Disney California Adventure: What To Expect This Summer

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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.

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Posted on June 9, 2012

14 Responses to “Disney California Adventure: What To Expect This Summer”

  • can’t wait to follow the coverage!!
    the “new” CalAdv will be insanely beautiful.. i bet on it! :)

  • Living on Rt 66, I fell a special pull to visit. I’ve already booked a trip for my birthday in early December. It’ll be my first visit to the DLR in almost 25 years. What I’ve most been anticipating amazingly enough are Toms pictures. Have fun!!

    • Well, you’re in luck, because I plan on taking a TON of photos next week!

      I’m sure you’ll have a great time during your early December trip (perfect time to visit!). A lot has changed in 25 years!!!

  • Our family will be there for opening Friday…we’ll be happy to tweet line times, etc! :)

  • We were at CA yesterday and Cars Land was operating for a special event. It was very, very hard to explain to my 5 year old Cars fanatic why he could not go in to. We live in Texas so the crowds will surely die down before we make it back in 5 years. Unfortunately, his love for Cars will as well!

  • Wow! Extra Magic Hours at Disneyland! I was all set to stay at a non-Disney hotel (with hotel reward points). Four nights at Paradise Pier come with a pretty hefty price tag. Do you think the extra morning hour will make a significant difference in late August?

    We’re thinking about the weekend of the 19th or the 26th. (I’ve got my Disneyland Touring Plans subscription, so I’ll be keeping a close eye on the crowd projections!)

    • My personal opinion (and I am NOT a statistician) is that it will make a difference. I believe Disneyland Resort will be incredibly busy until at least January 2, 2013. Obviously there will be less busy days, relatively speaking, but it will still be busy.

      Here’s why:
      -Summer crowds are a given due to new offerings
      -Once summer ends, APs who were blocked out during the summer can finally come back…and will come back in full force, then you have back to back…
      -Crowds for Halloween
      -Crowds for Christmas

      On site hotels come with an obscene price tag, and I’ve never recommended them in the past, but I think early entry, even if it’s only an hour, at Disney California Adventure will be huge. Now, early entry isn’t every morning, so if you show up at rope drop on other mornings, you’ll still do well, but if you can afford one of the three Disneyland Resort Hotels, I might go that route.

      • Thanks for the info! I think we might have to try rope drop on a non-extra magic day, unless we go for a single night in a Disney hotel. Either that or wait until Spring Break 2013. Do you think it’ll be better then, or will crowds pick back up?

      • by David Davies on June 12, 2012, at 10:05 am EDT

        Note that at DCA many of the days this summer that do not have the Extra Magic Hour for hotel guests instead have early entry for Annual Passholders (who signed up for that specific day). So most days this summer, there will be some sort of early entry that will allow some sort of guests to enter DCA an hour before the posted opening time.

        That said, being at the front of the pack at posted opening will certainly be better than showing up later.

  • Oops! Make that the WEEK OF the 19th or 26th. I May be a Disneyland noob, but I know enough not to go on the weekend! ;)

  • Will you have touring plans out by the 15th or will they be out after you have had time to collect data? I’ll be there on the 16th thru the 21st and this being my visit to DCA I’m feeling a little lost.

    • by David Davies on June 12, 2012, at 10:09 am EDT

      We will have new Touring Plans up (one kid-focused, one not) by 6/13/2012. That said, as we collect wait times, experience the attractions, and observe crowd patterns, our predictions will get better and allow us to refine our Touring Plans.

      If you’ll be at Disneyland this summer, please submit wait times (including actual wait times, if possible). We expect significant changes in the way that DCA waits work, and Disneyland Park waits might also be affected by the excitement across the Esplanade. Our products are based on data, so more data means better results.

  • Are the Crowd Calenders and Wait Times for DCA updated? Because the crowds don’t seem to be much worse than an average summer according to them. Thanks!

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