It’s been roughly seven months since the
grand opening of the highly successful Cars Land expansion of the Disney California Adventure theme park and since its debut it has remained immensely popular with daily crowds pouring into Radiator Springs Racers and taking in its many intricate detailed touches.
Though I’ve been back to the area a few times since it premiered, my visit to the Disneyland Resort last weekend provided an opportunity to offer an overall update on what’s new, different, and unique or simply what I hadn’t previously had a chance to try.
So welcome back to Radiator Springs…
Last week California was hit with record cold temperatures, in the 50s during the day and dropping into the 30s at night. It made for quite the unique experience at the Disneyland Resort. Many visitors were bundled up and shivering while a lot of locals simply stayed home. Fortunately, the residents of Radiator Springs are always out, including Mater posing at the Cozy Cone Motel (with Lightning McQueen pulling up behind him). One of the most magical moments in Cars Land is to see the characters driving through. It really makes it all come alive. Here Mater strolls past Flo’s V8 Cafe. Lightning McQueen can often be spotted cruising by Ornament Valley. This spot out back behind Flo’s V8 Cafe remains one of the best views in all of the Disneyland Resort. Red the fire truck was out too. These characters are so irresistible that even Disney’s cast members want to take pictures with them. DJ made his rounds too, though I still don’t think Cars Land visitors know just what to make of this show. Very few people are ever dancing along, even after being invited. It’s visually pleasing and quite colorful, but also creates a traffic jam. Inside Flo’s V8 Cafe, signs of lessening crowds were obvious. Since the grand opening, this queue has often been packed with people, with Cars Land never quite finding any down time moving straight from summer into the busy Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas seasons. But with the cold weather setting in and no holidays to celebrate, visitors could finally enjoy it all without too much waiting in line. (That’s my wife Michelle in the red, zipping through ahead of me!) And even the frigid temperatures couldn’t keep me away from finally enjoying one of Flo’s famous milkshakes. The chocolate was extremely thick, difficult to drink until after it melted a bit – but worth the wait! It’s a good idea to order this with a meal, allowing just enough time for it to settle while devouring the food. And now I own one of these snazzy collectible glasses too! The smaller sized crowds were evident over at the Cozy Cone Motel too, where there were little to no lines at each of the cones. Again, this gave me a chance to try something I hadn’t gotten around to yet, thoroughly enjoying Ramone’s Pear of Dice soda. Now that Red’s Apple Freeze has come to Orlando in the form of Lefou’s Brew, I didn’t feel bad ordering something else, and was happy I did because this fizzy drink was refreshing and looked great in the sunlight. I also tried another elusive dish, the Chili Cone Queso. It was exactly what I thought it would be, warm chili mixed with plenty of cheese, topped by Frito’s chips and surrounded by a soft bread cone, which I completely consumed. It’s a fun handheld snack/meal. Each trip to Cars Land requires at least one ride on each of its three main attractions. This time, we started with Luigi’s Flying Tires. A posted 30 minute wait isn’t bad for this slow-loading ride. We only had to wait for 2 or 3 rotations before we hopped on, clocking in at less than 30 minutes. It was nice to see fewer people in Cars Land, for once. Though the ride no longer features giant beach balls, it’s still a whole lot of fun, especially since Disney went through and removed around 20 pounds of unnecessary weight from each tire, enabling them to move even faster. It’s a must-do for me. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, an equally simple but fun attraction, featured the shortest wait I’d seen since the grand opening – essentially no wait! We only had to wait one rotation before hopping on. And we lucked out finally hearing Mater’s secret song as we rode, in which he bumbles his way through forgetting the words. The most popular ride across both parks at the Disneyland Resort remains Radiator Springs Racers, for good reason. Not only is it one of the newest, but also one of the most impressive. Even with smaller crowds, the posted wait time of 105 minutes didn’t surprise me. But under two hours isn’t bad! We hopped in the single rider line, which took around 40 minutes. But as the temperatures dropped after dark, the wait time decreased rapidly, dropping as low as 66 minutes – a cute nod to Route 66. Actual wait time was even less, with the single rider line taking less than 30 minutes. No trip to Cars Land would be complete without checking out the merchandise, starting with Ramone’s House of Body Art. Ramone’s is newly-expanded, adding an outdoor room behind it in what was originally planned to be the Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass distribution area. The mad rush for Racers Fastpasses every day prompted Disney to distribute these passes over by A Bug’s Land instead. Unfortunately the outdoor area of the shop offers little in the way of unique merchandise, though the added room to explore is nice. There’s plenty to choose from here, but nothing that isn’t found in other stores nearby. Replacing some of the grand opening T-shirt designs are others featuring specific areas from Cars Land, including the Oil Pan and Sparky’s. Inside, this Dave Avanzino-created mixed media Cars Land shadow box is clever, as his pieces always are. Some of the newest (and most expensive) Cars Land offerings are on display on a center table, including some Jim Shore sculpts. Those wanting to dress the part may enjoy this array of girls’ shirts, dresses, and handbags, with a distinct Cars Land flair. Lots of new artwork has popped up since Cars Land first opened. Across the street at Radiator Springs Curios, even more exciting new T-shirts are available, though most are exclusively in girls’ cuts and sizes. These Cozy Cone Motel shirts are must-haves. I only wish the orange one had been available for men. This Sparky’s Spark Plugs design is just obscure enough to make people ask what it is when you’re wearing it. The same is definitely true for The Curb Feeler. And The Oil Pan. The Motorama Girls of Flo’s V8 Cafe are featured on T-shirts as well as sweaters and hoodies, and are definitely popular items. Anyone looking for Flo’s merchandise will want to stop by this store. Even more Flo’s V8 Cafe designs. Some leftovers from Christmas remained here. For the higher end collector, this John Lassetire statue is available, the character version of Cars creator John Lasseter. A nice Cars logo plaque is also available, designed by Chip Foose. And this large Piston Cup doubles as a clock, though its small face is just barely cut off at the bottom of this photo. Finally, the effects of Cars Land have reached even outside its boundaries, not only scattering merchandise throughout stores all over the park, but also influencing a few details here and there. Visitors to the nearby Boudin Bakery tour may notice… …Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater bread designs tucked away in a corner. Cars Land is where it’s at!
Though crowds are
slightly less in Cars Land now that the busy seasons have ended, visitors should still be prepared for a packed area, with plenty of excited guests eager to take a stroll down Route 66 and see its character-filled sights.
More photos from Cars Land: