Best Disney California Adventure Attractions & Ride Guide
In this post, we offer numerical ratings and ride reviews for every show and ride at Disney California Adventure. We also provide some tips for when to do each attraction, and other info. Since the completion of a huge re-imagining, Disney California Adventure has become one of the hottest theme parks in the United States. In this guide, we’ll offer some of the reasons why DCA is great.
Note that there are some recent changes to this list. In the last several years, the Marvel-themed Avengers Campus has debuted and Paradise Pier has been renamed as Pixar Pier (with a handful of aesthetic changes). Of course, those are good reasons to check out Disney California Adventure on your trip, but the main reason is still Radiator Springs Racers. This is the best best attraction in Cars Land, and one of Disney’s best attractions ever. Seriously, do not miss this thrilling and insanely fun ride!
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 reviews of every attraction in Disney California Adventure, with our “must do” attractions listed first, and in slightly more depth. Note that we have a separate page for tips and info about all Disneyland attractions.
Not everything on this list is a thrilling, “E-Ticket” attraction with long lines. We enjoy the flagship attractions, but we also like variety in our experiences. Some of the lesser-known attractions are also very well done, just not in a ‘knock-your-socks-off’ way. The list of “top attractions” includes everything we feel makes for a well-rounded day at Disney California Adventure.
Ideally, a day to experience Disney California Adventure and a separate day (or days) to do Disneyland (read our Disneyland Ticket Guide to determine which tickets are best), so you will be able to experience everything, not just our top picks. If you are stretched for time and only have one day for both parks, you won’t be able to experience everything on this “top attractions” list.
Numerical review scores for Disney California Adventure’s attractions are on a scale of 1 to 10, and only take into consideration overall quality relative to that specific type of attraction. Dark rides are judged against other dark rides, coasters against other coasters, and so on, to create a relatively level playing field. We do not take into account how different demographics will like the attraction.
Obviously, if an attraction has a height restriction that precludes kids from riding it, its “score” for them wouldn’t be as high as what we have listed. Likewise on attractions that are geared towards kids but may not appeal as much to adults. Here, we only consider the overall quality of an attraction in its category.
Alright, let’s get started with the Disney California Adventure ride reviews!
Top DCA Attractions
Radiator Springs Racers (10/10) – 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 easily the best overall attraction at Disney California Adventure, and perhaps Disneyland, too. Make sure to get there early, use Single Rider, or do Radiator Springs Racers at the end of the night. Read more strategy in our Cars Land Tips & Tricks post.
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (7/10) – 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. Unlike Radiator Springs Racers, lines for Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree typically are not that bad, so you should be able to safely do this attraction at your leisure during the day.
The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (8/10) – 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 not the most immersive attraction, but it’s still a very enjoyable attraction that goes beyond what you’ll find in Fantasyland. This is a people-eater in terms of capacity, so do it whenever–you should wait no longer than 15 minutes for this, no matter when you visit.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! (9/10) – Above all else, this ride is FUN. It marries Awesome Mix Tape soundtracks from the movies with Guardians of the Galaxy’s unique brand of humor, cool screen-based visuals, and a thrilling drop-tower ride. The exterior is garish and the plot of the attraction is a bit garbled, but at the end of the day, it’s an incredibly fun attraction. Arguably much better than it has any right to be considering that it was a quick and dirty reimagining of an existing attraction. You can read more of our thoughts in our full Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! Review.
Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure (8/10) – If Toy Story Mania is like a Wii game on wheels, this is like an Xbox Kinect game on wheels. The experience is high energy and fun, with an amusing premise, pre-show, and non-stop action. It’s a tad disappointing as the anchor attraction for Avengers Campus, but it’s still a solid addition to DCA.
Red Car Trolleys (8/10) – Modeled after the Pacific Electric Railway, these scenic trolleys travel between Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Land. While nothing fancy, they 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 (7.5/10) – 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!
Soarin’ Around the World (9/10) – Soarin’ is a 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. Last summer, this attraction was changed to Soarin’ Around the World, with footage from locations around the globe instead of just California. You can read our full Soarin’ Around the World Review here.
Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (8/10) – 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. Check out the elevated rope bridges for great views of the park!
Incredicoaster (8.5/10) – Formerly California Screamin, this rollercoasters has been rebranded as the Incredicoaster, and regardless of the name, it’s one of the best coasters 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 Incredicoaster is a ride more about thrills and fun than it is about Disney attention to detail.
Toy Story Midway Mania (8/10) – 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 makes wait times for Toy Story Midway Mania much shorter.
The line moves quickly and it’s a fun game for the normal 30-45 minute wait to experience it. It’s a good idea to do this early in the morning, after Radiator Springs Racers for a wait or 20-30 minutes. Toy Story Midway Mania has a Genie+ Lightning Lane, and it’s a good use of one in the middle of the day.
World of Color (9.5/10) – 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.
Make sure to check out our Guide to World of Color article to pick the best spot to see the show! For any first-timer to Disneyland Resort, ending the day with World of Color is a must. You will be blown away by the colorful fountains, projections, and other visuals. World of Color is the perfect way to end a day at Disney California Adventure.
If you experience everything on the “Top Attractions” list, and enjoy a copy of meals or drinks at one of DCA’s great bars, you probably won’t have time for much else. If you do have some extra time, we highly recommend rounding out your day with at least a few attractions from “The Rest” below…
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters (7/10) – This replaced Luigi’s Flying Tires, and is one of the newest attractions at Disney California Adventure. It’s also the first trackless ride in the U.S. Disney Parks. It features cute little roadsters “dancing” around the track, with some charming sequences and a fun finish. It’ll put a smile on your face, but long wait times as compared to its short (90 seconds) duration make it skippable.
Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue (7/10) – A dark ride right around Fantasyland caliber, Monsters, Inc. is a good dark ride, but is not anything flashy from a tech perspective.
Animation Academy (7.5/10) – Animation Academy is the highlight of the Animation Building at Disney California Adventure, and might even be considered a hidden gem. The animation classes are fun and education, and the exhibits throughout the building are neat diversions.
Turtle Talk with Crush (7.5/10) – An interactive digital show with Crush “inside” a tank as he interacts with kids in the audience. Although the interactions are with kids, the humor is often geared towards adults, and this “Living Character Initiative” based show is a lot of fun for everyone. Another reason the Animation Building shouldn’t be skipped.
Disney Junior – Live on Stage! (?/10) – This is the one attraction at DCA that we’ve never done. It’s not exactly aimed towards the ‘adults without kids’ demographic. Might be worth doing if you have toddlers.
Golden Zephyr (3.5/10) – Worth doing if it’s open for the neat views of Pixar Pier, but it closes in even a slight breeze. Plan on doing Silly Symphony Swings instead.
Goofy’s Sky School (4/10) – Garish wild mouse coaster that replaced an even more garish wild mouse coaster. The theming with Goofy is neat (even if the farm/sky school thing makes little sense) and the ride is mildly thrilling, but this eyesore doesn’t belong in a Disney theme park.
Jumpin Jellyfish (4.5/10) – Kiddie “drop” ride that slowly goes up and down. Offers neat views and might be thrilling to small children.
Jessie’s Critter Carousel (4.5/10) – Fairly standard carousel, except themed to sea-life.
Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind (4.5/10) – The amount of time spent on such a pedestrian attraction is mind-boggling. Inside Out deserves better–and could’ve gotten it for the budget blown on this.
Pixar Pal-Around (5/10) – A standard Ferris Wheel that often has long waits. Cool views, though.
Silly Symphony Swings (6/10) – 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!
This list leaves out a few pieces of roaming entertainment and a few other things, but that covers everything major that you’d find on a Disney California Adventure park map. As you probably notice, Disney California Adventure has fewer attractions than Disneyland, and more of DCA’s attractions are below 5/10 than are Disneyland’s. This is due to many of the Disney California Adventure attractions being generic “off the shelf” amusement park rides with Disney theming slapped on, a problem that has been mostly rectified in recent years with the overhaul of DCA.
While the overall attraction slate isn’t nearly as strong at Disney California Adventure, thanks to flagship attractions like Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin’, Tower of Terror, California Screamin’, Toy Story Midway Mania, and World of Color, the top of the lineup at Disney California Adventure is very strong. These adult-oriented attractions plus the slightly more mature nature of the park (unlike Disneyland, it serves alcohol) might actually make it more appealing to older demographics.
Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!
Which Disney California Adventure attractions are your favorites and which do you skip? If you haven’t visited DCA, which ones are on your “must do” list? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your questions and thoughts in the comments!
It seems this page will be in need of an update with the recent Covid re-openings and Genie+
DONE WITH DISNEY. If you want to spend your whole day standing in insanely long lines on hard concrete for a 2 minute thrill, knock yourself out. I’m done with Disney. Not gonna be an ass ever again! Owners of Disney clearly are okay with the thinking that 1+ hour long lines for 1 ride is a calculated norm. So a 10 hour day (600 minutes) for 10-two minute (20 minutes) rides is good enough, for some it’s okay. Not good enough for me. Never again! 10 hours on hard concrete for 20 minutes of actual ride time sucks! Good bye Disney, FOREVER!
Why didn’t you utilize fast pass? You got one thing right…you sure are an ass!
If you have kids the reviews would likely be a bit different – Disney jr show is what we have to hit first thing at D-Calif and is a family favorite. Kids also love the Disney animation space to enjoy air conditioning and cool screens. MUCH prefer Aladdin to Frozen show and kids also love the Mickey Ferris wheel but always the swinging side (Beware motion sickness!). I agree with your high ratings for radiator springs and mission breakout although I much prefer the latter to the previous elevator (elevator story of dead family souls stuck in limbo was a real bummer for the kids). I wish they would bring back the sing along theater that was in the muppets old theater but the employees say that will not return. Oh well! Thanks for the reviews!
Tom, good reviews. Did not see one of our favorites, Operation Playtime! Featuring the Green Army Men from Toy Story. (8.5/10) Music is great, drummers are top notch! Plays about 5 times a day Paradise Pier area. Aloha!
This is a great review! I’ve never been to Disneyland and have no idea what to expect, so this was very helpful!
Hi Tom, I wasn’t sure where I could send you an email or something asking this, so I thought here might work!
Do you have any info on the upcoming “Tower of Terror After Dark?” If so, I would love your input/advice on how to make sure to be able to do it on a one day trip in two weeks, especially since DCA is closing at 8pm the night we’ll be there… We’re trying to decide if we get in line for Tower right before park closing, try to time FP for the evening, or just ride it as many times as possible during the day, forego the After Dark experience, and go for the old World of Color instead, which we haven’t seen in a few years…
This will be our last chance at Tower before they remove it *sniff* and we want to get our fill…
Aladdin is now closed. The Hyperion Theatre will eventually reopen with a Frozen show, because there is apparently an utterly insatiable demand for more Anna and Elsa.
Luigi’s Flying Tires has been closed for a while; between people being clueless about how to control the vehicles and long load times compared to ride length, the throughput just wasn’t enough to justify keeping it. It’s being replaced with a trackless ride “Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters” in which the ride vehicles are controlled by computer.
I’ve seldom seen Toy Story Midway Mania with a wait time of less than 45 minutes lately. I like it better than the Buzz Lightyear ride over in Disneyland, but I’m not sure I like it an extra 30 minutes of wait time better.
Mickey’s Fun Wheel can have a very long wait for a ferris wheel. However, the inside (swinging) cars are a completely different ride experience from your typical ferris wheel (unfortunately, they only go about half as high as the non-swinging cars).
Thanks for this–I just got a notification of your comment and realized I need to update this post. Much appreciated!