“Can we live in Radiator Springs pleeease?” – a Review of the Brilliantly New and Improved Disney California Adventure

It was about halfway through our trip to LA that we realised we couldn’t have timed our visit better.  One of the main reasons for our trip was to visit Disneyland California, as we’d already been to Walt Disney World Orlando twice and I’d been to Paris; we also wanted to go to Vegas, and so we thought, why not combine it with a trip to LA and therefore Disney California?  We decided to excitedly book for June 2012.  We knew that Disney California Adventure’s new Cars Land would be opening the week we went, but, wow, what a week to pick – Cars Land exceeded all of our expectations and more, and was coupled with the grand reopening of Buena Vista Street – we couldn’t have timed it better if we’d tried! 
Lands of plenty
My husband and I are self confessed Disney nutters.  But I have to say, walking into Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim, Orange County, I was blown away – the attention to detail is incredible, and really is what sets Disney aside from it’s competitors, creating magic and excitement at every turn.  Each of the different ‘lands’ within the park has a unique feel and has been beautifully created; from Grizzly Peak, where you feel like you’re in an authentic American national park (with the added bonus of theme park rides thrown in), to the old fashioned seaside amusement park Paradise Pier and through to touching down in Condor Flats, a remote desert strip where new and innovative ways of flying are tested, you truly feel like you’re immersed in the theme for each individual land – and yet, they flow together seamlessly to create one amazing theme park.

 

Grizzly Peak
Paradise Pier
New and improved
The two lands which have received the most attention recently are the newly reopened Buena Vista Street and the fantastically brilliant Cars Land.  Buena Vista Street transports the visitor back to 1923 and the Los Angeles that Walt Disney would have found himself in when he arrived in the city.  It’s created from shady avenues, art deco store fronts, Spanish roof tiles and pretty mosaics.  There’s a laid back feel to this land – stroll along in the sunshine as a vintage trolley car rolls by, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for the passengers on board the trollies – you may be lucky enough to catch a performance by the Broadway-style Red Car News Boys in Carthay Circle (“California, here we come!”) or the Five and Dime jazz quintet and vocalist, who might just be accompanied by special guest Goofy, dressed appropriately for the occasion and era!
Five & Dime
With Goofy, in appropriate attire!
Cars Land – let’s all move to Radiator Springs!
The highlight of California Adventure, for me, and I suspect for many others in the coming months, was the new land Cars Land.  As soon as you step into this area, you’re immediately greeted by the towering desert mountains surrounding the land – the attention to detail is incredible, Disney have managed to create a whole mountain range using colour to create perspective. 
The incredible backdrop to Radiator Springs
In front of the mountains, you’ve got the town of Radiator Springs, featuring many colourful shops and restaurants and the fabulous Radiator Springs Racers.  This brand new ride involves sitting in two rows of three within a car (made, of course, to look like it’s stepped straight out of the Disney Pixar film ‘Cars’) which transports the rider to a backstage area where the animatronics are like no other experience.  Lightning McQueen, TowMater et al are all there to greet the rider; the ‘realness’ of the characters is incredible (they almost look soft or spongy to the touch, emphasising their likeness to the film charachters) with their computer generated eyes and mouths moving realistically as they talk to you.  You’re then taken into a staging area – of which there are two, so you will experience a different ride to the car next to you – where your tires are changed or your bodywork is  spray painted in preparation for the race.  And then you’re through the doors and lined up with another car-full of eager riders, and before you know it, you’re off on an exhilarating ride, racing against the people next to you!  The ride has the perfect balance – interest and a gentle start suffused with all of the usual Disney magic, followed by a thrill ride – it’s just right!
Radiator Springs Racers – that’s my husband on the far left at the front!  We used the ‘single riders’ queue to beat the 3.5hr queues experienced on the day after Cars Land’s opening, meaning that we only queued for 40 minutes and also that we ended up racing each other!
Other thrills and spills for the visitor
There are also two other great rides within Cars Land.  Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is a modern day Cars-themed version of the classic teacups ride.  Luigi’s Flying Tires are huge tires (as the name suggests!) which float on a bed of air – think a giant air hockey table with you sitting on it.  The tires are controlled by the two people sitting within leaning in the direction in which they wish to travel.  There’s also the added, and somewhat weird, bonus of the giant beach balls on this ride – we couldn’t see any other reason to have them on the ride other than to throw them at each other and for the brightly coloured spectacle they create when the tires bump into a bunch of them – nevertheless, they all added to the sense of fun!  Of a night time, Cars Land really comes to life as the whole area is lit up with neon lights – it’s beautiful and colourful and mesmerising and fun all in one go.  The Cozy Cone Motel is particularly eye catching, as it consists of giant neon orange traffic cones!
Luigi’s flying tyres

 

One of the giant beach balls on Luigi’s flying tyres!

 

Cars Land by night!

All in all, the newly revamped and reopened Disney California Adventure is one of Disney’s triumphs.  It’s true that this was our first visit and therefore we can’t tell if it’s an improvement on its previous version, but we have been to Walt Disney World and, for me at least, this was one of the best Disney parks I’ve ever been too.  The attention to detail has always been what has set Disney apart from its competitors, making the parks truly magical, and not just any old theme park.  California Adventure is no exception.  It’s as if Disney have taken the best bits from Walt Disney World (think Muppet*Vision 3D, the rapids, It’s Tough to be a Bug, Toy Story Mania) and a lot of other brilliant extra bits besides and created one fabulous park.  I’ve come away from the experience with one question for my husband repeatedly on my lips: “Can we live in Radiator Springs pleeease?”!!!

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