Hello everyone and welcome to my first travel series here on thedailyspotlight.com. Over the past month I have had the opportunity to travel to both Walt DisneyWorld in Orlando, Florida as well as the Disney Parks in California. Thus, every Sunday I’m going to be shining the spotlight on a different Disney park or something else Disney, related to the theme parks. This 8 part series will attempt to look at both the good and maybe not so good of the Disney parks. The goal here is to get you geared up if you’re planning on vacationing to the most magical place on earth sometime this summer. So without any further ado let’s get things started with Disney’s California Adventure.
My girlfriend and I recently went to Disney’s California Adventure on a trip through California. I always feel that because the parks are smaller, the Disney parks in California tend to be be overlooked but shouldn’t be. California Adventure fell on our sixth day of the trip and it was a real highlight of our trip. We ended up doing California Adventure the day after we went to Disneyland and while we enjoyed Disneyland more, California Adventure also had it’s perks. Let’s get into some of the highlights and some closing thoughts on Disney’s California Adventure Theme Park.
1) Ariel’s Grotto- I booked Ariel’s Grotto for my girlfriend’s birthday and I’ll say that she felt just as special celebrating her 27th birthday with the Disney Princesses that many of the kids celebrating their birthday the same day. The restaurant is set up with both an indoor and an outdoor location but I chose the indoor for the “Under The Sea” decor and it added to the experience. The dining experience started with my girlfriend getting a crown for her birthday and a photo/ meet & greet with Ariel. We made our way to our seats when a knight came out to sing some Disney classics and again had the birthday celebrators stand for acknowledgement. From there four different Disney Princesses made there way out one by one, Belle, Tiana, Rapunzel & Cinderella. By staggering out the princesses, it really added to the experience as it kept us guessing who was next throughout the meal. Once they arrived, the princesses walked to each table and were sure to spend a little time with each and every table while taking photos. It was a great experience, not priced horribly at $40 for a meal, drink & dessert, and the food was also really good
2) Aladdin Live- If you live in NY you know that Aladdin recently went live on Broadway. Well, I haven’t seen the show and now don’t have to because included if your admission to California Adventure is a free 50 minute Broadway like play of Aladdin Live. These are things Disney does that I love and that they don’t have to do as they can easily charge separately for the show but it’s especially great for people who don’t love rides. This show was top notch and they added fun modern tidbits that added to the enjoyment of Aladdin.
3) Thrill Rides- Whereas Disneyland is about the nostalgia & the classic rides, Disney’s California Adventure is much more about the more modern & thrill rides which is why the park is such a great companion park to Disneyland. From California Screamin to Radiator Springs Racers (my favorite ride, maybe in all of the Disney Parks) to Mickey’s fun wheel and of course The Tower Of Teror, the thrill rides are really a highlight of this park.
4) Dedication- When we went to California Adventure, the little mermaid ride was down for three hours and the Radiator Springs Racers were down for 11 hours. It would have been easy for the rides to be shut down for the day but the team worked around the clock to make sure the rides reopened and that everyone got to ride them if they stayed in the park for them. Furthermore, there were cast members positioned at the start of the line who were so polite in continuing to answer every time that the ride was being worked on with a smile despite everyone, I’m sure, asking repeatedly when it would reopen.
5) Anna & Elsa- let me first start off with two pieces of advice 1) if you want fast passes to meet Anna & Elsa get them as soon as you enter the park, we got them at 10am & our return time was for 5:30. 2) if you don’t get fast passes, prepare because this will be your longest wait of the day. The good news though is that your wait will be in a really cool holding area where they play classic Disney videos. Ok Advice over, Anna & Elsa were fantastic. They didn’t rush us at all and had so much enthusiasm, it was infectious. They also have commitment to the character so much so that you can’t help but believe. Kudos to them as well because I’m sure they meet thousands of people everyday, hours on end. Likewise, the cast members were all so pleasant. My girlfriend and I had conversations with a number of cast members who went out of there way to ask how we were and where we were from, they were also sure to wish my girlfriend a happy birthday. They made the wait we did have fly right by.
6) The Pixar Parade- who doesn’t love a Disney parade? Whether it be the annual Christmas parade on ABC or the midday parade at the magic kingdom, parades are a pretty big part of Disney theme parks. Being that California adventure is focused on newer Disney movies, the parade is indicative of that. Disneys Pixar parade focuses more on the newer classics made by Pixar. While I’m a sucker for the nostalgia of Mickey Mouse, it was both different & interesting to see the characters from Cars & Toy Story prominently featured in a parade setting.
1) No FastPasses For MidWay Mania- Toy Story’s Midway Mania is a great ride that has the longest line throughout the day but for some reason there is no option to fastpass the ride. With such few fastpass options in California Adventure, there’s no reason that a limited number of FastPasses should not be distributed.
2) Only One World Of Color- As with all Disney theme parks there is a fireworks show to end the night in the park. World of Color is, like all Disney fireworks shows, tremendous. However, there is only one World Of Color show each night and it happens at the end of the night a half hour before the park closes. They also need to shut down about half of the park rides in order to make sure that they can put the show on. As you can imagine, this leads to thousands of people clamoring together to see the show and then a major delay leaving the park. Over in Disneyland, literal footsteps away, there are two showings of Fantasmic. What this allows for is people can catch the first show or the second and so it isn’t as crowded. Disney’s California Adventure can easily do this by extending the hours of the park to closing at midnight. One thing I’ve never been a fan of is one park closing earlier than the other. It makes said park, in this case California Adventure, seem less important. When ticket prices are the same for both parks, so too should the hours of operation.
3) Bugs Land- I should point out that I personally enjoyed Bugs Land. The land itself is aesthetically pleasing & the “It’s Tough To Be A Bug” 4D ride is a lot of fun. That said, it seems that people are over it. My girlfriend & I were able to go in and out of Bugs Land in mere minutes which is great but it also means that more popular areas in the park, like Cars Land are too congested. It makes sense too as it does seem that the Bugs Life franchise gets as much of push from the people in Disney as other franchises such as Cars, Toy Story, the Disney Princesses or Frozen. I personally don’t expect Bugs Land to be a part of the park five years from now.
That’s going to do it for the spotlight on Disney’s California Adventure but have no fear I’ll be back next week with another disney park to take a look at. If you have any feedback from your visit to California Adventure I’d love to here it, likewise if you have any questions about California Adventure or any of the other disney theme parks please feel free to ask.