July 15, 2012

The Best Rides at Disney California Adventure

Luigi's Flying Tires Queue Sign
It's amazing what a multi-year expansion can do for a park; back in 2001 when DCA first opened, I couldn't have listed ten great rides there if my life depended on it. Things are certainly different now; Disneyland's next-door neighbor finally boasts a solid roster of great attractions. Here are Mouse Troop's picks for the ten best rides at Disney California Adventure.

Let's start with the best:

Radiator Springs Racers
Since it's possibly the greatest ride on Earth, it's no surprise that Radiator Springs Racers wins our award for Best Ride at Disney California Adventure. A perfect blend of indoor dark ride and outdoor thrills, it's got heart, humor, spectacle and surprises around every bend, including the most amazing audioanimatronics we've ever encountered. You become the main character in a quest to take part in Race Day at Radiator Springs and, from Sheriff's seat belt warning to Lightning and Mater's parting words to your group, every inch of the trip is pure fun. Riders whoop and holler with joy at the race's finale, whether they've won or not; it's an exhilarating, spirit-lifting rush. Absolutely awesome.

California Screamin' at Disney California Adventure
It's the state's longest roller coaster, and the longest looping coaster on Earth. An opening-day original, it's always been one of the best reasons to visit DCA. California Screamin' is a fantastic thrill ride packed with great coaster elements, including a catapult launch, an intense loop, huge, stomach-flipping drops, high-speed banked turns, air-time on several hills and a wild helix finale. It's a darn pretty coaster too, forming a perfect backdrop for the old-time boardwalk setting of Paradise Pier.

A hit at both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World, this ride/game combination makes everyone laugh and shout as they frantically compete for the best score in the ride vehicle. The games are simple, yet full of surprises to discover. The 3D is amazing. Favorite characters, jolly music, great art direction, and startling physical effects keep the pace intense but never overwhelming. It's a real winner, still drawing crowds four years after its debut.


This ride scares me every single time I ride -- and I love it. The drops are terrifying and hilarious at the same time, evoking both screams and laughter from each elevator load of guests. I love the way this ride plays mind games with its passengers, catching them off-guard over and over again. It's definitely the scariest ride at Disneyland Resort, and one of DCA's very best.

#5 -  SOARIN'

The best flight simulation ride ever, Soarin' is an experience no one should miss. It captures not just the sensation and thrill of flight over California's beautiful landscapes and seashores, but the emotion and grandeur as well. It's a perfect combination of music, imagery and motion -- a work of  genius.


"Whippin', whirlin', twistin' twirlin'," sings Mater in one of this attraction's soundtrack songs, and that pretty much sums up the crazy atmosphere of this awesomely fun ride. Folks who pass it by (thinking it's a kiddy ride) don't know what they're missing; this thing packs a surprising thrill as the tractor-pulled trailers whip wildly around the course. Combined with a fantastically detailed setting right out of the Cars films, Junkyard Jamboree is a winner.


Splashing through the caves and mine shafts of Grizzly peak and plummeting down two steep drops, this ride gets my vote for best whitewater rapids attraction on the planet. The setting's beautiful, the river layout is imaginative, and a unique mechanism actually spins your raft as you hurtle down the big final drop. The only problem with Grizzly River Run is that -- like all whitewater rides -- it can completely soak you. We recommend riding it on your way back to your hotel room; you might have to change into some dry clothes.


Yes, all three of Cars Land's rides made the list! Luigi's Flying Tires is a wonderful and unique ride. These gentle round giants hover and scoot about like enormous air hockey pucks. Steering's easy (lean in the direction you want to go) and the party-like atmosphere is great fun. Our advice: don't waste time trying to bump into other riders; head for open space and simply have fun piloting your tire around the arena.


A fun, relaxing journey through the musical highlights of a modern classic, Little Mermaid contains great audioanimatronics and convincing sets. Although we wish there were a bit more "adventure" in Ariel's Undersea Adventure (where's the shark? The Storm? The Battle with Ursula?), this is a great one for families with small children, and a good-humored journey for all ages.


This dark ride through the world of Monstropolis is packed with funny gags and imaginative surprises, leading to a suitably eye-popping finale in the famous "door warehouse." It's worth riding just to hear Boo squeak, "Mike Wazowski!" This one's both fun and endearing. When Roz talks to you near the ride's ending, be sure to actually respond; she'll react to your answer!

One thing's for certain, taking a spin on every one of these rides adds up to one great day at DCA! Did we overlook a favorite? Do you think Goofy's Sky School or the Silly Symphony Swings deserve a spot? If so, post your thoughts!

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