California Adventure 2020

Our third day at Disneyland was split into two parts: California Adventure in the morning and early afternoon, then Disneyland proper in the evening. The entrance to California Adventure is right across from Disneyland’s and has an interesting history of being considered one of the worst Disney parks when it originally opened. Much of the park was built on a very low budget and didn’t live up to the Disney standard, but I feel that it has grown significantly in the past few years into an enjoyable experience. This is a park that I love to watch adapt and I can’t wait to compare this post to the one I write 20 years in the future!

California Adventure consists of several smaller themed sections. You enter the park onto Buena Vista Street (lined with shops and entertainers immersing you into the experience). Then you can spread out into the many different mini-worlds: Hollywood Land, Cars Land, Pacific Wharf, Pixar Pier, Grizzly Peak, and Paradise Garden Park. Plus, soon to open is the highly anticipated Marvel Avenger’s Campus (which took the place of A Bug’s Land – we were actually there on its closing weekend in 2018).

You could easily spend a full day there exploring all that California Adventure has to offer, but Adam and I were inclined to skip a few of the rides as we had spent some time there in 2018. Plus, there is a replica of the most popular ride – Soarin’ – at Disney World, and didn’t feel the need to go on it again. I think that is part of the reason California Adventure is not as popular as other parks – the rides often don’t include the same Disney nostalgia as they were originally more generically themed as “California.” Infamously, the park opened in 2001 with a ride called Superstar Limo that closed in less than a year due to its poor performance and reviews. It was replaced with a much more successful, lighthearted adventure called Monster’s, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! that is still a must-ride for me on every trip.

Recently, they have pushed their re-theming even further. The Hollywood Tower of Terror became Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! which will soon be absorbed into the brand new Marvel Avenger’s Campus. (Those who love the original ride can still enjoy a superior version of it in Disney World.)

Plus, in 2018 they re-themed Paradise Pier to Pixar Pier and the improvements were significant. Now, that portion of the park is filled with characters that we love. There is loads of color and beautiful art everywhere you turn. It feels Disney and I think that is essential when you pay so much to visit a theme park.

On Pixar Pier is a sweet little restaurant called The Lamplight Lounge, which was a delightful break in our day. We didn’t quite know what to expect when we made a reservation, but both the food and the atmosphere were lovely. I vividly remember watching the Incredicoaster over and over as we enjoyed our drinks and meal. All the menus and decorations were themed with sketches from Pixar films, which set such an endearing mood. Plus, the food was GREAT. We were incredibly glad we took the time to try something new.

Speaking of the Incredicoaster, we love, love, LOVE this re-theme! Hands down the most thrilling traditinal roller coaster at Disneyland was called California Screamin’. With the re-theme, it became the Incredicoaster and it is even better now. Not only does it include the same track and thrills as California Screamin’, but it incorporates a story from the beloved film The Incredibles as the whole family tries to chase down Jack Jack. When you get off the ride, the smell of cookies greets you as there is a food kiosk called Jack-Jack Cookie Num Nums right at the exit that serves the most decadent, warm chocolate chip cookies.

Snack-wise, we also tried out Corn Dog Castle, which is right off Pixar Pier in Paradise Garden Park. This is not a section of the park that we normally spend a lot of time in, but it was worth it for these yummy corn dogs! They were a great snack and between these, the cookie, and The Lamplight Lounge, we were pretty set for the day food-wise. It’s worth it to do some research before heading to the park about places you would like to try out to fill those mid-day hangry urges, so you don’t end up buying a $7 mediocre hot dog from a food truck like we did during our 2018 trip.

Generally speaking, my first stop in California Adventure (after coffee, of course) is to the Disney Animation Building in Hollywood Land. This enchanting place isn’t an attraction, per se. I would more consider it more of an experience. There is lots of paths and nooks to explore. This is where they host the charming Turtle Talk with Crush, Anna and Elsa’s Meet & Greet, and a super fun 30-minute animation class where you can learn to draw Disney characters. Tucked away down one of the paths is Belle’s library, the enchanted mirror, and the Sorcerer’s Workshop which has lots of fun “sorcerer” knick knacks you can touch and play with. Disney Animation is a place that is easy to miss due to the multitude of other attractions around the park, but it is definitely worth spending some time there. We were tired, so we just sat on one of the many benches in the main lobby area for 15 minutes and took in the area around us while we drank coffee and woke up.

There is definitely a whole other post’s worth of stuff I could dig into about things we love and don’t love about California Adventure. I haven’t even gotten into the brilliance of Cars Land in this post! But this is already getting long and I still have to break down Part 2 of our day. California Adventure is definitely worth a visit and worth more time than we spent there on this trip. Maybe next time we will go 4 days to Disneyland and really do it right! I am impressed that they continue to put resources into improving California Adventure. I have already seen a great amount of growth in the past 10 years and I can’t wait to see it’s continued transformation.

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