Disney’s California Adventure is the other park at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA. It opened in 2001 and attracted few visitors. Many criticized its “dull” theme and its focus on shops and restaurants as opposed to rides. My parents and I loved the park, however, finding it relaxing and interesting, and we enjoyed the high quality of the attractions.
The first ride we rode was the Golden Zephyr. A calm, slow, swing-type ride, riders board small rockets, holding 12 people each, instead of individual state fair style swings. As with many of the rides at California Adventure, there was no line at all. This ride was not particularly exciting or interesting, though it was a nice moment to sit down, and offered a good view of the Paradise Pier section of the park.
The Orange Stinger is a classic state fair swing ride set inside a giant orange. It is modeled after the theme of bees flying around inside an orange (how do bees fly inside an orange?) and the sound of buzzing bees accompanies the ride (which is the only downside, apart from the annoying ride attendant encouraging everyone to scream). I’ve always been a big fan of swing rides, and my father and I rode this twice. As with many rides in the Paradise Pier section of the park, it offers a good view (out the openings in the orange) of both the entire area and of the nearby roller coaster. One word of caution: if you ever find yourself riding this ride when it is not full (as we did), be sure to guard yourself from having your knee demolished by an empty swing at the end of the ride.
I had never ridden a Wild Mouse roller coaster before this trip, though I had often wanted to at fairs and other such places. Mulholland Madness (named after a famous street in LA) is an off-the-shelf Wild Mouse coaster, but I still found it very enjoyable. As with the above rides, there was nothing especially unique or Disney-esque about it, but it was fun.
We had to wait until day 2 to ride the Sun Wheel, an enormous Ferris wheel, because the line was too long on day 1. This was one of the more unique (and frightening) rides we encountered at California Adventure. Instead of each car swinging on a fixed pivot, like a normal Ferris wheel, each car was allowed to glide along a track fixed to the wheel. This track was oval shaped and allowed a fast (and sometimes rather rough) swinging motion during the ride. While fun and interesting, the ride was rather frightening due to its abrupt swings and its lack of seat restraints, forcing us to hold on so as to not fall out of our seats (each car was completely enclosed, to keep people from falling out of the ride). I am not sure I would ride this again, but I’m glad we rode it once, and it was by far the most exciting Ferris wheel I’ve ever ridden.
Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sully to the Rescue!
This “dark ride” replaced the most unsuccessful ride in Disney history, Superstar Limo, which was open for less than a year after the park first opened. The Monsters, Inc. ride was designed to use the same track and space as Superstar Limo, and basically takes the rider through various scenes from the movie. The animatronics are very realistic (due to the fact that this is one of the newest “dark rides” at any Disney park) and the scene with all the moving doors from the movie is especially creative. This ride is found in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area of the park, and is tucked in a corner where it is difficult to find. It was enjoyable but lacked the magic of the classic Disney “dark rides”.
Soarin’ Over California
Soarin’ Over California is probably the most successful rides at California Adventure, and as a result had the longest line. Soarin’ (which was recently copied at Epcot in Orlando, FL for Disney’s Happiest Celebration on Earth) is a simulator where riders hang from a vehicle resembling a giant hang-glider, which is in front of an OMNIMAX dome which shows aerial footage of various locations in California. The visuals, and the music by Jerry Goldsmith, are stunning, and the ride truly gives the sensation of flying. In addition to sight and sound, touch and smell are also incorporated into this ride, with gusts of wind timed to the video and scents matched to the locations. I wish the ride could move people through faster, so as to make the line shorter, but it is still worth the wait.
(Note: Among the locations the riders are flown over is the Anza-Borrego State Park, which is where my quarry is located.)
Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular
I’ve always been a bit wary of the short, live, musical versions of Disney animated movies found at every Disney park. I was somewhat surprised when my dad suggested that we step into this show, as it was about to start when we walked by. It was performed in a remarkably constructed theater which was very classy and elegant. The show told the entire story of the movie Aladdin, performing every song and a few new ones. The performer who played the Genie was one of the highlights, improvising and joking his way through the show. (A baby started crying at one point, while the Genie was talking to Jafar, and the Genie said, “You know, that baby’s crying because of you,” getting a huge laugh from the audience.) It is a testament to the power of the movie, when the “A Whole New World” scene, complete with an awesome flying carpet, got me as choked up as the scene in the movie does. Perhaps I should give some of the other “Musical Spectaculars” at other Disney parks a chance.
Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3D
This classic 3D movie, copied from Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, is one of my favorite all-time attractions. I have seen it more times than I can remember, I know all the dialogue of both the actual show and the pre-show entertainment, and it can still make me laugh every time. Boasting a wonderful script, great performances, and innovative special effects, this is one of the best 3D attractions out there. Of particular note, Beaker and the Swedish Chef are hilarious as always, Bean Bunny is SO adorable, and Gonzo is classic (Sam the Eagle: “Will you stop this foolishness!”, Gonzo: “What foolishness would you like to see?”). I will always make a point of seeing this show whenever I have the chance. It should also be noted that this was the last time Jim Henson ever voiced Kermit the Frog (or the Swedish Chef or Waldorf) before he died.
Of all the attractions at Disney’s California Adventure, California Screamin’ (a parody of the classic song “California Dreamin’”) was the most exciting and fun. California Screamin’ is a modern, steel roller coaster modeled after the classic style wooden roller coaster. The riders board the coaster, which proceeds down from the loading area to the lakefront (literally about 2 feet off the water) next to the pier where it stops. There is a countdown and then linear induction motors (think magnets) are used to rapidly accelerate the coaster (0-55 mph in 4.5 seconds) up the first hill and into the ride. The coaster reaches a maximum speed of 61 mph, and travels a path reminiscent of a classic wooden coaster. The highlight of the ride is the single loop, which takes place right in front of a giant stylized Mickey ears designed into the coaster structure (you should see the picture my mom got of my father and I upside down, it is incredible, and if someone could help me figure out how to post a picture on to LJ, I’ll show it to everyone). This is a good coaster for anyone who might want to try a modern, fast coaster, but is afraid of loops and twists, since this only has one simple loop. This is by far on of the best coasters I have ever ridden, if not the best (Incredible Hulk at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando might be the best, it’s a tough call).