Disney California Adventure Park: Attraction Overview

By: Adam F Manfredo

In 2001, Disney California Adventure opened as the second theme park on the Disneyland Resort, and though things have changed; the park is a very exciting mix of attractions for guests of all ages.  It is easy to get around and has some of the most exciting attractions Disney has ever built.  As someone who has visited this park, I would certainly recommend visiting it at night, as it provides some beautiful views of Paradise Pier (Soon to be Pixar Pier) lit up with beautiful lighting.

Paradise Pier

Here is a list of the current attractions at Disney California Adventure.  There is a wide variety of attractions for any guest and this park could be considered full day experience. There is certainly a lot to explore, so let’s dive right in.

Just like we have done for each of the other theme parks, we have created a list of each attraction in Disney California adventure and alongside each attraction, you will find our ratings on a 10-point scale, as well as, how important it is to use a Fastpass on the attraction.  Fastpasses are in ticket form; just as they were in Walt Disney World prior to Fastpass+.  Our ratings may not be exactly in line with other guide books or Disney websites, but hear us out.  The ratings are based on overall impressiveness, fun-level, ability to immerse the audience in another world, and add in a pinch of nostalgia.

Disney California Adventure -Attractions and Shows

Animation Academy (7/10)

This live demonstration allows guests to learn how to draw some of their favorite Disney character with a hands-on demonstration from a Disney artist.  This attraction takes guests into 30 minute session on how to draw Disney characters of past and present.  It is located in the Disney Animation Building, which is an amazing site to see in and of itself. This is truly an attraction that the entire family can enjoy together.

*Fastpasses are not offered and guests can arrive at anytime, as classes run every half hour.

California Screamin’ (8/10)

It is the second longest steel roller coaster in the United States, and it fills every thrill California Screaminseekers needs from the second you launch up to 55 mph in 4 seconds.  The steel roller coaster is built to resemble the wooden roller coasters of the past.  It is an incredibly smooth ride, but guest would be wise to hold onto those Mickey Ears and other things they do not wish to lose.  At 48 inches to ride, some of the little ones will not be able to ride, and it does close a little bit early to accomidate for the World of Color nighttime spectular.

*Fastpasses offered and should be considered.

Flik’s Flyers (2/10)

On this attraction, hop aboard a discarded food container for a calm flight around Flik’s Fun Fair.  Now I know that every attraction cannot be like the previous, but I do not think a whole bunch of thought went into this attraction.  The theme is average and the ride is not memorable.  I am sure younger kids will enjoy it to a degree, and the lines are never long. However, Disney guests deserve a bit more from some of these attractions, and you have to ask yourself if you child will be begging to ride it again.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Francis’ Ladybug Boogie (6/10)

Unlike the other A Bugs Land attraction,  Francis’ Ladybug Boogie delivers more inviting theme and demonstrates more creativity.  Guests will board a ladybug car and take a spin on this swingin’ attraction.  Kids of all ages will enjoy the twist and twirls set to playful music.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Frozen Live at Hyperion (8/10)

Sit down and enjoy a stage production version of Frozen, delight in the magic of Frozen like never before.  The stage production brings everyone’s favorite characters on stage in a production that stays pretty close to the original story.  It is presented with amazing special effects and outstanding vocal numbers.  The only drawback to this stage show is that it is a hour-long.  Be prepared to sit in the theater for a while.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Golden Zephyr (5/10)

Hop aboard a silver shining spaceship, reminiscent of an old Zeppelin, and soar through the sky above Disney’s Paradise Pier. This is another attraction that the whole family can enjoy, but does not deliver in the theme area.  The idea is very simple and there is no story to go along with this attraction.  A few of the attractions in this area of the park are just attractions you could see at any theme park, and a major reason I enjoy Disney, is the stories that the attraction tell, and allow you to become part of the story.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Grizzly River Run (7/10)

Set in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Grizzly River Run takes guests on a journey down the exciting whitewater of a Californiariver.   Guests brave enough to ride this attraction should expect to get wet and be wet for quite a bit afterwards.  I believe these attractions would serve a better purpose in a water park, but people do love to ride them on hot days.  Prepare to take a bath, Disney Parks style!

*Fastpasses are offered, but only needed on very crowded and hot days.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! (10/10)

I almost did not give this a ten for the reason that they took something that I love in the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and change the theme to something I was unsure off.  I am someone who loves and appreciates the classics, but I also really enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy movies, as well.  When you get inside of the Collector’s fortress and you are Mission Breakoutwatching the opening video; you are treated some well done and truly fun animatronics work. Rocket hijacks the video and then gives you details on how you can help him bust out his fellow Guardians.  This attraction is amazing experience with some cool technology, and one that your family will enjoy for years to come.

*Fastpasses are offered, and will most likely be needed at every time other than early in the morning.  Keep in mind that Fastpasses do go fast for this attraction, so it could be several hours before your time arrives for your Fastpass.

Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train (2/10)

On this attraction, you hop on a Heimlich caterpillar car, and you travel through some of his favorite foods.  I am not sure what to say about this attraction.  It is very short and slow, and there really isn’t much to it.  Kids will probably only want to ride it once, if it all.  I would say A Bug’s Land dropped the ball, when it comes to memorable children attractions.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

It’s Tough to be a Bug (6/10)

Guests brave enough to put on the 3D glasses will find out what life is like as a bug.  I enjoy the show, and it is certainly a film the whole family can a enjoy.  Flik introduces you to many bugs, and there are even some cool animatronics, as well as the usual 3D gags.  It is sure to have you laughing and screaming as you learn how tough it is to be a bug.  I will say this though, there are some surprises that might startle younger children.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Jumpin’ Jellyfish (1/10)

For an attraction named that way, the vehicles resemble balloons more than jellyfish. Again, this seems like an attraction the just takes up space, and it has no story or much of theme behind it.  Guests sit down and are gently lifted up and then lowered back down. Nothing worth waiting in line for.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

King Triton’s Carousel of the Sea (6/10)

King Triton

A different take on such an iconic theme park ride, guests will hop aboard different sea creatures, and swim around, up, and down.  This attraction inspired by the Little Mermaid is a fun way to slow down on a fast-paced Disney trip.  Children will enjoy it, and it something adults can enjoy with or without children.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (8/10)

Have you ever wondered what it was like to take a journey under the sea with Ariel and her friends?  Hop aboard these specially designed shells, and you plunge deep into the story; visit some familiar friends and hear some classic music that is sure to have your family singing.  The best part is you never even get wet, and no divers equipment is required.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters (5/10)

Buckle up and take a ride in a fancy Italian import, as it spins and glides around the road.  Younger children will enjoy this attraction, and it is right in the middle of the beautifully themed Cars Land.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (6/10)

Deep in the heart of Radiator Springs, there is a farm with Tractors that are just waiting to to be ridden.  Jump aboard a mini tractor and take part in a square dance hosted by Mater.  The tractors will swing and spin around to some catchy tunes, and children will enjoy it as you are tossed into the world of Cars.  Just buckle up and be ready for some high-octane fun.  Oh, and you might want to watch out for Frank!

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!  (7/10)

Take a trip to Monstropolis and hop aboard a taxi to join Mike and Sulley on an adventure to get Boo back to her bedroom.  Watch out for other monsters trying to capture the child, as well as, the C.P.A, the Child Protection Agency searching for the child.  The theme of this attraction is done very well, and the wait will feel shorter once inside of the building as there are things to keep your attention.  Watch out, there is a 2319 in progress!

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Radiator Springs Racers (10/10)

Before the opening of the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction, this was the number one Radiator Springs Racersattraction in the California Adventure Park.  Step inside a Cars inspired vehicle, and take a journey through Radiator Springs.  If you are stuck in line, which tends to happen, take a moment and enjoy the physical setting.  You really feel as if you are in radiator springs, and Disney did a phenomenal job making guest feel this way.  You begin by taking a speed journey around the canyons before heading into town and seeing a lot of familiar grills, I mean faces.  Then you head back out into the canyons for a race with people in the car next to you.  The cars kick it into overdrive for a thrilling experience and race to the finish line, and don’t be afraid to let the car next to you know you won the race, if you win of course. It’s all in good fun, right?

*Fastpasses are offered, and will most likely be needed at every time other than early in the morning.  Keep in mind that Fastpasses do go fast for this attraction, so it could be several hours before your time arrives for your Fastpass.

Silly Symphony Swings (3/10)

If you have been to a Six Flags park or any theme park like that, then you have probably seen this attraction before.  There is no story or theme, just swings that go in a circle. The only difference is while swinging on the Silly Symphony Swings; you are being treated to the dramatic score of “The William Tell Overture”.  I know the overall theme of Paradise Pier is a boardwalk theme park, but it doesn’t seem to deliver because it just comes across as just another theme park.  People, who come to Disney, do not expect it to be treated to an average theme park experience.  This attraction will capture any kids attention, but just not an attraction you will be dying to get back on.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Soarin’ Around the World (10/10)

If you thought the first ride experience on Soarin’ was great, then be prepared to be blown away, literally!  You are seated on modified hand gliders; feel the rush when you are lifted off of the ground, and boom you are Soarin’ Around the World. Soarin' Around the World From China to Greenland, prepare to be amazed by the sights, sounds, and smells, yes smells.  It is one of the few attractions I have ever been on that everyone claps and cheers at the conclusion.  I can honestly say that it is one of the most amazing experinences you will get inside of a Disney Park.  In addition, the ride queue is very well done with a lot of flight memorabila and some truly amazing music that I frquently listen to on Youtube at work.  Soarin’ Around the World is an attraction your family will eager to ride again and again.

*Fastpasses are offered, and will most likely be needed at every time other than early in the morning.  Keep in mind that Fastpasses do go fast for this attraction, so it could be several hours before your time arrives for your Fastpass.

Sorcerers Workshop (4/10)

Located in the beautiful Disney Animation Building, you descend into the caverns of castle dungeon to learn how animated characters come to life.  This is a bit more of a learning experience, but still a cool experience for those that like to peel back the curtain and see how things are created.  It may not keep small children busy for long, but it is certainly worth a look for the Disney Animation fans.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Toy Story Midway Mania (10/10)

Have you ever wanted to play video games with  some of you favorite Toy Story characters?  Guests will board a carnival car, put on 4D glasses , and hop into Andy’s Toy Story Maniaroom for fun experience playing video games with Buzz, Woody, and the gang.  This is one attraction your family will want to ride again and again.  While waiting in line for the attraction, guest are treated to some familiar music, as well as, some cool artwork as you walk through the carnival themed queue.  Hint: If you and your partner work together, you can unlock some easter eggs along the way, and gain a higher score.

*Fastpasses are offered, and will most likely be needed at every time other than early in the morning.  Keep in mind that Fastpasses do go fast for this attraction, so it could be several hours before your time arrives for your Fastpass.

Tuck and Roll’s Drive’Em Buggies (5/10)

P.T. Flea is in town, and he has invited you to hop aboard some of bug friends, Tuck and Roll, as they bump into other fellow buggies.  The theme of this is ok, it is a slightly different take on bumper cars, but an attraction I am sure you children will enjoy.  If you don’t enjoy other bugs crashing into you, this may not be the ride for you.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.

Turtle Talk with Crush (10/10)

Dude!!!! This is truly a special attraction, and it is one that I myself have to visit at least once when I visit Disneyland or Disney World.  The technology behind this attraction is amazing, and it is something you have to experience for yourself.  Guests walk into the “human tank”, and get to have an up close and personal chat with the sea’s coolest turtle, Turtle TalkCrush.  Kids will be invited to sit up front, so that they can ask Crush questions, and I hope you do not stage freight because he often includes the parents in questions.  On most days, other sea creatures from the movies such as Marlin, Nemo, Dory, and others join in on the fun.  I can guarantee you will have a lot of fun on this attraction, and you get to visit the beautifully designed Disney Animation Building.

*Fastpasses are not offered or needed.


Nighttime Spectacular

World of Color (9/10)

A nightly show performed at Disney’s Paradise Pier (Soon to be Pixar Pier) that combines lights, water cannons, fire, music, and some of your favorite Disney films.  An amazing close to any night at Disney California Adventure, and one that will evoke many emotions.  It really is a beautiful show, and with a medley of Disney films brought together in a way that will make you want to see it again.  It typically runs two times a night, but make sure you allow enough time to wait for this attraction, as it is a very popular show.

*Fastpasses are offered and recommended.  You can get these Fastpasses at anytime, but I would recommend getting them early.  The good thing is if you get a Faspass for this, it does not affect other Faspasses, so you can get this one and still get one for any other attraction.  Also, I would recommend getting in the Fastpass return line early to ensure that you will get a good viewing area.  Another option to get a good viewing area for World of Color is to get a dining reservation that includes the reserved viewing for the show.


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