California Adventure Minus The Cars

photo 3We had high expectation upon entering Disney’s California Adventure. I had first seen the theme park during our last visit to Disneyland when Sabrina was four, but that was just from the outside. What lay on the other side of the sprawling Disney property, away from the Castle and It’s A Small World? In 2005 I only guessed before running the normal gauntlet of princesses, animals in human clothing and pirates that is Disneyland proper.

This is why I jumped at a chance for a free day with Sabrina, my girlfriend and her five year daughter when the new Cars Land opened in Disney’s California Adventure. We weren’t the first to visit, like my friend Debbie of Delicious Baby who snagged a sneak preview before the new land opened to the public. Her view and mine were quite different.

For one thing, we never went on the Radiator Springs Racers, the premier ride at CarsLand. Why? 2.5 hour wait in the sun. There is some shade along the slithering, python-like waiting pen, but not a lot. Not enough that a five year old would not melt into a puddle of “How much longer”. Heck, I didn’t want to wait in that long of a line. When we asked about the coveted Fast Pass which allows for skipping the line, more or less, we were told they sold out by 9:12am. The park opens at 9:00am. This was, after all, July, known as ‘high-season’ for the park.

The speedway looked fun, but we skipped it. Sabrina and I opted for Luigi’s Flying Tires which said it only had a 30 minute wait. We learned this from the Disney Mobile Magic App, which is very handy for checking wait times across the park and sniping out the best use of time. I highly suggest downloading it before you arrive.

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Luigi’s was fun. Bouncing around on a hovercraft always is. (Okay, I admit this was my first time on a hovercraft.) But the volume of the music and commotion from excited visitors while waiting in line (we picked this ride in part because the waiting area is indoors and air conditioned, which was nice) was enough to turn my mood sour. Did I mention we started the day waiting in line for 90 minutes at the Grizzly River Run? This was all before the app.

Get the app. I wish I received a commission for saying that, but it’s just a fact that life is better with the app. Once we had the app, we picked some rides with far shorter lines in Bugs Land. These are at the cusp of Sabrina’s age range but she enjoyed them all the same. The Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em Buggies bumper cars were fun (but slow for my maniacal, leadfoot tastes) and we all enjoyed Flik’s Flyers. Me included. Bugs Land had the shortest waits with some only lasting five minutes.

We also hit up Monster’s Inc’s Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! twice. The wait was only 20 minutes the first time and 25 the second. This ride was fun enough for that long of a wait and we could see the immense and empty holding pen that was built to absorb the onslaught when the attraction was new.

And that is what I learned from our visit; Get the app. No, I mean, expectations are important. We rode the Grizzly River Run twice and didn’t even know about it before we showed up (once was after dark and the water can feel a bit colder then)(oh yeah, and being stuck for 15 minutes at the top of the big drop the second time around is not so fun for a certain ten year old when she knows what’s coming). That one was a lot of fun. The Soaring Over California experience was also worth the wait and I would have gladly done that one again. It is extremely well done.

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But we missed out on most of Cars Land because it was a zany zoo. Like ants to a cube of sugar, the new area (only open since June) was abuzz with life. And lines. And not a lot of shade.

And that’s okay, because we found a lot of other fun to be had in Disney’s California Adventure away from the crowds looking for the new hotness.

I would like to go back now that it is November. Hopefully the crowds are less and we won’t roast in the sun. I know there is no true ‘off-season’ for Disney but I have to think anything is better than trying to see a brand new attraction in the middle of summer heat.

In the end, this is as close as we got to Lightning McQueen. (No, we didn’t want to pay for the real posed picture. ;))

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