Disney California Adventure Park fun in the sun

The Disney California Adventure at the Disney Resort Anaheim opened in 2001 across from the Disneyland entrance. I hadn’t been to Disneyland since 1997. I remember a large open space visible around Disneyland from our high rise room window in 1987 when staying at the Disneyland Hotel. There does not seem to be much empty land around Disneyland these days.

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Disney California Adventure Paradise Pier rides with view of three Disney hotels from Sheraton Park Hotel Anaheim:


Guests at any of the three Disney Hotels can enter the California Adventure Park through a special entrance at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

The room rates blew me away for these properties. My sister-in-law wanted to stay at one of the Disney hotels, but my offer to give her a free room at the Sheraton Park Anaheim using my points saved us quite a bit of cash.

Sample Disney Hotel Rates Tuesday, July 17 – Friday, July 20 for 3-night stay.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa = $567.45 per night.

  • Standard View Room = $1,455 + $247.35 Tax = $1,702.35.
  • Deposit at booking is $567.45 and deposit is forfeited if reservation cancelled within 4 days of arrival.
  • Add $405 room rate for California Adventure Park room view.

Disneyland Hotel = $561.60 per night.

  • Upper Level Resort View room = $1,440 + $244.80 tax = $1,684.80.
  • Deposit at booking is $561.60 and deposit is forfeited if reservation cancelled within 4 days of arrival.
  • Add $540 to room rate for Concierge Resort View room.

Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel = $497.25 per night.

  • Concierge Standard View room = $1,275 + $216.75 tax = $1,491.75.
  • Deposit at booking is $497.25 and deposit is forfeited if reservation cancelled within 4 days of arrival.
  • Concierge room includes hotel lounge access.

Sheraton Park Hotel at Anaheim Resort = 7,000 points per night.

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Sheraton Park Hotel (center) seen from Jumpin’ Jellyfish ride in Disney California Adventure Park. Hilton Anaheim is visible on far right. These hotels are adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center and each hotel runs their own complimentary shuttles to the Disney Resort entrance.

Experiencing Disney California Adventure for the first time

I hadn’t read anything about Disney California Adventure prior to walking through the front gate Monday June 25. This was a whole new Disney experience for me.

At first I was feeling a let-down and then the feeling changed to familiarity as I saw many aspects of California imagineered by Disney.

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The entrance to Disney California Adventure is directly across the open plaza from the Disneyland entrance.

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Disney California Adventure park map. The main entrance to the park leads onto Buena Vista Street.

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Buena Vista Street is supposed to represent 1920s Los Angeles when Walt Disney came to California from Kansas City. Carthay Circle just opened June 2012 as a fine dining restaurant.

Carthay Circle Theater was actually a landmark Hollywood movie theater opened in 1926. The original Carthay Circle Theater held the world premier of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

California Adventure theme parks with my impressions of the geographical area in California these parks reflect:  

  • Hollywood Land (SoCal)
  • A Bug’s Land (no California geographical connection)
  • Cars Land (Desert southeast California/Southwest USA)
  • Pacific Wharf (Monterey)
  • Paradise Pier (Santa Cruz/Santa Monica)
  • Grizzly Peak (Sierra/North Coast)
  • Condor Flats (Mojave Desert)

I actually was impressed with the California environments recreated in Disneyland. I have lived and traveled extensively throughout California and the different lands capture the environmental essence of many of these locations. The real landscapes of California are more impressive. California Adventure is like a pu-pu platter of expansive delights in California’s vast geographical regions.

California truly is a huge state with people living millions of different lifestyles.

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Gateway to Hollywood Land – Disney California Adventure.

I spent one day in Disneyland and one day in California Adventure.

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Hollywood Tower Hotel is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror thrill ride at Disney California Adventure. This ride maintained a 60 minute wait time most of the day.

Two days was not nearly enough time to thoroughly experience these parks, especially if you have kids or family slowing you down. The park is open 8am to 11pm or midnight. That is 15 or more hours daily to experience the parks. Realistically, walking around and taking rides for more than ten hours a day in the summer sun is a trial of endurance.

I never explored Hollywood Land and I only walked through Grizzly Peak on my one day in California Adventure. Grizzly River Run water ride had a 75 minute+ wait most of the day. Most of the rides in A Bug’s Land were 5 to 15 minutes wait most of the day.

My wife and I have 3-Day Park Hopper tickets and plan to return to the Disneyland Resort before the end of September to use our third day of the ticket.

My sister-in-law purchased a 5-day Park Hopper and with nearly 50 hours of park time she was able to thoroughly experience both locations. Just be prepared to fork out $290 (ages 10 and up) or $270 (ages 3-9) for every person in your party for a 5-day Disney Park Hopper ticket.

This Disney happy place comes with resort prices.

Disclosure: Disney did not sponsor our Disney Anaheim trip. Researching this article I feel like the only media person writing about Disney California Adventure in the past month who didn’t get a free ride for the opening of Cars Land.

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Disney Resort is a land of illusion.

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Letting the imagination go on vacation is actually quite fun.

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Luigi’s Flying Tires air hockey style ride had 120 minute wait time as a new ride in recently opened Cars Land June 2012.

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As a first time visitor I had no idea I was even in the Cars Land section of the park as I walked aimlessly through A Bug’s Land and entered Cars Land through the back side. Reading John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath in May 2012 still gave me a sense of Route 66 desolation walking this path; not exactly a Disney memory.

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I was attracted by the desert rock landscape of Radiator Springs.

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Radiators Springs Racers is the hottest new ride in the Disney Resort since Cars Land opened June 15. The fast pass tickets were gone early in the morning for the entire day. This is a difficult ride to get on.

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Radiator Springs Racers with 135 minute wait at 4:35pm, Monday June 25.

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One of my primary observations in California Adventure Park given the price of food in Disneyland was the wide selection of food at what seemed to me generally lower prices than Disneyland. The prevalence of fruits and vegetables seemed a significant difference in park food from 1997 when I last visited Disneyland.

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$6.99 at Flo’s V8 Café for turkey sandwich (lot of turkey, little bread roll), carrots and peas, grapes, apple slices and a drink was one of the best food values I saw at the parks.

The food selections seemed better to me at Disney California Adventure than Disneyland. There is also beer and wine available at California Adventure. Disneyland is alcohol free.

Karl Strauss Handcrafted Beers at $7.00 a cup. My sister called this California Adventure ‘ball park’ prices.

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Afternoon shade in A Bug’s Land was welcome relief from the sun.

Or just embrace the California sun at Paradise Pier.

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The only thing missing in this Disney Paradise was the coastal California breeze.

Related Loyalty Traveler posts – Disney Anaheim: Are You Experienced? 

1-Disney Resort Anaheim Hotels

2-Disney Resort Anaheim Parking and Transportation

3-Disney Resort Anaheim Food, Drink and Fine Dining

4-Disney Resort Anaheim FASTPASS basics.

Disney California Adventure Park – Fun in the Sun

Armed Forces 3-Day Park Hopper Disney Resort Anaheim for $99

Ric Garrido, writer and content owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »



  1. The beer and wine at California Adventure was a winner for me. Personally I liked the little Italian/wine garden area.

    Although I like the new Buena Vista area, I’m a bit disappointed that they took out the old bridge running across the front entrance. More and more it seems that Disney prefers to think that it’s the Southern California Adventure and ignores the rest of the state.

  2. Well, the stock DIS has been doing very well, after being in the funk for a long time.

  3. As a Disney cast member and long time parks fan, I’m disappointed to hear no mention of your use of fast passes! It sure helps us when we visit. Looks like you had a good time though, and looks like it was a beautiful SoCal day!

  4. My last visit to Disneyland was my admission was in the 20’s. Now it cost $91. 🙁

  5. What a perfect day to visit Disney! My nephew will surely love the Cars Land; I heard they have life-size McQueen and Tow Mater there. Happy Independence Day!

  6. @Ric – Great post. Looking forward to your Part 2 as I am unexperienced with the fast passees and would like to know more before my planned visit this September.

  7. We are headed there July 17th, mainly for the Carsland. I really hope we are not locked out of fast passes for the rides. I’ll look for your part two and any advice to running around. We are pulling along a 2 and 8 year old, so it will be interesting to see what we can do. I’ve never been to Disneyland or CA Adventure Park, but we lived in Orlando and know DisneyWorld like the back of our hand.

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