Theme Park of the Week: Disney California Adventure

February 6, 2022, 12:31 PM · Happy 21st birthday this week to Disney California Adventure. The Disneyland Resort's second gate opened officially to guests on February 8, 2001. That anniversary inspires us to make DCA our Theme Park Insider Theme Park of the Week.

Disney California Adventure did not get to celebrate its 20th anniversary properly last year due to the Disneyland Resort's 14-month closure for the pandemic. But the gates will be open and the party going for its 21st this week. It's Lunar New Year at Disney California Adventure right now, with that festival continuing through next Sunday, February 13.

Much like Epcot at Walt Disney World, Disneyland's second park is the resort's home for special events. Starting next month, the park will host the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival from March 4 through April 26, and the Oogie Boogie Bash and Festival of Holidays will return later this year.

In the meantime, Disney California Adventure offers several of Disneyland's most popular attractions, including Radiator Springs Racers and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, both of which made our Theme Park Insider Top 25 Attractions worldwide last year.

For the rest of the attractions available at the park, please see our guide to Disney California Adventure, or join us for a video walk around the park.

The popular World of Color night-time spectacular is returning to the Paradise Park lagoon this spring, following last year's debut of Avengers Campus.

Our readers' top picks for where to eat at Disney California Adventure are Carthay Circle Restaurant and the Pixar-themed Lamplight Lounge, which is home to the park's iconic Lobster Nachos.

Discounted tickets to Disney California Adventure are available on our partner's Disneyland tickets page, where you can find a Southern California resident three-day ticket discount at even lower prices than Disneyland is offering on its own website. Once you have your tickets, you will need to make a reservation to visit. And if you want to eat at Carthay Circle or Lamplight Lounge, you should book a reservation exactly 60 days in advance of your visit.

When visiting, we recommend arriving early then heading at rope drop to the new Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure before taking on Guardians. Then head over to Pixar Pier for Toy Story Midway Mania. Save Soarin' for later in the afternoon and Radiator Springs Racers for sunset or the evening, when the ride looks its best. Whenver you need a break to sit down in the air conditioning, the Animation Academy inside the Disney Animation building in Hollywood Land is always a great choice.

If you have another strategy that has worked for you since the park's reopening last year, please share it with us in the comments!

If crowd levels are crazy, you might consider Disney's new Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane upcharges to skip some waits. But you don't need those extra charges to enjoy a day at Disney California Adventure.

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Ticket Icon And again, for discounted tickets to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, please visit our authorized partner's Disneyland tickets page.

Replies (6)

February 6, 2022 at 8:26 PM

Sadly, only been there once in 2003, one I always wanted to get back to given how much has changed.

Still guess good I saw classic attractions like original California Screaming, Animation Building, Golden Dreams and especially the Aladdin show. Still, do want to get back one day.

February 7, 2022 at 10:00 AM

We were just there last week. First time riding the Guardians makeover of ToT - wow, what a surprisingly spectacular upgrade! Even my 89 year old mother thought it a better and more thrilling attraction now, and asked for a re ride! I’d call DCA now a 3/4 day park rather than the 1/2 day park it was when it opened. It’s beautiful and has some great attractions - but it still limps a bit with the sub par Little Mermaid, the stock Goofy’s Sky School, and the local carnival flavor of Paradise - errrrr Pixar - Pier. And they still can’t get Luigi’s to operate consistently…

February 7, 2022 at 10:30 AM

I don’t get why the Little Mermaid is so unappreciated. Its on par with most Fantasyland attractions. In my mind it is one of Disney’s finest films, so if they could give it something even better that would be great. But what it has is pretty good.

February 7, 2022 at 11:53 AM

DCA is already 20+ years old. Feels just like yesterday when I remember seeing its construction while visiting Disneyland. We all know of the park's rocky start but you would have to go all the way back to EPCOT (center) in the early 80's to find a domestic Disney Park that got started in decent shape. Disney MGM Studios had a whopping 4 attractions and Animal Kingdom was so desperate for attractions that they listed a pathway as an attraction when they opened (The Cretaceous Trail)! Anyway my point being DCA was in better initial shape than those two parks and it was going to develop into the lovely park it is today.

My favorite area has to be the Grizzly Peak recreation area. Truly beautiful with the rapids and the serenity. But then as the description here says, Radiator Springs Racers at Dusk? Heck yeah that is a major win right there. I do miss the amazing Aladdin show. The Frozen show that took its place is solid but man Aladdin was a huge crowd-pleaser. It was also exclusive to this park. I'm excited to see how this park keeps growing in the next couple of years and such.

February 7, 2022 at 12:28 PM

It is notable how even the Disney+ Imagineering series is open on CA's flaws at the start ("Superstar Limo might well be the worst ride in Disney history") but did their best to build and has improved majorly since. Still do wonder if we got WestCot but this is still a much better park than some credit it for.

February 7, 2022 at 10:41 PM

Guardians and the Incredicoaster are two of Disney's most successful rethemes, and turned two meh rides into near classics. Radiator Springs, Luigi's Tires and even Mater's Tractors are all wonderful, too, as is Cars Land as a whole.

But come on: Webslingers is a lame retread of midway mania, and Avenger's Campus is an outlet mall with lame stunt fighting shows. Pixar Pier is a death march across a paved-over hellscape of no shade and tired carnival rides, the Hollywood backlot is a nothing, and while the Grizzy Peak area is pretty, the ride itself is the tamest rapids ride on earth, and does not even have any theming.

So yeah, some highlights, but if you don't dally you can be done with the park by time for 1pm park hopping. Maybe come back at night to see the lights and drink adult beverages . . .

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