In late 2007, Disney executives announced a multiyear expansion plan for the Disneyland Resort, largely focused on creating some new shows and attractions for Disney California Adventure. The goal, they said, will be to bring more of Walt Disney into Disney California Adventure, and to celebrate the hope and optimism of California that attracted Walt to the Golden State in the 1920s.
That said, guests to Disney California Adventure will notice changes taking place around them through 2012, when the park caps its expansion with the opening of a new Car's Land. Until then, all of Disney California Adventure's popular attractions will generally continue to operate, but expect a few construction fences guiding guests around development sites.
From the entrance, visitors head into four themed "districts," each with rides, interactive attractions, live-action shows, and plenty of dining, snacking, and shopping.
Sneak Preview -- Stop by the "Blue Sky Cellar," a converted "aging room" in the Golden Wine Vinery that now hosts a terrific preview of all the changes coming to Disney California Adventures. It's updated frequently by Disney's Imagineers and provides a behind-the-scenes look at the future development projects.
The Golden State
This multidimensional area represents California's history, heritage, and physical attributes. Sound boring? Actually, the park's splashiest attractions are here. Condor Flats is a tribute to daring aviators; inside a weathered corrugated test-pilots' hangar is Soarin' Over California, the simulated hang-glider ride that immediately rose to the top on everyone's "ride first" list (I highly recommend FASTPASSing it). It uses cutting-edge technology to combine elevated seats with a spectacular IMAX-style surround-movie -- riders literally "soar" over California's scenic lands, feeling the Malibu ocean breeze and smelling the Central Valley orange groves and Yosemite pines.
Nearby, California Adventure's iconic Grizzly Peak towers over the Grizzly River Run, a splashy gold-country ride through caverns, mine shafts, and water slides; it culminates with a wet plunge into a spouting geyser. Kids can cavort nearby on the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, a forest playground with smoke-jumper cable slides, net climbing, and swaying bridges.
Pacific Wharf was inspired by Monterey's Cannery Row and features mouthwatering demonstration attractions by Boudin Sourdough Bakery and Mission Tortillas. If you get hungry, each has a food counter where you can enjoy either soup in a sourdough bowl or tacos, burritos, and enchiladas.
Journey back to the glory days of California's beachfront amusement piers -- remember Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, and Belmont Park? -- on this fantasy boardwalk. Highlights include California Screamin', a classic roller coaster that replicates the whitewashed wooden white-knucklers of the past -- but with state-of-the-art steel construction and a smooth, computerized ride that catapults you from zero to 55 mph in less than 5 seconds, then takes a loop-de-loop over the boardwalk. There's also the Silly Symphony Swings, a wave swinger themed to Disney's Band Concert; Mulholland Madness, a wacky, wild trip along L.A.'s precarious hilltop street that is way scarier than it looks; and Mickey's Fun Wheel, featuring unique zigzagging cars that bring a new twist to the familiar ride. Guests can don 3-D glasses as they "shrink" to the size of a toy and hop into fanciful vehicles that travel and twist along a midway-themed route in Toy Story Mania. Upon arriving at each game booth, you aim for animated targets using your onboard "toy cannon." The newest addition to the area is a nighttime water spectacular: World of Color. Disney animation comes to life in a combination of hundreds of fountains, dazzling LED-produced colors, and a kaleidoscope of audio and visual effects -- all projected onto a large water screen.
Paradise Pier also has all the familiar boardwalk games (complete with stuffed prizes); guilty-pleasure fast foods like pizza, corn dogs, and burritos; plus a full-service ocean-themed restaurant called Ariel's Grotto.
Hollywood Pictures Backlot
If you've visited Disney in Florida, you might recognize many elements of this trompe l'oeil re-creation of a Hollywood movie studio lot. One of the resort's most anticipated attractions since expanding is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This truly scary ride has been a huge hit since its debut at Walt Disney World. Legend has it that during a violent storm on Halloween night 1939, lightning struck the Hollywood Tower Hotel, causing an entire wing and an elevator full of people to disappear, and you're about to retrace their steps from that fateful night as you become the star in a special Disney episode of . . . The Twilight Zone. In this eerily vacant hotel, you tour the lobby, library, and boiler room, and ultimately board the elevator to plunge 13 stories to the fifth dimension and beyond.
The Backlot's other main attraction is Disney Channel Rocks!, featuring songs from Hannah Montana, High School Musical, and more. Other popular shows include Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sully to the Rescue!, where guests ride taxis through Monstropolis on a mission to safely return "Boo" to her bedroom; and Jim Henson's MuppetVision 3D, an on-screen comedy romp featuring Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and Fozzie Bear. Although it's not nearly as entertaining as It's Tough to Be a Bug , it has its moments and won't scare the bejesus out of little kids.
At the end of the street, the replica movie palace Hyperion Theater presents Broadway-caliber live-action shows of classic Disney films. In the Disney Animation building, visitors can participate in different interactive galleries and learn how stories become animated features as told by Disney artists in the Drawn to Animation studio.
A Bug's Land
This bug-themed land encompasses It's Tough to Be a Bug, Flik's Fun Fair, and Bountiful Valley Farm. Inspired by the movie A Bug's Life, It's Tough to Be a Bug uses 3-D technology to lead the audience on an underground romp in the insect kingdom with bees, termites, grasshoppers, stink bugs, spiders, and a few surprises that keep everyone hopping, ducking, and laughing along. (I could see how little kids might find the show terrifying, however.) The Flik's Fun Fair area features bug-themed rides and a water playground designed especially for little ones ages 4 to 7 -- but sized so their parents can ride along, too. Bountiful Farm pays tribute to California's agriculture.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.