Tom Bricker says:
“Overall, Cars Land was money very well spent. It will be a huge draw for Disneyland Resort for years to come.”
Cars Land is the crowning capstone on DCA’s transformation, and the first major “land” in an American Disney theme park devoted solely to a single film franchise. Tucked in the park’s southeast corner on 12 acres of repurposed parking lot, Cars Land’s main entrance is across from the Golden Vine Winery, though there are secondary gateways in a bug’s land and Pacific Wharf. A massive mountainous backdrop topped with 125-foot-high peaks patterned after 1959 Cadillac Pinnacle tail fins — known as the Cadillac Range — cradles Ornament Valley, home to a screen-accurate re-creation of Radiator Springs. That’s the sleepy single-stoplight town along Route 66 populated by Pixar’s anthropomorphized automobiles.
Along its main drag, in addition to three rides, you find eateries themed to the film’s minor characters such as Fillmore’s Taste-In, serving fruit drinks and snacks; Cozy Cone Motel, with chili, ice cream, and popcorn, all served in conical containers; and Flo’s V8 Cafe, serving creative takes on classic comfort food with a Southwestern twist for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Souvenir shops include Radiator Springs Curios, Ramone’s House of Body Art, and Sarge’s Supply Hut.
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All eyes in the theme park industry turn this week to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, where the grand re-opening of Disney California Adventure is being celebrated in the high style befitting the finish line of a billion-dollar makeover marathon. Before this massive expansion officially opens to the public on June 15, invited media and paying sneak-preview participants will have already had an opportunity to experience the new attractions of Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, and naturally the TouringPlans.com team is there on the scene. Touring Plans’ official photographer Tom Bricker, Unofficial Guide to Disneyland co-author Seth Kubersky, and new Touring Plans researcher Guy Selga, Jr. will all be on-property this week, documenting every detail to your touring advantage. Over the next few days, please check back on the blog for our hot-off-the-press first reviews direct from DCA, edited versions of which will appear in the 2013 edition of the Unofficial Guide.
Radiator Springs Racers (FASTPASS)
Our Rating: 5 stars
Tom Bricker says:
“Aside from ‘sacred classics,’ Radiator Springs Racers is the best Disney attraction ever, in my opinion. I was in absolute awe!”
- What it is: Automotive dark ride with high-speed thrills.
- Scope and scale: Superheadliner.
- When to go: The first 30 minutes the park is open or use FASTPASS.
- Special comments: Must be 40″ tall to ride; switching-off option provided; Not to be missed.
- Duration of ride: About 4 minutes
- Average wait time per 100 people ahead of you: 3 1/2 minutes
- Loading speed: Moderate–fast
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“I’m sorry. We don’t have a reservation under that name at this resort or any other Disney resort.” This was the rocky start to my relationship with Disney’s All-Star Music Resort. Baffled and sent away with my tail tucked between my legs, I found a seat in the lobby. I needed wifi to pull up my confirmation email (which admittedly I should have already had with me), but I quickly learned there was no wifi anywhere. I waited in the check-in line a second time to inquire about getting an internet connection but was told this was only available for an extra fee with (wait for it). . . a room reservation. Sent away with my tail tucked between my legs for a second time, I spent some time seeking wifi and tracking down my confirmation email.
Once I was armed with the proof that my clan did, indeed, have the right to occupy one of the resort’s family suites, I waited in the check-in line for a third time. The reservation was found under my last name with an incorrect spelling. I was relieved–that is until I was told I needed to pay the balance on the room. “This room should have already been paid for,” I explained to the lady behind the counter. She pleasantly explained that the first night had been paid off but not the second, and I was bewildered when she asked if I would please hand over my credit card for the $300 per night charge. I was certain it had already been covered. However, I thought it over for a few seconds and considered the fact that if I had to wait in that check-in line one more time I might hang myself. With that visual in mind, I gave the woman my sparkling Disney Visa. The matter would have to be figured out later as my family needed accommodations, and I knew we would not be able to find another room easily on the holiday weekend.
The papers were signed, and I was told that the room was available immediately. Dragging my luggage and family of five along, I approached and opened the door to our suite on the second floor. Bam! The intense smell of chlorine bleach hit me like a Mac truck. “Whoa!” I exclaimed, “Back up! No children may enter here yet!” My kids were tired. They were sweating. They were irritable, but there was no way I would let them in the room. I reasoned that mild perspiration never hurt anyone; however, inhaling chlorine bleach had, and I made them wait out on the balcony while I did my best to air out the room.
After a few minutes with the door held open, the smell abated enough for everyone to enter. This was when the course of our experience changed. Everyone “ooohed and ahhhhed” as we inspected our temporary digs. A living room featured a TV, table, a couple dining chairs, hidden beds in the sofa, stuffed chair, and ottoman. It was simply but tastefully accented with a musical theme. Equally simple and yet completely practical was a kitchenette with cabinets, sink, mini fridge, and microwave. Around a corner was separate bedroom with TV, queen bed, and desk. But clearly my favorite amenity was the set-up of two separate bathrooms, something of which even some DVC accommodations don’t boast. We immediately felt quite comfortable in its crisp and clean atmosphere.
When I ventured out to the food court after settling in our quarters, it impressed me as just as clever. It had separate stations such as a bakery, a grill, a pizzeria, an ice cream counter, waffle station, and beverage island. The service was quick and efficient. I sampled a burger and fries from the grill and sat amongst the colorful murals and posters of music celebrities in the court. It was a pleasant half hour for me. My little ones colored at a strategically placed table that was stocked with coloring sheets and crayons . I sat peacefully nearby and watched “Sonny With A Chance” on a mounted flat screen TV and finished my fries in peace.
“The grounds are somewhat eclectic and charming,” I noted when I scouted the area. As with every Value Resort, All-Star Music was dotted with garish structures establishing its theme. This style always creates a playful and energetic setting for families; however, hidden between the vivid musical monuments I found a rather serene environment–a fenced in rose garden with benches and a fountain. Had I sought out relaxation, this would have been my area of choice. But alas, relaxing is not my strong point when at Walt Disney World, and my family sought out action in these stomping grounds.
We followed the action trail to a central location of the resort. Here we found the primary attraction of All-Star Music–the pools. My family spent a large amount of time at the main pool on both days we were there. The unique guitar shape of the pool along with the water gun-shooting Three Caballeros fountain in the center drew my kids like a Pooh Bear to the hunny pot. Imagine our enthusiasm when we discovered that pool parties were a daily event with energetic DJs and a nightly pool-side movie. It is no surprise that this became the hot spot for the Knopps, and my kids returned from these pool events with bright smiles and tired eyes.
When our troop finally checked out of the family suite of Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, I conceded that it had been a great experience once we were actually permitted to set up camp. The price seemed a bit steep, but being a large family who had need for some kitchen space, the cost was possibly justified. Also, the second bathroom was appreciated on more than one occasion. After all when you have young ones that “gotta go” at the same time, no mom wants to be praying that one can “hold it” while the other is lolly-gagging on the latrine. With this arrangement we found ample places for everyone to be “relieved” as well as get ready to go without standing on top of one another. In addition to that, the resort pool activities did create some wonderful family moments for which there was no price tag. For my family with three younger children, it seemed a fantastic place to establish home base while running around the Walt Disney World Resort.