So much new to see and do at Disneyland in California

DAY ONE OF FIVE — Welcome to Radiator Springs.

Families waiting hours for new attractions at Cars Land at Disney California Adventure

For the uninitiated, Radiator Springs is “the cutest little town in Carburetor County” and where the loveable characters of the Cars movies live along Route 66.

In this case, a new “land” just opened with much fanfare at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim.   “I want our guests to feel like this is the greatest road trip they’ve ever been on,” says John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer, Pixar, which made the smash hit Cars films, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Cars Land adds 12 new acres to the park with new attractions featuring much loved characters including Mater, Lightning McQueen and Luigi.

Ready to race? Radiator Springs Racers is one of the most elaborate attractions ever created for  a Disney theme park as the “Cars” gang gathers to get us ready for the big race. We go through the mountains of Ornament Valley in our cars for a road trip through Radiator Springs, get racing tips from Doc Hudson and zoom over the road in a high speed race with a neighboring car.

Even glitches that shut the ride down the day I visited and forced even those with FastPasses to wait more than an hour couldn’t dim the enthusiasm for what already is a must-ride attraction.  “Worth the wait,” said a smiling 11-year-old Kailyn Randolph, here from northern California. “I liked when we raced and went fast!”

Her little sister Aubrey, though gave the ride a thumbs down and was in tears.  “Too fast,” the four year old said.   But her dad James added, “She cries on all the rides!

Visitors like 12-year-old Jordan Moon, from Ontario, CA were especially taken with the detail from the Cars movies.  “It really made California Adventure better,” she added, noting she has been here many times.

“There’s a lot more to do now,” added her mom Laurie.

“They really needed this,” agreed Chris Peppers, who is here with his family from Texas. “They were falling behind.”

Indeed, many felt that other than a few spectacular attractions—Soarin’ over California, the 4-D Toy Story Midway Mania, the hi-speed coaster California Screamin’ , Tower of Terror – California Adventure left them unsatisfied.  They’d pay to ride the attractions and then leave feeling they hadn’t gotten their money’s worth.  Now that all seems to be changing.

Families oohed and aahed at the World of Color spectacular with 1200 fountains interspersed with favorite Disney characters including the latest Merida, the heroine of the new Disney-Pixar film Brave. Think the combination of water, color, fire music and Disney characters.

They laughed at the Mad T Party, every night at 7 p.m. with music, games dancing. There are daily mini concerts conducted by none other than Maestro Goofy and a Pixar Play Parade.

“I like this park better than Disneyland,” said Kirsten Peppers, 10, in the midst of her first visit to any Disney parks—from Texas.

If you are a fan of the Cars films, you’ll love Cars Land complete with vistas of Ornament Valley, neon signs that light up at night and three new attractions. Besides Radiator Springs Racers, there’s Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Flying Tires—guests board vehicles that look like oversize tires (apparently Flying Tire hats are the hottest souvenirs here) and as guests glide along, they shift their weight to guide the direction of the vehicle, bumping into other tires as they “float” across Luigi’s garden and tire storage yard, all the while trying to catch one of the inflatable balls.  Fun, though I couldn’t figure out how to shift my weight!

Kids and parents pose for photos with Lightning McQueen and Mater at the Cozy Cone Motel (get anything from chili to popcorn to ice cream to churro bits in a cone) Red the Fire Truck asks young guests to help him water the flowers (think water play).

Cars Land isn’t all that’s been added to Disney California Adventure. You’ll feel the difference as soon as you enter the park onto Buena Vista Street. The idea is you step into 1920s LA as Walt Disney might have seen it when he arrived from Missouri, complete with complete with Red Car Trolleys inspired by the historic Pacific Electric Red Cars, Red Car News Boys who sing and the Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge.  The Carthay Circle Theater of course, was where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs movie debuted in 1937—Disney’s first feature-length animated movie.

The restaurant is adorned with historic Hollywood photo.  Downstairs, the Carthay Circle Lounge is the place for a quick meal that is decidedly not fast food (think  duck confit sliders,  lamb meatballs  or mini tacos for the kids) classic cocktails, California craft beers and hand crafted  sodas dispensed from antique seltzer bottles.

Upstairs, all of the servers have special wine training and the menu offers five varieties of sustainable fish, vegetables picked by staff who visit local farms house biscuits stuffed with cheddar and bacon served with apricot butter and bacon wrapped shrimp. Executive Chef Andrew Sutton, who also oversees Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, says he wanted to create a place where the quality of the food is first-rate but the atmosphere not stuffy, where families can relax and be comfortable, arriving in shorts straight from the park. “Families coming here—and there are a lot of season pass holders,” don’t want fast food all the time. It’s boring,” says Chef Sutton, the father of two daughters who have given his new restaurant a thumbs up. He adds that today’s kids, including his own, are far more adventurous eaters—in part because many watch the Food Network.

“It is the responsibility of a the chef to bring energy to the table… to get people to engage,” he says. That’s why many of the plates are designed for sharing and you won’t find chicken fingers on the kids’ menus (Sloppy Joes or today’s catch with smashed potatoes and a green apple caramel parfait push pop!)

A Tip: Book a table on the Terrace and you can see the parade and at 9:25 pm, get a great viewing point for the Disneyland Fireworks.

“Come here and have some fun!” says Chef Sutton

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