during the World of Color.
    And as for Crowd Tracker, the last few days here have had the worst lines I have EVER seen, but Crowd Tracker said it would be a ghost town. One of the DL staff said that coming any time after the first week of January to the end of March is a good bet.

  22. DaveRamseyIsDangerous says:

    The best time to visit Cars Land was during one of the AP Previews in 2012. Lines were reasonable, and it was a once in a lifetime experience to visit BEFORE the land officially opened. I think it was like $75/person to go, but the experience was WELL worth it. It was a brilliant move by the West Coast mouse, which – in general – tends to be more thoughtful in its decisions about the AP experience.

  23. Angelwow says:

    What a Great Find!
    Just about a week before we arrive in Disneyland I stumble upon your blog site. Perfect!
    I have never been to DL. I’m taking four children ages 6, 7, 9, 10. It’s a reward for their excellent grades in school/combination birthday trip.
    We are staying at the Disneyland Hotel/Resort Property. We will have access to all rides @ both parks.

    1.) What exactly is a fast pass? What does it entitle us to?
    2.) Best “Must Not Miss” rides while there?

    Thank you for taking the time to keep us informed with this detailed and interesting blog. I have enjoyed reading it. ;-)

  24. Lauren says:

    Thank you for tip 3 on the Sh-Boom lighting. I was glad we knew to be there in front of Flo’s at sunset, it was really cute. A bunch of people crowded around and everyone got really excited when the music started and were dancing to it. And the best part was we had RSR fastpasses just 10 minutes after that.
    It was so slow last week that we rode RSR 3 times in 1 day because there were still fastpasses available at 2pm we happened to find after we did It’s tough to be a bug. That was a great surprise!

  25. Scott says:

    Check rain forecasts. It doesn’t rain much in SoCal but that doesn’t mean never. A shower yesterday that would be laughable by WDW standards knocked out RSR for several hours. Guess it’s because the ride is so exposed to the open.

    If you avoid the peak days, you don’t necessarily have to be an early bird if you do Single Rider. I didn’t get to the park until 8:30 and did Single Rider twice plus TSM with around 15 min waits for each. (Nov 30 is a “locals” day so maybe they were scared away by the threat of rain.) After that the rest of the E ticket rides still had short waits.

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