16 years (and one day) ago a very tiny Summer woke up very early in the morning with her parents to be some of the first guests at Disney’s brand new California Adventure Park and it is probably one of my most favorite memories. Since then, I have spent sixteen years having the best time watching California Adventure grow and change from the *classic* GlowFest of the early 2000s to finally turning 21 and being able to reeeeaaaallllyyy experience what California Adventure has to offer. Keep reading for just a couple of my favorite parts of DCA!
Cars Land – if you don’t absolutely love Cars Land who even are you and what are you doing in a Disney Park? It is literally like you have walked into the movie and there is NOTHING more magical than when they turn on the neon lights one by one at dusk while they play the Cars soundtrack (10/10 would recommend sticking around for that!)
The Cozy Cone is one of Sarah and my favorite DCA snack stops, it features lots of cone related puns in food form. Her favorite is the Chili CONE Queso and my favorite is probably either the classic dipped cone or the churro bites which chocolate sauce. (Both of which are pretty sad excuses for puns… but still worth eating)
I do have to say I gained a new appreciation for Cars Land once I quit my job at Disney… I won’t lie, it was one of my most hated work locations thanks to Red the Firetruck who will not SHUT UP his screeching siren. If you value your sanity (and ear drums), avoid the giant fire truck at all costs.
Cove Bar – If you are making trips to DCA and not going to the Cove Bar you are SEVERELY missing out on some top notch food and drinks. If you go you absolutely must order the Lobster Nachos and Fun Wheel. You will get a good amount of tipsy, have a pretty drink to take cute insta pics of, and have the greatest nachos of your life. You will not be disappointed I promise.
Drinks – if you are of legal age you can take advantage of combining Disney parks with alcohol. You can go the fancy schmancy route and have a cool cocktail at the Carthay Circle bar or go the fun route and hit the Cove Bar and then go for Margaritas, Sangria or a glass of wine (which you can walk around the park with!!!) After a Fun Wheel and a Margarita (or two) you are feeling pretty good, my next move is to Soarin’ which is somehow about 100x times more fun and hilarious after a couple Fun Wheels. Then you need to hit up the Animation Studios, where I promise your drawing skills will improve drastically (or at least get 10 times as funny).
Ariels Grotto – If you have princess obsessed children (or are a child at heart) you have to splurge on Ariel’s Grotto at least once! Bonus points if you go with people who don’t like creme brûlée and let you eat all of theirs (thanks @jacobsphotopass and @loouaye).
Ariel’s Grotto is a bit expensive but the food is great and you don’t have to wait in line to meet princesses (they come to your table instead!) When I go to the park with my little cousins, who are princess lovers, we usually go to Ariel’s Grotto so we can avoid the long lines and not knowing which princess we will see. It’s also a great way to fill up an autograph book pretty fast, which my little cousins were very happy about.
Another one of my favorite things about California Adventure was Tower of Terror which is very sadly not open anymore… and if you know me at all you will know how sad this makes me. But if you still want some stomach churning drops you can still ride ToT at the other Disney Parks around the world!
California Adventure is for sure not a park to miss. It is filled with some amazing rides and some even more amazing food but some of my favorite memories at DCA were spent as a cast member. From 4am Disney Marathon shifts hanging out with my good friend Mrs Incredible, Pluto being absolutely adorable in his little hat on Buena Vista Street and spending rainy days coloring backstage when Minnie’s Fly Girls was a thing (who else misses that show??). I even sometimes, very rarely even miss hosting Lightning McQueen. (Okay someone slap me in the face because I didn’t think I would ever say that!)
Happy Birthday California Adventure! I can’t wait to go back soon and drink more Fun Wheels and eat more churros!
Photography in this post by Jacob Correia and Izabelle Kostinec.