Ride This First at California Adventure

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Ride this first at California Adventure! There is so much to do and see at Disney California Adventure that our readers are always asking us, “What ride should I go on first? Which ride has the longest line?”

Ride This First at California Adventure
Ride This First at California Adventure

Ride this first at California Adventure aims to help you plan your day at Disneyland Resort by giving suggestions in each land. This guide will help you pick favorites based upon your group and preferences so you can move on from there. Keep reading for all the details!

Ride this first at California Adventure Cars Land

Radiator Springs Racers

Since the opening of Cars Land summer of 2012, Disney California Adventure has enjoyed a surge of visitors. What was once considered a waste of time, California Adventure can now stand on its own (read why we love California Adventure here), and most of that we owe to Cars Land. The detail around every corner has all the magic you expect from Disney. Head to Cars Land first thing in the morning, but be sure to visit during evening hours too when neon lights fill Radiator Springs.

Radiator Springs Racers is our top pick for this land. There is little competition for the Cars Land anchor ride, Radiator Springs Racers. It’s part dark ride, part thrill ride and it is SO much fun! Radiator Springs Racers is an absolute must-ride attraction. If you’re planning to race over to Radiator Springs Racers first thing in the morning, you’re not alone. The line quickly gets to be an hour or more long, read our detailed post on the popular cars ride for a no-fail game plan.

Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, another favorite will keep you laughing and spinning through Cars Land. The line for this attraction usually moves quickly and kids of all ages will enjoy it.

Ride this first at California Adventure Grizzly Peak

Soarin' Around the World
Soarin’ Around the World

Do you love the great outdoors, tall pine trees and the fresh mountain air? A true symbol of California, Grizzly Peak is the place for you and it’s right here at Disney California Adventure. What used to be Condor Flats and Grizzly Peak is now one cohesive land in California Adventure with the distinguished feel of the rustic outdoors. You’ll first notice the grizzly bear shaped mountain, a nod to California’s state animal, along with towering trees begging you to explore this often uncrowded area of the park.

This land is also home to a second California Adventure entrance/exit. Guests of Disney Grand Californian Hotel & Spa can use this entrance and other park guests can use it at select times (usually after 11:00 am, but check with cast members at the turnstiles beforehand).

Soarin’ Around the World is our top pick for this land.What’s not to love about this attraction? Well, if you’re afraid of height the answer is easy. But for me, it’s easily one of my favorites at California Adventure and is a must-ride for everyone who’s tall enough. On Soarin’ Around the World, you’ll hang over stunning sights and glide over the globe like never before.

Grizzly River Run is another favorite year-round in sunny California. I even take a  run down the river in January and even skip the poncho and experience the ride just the way it was meant to be from time to time. After this ride I am always very happy to be wearing flip flops.

Ride this first at California Adventure Hollywood LandDisneyland Summer of Heroes

Are you a little star struck? Do big lights and Hollywood glam have you mesmerized? Find yourself in Hollywood Land at California Adventure! Hollywood Land used to be one of my favorite areas in the park. It began when Hollywood Land was known as Hollywood Pictures Backlot and my husband earned a spot in the hot seat of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire- Play It!”

Today’s Hollywood Land is a lot different than what I remember when the park first opened, and it’s home to my absolute favorite ride at California Adventure.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! is our top pick for this land. Previously, Tower of Terror had my heart but Guardians is even better. It’s like a thrill ride and a dance party had a baby. I love it and rock out to these awesome tunes every chance I get. Listen in on Star-Lord’s mix tape—the same vintage pop songs that will play during your ride on Guardians:

More favorites include Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue! During the summer it can get quite busy, but during weekdays in the regular school season you can usually walk right on. Another top pick for Hollywood Land is Frozen – Live at the Hyperion. You won’t want to miss it!

Bonus Tip: get your Disneyland discount tickets from our partner, Get Away Today before heading over to Disneyland Resort.

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Ride this first at California Adventure Paradise Gardens Park

Goofy's Sky School
Goofy’s Sky School

If you haven’t been to California Adventure in a while, you might not know that Paradise Pier has now split into 2 lands: Pixar Pier and Paradise Gardens Park. Paradise Gardens Park extends from Silly Symphony Swings to The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. You can read about every attraction at California Adventure here.

Goofy’s Sky School is our top pick for this land. This wild, jerky ride has earned its place in my heart. I used to hate it and it had a place on my what not to ride list, but now I never miss it! The line gets long, so either hop on this first, get a FASTPASS or use the Single Riders line.

Second choice is absolutely The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. This ride used to always be a quick wait, if any at all, but if Ariel is important to you, the line can get long so hop on this early in the day.

Ride this first at California Adventure Pixar PierToy Story Midway Mania glasses

Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure is one of the most recognizable sights in the park, thanks to the backdrop created by Pixar Pal-A-Round and Incredicoaster.

Toy Story Midway Mania is our top pick for this land. It is a must-ride! This attraction usually has a long line and but now offers a FASTPASS! Even so, it’s an easy first ride winner for anyone with little kids or just a competitive spirit!

More favorites include Incredicoaster, formerly California Screamin’ is one of my favorites and has many options to get you screaming as quickly as possible. This attraction opens June 23, 2018. You can use a FASTPASS, the Single Rider option and/or a Rider Switch. Of course, there’s always the regular line too but I prefer to double up on these options and ride a couple of times during each trip.

Do this first at California Adventure Park

What to Do First at California Adventure to save time with character visits, FASTPASS kiosks, character visits, places to cool down and more! California Adventure is filled with tons of things to do and see. When I first started this website, I hadn’t been back to California Adventure since it’s opening.

That was early in 2002 and I was kinda bummed to be sharing my time between California Adventure and Disneyland. But let me tell you, California Adventure is living up to it’s name and that’s in part thanks to all the things you can do there that don’t include rides. Read more about Why I love California Adventure here.

Disney MaxPass and FASTPASS. Absolutely, without fail, you need to purchase your Disney MaxPass or get a FASTPASS for your top pick ride first thing in the morning. Usually, Radiator Springs Racers and Guardians of the Galaxy run out before noon. Also early in the day, grab your FASTPASS for World of Color. These must be secured in person at the kiosk.

Character Meet and Greets. I love meeting characters at California Adventure, especially special Pixar characters that you can’t see over at Disneyland. First thing in the morning, head over to Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue where you can often meet Sulley and kids can participate in a morning scream contest to open the ride for the day. Another key character meet and greet is with Lightening McQueen and Tow Mater near the Cozy Cone Motel in Cars Land. The lines to meet these two gets long fast, so the morning hours are a great chance for a photo op.

Relax. After the busy morning rush of opening California Adventure, riding all the rides we want, even in the midst of heavy summer crowds and having lunch, we’re usually ready to relax. Mid-day is the perfect time to take refuge in the many air conditioned attractions that are entertaining and require little wait time. Here are some of our family favorites:

Need more help planning your day at Disneyland Resort? We have a step-by-step guide for you. Check out our Disneyland Plans here.

My Disneyland Day
My Disneyland Day
If you only have time for a few of these incredible attractions, here’s a little more about these attractions.
I selected Animation Academy as a “must-do first” because I was truly surprised by this attraction. In our session, we learned how to draw Minnie Mouse. Even my 3 year old was able to come up with a pretty good drawing of her favorite Disney character. Plus, see how to draw Disney characters at home when you’re missing Disney.
Prepare to be blown away. Frozen is a full on musical in a huge theater and is a great way to relax (and laugh) during the afternoon heat. Back in the Aladdin era, my son found it so relaxing, he decided this cool location would be a perfect place for a nap! The show is fabulous, entertaining and funny. Don’t let the large crowd waiting outside deter you, there’s plenty of space for everyone inside. More seating tips for Frozen here.
We know it’s a tough choice to decide what to see and ride first, but we hope our guide has helped narrow down things a bit. Be sure to check out our What to ride first series for Disneyland park too! What things are on your must-do first list when visiting California Adventure? Tell us about your favorites, we’d love to hear from you.

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