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“To all people who believe in the power of dreams, welcome.Disney’s California Adventure opens its golden gates to you.”
— Michael, Eisner, February 8, 2001, opening day
Disney California Adventure Park was conceived as a tribute and a celebration of the history and cultural diversity of California, and meant to feel as if guests had just walked into a vintage California postcard. Construction began in 1998 on the 55 acres that once housed a 5,000 car parking lot. The expansion of Downtown Disney, the renovation of the Disneyland Hotel, and the addition of the whimsical Paradise Pier Hotel and the humungous Grand Californian Hotel (based on the famed Ahwanee Hotel in Yosemite) were all completed in 2001.
The new theme park was not an immediate success. Locals and Disney purists were disappointed with the quality and the limited number of rides. Today the park is the eleventh most visited theme park in the world! The entire park was been rennovated, refreshed, and re-themed, with more expansion underway. Popular rides like Grizzily River Rapids, the Hollywood Tower of Terror, Soarin over California, and the world class rollercoaster California Screamin’ have been joined by A Bug’s Land for the smaller children, Toy Story Midway Mania, Silly Symphony Strings, the Golden Zepher and Mickey’s Fun Wheel (the swinging cars are much more thrilling than they first appear!).
The spectacular World of Color features music, lasers, the most fantastic colors of lights and fire over 1200 fountains and a mist screen. With the colorful lights of Paradise Pier as a backdrop, up to 6,000 guests at a time are mesmerized at this literally breath-taking production.And its not only the technical aspects of the show that are amazing. In true Disney fashion, the blend of Disney music, characters, and stories elicits a cavalcade of emotions from its viewers. You can hear a collective gasp of wonder as the fountains begin, a series of awestruck “wow”s as zebras stampede towards you or Ariel.s undersea world comes to life, and thunderous applause when you revisit beloved Lady and the Tramp sharing spaghetti or Tron’s light cycles and grid light up the nighttime sky.
ElecTronika is an interactive light show and dance party in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot. All of the glow sticks and glow discs and dancin’ in the street of a family friendly rave, it is a treat to watch kids of varying ages dance, compete and spotlight each other in circles around the DJ. Gather up all your energy and see if you can jump and fist pump for an entire song! The kids can do it for hours at a time, and love it. A theatrical preview of Tron and Flynn’s Arcade are offered as well, and you can see blue glowing drinks against the light projections and the infectious techno beat.
Another showstopping experience is “Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular” housed in the 2,000 seat Hyperion Theater. You can enjoy popcorn and churros while you wait in line. Along with the familiar music and great dancing, there are dazzling special effects (the flying carpet, Prince Ali’s Parade complete with elephant), and the Genie’s hysterical and sometimes topical irreverent humor. Loved it, and can’t wait to see it again!
And don’t miss the Disney Animation Building. Inside you can experience early animation techniques, learn to draw a Disney character, see the Beast’s Library, sing and act with Disney characters in Ursula’s undersea lair, and experience magic of all sorts, all unexpected. Another unexpected pleasure: Ariel’s Grotto Restaurant and Avalon Cove lounge. The table service restaurant offers authentic Santa Maria style tritip and California wines, and a special pass to World of Color. We enjoyed sitting under the gazebo like roof of the Avalon Cove, enjoying the breezes, the fountains and the views of Paradise Pier. It was lovely and relaxing, and we shared a huge plate of very fresh Lobster Nachos and delicious tri-tip sliders. Excellent service and just the right break in the day.
Still under construction is a new entrance, and the intriguing looking building for The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventures opening the summer of 2011. I’m sorry to have missed it, and it will be a great excuse to come back and visit soon. There are more facelifts, rennovations and re-imaginings of the current park, and the additon of a massive (12 acres) new area with an already visible imposing mountain which will be Cars Land. Based on the Disney-‘Pixar movie, it will be a recreation of Radiator Springs, with dining and shopping and three new rides. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree will be a teacup-like attraction, Luigi’s Roamin’ Tires will be a hovercraft/flying saucerlike ride, and Radiatior Springs Racer, will be one of the most expensive rides ever built (estimated at $200 million). Using the technology from Walt Disney World’s “Test Track”, it will feature Lightning MCQueen in a duel race with tunnels, bridges, waterfalls and banked turns. All the lilttle boys we passed in Cars hats and nascar like costumes are eagerly awaiting this one.
The Disney California Adventure Park is now a thrilling, lovely, happy and fun place to be — so much so, that we overheard guests saying it was now their favorite park. And with Disney, you know there will always be new adventures just around the corner. Stay tuned and check back soon!