First of all – before I say anything else – Get the Genie+. It was $20 each and it saved us hours and hours of waiting by giving us Lightning Lane on almost every ride, gave pretty good suggestions and also gave us the ride photos for free. 100% worth it even if the cost were higher.
This was my first time going to Disneyland California Adventure. My last trip to Disneyland was visiting the Disneyland side in 2018 and before that trips were in the 1980s when there was just one park and a huge parking lot. Those trips in the 1980s were fun (and involved LSD once which was more than fun) but there was nothing like taking a pre-k princess through the Disneyland side of things. Still, this trip was beautiful in a different way. This time it was just me and my daughter, now ten years old. She’s starting to get ‘cool’ with friends and tween-ness but she’s still at an age where she can have fun with me as we explored rides, took in shows, and had a blast. It was just the two of us this time and I suspect it will be a trip that both of us will remember fondly forever.
We ignored the gate attendant who told us to go to Cars Land first to avoid crowds – he was probably right but everyone else seemed to be rushing there too so instead we went to Goofy’s Flight School where we found no one. In fact, that whole side of the park was empty. We started with Goofy’s Flight School because she was still nervous about rollercoasters. It was short but fun and got her adrenaline flowing.
Next we went to the Incredicoaster. This is without a doubt my favorite rollercoaster ever. It was the perfect combination of thrills and speed. This was also Sophia’s favorite ride and we managed to ride it three times in our day there. The other rides in the Pixar Pier and Paradise Gardens Park were okay – The Little Mermaid and Toy Story Midway Mania were good – animatronics and 3-D stuff are really good (of course) at every Disney attraction. The huge Ferris wheel with sliding gondolas may not have been worth the wait.
Cars Land was so visually astounding it was hard not to love it. The line for the Radiator Springs Racers was 90 minutes by the time we go there and our Genie+ wouldn’t get us in the Lightning Lane so I opted to pay $18 each to skip the queue. I probably would have happily paid $36 for this ride anywhere else, it was really good. The gate attendant was right – if we’d have rushed there and started our day there it would have been a smart move – still, having the Pixar Pier and Paradise Gardens Park completely to ourselves was actually more than worth the $36 I spent on this fun ride. The other rides and attractions in Cars Land – they were cute.
The Avengers Campus was neat. We enjoyed the various shows there – especially the Wakanda Warriors and Doctor Strange – but also the funny Guardians of the Galaxy, Spiderman, and Black Widow shows were fun to watch. We found a lag in the Spiderman web slingers queue and waited 45 minutes for it rather than paying $15 each to avoid the line. This was a 3-D action game and while it was fun, I would not wait 45 minutes or pay $15 to do it again. The Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout on the other hand was an amazing ride. This was easily our second favorite. Lightning Line saved us on this one and we rode it twice.
Hollywood Land was my favorite of the various sections (a close second was Avengers Campus). We took a Disney Art Class, watched the Philharmagic 3-D film, talked with Crush the Turtle in a very fun show/experience, created a short animation, and found out our Disney alter-egos – Sophia is Mulan and I’m apparently Scar (hint: if you select I eat nice people for lunch instead of I eat lunch with nice people – you get a villain).The Monsters Inc. ride was a slow animatronic/3-D thing that was not particularly memorable.
It was a cool day and we didn’t want to spend it wet so we waited for the right moment to do the Grizzly River Run – it was fun and had some big drops but if you want water rides, I feel like Knotts does them better. Soaring over California was an amazing ride. It does a good job of showcasing what an amazing state California is – there are so few places like it and it has so much. The Redwoods Challenge Trail was a fun aside – especially if you haven’t had the chance to spend time in the Redwoods or Northern California.
The Pacific Wharf and Buena Vista Street both felt like what they were – Disnified places to shop and eat. The food throughout the park was plentiful and pretty good – not gouge priced but higher than you would pay at a mall or local eatery.
We spent a long day at Disney California Adventure – the only let down was that the nightly water and light show has been cancelled until the 22nd of April. If I had known that at the outset, we probably wouldn’t have stayed until closing – but hey…we did it – from open to close.
Was this better than Disneyland? I don’t think so – the Disneyland Park has Star Wars, all the classic stuff, and a lot of emotional cache – this was fun though and I think it is definitely worth doing at least once. I’m very glad we had the chance to do it and I’ll never regret it.
Top 5 Experiences / Attractions
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout
Radiator Springs Racers
Disney Animation Class
Soaring Over California