Disney opens Cars Land to its annual passholders
Written by Robert NilesDisney is letting the public have its first look at the final stages in its $1-billion expansion and makeover of Disney California Adventure theme park. Today, we'll take a look around Cars Land.
Published: June 10, 2012 at 3:21 PM
Annual passholder preview day crowd at Cars Land. AP-holders could visit Cars Land for a morning or afternoon this weekend for an extra $50 charge.
Cars Land faithfully recreates the town of Radiator Springs, the setting for much of the first Cars film, where Lightning McQueen gets stranded on his way to the Piston Cup final, only to learn some lessons about friendship while he's there.
You'll see Lightning, along with other Cars characters, driving the streets, greeting guests throughout the day. But let's not dawdle too long out on Route 66. Let's take a look at each of the rides and restaurants in the new land. I'll have more details and full reviews, plus additional photos and video, after Cars Land's media preview day this Thursday. In the meantime, you can follow the links below to submit your own ratings and reviews for these Cars Land attractions, if you were among the preview crowds this week.
Radiator Springs Racers is the centerpiece attraction in Cars Land, a high-speed race through the desert-scene Ornament Valley.
You'll want to pick up a Fastpass from the machine located next to A Bug's Land on your way into the park, to avoid what promises to be an hours-long wait when this ride opens to the public, starting Friday, June 15.
Inside the queue, you'll find Stanley's Oasis, home of the Original Radiator Spring (and the source of the town's name).
I was among the first to board the ride this morning, only to have the ride stop just as we entered the main show building. The work lights came up, and Disney cast members evacuated the car in front of us. But after working on the car ahead, the cast members retreated off stage, dimmed the lights and allowed us to continue.
Within moments, we were flying through Ornament Valley.
And crossing the finish line.
Lightning McQueen and Mater congratulate the racers at the end of the ride. (And the cast members at unload allowed us to ride again, since our first journey was interrupted.)
Luigi's Flying Tires is a unique attraction where riders float on air in giant tires around Luigi's back yard.
I don't want to get into too much opinion here, but I absolutely loved this ride. And I found making the tire move around the giant "air hockey"-like platform to be a snap. It's just basic geometry.
Did you ever stick your hand outside a car window, or in front of a fan? Do your remember how, if you tilt your hand in one direction, the rushing air pushed your hand in that direction? The same principle's at work here. Your tire is floating on a cushion of air. If you lean your body weight to one side, it will create an angle underneath your tire that the air coming up from the ground will push against, pushing you in that direction.
But if you lean too hard, the edge of the tire will hit the ground, and the friction between the tire and ground will stop you immediately. You've got to find the right balance to ride the air. I think this will be much easier for single riders, since you won't have to coordinate with anyone else. I got the hang of this almost instantly, and enjoyed making my tire spin, bump into and avoid other tires, and even race around the platform a bit.
One of the many "planters" inside Cars Land
Mater's Junkyard Jamboree is a classic "whip" ride.
You ride behind Mater's tow trucks, which will whip you around the junkyard, as Mater serenades you with several original songs, written and recorded for the ride.
The action on this ride surprised me. It's quick, you move from side to side quite a bit, and the songs are fun.
Now, on to the food. The Cozy Cone Motel serves snacks and light meals in five different giant roadside cones. Cone 1 serves churros bites. Cone 2 offers soft-serve ice cream and root beer floats. Cone 3 has bread cones with scramble eggs for breakfast, and chicken verde or chili con queso for lunch and dinner. Cone 4 serves pretzel bites and "Red's Apple Freeze," a frozen drink. Cone 5 offers two different flavored popcorns daily.
Since it was early, and I needed breakfast, I chose the bacon and scrambled egg cone, with cheddar cheese sauce ($6.49)
The bacon was pretty much just a garnish, a single thin and crispy slice. The scrambled eggs were covered in a thick, though not very sharp, cheddar sauce. The bread cones at the Cozy Cone tasted like a pretzel bread (without salt) - firm and not doughy. The people in front of me chose the salsa verde-sauced scrambled eggs, and I'd wished I'd gotten that instead.
For the grown-ups, Cone 3 also serves a pomegranate limeade with vodka. Yep, the booze flows in Cars Land, with speciality beers and hard liquor available in the land. Throw in the huge amount of neon that will illuminate Cars Land each night, and this place has the potential to seem more like a club than a kiddie land.
Cars Land's main restaurant is Flo's V8 Cafe.
Look up when you enter Flo's to see the light fixture mounted inside the "air filter" rotunda. The light display changes color every few moments.
I was amused by the inscription on the back of the many cans of "Quality Oil" stacked in front of Flo's, too.
Flo's is a counter-service restaurant, serving roasted meats with vegetable sides, salads and vegetarian casserole, in addition to those speciality beers and wines by the glass. For dessert, Flo's offers milkshakes, as well as individual pies, including apple/Cheddar, and chocolate Mud pies.
I opted for the citrus-marinated roast turkey breast, sliced thinly and served with turkey gravy, cranberry sauce and a roll. For my two sides, I picked the mashed potatoes and a roasted corn medley. ($11.49)
This is old-fashioned diner food, just like I've had in several family-run joints on the real Route 66 over the years. (But tastier!) Yet one family next to me in line just had to complain that they couldn't get hamburgers at Flo's.
Check out the giant rear-view mirror, mounted above the back dining room at Flo's.
Just kill me now. Let every other freakin' theme park on the planet have their cliche, 50's burger joints. Thank goodness Disney's trying for something better with Cars Land. I'll get into more detail later this week, but Cars Land abounds with such touches where Disney could easily have opted for the conventional, but instead chose to try something quite a bit more ambitious. To me, that's something to celebrate - and not to complain about.
Cars Land opens to the public on Friday, June 15. Tomorrow, I'll write about Disney California Adventure's new Buena Vista Street.
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