On June 15, 2012, Disney California Adventure has its Grand Reopening after a 5 year, billion dollar plus expansion. This expansion has included Toy Story Midway Mania, World of Color, The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, Goofy’s Sky School, Cars Land, Buena Vista Street, and a number of smaller attractions and cosmetic changes. Basically, when Disney California Adventure opens its turnstiles on June 15, 2012 for its Grand Reopening, guests will experience a theme park that is in many ways unrecognizable as the park that opened in early 2001. I’ve assembled a comprehensive look at the history of all of the changes to Disney California Adventure over the years, but the changes that are most relevant this summer are the addition of Cars Land to the park and the conversion of Sunshine Plaza to Buena Vista Street. These are arguably the two most substantial aspects of the overhaul, and they will be a huge draw this summer and beyond.
Buena Vista Street, the new entrance to the park, is a stark contrast to the former Sunshine Plaza. Whereas its predecessor was an eclectic mashup of “postcard” California concepts in an expanse of concrete, Buena Vista Street is an incredibly detailed and well-crafted representation of the Los Angeles that Walt Disney would have seen when he arrived in the 1920s. Basically, it’s Disney California Adventure’s answer to Main Street USA across the Esplanade. While any comparison to Main Street USA seems unlikely to go well for the land drawing the comparison, surprisingly, early first-hand reports have indicated that Buena Vista Street is a worthy counterpart. Carthay Circle Theatre, the theater where Snow White premiered, rises at the end of Buena Vista Street and is sure to become a new icon of Disney California Adventure. The park even has its own statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, called Storytellers, which is a companion to Partners. Oh, and there are Red Car Trolleys that run between Buena Vista Street and the Tower of Terror in Hollywood Land! It’s unlikely that Buena Vista Street will receive the same public fanfare as Cars Land, but I’m really excited for it!
The other land opening this summer is a little place called “Cars Land.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Basically, this land is just one big area where kids can play with Hot Wheels toy cars. There are little tracks and stuff set up and, of course, a gift shop where parents can buy the toy cars for the low price of $34.95 each. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume this “joke” (does something have to be funny to qualify as a joke?) fooled approximately no one. You all know what Cars Land is. In movie terms, it’s Disney’s summer blockbuster. The land on which Disney has basically bet the farm for Disneyland Resort. The land that should turn Disneyland Resort into a bona fide destination resort, and will give Disney California Adventure a serious boost in attendance. The flagship attraction in this new land, Radiator Springs Racers, is already being called one of the best attractions Disney has ever created. I can’t wait to experience it. (Look for my review here soon!)
This brings me to the first point. If you’re visiting Disneyland Resort this summer, expect crowds. First and foremost, the parks will be crowded. This will be especially true with Disney California Adventure, as it’s already clear that Cars Land will be a huge draw with both tourists and locals. The crowds coming to visit this new land will be somewhere between “ridiculous” and “insane.” I’m not quite sure what these levels translate to on the Crowd Calendar, but I think somewhere in the neighborhood of 15.5 out of 10 on the Crowd Calendar.
We’re putting the finishing touches on Touring Plans that encompass the new areas of Disney California Adventure, including all three Cars Land attractions, and they should be ready soon, so these should help you avoid some of the crowds. As potential wait times might be better measured in hours than minutes, arriving early and following these Plans will be incredibly important. We also expect Optimized Touring Plans to be really popular this summer at Disney California Adventure due to the long waits that some attractions may have at non-optimal times.
The idea of these large crowds might sound unappealing, especially to veterans of our service who pass on any wait time over 30 minutes. While waits will be downright unbearable at peak times, we fully expect the parks to be manageable if you come prepared. Many of my favorite attractions at Disneyland Resort are actually in Disney California Adventure, so despite that park’s historic reputation, there are actually a ton of fun attractions there that won’t have insane lines. In other words, I strongly encourage planning a visit to see the incredible new Disney California Adventure! In addition to crowds, there are two awesome new lands, amazing new attractions, delicious new dining options, and more entertainment than you can shake a stick at! If you have not yet booked a trip to Disneyland Resort for this summer, I’m assuming that’s because you’re waiting until Christmas. Good call, as it sounds like the decorations and offerings this holiday season will really raising the bar. No Christmas trip planned? Waiting until 2013?
If you have no trip to Disneyland Resort planned at all (and even if you do!) and are wondering why you should even visit Disneyland Resort, you will definitely want to check out our Disney California Adventure coverage starting Wednesday, June 13, when I’ll be out at Disney California Adventure, covering all of the Grand Reopening media festivities on June 13, 14, and 15. You can find more details on this below!
During the red carpet event, media preview day, and on the grand opening day, I’ll be posting live photo Tweets to the TouringPlans Twitter account and updates to the TouringPlans Facebook page, so make sure to Follow and Like us! We’ll have tons of coverage on the blog! If you have any photos you’d like to see from the festivities, make your requests in the comments!
All photos courtesy of Disney.