by Carmel L. Mooney
Ask anyone to think of a California tradition and chances are they’ll mention Disneyland. Disneyland has attracted millions from all over the globe for half a century. If you live in California, it’s likely a cherished family memory or even an annual tradition to visit Mickey in Southern California.
In the same spirit and tradition, Californians now have another family destination right next door. Next door to Disneyland, that is: it’s Disney’s California Adventure.
Although Disney’s California Adventure has met with mixed feelings from faithful Disney followers, I have to say after visiting there last month, it deserves a fair chance.
Disney’s California Adventure theme park sits right next to the world-famous Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
Keeping with Disney’s unparalleled dedication to themes, this park is designed after the very state of California itself. This theme tends to please the older visitors because the park is aesthetically pleasing, following the trends and nuances of the Golden State’s finest locations and attractions.
As John McClintock, the publicity manager for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts says, “It is a little more skewed towards older people which is both a blessing and a curse. Teenagers tend to favor this park over Disneyland. We’re remedying that later this year when we open an area called ‘A Bug’s Land.’ There will be kid-sized rides large enough for adults to ride on along with their children.”
A Bug’s Land” will be similar to Disneyland’s Toontown, in that guests will enter a portal where everything is human-sized with giant blades of grass and other effects to mimic the world through a bug’s eye. This will be in the Central Valley farm area of the park. Of course, there are already many attractions suited for the younger guest, but Disney is changing and growing to please a larger age range.
One of my favorite attractions was “Soarin’ over California,” a flying machine and gigantic hang gliding simulator suspended over a giant Imax theater screen. This spectacular attraction drops, swoops, lifts, and glides over numerous California landmarks. Smells and props are piped in to compliment the terrain the guest flies over. I saw parents with the excitement of a child, literally pulling their kids onto this ride. One dad was beaming from ear to ear as he described it to his kids, convincing them to go with him the next time.
In the wharf and Pixel Pier area, my breath was captured by “California Screamin’,” the best roller coaster I have ever experienced. And I thought I had ridden them all.
Pixel Pier is a replica of the old-fashioned beach boardwalk-type amusement parks in Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, and San Diego, complete with ocean and waves surrounding the piers. Although California Screamin’ looks like an old-fashioned wooden roller coaster, it’s a state-of-the-art, steel frame roller coaster with an upside-down loop in the middle of a huge mouse silhouette. This loud, thrilling and super high-speed coaster has a linear induction launch that instead of clicking up the hill, shoots up the hill. People who like thrilling yet smooth coasters will be captivated.
In the Grizzly Peak recreation area, I loved the Grizzly River Run where I thoroughly enjoyed a wet whitewater raft adventure with high-speed drops and rapids. It was more fun than a class two rafting trip down the best rivers in the state.
Another favorite attraction was playing “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” a real-life re-creation of the TV game played in a mock studio and located in the Hollywood section of the park. There, guests get to play for points and prizes with lifelines and rules just like the TV version of the popular show. It adds to the fun that if the player chooses to “phone a friend” they phone a stranger somewhere inside the park making for an exceptionally funny and unpredictable experience.
Being both an adult and a mom, I was enamored by the new park and so was the twelve-year-old with me. My younger kids enjoyed it too but enjoyed Disneyland a bit more with its classic Imagineering and magic. I recommend visiting both parks during your stay to enjoy the best of both worlds.
My kids and I were more than satisfied with our stay at the luxurious Anaheim Hilton just a block from the new California Adventure Park. The Hilton in Anaheim is a world-class hotel with 1,572 rooms of comfort and prides itself in being “The hotel with everything.” The largest hotel in Southern California, this hotel boasts wonderful food, a beautiful pool, four whirlpool spas, pristinely maintained grounds, great views, and a shuttle to both theme parks and every amenity imaginable. Children stay free with parents or grandparents. The Vacation Station program for kids includes special extras like free souvenirs for children, toys, and games, and supervised kids activities. I can’t think of a better compliment to any Disney vacation.
Don’t just take my word for it. The next time you plan a vacation for adventure fun in the sun Disney style, allow lots of time for both parks and plan to stay at the Hilton. The newly enhanced website for the Hilton is Anaheim Hilton or you can call: 1-800-HILTON. Learn more about Disneyland and California Adventure at: Disneyland.com.
Carmel L. Mooney is a travel columnist, author, and radio talk show host.