Condor Flats

CondorFlats1

BACKGROUND

Before California Adventure’s major expansion and refurbishment, the park had a huge land known as “Golden State”. But when the park’s transformation was complete, Golden State broke off into three separate lands: Grizzly Peak, Pacific Wharf, and Condor Flats.

Based on the mid 20th century Mojave Desert, Condor Flats keeps the early days of commercial aviation alive. This land is full of nostalgia, charm, and excitement for the future. While Condor Flats is California Adventure’s smallest land, it is one of the most heavily visited, and guests can’t seem to get enough of the excitement of flying!

CondorFlats2

THE EXPERIENCE

Upon entering Condor Flats, guests immediately leave the hustle and bustle of Buena Vista Street and find themselves entering the past. Cast members in flight attendant and pilot outfits welcome visitors into the golden age of flight, and the desert rock formations surrounding the flats provide the perfect environment for a trip through the skies.

With churro stands, vendor carts, and the Taste Pilots Grille, Condor Flats always smells delicious. Many guests breeze through the flats as they rush from Grizzly Peak to Buena Vista Street, and miss the detail and charm of this land. Be sure to take a minute to appreciate Condor Flats, and don’t forget to check out the aviation-themed gift shop!

CondorFlats3

CHARACTERS YOU MAY ENCOUNTER

  • Minnie Mouse & the Fly Girls (dancers)

RIDES AND ATTRACTIONS

  • Soarin’ Over California

DINING

  • Taste Pilot’s Grille

CondorFlats4

TRIVIA

You can find the number 47 hidden in a number of places in Condor Flats. This is a reference to 1947, the year the sound barrier was broken. How many 47’s can you find?

On a similar note, the clock in the gift shop is stopped at the exact time Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947.

During the construction of Buena Vista Street, Condor Flats served as the temporary entrance to California Adventure.

CondorFlats5

TOURING TIPS

Condor Flats has only one attraction, but it’s a major headliner and enormously popular among park visitors. As a result, crowds flood this area in the park, especially mid-afternoon to evening. My recommendation is to grab a fast pass for Soarin’ Over California as soon as you enter California Adventure, and then proceed to other lands earlier in the morning.

On poor weather days, Condor Flats is virtually empty. California Adventure’s rides are largely outdoors, so a stop in Soarin’ can be a nice break from the rain and/or wind. However, the ground in Condor Flats gets incredibly slippery when wet. If you spend some time in this area during bad weather, be careful and watch your step!

CondorFlats6

Jumpin’ Jellyfish

JumpinJellyfish1

LOCATION

Paradise Pier – Follow the main path along the waterfront, and you will see the Jumpin’ Jellyfish, just before the path veers left toward the ferris wheel.

RIDE BACKGROUND

Jumpin’ Jellyfish was one of the first rides installed in California Adventure specifically for the youngest park guests. Since California Adventure has a lot more major rides than Disneyland, Imagineers designed a thrilling ride on a smaller scale, so that even the smallest visitors could share in the California Adventure experience. During the major California Adventure expansion and renovation, Jumpin’ Jellyfish was slated for removal. But its popularity with little ones saved this ride, and it remains a staple of Paradise Pier to this day.

JumpinJellyfish2

RIDE EXPERIENCE

Riders board into jellyfish parachutes as they ascend into the skies of Paradise Pier. For about two minutes, the jellyfish gently hover and bob in the sky, offering panoramic views of Paradise Pier, Pacific Wharf, and the waterfront. Finally, the jellies return to the ground and riders offload as they continue their adventures along the pier.

MY RATING: ★★★☆☆

The Jumpin’ Jellyfish is a great ride for families with small children. There are no big drops, and the top offers a scenic view of the park. The only reason I give this ride three stars instead of four is the view. If you get a seat facing the water, the views are awesome and the ride is a lot more fun. If you face Goofy’s Sky School and the shops, there isn’t much of a view. Make sure you sit by the water if you can, and you’ll have a lot of fun with your little ones and a great chance to take some scenic photos of Paradise Pier.

JumpinJellyfish3

VISITING TIPS

Even on very crowded park days, Jumpin’ Jellyfish has relatively short lines. If you can, visit this ride twice during your stay: once in the daytime, and once at night. Both times offer extraordinary views of California Adventure, and each time of day produces really cool pictures. If you’re concerned about whether or not your kids can handle the jellyfish, fear not; this ride shouldn’t scare even the most timid of park visitors. Although the jellyfish do climb about 40 feet up, there are no drops (just small and slow bobbing). This is a great test ride to see if your kids are ready for the slightly bigger Paradise Pier rides, like the Golden Zephyr or Silly Symphony Swings!

TRIVIA

The name comes from one of Sebastian’s famous lines in The Little Mermaid. He yells “Jumpin’ Jellyfish!” when he sees fireworks shoot from Prince Eric’s ship.

This ride replaced the “Maliboomer”, a much taller and faster outdoor drop ride. The Maliboomer was closed during the major California Adventure expansion, and the space was used for more kid-friendly and quieter attractions.

JumpinJellyfish4

Astro Orbitor

AstroOrbitor1

LOCATION

Tomorrowland – When entering from Main Street USA, you will see the Astro Orbitor right at the front.

RIDE BACKGROUND

Like every other ride in Tomorrowland, the Astro Orbitor has continuously changed and evolved since Disneyland first opened in 1955. The original rocket ride, the “Astro Jets”, sat next to the lagoon and featured checkered jets that navigated a wide 50-foot circle. In 1964, the attraction changed to the “Tomorrowland Jets” and moved to the top of the long gone People Mover platform. And finally, in 1998, the ride was completely refurbished and moved to its current location, finally settling on its current name.

AstroOrbitor2

RIDE EXPERIENCE

Like Dumbo The Flying Elephant, The Astro Orbitor rotates around a central monument, and pilots have the ability to adjust the height of each rocket ship. Each flight lasts about two minutes, during which guests experience a high-flying journey above Tomorrowland. The Astro Orbitor offers one of the best panoramic views of Disneyland (the absolute best from a moving ride), and invites space explorers of all ages to fly into the skies of Tomorrowland!

MY RATING: ★★★★☆

The Astro Orbitor is really cool. I had always skipped it when I visited Disneyland because I assumed it was the same as Dumbo the Flying Elephant, but I’m so sorry I did! The Orbitor is very tall, and the ships go surprisingly high. As I said before, the views of the park are just breathtaking, and it’s really fun to fly around Tomorrowland in a rocket ship. This ride is really underappreciated, so make sure you stop by on your next visit to the park!

AstroOrbitor3

VISITING TIPS

If the park is crowded when you visit, you may have to wait a long time to board the Astro Orbitor. My advice is to ride as late as you can. Crowds start to die down after dark, and the neon lights of Tomorrowland are so beautiful at night. The Astro Orbitor offers excellent views of Tomorrowland, the castle, and Main Street USA, all of which have a magical glow after dark!

If you don’t want to wait until the evening to visit the Astro Orbitor, the sooner you ride the better. I recommend hopping on the Orbitor first when you venture through Tomorrowland, since this is not one of the rides in this area with fast pass.

TRIVIA

When the Astro Orbitor moved to its new home at the entrance of Tomorrowland, Imagineers originally planned to install a small moat around the base, but this concept was never fully developed.

In honor of Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, one of the planets hanging from the central monument changed into a hidden mickey. See if you can find it!

With four name changes, the Astro Orbitor earns the prize for the most names for a single ride (with no major changes to the ride itself).

AstroOrbitor4

Movies Represented In The Park

When you’re planning for a trip to the Disneyland Resort, it’s hard not to be excited. A great way to pump yourself up (and refresh your memory) is to watch some of the classic movies. I like to watch a movie or two per day leading up to my trip and it helps me get ready for my time in the park.

The following is the list of movies that have representation in the Disneyland and California Adventure parks, whether in the form of a ride, attraction. And since shows change fairly frequently, there are a few movies featured in shows that are not on this list. Have fun preparing for your magical trip!

Note: I did not add sequels, because the list was already very long, but feel fee to add them to your own list.

DISNEYLAND

ADVENTURELAND

  • The African Queen (1951): Jungle Cruise
  • Aladdin (1992): Aladdin’s Oasis
  • Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): Indiana Jones Adventures
  • Tarzan (1999): Tarzan’s Treehouse

CRITTER COUNTRY

FANTASYLAND

FRONTIERLAND

  • Pirates of the Caribbean (2003): Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island

MICKEY’S TOONTOWN

  • Inspector Gadget (1999): Gadget Go Coaster
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988): Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin

NEW ORLEANS SQUARE

  • The Haunted Mansion (2003): Haunted Mansion
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): Haunted Mansion holiday theme
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (2003): Pirates of the Caribbean
  • The Princess and the Frog (2009): Tiana Meet and Greet in New Orleans Square

TOMORROWLAND

  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000): Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
  • Finding Nemo (2003): Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
  • Star Wars (1977): Star Tours

CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE

A BUG’S LAND

  • A Bug’s Life (1998): the land theme

CARS LAND

  • Cars (2006): the land theme

CONDOR FLATS – none

GRIZZLY PEAK – none

HOLLYWOOD LAND

  • Aladdin (1992): Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular!
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991): Beast’s Library in Disney Animation
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): Ursula’s Grotto in Disney Animation
  • Monster’s Inc. (2001): Monster’s Inc., Mike & Sully To The Rescue!
  • Sword in the Stone (1963): Sorcerer’s Workshop in Disney Animation
  • Tower of Terror (1997): The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror

PACIFIC WHARF – none

PARADISE PIER

Hidden Path To Critter Country

One of the quieter and more scenic areas in the park has always been Critter Country; its restaurants offer beautiful waterfront views, and its décor is charming. But did you know about its hidden gem? If you follow the Harbour Galley deck, toward the Hungry Bear Restaurant, you will see some corner tables and a few stairs. Follow the stairs and you’ll arrive at the Hidden Path to Critter Country!

HiddenPathToCritterCountry1

The path has some awesome and private views of the Rivers of America and Splash Mountain. In fact, if you look down, you can see riders just after they’ve made the big plunge, and can snap photos of your friends and family’s reactions! The path lets out right in front of Splash Mountain, and offers a great view of Critter Country. Next time you’re at Disneyland, check out this hidden gem. It’s a fun detail that will make you feel like a Disney expert!

Haunted Mansion Pet Cemetery

Everyone who has ever visited the Haunted Mansion can appreciate the tremendous detail and decoration, both inside and outside of the ride. There are so many tombstones, cobwebs, and eerie portraits in each and every corner of the Mansion; even frequent park visitors notice something new when they return for another ride.

We are all familiar with the graveyard along the front patio of the mansion. Guests waiting in line appreciate the clever puns and engravings on each tombstone. But did you know that the Haunted Mansion has another graveyard? In the rear of the Mansion, alongside the wheelchair access area, lies a park secret: the Pet Cemetery.

SONY DSC Source

The Pet Cemetery provides wheelchair access users with their own spooky loading experience. Imagineer Kim Irvine designed and decorated the space in the 1980′s, and Imagineer Chris Goosman created the accompanying epitaphs. With the long grass and chilling quiet, this park secret is definitely one of the eeriest places in the park!

Toy Story Midway Mania!

ToyStoryMidwayMania1

LOCATION

Paradise Pier – Cross the bridge to the back of Paradise Pier or follow the walkway past the Golden Zephyr and Silly Symphony Swings, and you will see Midway Mania; it’s the largest building in the back of Paradise Pier.

RIDE BACKGROUND

Toy Story Midway Mania! debuted in California Adventure in 2008, and is one of the most high-tech attractions at the Disney parks. In fact, it is the only ride to use three different control systems at once: one for the ride vehicles, one for the mini games, and one for the special effects. Since its installation in the Disneyland Resort, Midway Mania has drawn millions of guests every year, and has been so consistently popular, it has seen only one change: a new mini-game inside the arcade.

ToyStoryMidwayMania2

RIDE EXPERIENCE

Guests entering the waiting line wander through the arcade photo gallery and patio, and have a chance to talk with Mr. Potato Head along the way. Upon boarding the ride vehicles, players fly around the arcade before settling in front of a 3D screen. Targets appear on each screen for a limited amount of time, and guests compete against the others in their cars for the highest score. The cars move from screen to screen until the final shootout, and then the Toy Story characters reveal the big winner!

MY RATING: ★★★★☆

Toy Story Midway Mania! is a lot of fun. The shooting games are really fast-paced, the cars zip around the arcade, and you never know what’s coming next. Within the ride, Imagineers made sure to include all of the beloved Toy Story characters, and some of them even participate in the games.

I give this ride four stars for two reasons. First, it breaks down fairly often. That doesn’t mean it shuts down and stops loading riders; cars inside the arcade simply pause until loading resumes. This never lasts more than a minute or two at a time, but you can’t shoot when the ride stops so it can be frustrating if it happens multiple times during your ride. And secondly, the line for Midway Mania is consistently long. On a rainy Friday during offseason, I still waited over half an hour to get on Midway Mania…and that was a day when I walked onto Space Mountain twice in a row.

Despite those two complaints, I highly recommend Midway Mania. It’s a unique ride with cool 3D effects, and I’ve never regretted waiting in line for it. Be prepared for the wait and be patient if your car stops at some point, and you’ll have a wonderful time on Midway Mania.

ToyStoryMidwayMania3

VISITING TIPS

I have been to Midway Mania at every time of day in a variety of seasons, and I can say with certainty that it is always busy. Obviously some days are more crowded than others, but I’ve never just waltzed onto this ride, even in the rain. My advice is not to worry about rushing to this one, and save your earlier and less crowded hours for the other headliners in the park. Visit Midway Mania whenever its convenient, and just accept that you will have to wait in line.

TRIVIA

Mr. Potato Head is interactive. If you respond to him or talk to him, he will answer back!

The interior arcade is supposed to resemble Andy’s room. If you look closely, the proportions make you the size of a toy, so you can experience Andy’s room alongside Woody, Buzz, and the gang.

ToyStoryMidwayMania4

Goofy’s Sky School

GoofysSkySchool1

LOCATION

Paradise Pier – Whether you’re entering from Pacific Wharf or Grizzly Peak, follow the path along the right of the Pier. You will see Goofy’s Sky School tucked in the right corner, across from the Silly Symphony Swings.

RIDE BACKGROUND

Goofy’s Sky School replaced Mulholland Madness, a virtually identical coaster with Los Angeles’ Mulholland Drive as its theme. Mulholland Madness had three major crashes in its first month of operation, and was plagued with technical problems. When California Adventure began incorporating more and more characters in the park, Imagineers took the opportunity to revamp the coaster and introduced the Goofy theme.

Today, Goofy’s Sky School takes riders on a flight with newly licensed pilot Goofy, through the skies of Paradise Pier. The Sky School is the tamest coaster at the resort, with the fewest drops and longest flat-track area. Goofy’s Sky School is a great coaster for little ones that aren’t ready for California Adventure, or for Goofy fans of all ages!

GoofysSkySchool2

RIDE EXPERIENCE

As guests approach the boarding area, they see posters advertising Goofy’s Sky School, and flying tips for new pilots. From the deck, guests load into planes and take off into the skies of Paradise Pier, ready for their first flying lesson! The planes swerve, dip, and circle the pier, until the new pilots have earned their flying licenses and proceed back to the deck.

MY RATING: ★★☆☆☆

Goofy’s Sky School is the strangest ride in California Adventure. It seems somewhat out of place, given the detailed facades and decoration of the rides surrounding Paradise Pier. But what makes Goofy odd is not its appearance, but the ride itself. Most of the ride is flat, with sharp turns. At first its fun, but the turns are so sharp you legitimately worry about the car tipping over and dumping you out. Once you get to the drops, they provide the anticipated stomach flip, but the cars come to a screeching halt at the end of each drop. While I get the premise (Goofy’s a terrible pilot and you’re in for a crazy ride as his students), the abrupt stops are uncomfortable and the ride is about as rough as the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

I visit Goofy every time I go to the parks, but more so for laughs than an exciting coaster experience. This ride is a great option for young visitors or riders not ready for the big coasters yet, but if you’re seeking thrills or weary of jerkiness, I would steer clear of the Sky School.

GoofysSkySchool3

VISITING TIPS

Crowd levels of Goofy’s Sky School depend on the season. In the summer or on weekends, lines can get lengthy. Grab a fast pass or make use of the single rider line and you can work this ride anywhere into your touring plan. If you already have fast passes for another ride and want to keep your group together, visit Goofy as late as possible; lines tend to die down after dark. For off-season visitors, you should have no problem with lines.

TRIVIA

Goofy’s Sky School was one of the first rides to be redone as part of the plan to incorporate more Disney characters into California Adventure.

The Sky School planes reach a maximum speed of 27 miles per hour, the same maximum speed as the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

Despite its small track area, the ride duration is almost two minutes!

GoofysSkySchool4

The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

TheLittleMermaidArielsUnderseaAdventure1

LOCATION

Paradise Pier – When entering from either Pacific Wharf or Grizzly Peak, you will see Ariel on your right; it’s the large corner building across from the World of Color viewing platforms.

RIDE BACKGROUND

Imagineers conceptualized Little Mermaid dark rides for several of the parks worldwide, but none of the plans ever panned out. Disneyland didn’t really have space for Ariel and friends, but when California Adventure underwent its major expansion and renovation in the mid 2000’s, Imagineers finally found their opportunity to bring The Little Mermaid into the parks. The building once occupied by the Golden Dreams show was completely redone to resemble a 20th century aquarium, and in 2011, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure finally opened in California Adventure.

TheLittleMermaidArielsUnderseaAdventure2

RIDE EXPERIENCE

The Little Mermaid dark ride begins with an introduction from Scuttle, who invites you to listen in as he tells the tale of everyone’s favorite mermaid. Riders, seated in clamshells, descend into the ocean and follow Ariel as she proudly shows off her collection of treasures from the shore. Ariel, Flounder, and Sebastian lead visitors all around Triton’s Kingdom, and eventually to Ursula’s Grotto. Helpless riders watch as Ursula takes Ariel’s voice, and then follow her as she grows legs and ventures onto the land. After a romantic boat ride with Prince Eric, Ariel fights off Ursula, regains her voice, and invites riders to join in her wedding celebration. The ride ends and guests depart from their clam shells, and Scuttle reminds them to come back again soon.

MY RATING: ★★★★★

This is one of the best dark rides at the Disneyland Resort, and it definitely has the best music. Each room winds around quite a bit, giving you a chance to soak in a lot of detail and hear large portions of your favorite songs. I also really appreciate the beginning of this ride; with lights and bubble effects, you feel like you’re actually going underwater. It’s a really simple but really cool visual trick, and it definitely sets the mood for the rest of your trip under the sea!

TheLittleMermaidArielsUnderseaAdventure3

VISITING TIPS

Because this ride uses a moving platform like the Haunted Mansion, it loads very quickly. With that in mind, the Little Mermaid almost never has a long line. I visit this ride when I’m waiting between fast passes, or if I just ate and want to digest a little before hitting a big ride again, but there’s really no bad time to go. Work Ariel into your touring plan wherever convenient, and you should have no problem getting on quickly.

TRIVIA

The Little Mermaid is the longest dark ride in the park, running over 6 minutes.

Composer Danny Troob wrote a medley for the loading area based on Alan Menken’s original compositions for the 1989 film.

The only other park with a Little Mermaid dark ride is in the Magic Kingdom in Florida. The exterior of this ride is much cooler (in my opinion) because it’s Prince Eric’s castle!

TheLittleMermaidArielsUnderseaAdventure4

Quiet Among The Chaos

Although Disneyland is loud and jam-packed with activity, sometimes you just need a minute to sit down and regroup. With streams of people everywhere and headline attractions in every direction, it can be hard to find a place to take a break or make a plan for the rest of your day. Here are some great spots hidden in the park that offer some quiet among the chaos of Disneyland.

DISNEYLAND

Adventureland

  • River Belle Terrace patio

Critter Country

  • Hungry Bear Restaurant patio
  • Harbour Galley patio

Fantasyland

  • It’s A Small World front area

Frontierland

  • Big Thunder Ranch seating area
  • Golden Horseshoe second floor balcony
  • Rancho del Zolcalo patio

Main Street USA

  • Flagpole circle garden
  • Partners statue garden
  • Snow White’s Grotto area

Mickey’s Toontown

  • Central fountain

New Orleans Square

  • Plaza (between Railroad station and Haunted Mansion)

Tomorrowland

  • Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port patio
  • Rock formation garden (next to Pixie Hollow)

CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE

A Bug’s Land

  • None – with so many kids and large families, you won’t find many quiet spaces to sit and regroup.

Buena Vista Street

  • None – with the jazz cars and singing trolleys, Buena Vista Street is always hopping.

Car’s Land

  • Back patio of Flo’s V8 Café

Condor Flats

  • Taste Pilot’s Grille patio

Grizzly Peak

  • Walkway in front of waterfall

Hollywood Land

  • Patio between Tower of Terror and Hyperion Theatre

Paradise Pier

  • Front benches (between the bay and The Little Mermaid)
  • Pizza and Pasta patio

Pacific Wharf

  • Main seating area for restaurants
  • Wine Country Trattoria patios and upper level
  • Open walkway between Ghirardelli and the main restaurant area