California Adventures Newbie--What are the Must See/Do things?

I’m going to be in SoCal this weekend for an event that’s being held at the Disneyland theme park, and my admission to California Adventures is included. Though I have some commitments during the day, I will have some time to look around.

Although I checked out the official website (and so have a rough idea of what’s there), are there any shows, rides, eateries, shops etc. that are an absolute must (I already plan on seeing Soarin’ Over California and Golden Dreams)?

It should be noted that I don’t like very fast rides (Thunder Mtn’s fine, but Space Mtn’s too much) and don’t have kids so am not too interested in Toon Town-type activities.

Also, I was planning on doing one thing at DL that I’ve always wanted to but never have: the Davy Crockett caones. Anything I should know in advance? How long does it take and what exactly do you do?

Thanks. :slight_smile:

From what I’ve heard, one of the biggest gripes against California Adventure is that it doesn’t have enough tot-friendly attractions.

Somewhat true before A Bug’s Land opened.

Don’t miss:
Tower of Terror
Soarin’
It’s Tough to Be a Bug

Other stuff:
Disney Animation is underrated
The Alladin show is well dones
Golden Dreams is OK, but if your short on time, I’d skip it.

I think these close early (in the evening), so don’t put them off too long.

Have fun!

Tower of Terror is very good, as is Soarin’ Over California. If you like to get wet, the Grizzly River Rapids is a lot of fun as well.

The Aladdin show is excellent. It’s well worth seeing even if you don’t have kids. We also enjoyed the Disney Animation exhibit.

If you are free for dinner, there are two restaurants in the Golden Vine Winery area in California Adventure. Downstairs is the Wine Country Trattoria, which is a mid-priced, Napa-Italian restaurant. Upstairs is the Vineyard Room, which is a true 4-star restaurant and worth every penny. The Main Street Electrical Parade runs right past the restaurants (the seating is outdoors on the patio/balcony). Make your reservations for 7:30 and you get a fantastic view of the parade during dessert.

Tower’s out (not much of a DropZone-type fan) but thanks for the rec on the restaurant–I’ll see if I can arrange to have dinner around that time.

Although I don’t mind getting a little wet (hence, the canoes), I don’t like getting soaking, so the Rapids are out.

Actually, the only thing I know about the canoes is that they close at dusk (I probably learned that word as an infant from the park brochure). But how long does it take? How wet do you get? Is there a long wait? Anybody know from experience?

Thanks for the recs on the shows (Aladdin, Bug), too. I was going to catch the Disneyland Animation area, but I got the sense that this is drop in and stay for as long/little as you like.

Thanks everyone–keep the comments coming.

ToT is much more than a DropZone type ride. The theming is fantastic with some very cool effects.

It takes 5-10 minutes to row around Tom Sawyer’s Island. Except for the occassional splash from a paddle in front of you, you probably won’t get wet at all.

It is. There’s some really neat things to do there.

If you don’t like fast rides, I’d stick to the ferris wheel and other smaller rides, then head across to Disneyland (and Downtown Disney if you like shopping) because it’s a much better park. IMHO, naturally.

See, if I could go up through all the theming stuff (which I’m assuming, like Splash Mtn., comes first), and then opt out of the dropping bit at the end, that’d be fine by me. Somehow, though, I kinda doubt that that’s probably possible.

I’ve also heard some very good things about the 3D movies–both Bug (which Yookeroo mentioned) and the Muppet one.

We’ll see. I just learned I’ll be eating at Club 33 as well–had no idea what that actually meant until I looked it up. Should be fun. Thanks again. :slight_smile:

The theming in the queue is cool (once you get inside), but most of the way cool stuff is on the ride itself. If you don’t wanna do the drop, then you can skip the ride altogether.

Muppets is fun. Do it before Bugs though, or else it will be anti-climactic.

Only place in Disneyland where you can get alcohol :eek: :D.

Don’t completely discount the Tower of Terror. I had severe acrophobia as a kid, and I don’t like free-fall type rides much at all (although by now, I don’t hate them), and the Tower of Terror at Disney World is my favorite theme park attraction ever. I haven’t been to the one at DCA yet, but I hear it’s similar although not exactly the same as the one at WDW.

Still, the ride does have a “chicken exit” before you get to the elevator, and I imagine it’s worth it to check the place out and the pre-show and then decide if you actually want to go in. You might be surprised how much you like it.

The Muppet movie is very good, but remember what Yookeroo said: see it before the Bug’s Life one. The Bug’s Life movie is just awesome.

“Soarin’ Over California” is pretty neat, although I haven’t ridden it in a while because it gives my friend motion sickness and she can’t ride it.

“Mulholland Madness” is a mad mouse type coaster in the Paradise Pier section of the park. It’s not an E-ticket or anything, but it’s neat, especially if you’ve never ridden a mad mouse before. (Not particularly fast-moving, but very, very sharp turns.) That coaster gets me more nervous than the “big” coaster, but it’s still fun.

You’ve probably already ruled out “California Screamin’”, but it’s really not so bad. It is fast and it does go through a loop, but it’s smooth as anything; it’s not a rough ride at all.

The raft ride is definitely NOT worth it, IMO. There’s always a long line, and the ride itself is unimpressive. You just get wet.

Have fun going to Club 33; that’s a pretty big deal!

Bit of a nitpick, but last time I was in Cali Adventure, they had an area near the dock section where you could get beer. Also, I believe you can sample the wine at the vineyard area. Of course, if you meant in the original Disneyland park, I’ll just be over here minding my own business.

Yeah, that’s what I meant. There are several places in DCA to get alcohol.

If you like the gentler rides, the Golden Zephyr is one to check out. Very gentle and smooth, I rather like it. (I will warn you though, if there’s any wind kicking up, it most likely will be closed.)

If you go on the Sun Wheel (ferris wheel), then get one of the red stationary booths. The orange and purple ones can move very suddenly and swing you to and fro rather quickly. I like this sort of thing, but if you don’t then by all means avoid those and go for the red stationary gondolas. There’s a seperate line for both the stationary and the moving gondolas, so it’s easy to get the kind you like.

The Orange Stinger is a gentler ride as well, though they replaced the bee striped seating buckets with standard ones. It’s still a cute ride though.

And King Triton’s carousel is also a take it easy ride with sea creatures instead of regular horses (though no sea horses if I recall correctly).

I echo what others said about Soaring, Twilight, and Aladdin, they’re really top notch. If you’re an animation fan at all, definitely plan to spend some time in the Animation Building.

Also being as you’ll be eating at Club 33 (please post a review), you may not be eating in DCA, but if you do, check out Taste Pilot’s Grill. If you love aviation, it’s a real kick because it has tons of aviation photos and theming. (For example, on the back of the menus are panels from B-52’s that used to drop X-15’s.) It’s next to Soaring Over California. However, there really aren’t any vegetarian items, so if that’s a consideration, then just go in and look at the theming.

Also, if you just want a quick artery clogging but delicious snack while you’re in DCA, I can’t recommend Corn Dog Castle enough. Hand dipped deep fried corn dogs, hot sausages, and cheese sticks…yum! And as an extra added bonus, it’s not far from the parade route.

Speaking of which, here’s a tip on the Electrical Parade: go down to the Pacific Wharf area to view it rather than around the hub. You’re toward the end of the route, so seating is easier to come by. So if you’re taking photos or videotaping, it’s a lot easier to get pics right close to the floats. Oftentimes you can get curbside seating (well there’s no curb, but you know what I mean).

As for the Davy Crockett canoes, they’re pretty cool, but be prepared to work. Paddling canoes is harder than it looks. There’s a reason why those cast members who run the canoes are in such good shape. But do not let this keep you from experiencing the ride, this is just a heads up.

So, can you tell I’m an annual passholder to Disneyland/DCA yet? :smiley:

Hmmm, OK, here goes.

The food was excellent. There was a buffet set-up for salad/appetizers and dessert, both extremely generous. I didn’t care for the salad much, but they had Tortellini, fruit & cheese (including a lime-green colored cheese that was fine) and lots of shellfish: crab legs, lobster segments (in the shell, not quite tails) and tons of shrimp. The dessert tray had all sorts of cake/mousse concoctions. I had an incredibly tart lemon custard (it surprised a lot of people who were expecting vanilla) plus some cheesecake, but there were many other selections, too.

The entree was very California cuisine-y in that it was expertly prepared but rather small in a single pile in the middle of your plate. I had the beef which was exceedingly tender (but not made to order; I prefer rare and this was well done) on a modest pile of mashed potatoes. My wife had halibut on top of a creamy risotto. Both were quite good (though I liked mine better); chicken was an option but nobody ordered that. The vegetarian option was a “Three pasta” dish that ended up being literally three separate small dishes of three different pastas with three different sauces (marinera, pesto, alfredo). All in all, it was delicious.

The ambience was very relaxing because it wasn’t noisy or crowded like the environs outside. They were playing classical music (mostly Vivaldi) instead of piped in Disney stuff, and we were immediately above the Blue Bayou, so we could also hear the N.O. jazz band downstairs on the street–again, playing jazz standards and not Disney-ish covers. The service was impeccable–speedy, polite, efficient (though sadly, they all still wore those Disney nametags).

You entered in an alcove next to Blue Bayou via some type of speaker address system. Upon entering, there was a lovely spiral staircase circling around a small classic-style cage elevator (it fit 4 barely) that had (from all appearances) the type of original fixtures you’d expect. There was also an old-style phone (the Art Deco cradle type) that you could use to call out if you wanted (none of us did, though; you needed the staff’s help anyway).

Upstairs were two dining rooms–a smaller, darker panelled room with some B&W photos (Walt-related) and stuffed birds perched on some high mantels, and a slightly larger Victorian-type room with lots of natural light, white walls and mirrors. Very sunny (though not much of a view through the curtains; just the N.O.Sq. alley you entered). Rumor has it that some of the birds were actually animatronic, and Walt would play host by having verbal exchanges with the animals to impress his VIPs–a notion that managed to be both thoroughly absurd and wholly believable, given the man and his reputation.

There was a full bar (except no root beer) directly across from a Harpsichord on display. A few waiting benches near the restrooms. The guy’s restroom wasn’t anything special (except for Club 33 paper towels inside), but the ladies’ restroom had an actual throne-style toilet (I know this because one of the women took a shot with her camera phone).

I only noticed a few wall art pieces–mostly watercolors of the Haunted Mansion and a PotC ship, plus miniature versions of the four humerous extending panels in the H.M. They also sold souvenirs, which I found quite reasonable given where you were (and given how much the meal had cost). Only one piece (a baseball t-shirt) had a cartoon character on it (Mickey); the rest simply had the Club 33 logo on it (and nary a reference to Disney, either, IIRC). This was also handled quite discreetly, with a simple display case with the items; you had to ask the manager for prices, and he’d go in the back to retrieve what you wanted.

It was all very high class (by my standards, anyway; I don’t eat out at places like this in my everyday life). I’m not much of a Disneyphile (though I grew up visiting the park as a kid), but I did appreciate that this was a special (and no doubt, once-in-a-lifetime) event, and we all had a good time.

As for California Adventures, I think I liked the Bugs Life area the most, not only in the actual production design of the rides & walkways, but how the children weren’t quite as spastic (and there were a lot fewer of them, too). The movie was also a lot of fun.

Checked out the Animation area. The Walt movie was good in its use of archival material (both film and his own voice recordings), but would’ve benefited from going into a little more depth about the growth of the company. The multi-screen lobby area was well-done, but the show about “how characters develop” (with an interactive Mushu) was pretty bad.

Muppets was closed by the time we arrived (there was a special event that day) but I caught the Aladdin show (front row, center) and thought it was pretty weak (though Jasmine was hot and the carpet was a cutie).

The boardwalk was fine (especially pretty at night) but didn’t feel compelled to ride anything (mostly out of time considrations). Didn’t bother with the Electrical Parade (saw that plenty as a child), though I caught the tail end while exiting the Golden Dreams movie (which was a weird inspirational downer, with way too much Whoopi Goldberg).

The best ride I went on (having skipped Tower) was Soarin’, which was impressively done (if frustratingly short) and the one ride that day I went on twice.

New rides (for me) in the Park I went on were Winnie-the-Pooh (a bit more surreal than I expected, but fun and they used the Sherman Bros. music well), Honey I Shrunk the Audience (lame), and the new Abe Lincoln set-up (with the additional audio program that worked well).

My favorite ride is still probably Pirates, though there’s no moment quite like cresting over the hill and getting your first glimpse of the graveyard in H.M. And this was proably my first visit where I didn’t even bother with Fantasyland (because of the lines). This was my first experience with FastPass and found it to be very convenient (though touring most of the park by myself made it equally so).

All in all, it was a fine trip, but I honestly can’t imagine feeling the need to visit that park again for another decade or so (though I really do want to catch the Nightmare H.M. set-up; maybe as part of a Disneyworld trip, since I’ve never been to that park).

According to numerous biographers, Walt’s original plan was to plant hidden microphones near the tables. When you (as a guest) wanted an order or some service, you’d simply speak out loud, and the birds would then respond or acknowledge your request accordingly. Walt scrapped the idea at the last minute when he realized how undignified it’d look.

And Indiana Jones remains the best ride in Disneyland. :wink:

It’s funny you bring this up because that’s what was brought to our attention as well, to the point of being shown where the microphones were–in the center position (facing down) of the light fixture (either circular, or in a cross formation; I forget) above each of the tables in that room. They certainly did resemble microphones, though they may not have been wired to anything and were abandoned as an idea eventually.

Unless they’ve changed something recently, the Nightmare Before Christmas make-over of the Haunted Mansion doesn’t happen at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, only at Disneyland.

I can’t attest to this directly, but I was told that it took DW a few years to catch on, but the enormous success of the TNBC version of HM at DL now means that it happens at the FL park now, too.

Thanks for the Club 33 review, ArchiveGuy! Good to hear that you had a fine time.

And do check out the NMBC makeover of the Haunted Mansion, whether it be in Disneyland or Disney World…I know the Disneyland version is worth the trip.

Does the Small World Holiday makeover happen at Disney World?