February 2001 – June 2016
Grizzly Peak – When entering from Buena Vista Street, you would see Soarin’ Over California on the right, just past the restaurant patio. The current version of this attraction is Soarin’ Over the World, located in the same spot.
Soarin’ has been on Imagineering’s radar since 1996. The original concept, titled “Ultra Flight”, would have sent cars moving along a horizontal track as guests flew over projected California landmarks. When this plan proved too difficult and costly to execute, the ride went back on the shelf. But a few years later, Imagineers designed a new layout that would hold three levels of guests at a time, making the ride much more efficient and less costly. In 2001, Soarin’ Over California opened within the Condor Flats area of “Golden State”, a now divided land in California Adventure. Soarin’ Over California has consistently been a favorite among park visitors, and is one of the most heavily attended rides at the resort each year.
Riders entered the Soarin’ building and walked through a flight deck decorated with wings and photos of famous aircraft. When guests finally reached the loading area, they climbed into specially designed aircraft and took off into the California skies. For five minutes, guests soaked in the sights and smells of tons of landmarks: The Golden Gate Bridge, Redwood Creek, Napa Valley, Monterey, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Palm Springs, Camarillo, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego, Malibu, Los Angeles, and finally…Disneyland!
Soarin’ Over California didn’t so much close as it did re-theme. In early 2016, Disney announced that Soarin’ in both California Adventure and Epcot would upgrade to “Soarin’ Over the World”. This new attraction would take riders on a journey through some of the most famous and beautiful landmarks around the globe. Soarin’ Over California went dark in June 2016, with Soarin’ Over the World opening the next day.
My original rating: Soarin’ Over California is awesome. While the flight over California landmarks is neat enough on its own, Imagineers have taken the experience a step further; they blast smells in the theater during the ride. So when you’re flying above the orange groves, you’ll smell some citrus, and you’ll get a hint of pine as you ascend the Sierras. The changing smells just make the experience that much more lifelike! (★★★★★)
Imagineers created a model for the Soarin’ Over California track using an “Erector Set”, a toy construction kit with metal frames.
Patrick Warburton played the flight attendant on the safety instruction pre-flight video (and does so for the worldwide version!).