California Adventure Update: Bears, Cats & Hot Dogs OH MY!

We return to Disney California Adventure for our first Summer 2019 Disneyland Resort construction update and photo tour. As there hasn’t been much progress since our last stroll through the park, this is mostly ‘fun’ photos, with some glamour shots of everyone’s favorite Disney bear, plus the latest developments at Award Wieners, some Schmoozies appreciation, and the return of Soarin’ Over California. Get excited!

Several recent posts have established that Disneyland has been eerily quiet after the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and this trend likewise holds true at Disney California. At least, early in the day. During our recent visits, DCA has been a ghost town until about 11 a.m. This is true even on mornings with 7 a.m. Extra Magic Hour, which is nearly every day. Those extra-early openings to draw crowds away from Disneyland have proved a bit unnecessary.

Later in the day, Disney California Adventure has been getting busier, especially on evenings with Grad Nites. By about mid-afternoon, crowds have been shifting from Disneyland to DCA, resulting in wait times that occasionally reach the triple digits at the headliners like Radiator Springs Racers, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout, and Soarin’ Over California. The good news is that this largely can be avoided by grabbing a FastPass for World of Color early, bouncing from DCA no later than 4 p.m., and returning only for World of Color…

I’m hesitant to offer further strategy because come June 24, 2019, this could all change. I don’t anticipate seismic shifts in DCA touring strategy at that point, but the changes in Disneyland strategy may produce a ripple effect.

As always, we highly recommend Park Hopper tickets when visiting Disneyland Resort. MaxPass is not strictly essential right now given crowds, but if you have the means, it’s a great convenience that you won’t regret purchasing.

Moving along to the one attraction that has seen its wait times spike since the beginning of summer, we arrive at Soarin’ Over California. The local audience has gone wild for the return of the OG Soarin’, with applause upon seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and at the end.

The attraction itself is largely unchanged. The film was updated to a digital projection shortly before being retired, and it still looks crisp and clean. (DCA never had the problem with dust and debris on its film that plagued the Florida version.) The scents, including a new one, are as delightful as ever.

Personally, I hope the run of Soarin’ Over California is extended beyond the summer. I’m not particularly averse to Soarin’ Around the World, but the CGI, cheesy animals, and distortion has worn on me over time. Moreover, I think Soarin’ Over California is not showing its age at all. If anything, it benefits from its footage being real, whereas the extensive CGI of the new version will inevitably date itself much sooner. Plus, DCA benefits from anything that strengthens its California theme.

Over in the old ‘a bug’s land’ area, work continues on the Southern California Super Hero Campus. The first phase of this super hero expansion project will contain a microbrewery/counter service restaurant, merchandise shop, quad space with various avenues, and an interactive 3D dark ride. That last one is being built in the ‘It’s Tough to Be a Bug’ theater, and is expected to be a Spider-Man shooter attraction.

I am personally not expecting this to be even remotely on par with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which is the level of ambition (or close to it) that DCA needs in its future development plans. Hopefully I’m wrong, and this turns into a marquee addition.

If anything, recent changes at DCA have made my opinion of Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout more favorable over time.

I was (and still am) averse to the exterior towering over the rest of the park, but the turnaround Imagineering did on this attraction in a relatively short amount of time is impressive. (Especially when compared to Pixar Pier.) It’s a totally different ride from Tower of Terror–and a pretty good one–not just a simple overlay or rebranding.

Perhaps the most exciting change on the horizon at Disney California Adventure is the refurbishment to Award Wieners’ seating area.

This has become one of my favorite places to eat at Disneyland Resort (seriously!) and I’m hoping the seating area becomes a bit more interesting.

I’m assuming you all spend most of you spend your workdays anxiously refreshing the homepage of this blog, awaiting new posts.

As such, you probably noticed that earlier this week, I accidentally published an Award Wieners Review without adding my most recent meal, the Lava Dog. Fear not, that review will be back up soon with the temporary menu item reviewed!

Nearby, Schmoozies also has a special menu offering up items (I assume?) in celebration of Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

Here’s a quick pic of the Donald Duck doughnut, which we did not order.

We did get the Sorcerer Mickey milkshake, and in typical Schmoozies fashion, it was fantastic.

I’m deeply ashamed that I have yet to review the national treasure that is Schmoozies, but it is a true DCA 1.0 gem. The smoothies and shakes here, while pricey, are generally fantastic.

Speaking of “pricey but fantastic,” the Mediterranean Skewer menu has returned to Paradise Garden Grill after a long hiatus for temporary menus.

This used to be our favorite place to eat at DCA. Skewers were $11 and offered good value. With two price increases (while it wasn’t even open!) this year, I don’t see us eating here again any time soon.

Continuing in Paradise/Pixar Pier, work continues on the Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind ride. You can see the memory orbs featured in Inside Out’s Headquarters above the construction wall, plus new lighting and fixtures, as Emotional Whirlwind crawls towards completion.

This was testing late last week and early this week, but it appears there’s still some queue work to be done. We’d nevertheless expect it to open by July. Woo hoo?

While in Paradise Pier, we’ve noticed a lot of work on the infrastructure for World of Color.

On multiple days, there were boats and divers out working on the platform. In the photo above, it appears that one of the fountains is being removed (or reinstalled).

Speaking of World of Color, it is so good to have this show back.

We typically arrive for our FastPass return 5 minutes before World of Color begins, head to the front row, and choose a spot. Showing up so late, it’s impossible to get a front row spot. That’s fine, as one of my greatest skills is carefully sizing up the crowd and standing behind people who are likely to move to a different spot the first time they’re hit with water. It’s admittedly a dumb thing to be proud of, but my success rate is really high.

During the day, the new Tale of the Lion King is now being performed. The show features a cast of 18 performers who form an ensemble called the Storytellers of the Pride Lands.

It debuted our last day in California, but we didn’t watch it. Here’s what the set looks like.

The best spot in Disney California Adventure for watching Disneyland’s fireworks is one of the benches in Cars Land by Ramone’s House of Body Art that faces Flo’s.

In general, that area of Cars Land is great for soaking up the evening ambiance and people-watching.

Moving along to Grizzly Peak, this back pathway is once again blissful now that the smoking area has been removed.

Seriously, my favorite area of DCA.

You might notice in both the photo above and the one before it that you cannot see the iconic bear mountain that gives Grizzly Peak its name.

This is a real shame. Around the time that DCA had its big relaunch, the trees in Grizzly Peak were trimmed or replaced to restore this view. To my knowledge, they have not been dealt with again since. I love mature trees, but it’s unfortunate that the park’s icon isn’t visible from its best viewpoints in the land where it’s located.

Fortunately, Big Marc is still standing tall, proudly greeting guests.

(You might recall that last Christmas, we basically devoted an entire update to this unnamed bear, dubbing him Big Marc.)

Nothing but respect for my president.

With this, Award Wieners, Schmoozies, and Soarin’ Over California, I think this update has basically hit all of the high points of DCA 1.0 that remain in Disney California Adventure!

In the Grizzly River Run gift shop, there’s (another) new line of merchandise for the attraction.

I am pleased to see Big Marc featured on the sweatshirt design, but I don’t want to wear a quote pulled from a Pinterest inspiration board.

Francisco and Snickers are two cats that basically run this corner of Disney California Adventure.

Think of Grizzly Peak as a constitutional monarchy. Big Marc is the highly visible, symbolic figurehead who inspires the people; these cats are the ones in the trenches, wielding power behind the scenes and getting stuff done.

This video I posted of Francisco was more popular than any of my Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge tweets. As it should be.

That seems like as good of a place as any to end this Disney California Adventure update. Hopefully DCA receives some ‘love’ in terms of an announcement or two at the upcoming D23 Expo. It’s an enjoyable park that we enjoy visiting, but the gap between it and Disneyland is even more pronounced post-Star Wars Land.

If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!


What do you think about Disney California Adventure? Are you a Schmoozies Stan or Award Wieners Aficionado? Excited for the super hero future of the park? Thoughts on the various Grizzly Peak topics in this update? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

17 Responses to “California Adventure Update: Bears, Cats & Hot Dogs OH MY!”
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