How much can change at a theme park in 20 years? Plenty.
When Disney California Adventure opened in 2001, the reviews came across as, well, scathing.
People expected more from Disney and recognized the obvious cost-cutting measures on display.
What a difference new leadership makes. When Bob Iger earned the CEO gig at Disney, he committed to improving all the parks.
Now, Disney California Adventure operates the most exciting themed land in North America and many other E-ticket attractions.
Here’s an introduction to Disney California Adventure, Disneyland’s younger sibling that is finally walking its own path.
About Disney California Adventure
During the 1990s, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner envisioned himself as the best Disney executive since Uncle Walt himself.
Eisner believed that he could cement his legacy by adding another Disneyland park worthy of the Happiest Place on Earth.
Alas, Eisner stretched himself too thin and nearly wrecked Disney’s finances in the process. As a result, some of his expansion plans fell flat.
Others like Disney’s Animal Kingdom required too much capital and had to push some projects into “Phase Two” instead.
So, the opening day of Disney California Adventure (DCA) proved as popular as ants at a picnic.
Thankfully, Disney has since introduced enough worthy attractions here that you won’t run out of things to do during a visit.
Plus, the restaurants here emphasize the culinary brilliance of California cuisine. So, you’ll eat well, too.
There’s even one restaurant that might give you vertigo with its unique offerings. It’s in the themed land that you’re most likely to visit: Avengers Campus.
Yes, Disney’s newest themed land in the world anchors Disney California Adventure.
About the theming
The park debuted with the theme it utilizes now: The Golden State! Yes, Disney California Adventure’s theme is…California.
Somehow, the idea works, though. The redwood trees and other staples of the state create a lush backdrop. There’s even a play area called Redwood Creek Trail.
Some of the attractions like Grizzly River Run highlight the theme masterfully. In fact, one of Disney’s greatest attractions exists because of the California theme.
Imagineers designed Soarin’ Over California to display the state’s natural beauty.
Even though Disney has since updated the attraction as Soarin’ Around the World, the California version still plays at times.
Still, Disney officials recognized by the early attendance that the California theme wasn’t exactly pulling them in quickly.
In 2012, the park added a new expansion that fundamentally changed the perception of DCA.
Cars Land lovingly recreates the world of Radiator Springs from the movie, Cars.
After the success of this project, Disney committed to more intellectual properties at DCA.
As of now, the park has split into two primary components, Pixar and Marvel. If those two things appeal to you, you’ll love a DCA visit.
About the Rides
A park guest from 2001 wouldn’t even recognize Disney California Adventure today.
Many of the park’s rides genuinely qualify as E-ticket attractions. Disney has made some bold decisions with its re-theming and new ride creations.
A few years ago, you would have found Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the Sun Wheel, and California Screamin’.
Now, those same ride structures have changed to reflect the new dual Pixar/Marvel theming.
In their place, you’ll discover Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!, the Pixar Pal-A-Round, and the Incredicoaster.
Admittedly, not much has changed the Pixar Pal-A-Round. Of course, you’ll stare at Pixar characters as you ride, but it’s still a unique variant of a Ferris wheel.
Conversely, the Incredicoaster and Mission: BREAKOUT! have changed dramatically despite utilizing the same space as the old rides.
Now, you’ll watch the Parr family try to recover a super-baby, all while you’re riding an intense roller coaster.
Meanwhile, Tower of Terror’s former elevator ride element has transitioned to tell an entirely new MCU story.The Guardians of the Galaxy face off against a monster last seen in the second movie.
A rock soundtrack accompanies the action. Remarkably, the song you hear determines which story the ride will tell. It’s extremely impressive.
Of course, an old-school attraction remains one of the primary draws as well.
Radiator Springs Racers is legitimately the ride that put DCA back on the map in 2012. If not for it, the park may not have survived.
Thankfully, this slot car dark ride variant is a masterpiece of storytelling and theme park design. It’s a can’t miss ride during your visit.
As for Soarin’, it’s always a must…but ride Soarin’ Over California if you can!
About Avengers Campus
Disney opened Avengers Campus during the pandemic in 2021.
The timing on this place got messed up, as Disney had previously announced a 2020 debut only days before COVID-19 shut down society in 2020.
This extra year provided imagineers with some extra time to perform touch-ups. I also suspect that some dining ideas improved dramatically during the downtime.
The primary draw of Avengers Campus is its newest attraction, WEBSLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure.
This ride works similarly to Buzz Lightyear attractions in that your ride cart takes you through an obstacle course of sorts.
Along the way, you aim and fire at various targets. The difference with WEBSLINGERS is that you don’t use a toy gun.
Your “weapons” are your hands, as you web-sling just like Peter Parker. Better aim means a higher score…and a higher score means more calories burned.
Seriously, this ride is highly interactive, and you may work up a sweat by trying your hardest.
Of course, rides represent only a small part of Avengers Campus. You’ll also find character interactions with many of your favorites from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Some of them, like Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Black Widow, and the Dora Milaje, even host shows where they demonstrate their abilities.
In fact, Disney has frequently added new appearances whenever another character joins the MCU. Even obscure ones from What If…? episodes have shown up at Avengers Campus. Disney ensures that this place always has fresh entertainment options.
About the Food
I intentionally skipped one aspect of Avengers Campus in the last section to discuss it now. Pym Test Kitchen at DCA is one of the weirdest restaurants on the planet.
The conceit here is that chefs use Pym Particles to alter the size of various menu items. So if the idea of a massive pretzel or chicken sandwich appeals to you, THIS is the place.
You’ll also discover some upscale dining options at DCA. A less-heralded theme of the park is the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Carthay Circle, the Lamplight Lounge, and Wine Country Trattoria will satisfy all diehard foodies.
Meanwhile, Pixar fans will delight in some of the dining options like Flo’s V-8 Café, Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats, Angry Dogs, and Jack-Jack Cookie Num-Nums.
Fans of good theming and even better theming will treasure the menus at Disney California Adventure’s restaurants.
Thanks for visiting MickeyBlog.com! Want to go to Disney? For a FREE quote on your next Disney vacation, please fill out the form below and one of the agents from MickeyTravels, a Platinum level Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, will be in touch soon!
Feature Photo: LA Times