You can't miss the park's big coaster, California Screamin'. Its huge loop--complete with Mickey head--is easily visible across Paradise Bay (an especially beautiful view at night). You'll accelerate to 55 mph in four seconds as you're launched into 6,000 feet of twists and turns.
California Adventure is short on the dark rides that add so much to Disneyland's atmosphere, but there is the charming Monsters Inc. ride in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area. It relives the plot of the movie, as the denizens of Monstropolis search for a human girl who has accidentally entered their city.
Even if you don't have little ones, take a stroll through the park's toddler area, Flik's Fun Fair. The delightful theming shrinks you to bug size as you look up at towering stalks of clover. (Can you find the four-leafed clover?) Another great area for kids is the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Again, this is worth a visit even for adults, to take in the beautiful redwood trees and the detailed theming of the lookout towers.
Incidentally, this park is where you'll find Disneyland Resort's newest guided tour, "Cruzin' Disney's California Adventure." The three-hour tour puts you on a Segway Personal Transporter for a unique exploration of the park. I've taken this tour myself, and it's great fun.
Getting hungry after all those rides? As at Disneyland, California Adventure offers counter service, sit-down restaurants, and snack and beverage stands. But in sharp contrast to Disneyland, some places here serve alcoholic beverages. Even though I knew that, I must admit that I did a double-take the first time I saw shelves of hard liquor on the patio at Ariel's Grotto! Pacific Wharf has a beer wagon and a margarita shack. Beer is also available at Taste Pilots' Grill in Condor Flats and Pizza Oom Mow Mow in the Paradise Pier area. Two Italian restaurants inhabit the Golden Vine Winery building, and of course, both have wine lists.
As for food itself, the Vineyard Room at the Golden Vine Winery is the signature restaurant at Disney's California Adventure. From its second-floor patio, you can enjoy sweeping views of the park while dining on seafood, poultry, or meat dishes. Downstairs is the less formal Wine Country Trattoria, which features salads, Italian sandwiches, and lasagnas.
Other food choices include seafood (at the Vineyard Room and Ariel's Grotto), Mexican specialties (at Cucina Cucamonga), and the usual burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. You'll find entree-sized salads at the sit-down restaurants and the Pacific Wharf Cafe. The latter also has delicious soups served in sourdough bread bowls baked right there at the Boudin Bakery. (You can even pick up a Mickey-shaped sourdough loaf to take home with you.)
Don't forget that from Highway 49, you're just a few steps away from the Grand Californian hotel, which has three excellent restaurants: Whitewater Snacks for grilled foods and cold sandwiches; Storytellers Cafe, which offers both menu selections and a buffet; and the award-winning Napa Rose, the most highly rated restaurant at the entire Disneyland Resort.
By the way, California Adventure is also home to the Disneyland Resort's Food and Wine Weekends, which are held in the spring. See the official website for more information.
Your day at California Adventure is probably getting pretty full by now, but as I mentioned earlier, there's some great theming at this park. Enjoy the beautiful views of California Screamin' and the Sun Wheel across Paradise Bay. Stroll along Highway 49 to see the redwoods and the flowering columbine. Detour behind Grizzly River Run on Grizzly Peak Pass Road, where you'll find old gold-mining equipment and the thundering Frog Jump Falls. Pay close attention to the business names in the windows on Hollywood Boulevard and along the street behind Golden Dreams. Look for the "Enter" and "Exit" lizards in the queue lines at Cucina Cucamonga. Remember, this is Disney territory--attention to your surroundings will be amply rewarded with impressive details.
What does the future hold for Disney's California Adventure? I think the prospects are exciting. The Disney folks--especially new Imagineering head honcho John Lasseter--are working on how they can strengthen the theming and overall atmosphere. I don't know whether all of the traditional seaside attractions in Paradise Pier will eventually be replaced by unique Disney rides, but some of the arcade games are already gone to make room for Toy Story Mania (which will open in 2008). But there's no reason to wait years to see what happens: Disney's California Adventure is ready to amaze and delight you right now.
About the Author: Patty Winter is a freelance marketing writer in Silicon Valley. Her favorite part of California Adventure is along Highway 49 and Grizzly Peak Pass Road, with their beautiful redwood trees, mountain flowers, and waterfalls.
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