Disney California Adventure is a part of California's Disney parks and is designed to recreate the state of California in the 1920s! Also, unlike Disneyland which doesn't serve alcohol, California Adventure does! So it is the place to be on a hot summer day if you're craving a beer or a cocktail by the water.
Buena Vista Street
As you walk in the gates feel as though you've stepped back in time. Buena Vista Street is an architectural recreation of early 1920's California and LA. These shops and restaurants are all styled in the Mission and Art Deco designs of the period. The Carthay Circle Restaurant reminded me of the Mission style churches that I visited in San Francisco. There is even a bright red trolley, mirrored after the original trolleys that ran up and down LA's downtown core. These cars run visitors down Hollywood Boulevard if you're looking to take a load off after walking around this giant park.
As we passed through Buena Vista on our way towards Cars Land, we caught the end the Red Car News Boys show. These cast members, dressed in vintage newspaper vendor caps and clothes, dance on the street to lively, classic jazz tunes with stellar choreography.
One of the main features of Buena Vista Street is their lavish souvenir shops. Each one of these shops are designed to reference classic department stores of 1920's. But my must-stop-shop has to be Trolley Treats! This sweet shop looks like the one from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The candy is tucked away inside little glass jars and behind stylish window displays. Inside you can find some of the best treats in Disney including the ornate character candy apples or some freshly made chocolate fudge! Even if you don't wanna buy a treat you can stand at the window and watch chocolatiers make these magical treats.
The first thing on the agenda this morning was to grab some fast passes for Radiator Springs Racers. This is probably the most popular ride in the park and fast passes usually have run out around 11:00am. We managed to snag a few for the members of our group and went about touring Cars Land while we waited for our fastpass redemption time.
Radiator Springs Racers is a combination dark ride and speed track. Based on Pixar's classic film Cars you drive through the beautiful red coloured mountains of California, have your car painted and readied for racing and finally speed up and down the track, racing against another car adjacent to you. The first half of that ride sound great, but the second half doesn't gel well with my stomach as there are a few big dips.
The rest of Cars land is almost an exact replica of the movie itself. The painted treatment of all the buildings and signage make you feel as though you're in the film. It's that blend of an illustrative dreamland and reality that brings the film to life here. Looking around this place there are so many small details that some people might not even notice that make it seem all the more authentic. The flowers are made of car parts and spare tires can be found all over the place. And best of all, some famous restaurants from the film have been recreated here too in all their delicious glory!
The Cozy Cone Motel features some of the most fun and interesting food in DCA! The Chili Cone Carne is an amazing treat made up of a pretzel cone filled with chili and cheese. Perfection. They also served retro themed iced beverages and yummy flavoured popcorn!
Flo's Diner has to be one of the best themed restaurants in the park. Inside this retro fit diner are meals straight from the 1960's! You can get classic milkshakes so rich you'll need a spoon to drink them! The inside of Flo's is a neon paradise and the outdoor eating area is designed to look like an old fashioned gas station completed with comfy seating for patrons.
There are more rides here in Cars land that aren't quite as intense as Radiator Springs. Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, similar to the tea-cups, is a fun little ride with an adorable design. Luigi's Flying Tires is a bumper car-like ride that seems more confusing that fun but is nonetheless worth a try.
While the adults road Radiator Racers, Tori and I went to meet Lighting McQueen in front of the Cozy Cone Motel. The character meets are so much fun and it was hilarious to see this giant car, rolling around and chatting to kids.
After spending some time in the hot sun while in Cars lands (where there is little shade) I felt like something cold and sweet! I had heard so much about the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop in the Pacific Wharf so we headed there next. The Pacific Wharf is inspired by San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. All the shop front have that old, nautical feel to them. This area is full to the brim with food options. You can grab some craft beer from Karl Strauss' beer truck, chow down on tacos at Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill or just sip on a glass of wine at the Mendocino Terrace.
But we were here for one thing alone and that was good ol' fashioned sundaes from Ghirardelli. When you enter this shop you are overwhelmed with the smell of chocolate. You get a free sample of chocolate just for walking in the door, which will tide you over while you wait for your order. There is a giant menu and picking out which sundae to get so was difficult. In the end, I went for a chocolate brownie sundae, although Dan was fighting hard for the salted caramel one (next time). After being served up our treat we sat on a bench next to the shop and marveled at the creamy treats coming out the door.
After being sated by our sweet treat, we headed over to the Boudin Bakery. I remember Bourdin fondly from my trip to San Francisco and was keen to check out how they make that irresistible bread in DCA! It seems to be the same process and tasted just as amazing. I've had the sourdough bread bowls before while in Disney and have always been more than impressed by the freshness. The video you watch while walking through the mini factory was pretty cheesy but I did enjoy watching how they made Mickey Shaped breads!
After touring the bakery we headed over the Paradise Pier. The view from the Pier is incredible. You can see all the beautiful rides that adorn the edge of the pier and Mickey's big smiling face looking down at your from Mickey's Big Wheel.
Paradise Pier was made to look like the coastal boardwalks of LA like Santa Monica and Santa Cruz. On the opposite side of the lake are many different classic arcade games that are a standard on many boardwalks. The rides themselves, like California Screamin', Mickey’s Big Wheel and Toy Story Mania are all more impressive versions of classic midway games you'd find at any self-respecting water-side arcade.
The man-made lake in the centre of Paradise Pier is where the pyrotechnic show World of Colour is performed nightly. Although we didn't get the chance to check out the show I've seen videos of this technicolour performance and it is out of this world!
Paradise Pier was by far my favourite of all the Lands in DCA. With all of its beautiful popcorn lights and colourful, darling designs, I was simply enchanted. A lot of it reminded me also of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. It's elegant and fun all at the same time.
Plus, Paradise Pier is home to Ariel's Grotto. Ariel's grotto is one of the restaurants in DCA where you can have a princess meet at dinner while looking out over the beautiful waters of Paradise Pier.
Ariel's Undersea Adventure
After wandering the Pier, we headed over to ride Ariel's Undersea Adventure. This was the ride I was most excited for since all my life The Little Mermaid has been my most treasured Disney movie and I couldn’t wait to see what they did with it for the ride. Even the line-up for this ride was wonderful. The building it is housed inside was modeled after a 20th century aquarium - perfectly fitting for the Little Mermaid. There are little mosaics throughout with aquatic themes and a giant mural depicting all our favourite characters from the film.
When we neared the front of the line I squeeled in delight as I saw the adorable little clam shaped cars that were to be our transportation through the ride. The attraction is a dark ride and features different scenes from the move brought to life with dynamic animatronic characters.
As you got into the clam you began to descend backwards, down and down into the sea as a projection of Ariel and the ocean floor came up around you. The Ursala scene was the best part of the ride as she looked so incredibly real. Her body moved like real flesh and her face had advanced animatronics that made her expressions so real.
A Bugs Land
After a tearful (yes, I got a little choked up), ride through the sea, we headed off to Bug's Land. This, as the name states, is based off the movie A Bug's Life. While I'm not much of a fan of A Bug's Life I have to say that the design of this area was so much fun. AS soon as you step through the gates, you feel as though you've been shrunken down to the size of a bug. Big leaves hang over your head and oversized crayons, Christmas lights and more are scattered across the place. It reminded me more of Honey I Shrunk the Kids (one of my all time favourite movies) and there was something truly enchanting about seeing the world from such a different perspective.
Most of the rides here are meant for the little kids but they are pretty creative and some of them are really funny. We rode Heimlich's Chew Chew Train which was pretty short was but made us laugh, and we only had to wait a few minutes to jump on. You ride on top of Hemlich as he adventure through many different giant pieces of food he finds along the way. As you pass by these pieces of food, scented air is blown towards you that matches the foods you’re passing by. It's a completely immersive experience and a very unique aspect to the ride.
Night Time in DCA
After Bugs Land, we walked over to the Paradise Pier. Once night hits DCA, the place seems to almost transform. The light simply danced over the water and neon lights were sparkling across the sky!
We hit up the boardwalk right away and took a ride on King Triton's Carousel of the Sea! Carousels are some of my favourite kinds of rides but unique versions of them are even better. I like more than just simple horses to ride on and so this ride was just for me! King Triton's carousel features adorable sea creatures like sea lions, dolphins, and whales instead of horses. They are all brightly coloured and just plain adorable.
Plus this ride is never very busy so usually you can jump right on. We had a lovely romantic jaunt riding this delightful carousel as music played and the light twinkled in the background. If you walk along the boardwalk you can play various different carnival games interspersed by some charmingly themed souvenir shops.
Toy Story Midway Mania
Our favourite ride of the day would have to have been Toy Story Midway Mania. Even though we waited in line for what seemed like forever (mainly due to the ride breaking down at one point) it was such a blast. You spun around in giant cars shooting at different 3D projections throughout the ride. As you spun around from screen to screen there were huge scenes from the Toy Story universe throughout making for both an interactive and dark ride! What fun. Plus, I got the highest score, so you know, that was cool too...
Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta and Corn Dog Castle
As the evening drew to a close, it was time to get something to eat. We went to the Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta Pavillion and the Corn Dog Castle. The Boardwalk Pasta was surprisingly delicious for essentially fast food pasta. But it wasn't mushy or flavorless. On the contrary, it was full of spices, savory cheese and cooked to perfection. The building was all decked out in Art Deco loveliness, that wasn't too shabby either. The Corn Dog Castle is something that is long talked about as being amazing and it lived up to expectations. Crispy, soft and warm all at the same time, it was just the right thing to eat as the night brought a slight chill to air.
To cap the night off, Dan rode the Twilight Tower of Terror. I was, of course, too scared to ride it. Knowing I'd puke all over this thing I decided to wait outside and admire it from below. It's an amazing piece of architecture. The lobby is gilded in bronze and gold and has within it that feeling of an old Hollywood haunting. I wish I could have gone on the ride and simply got off before that terrifying fall but alas you aren't allowed to do that. It was Dan's favourite ride of the day so I can only imagine how awesome it was to experience. The view from the top of the tower alone is such a perfect view of DCA at night....maybe one day I will be able to handle it but for now...no way.
While Dan was on the ride I walked around Hollywood Land. Hollywood Land has many building facades facing the street, each one inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930's and designed to look like an old Hollywood backlot complete with painted backdrops. It was a lovely little street to wander along, the lamplight all aglow and couples walking hand in hand.
Soon enough, it was time to go. With one last look out over the pier we bid adieu to DCA!