Updated: May 21, 2015

Guide to Disney's California Adventure Rides

For those who haven't been to Disneyland in a while, you might be shocked to find what used to be the big parking lot in front of Disneyland is now another amusement park called Disney's California Adventure. Just across the plaza from the entrance to Disneyland, DCA (as it is affectionately known) opened in 2001, making the area more of a "resort" as Disneyland, Downtown Disney, and DCA are all linked with the Disney hotels in the area in a walkable distance. California Adventure has a number of really great rides, though the park itself is never as popular, or as crowded, as good old Disneyland itself. All told, there are only about 15-17 rides at this park, plus some shows. But the lack of crowds often makes for a more enjoyable day here when the Disneyland Park is crowded. If you are looking for the best rides at California Adventure, you've come to the right place. In this guide, we will talk about all the attractions at DCA - descriptions, photos, height requirements, tips, secrets, and Fastpass information. Hold on to your seat, and enjoy!



Best Disney California Adventure Rides

Our favorite rides at DCA are as follows (not quite in this order, but pretty close):
  • California Screamin
  • Tower of Terror
  • Maliboomer
  • Grizzly River Run
  • Orange Stinger
  • Mulholland Madness
  • Soarin' Over California
Make sure you ride all these at least once (Maliboomer and California Screamin' are the 2 that are very fast and could be considered scary). Rides on the Fastpass system include California Screamin', Tower of Terror, Grizzly, Mulholland, and Soarin'.

DCA California Adventure Ride Descriptions and Reviews

To see a map of California Adventure, you can click here and it will open in a new window, in PDF format. This California Adventure Ride map shows you where all the rides and attractions are located in the park. This is the same brochure/map you get when you visit the park. After passing through the ticket gates, you go under a replica Golden Gate Bridge and enter the main plaza, called Sunshine Plaza, denoted by a giant sun and water fountain. To your left is Hollywood Pictures Backlot, and also a deadend -- walking through this area will not connect you to other areas of the park - you must backtrack here to Sunshine Plaza to go anywhere else -- kind of a hassle. Anyways, the most popular ride here is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This thrill ride takes you on a possessed, broken elevator car (you are seated and strapped in) that moves up and down the building -- FAST! There is a preliminary visuals and story, then lights go out, elevator shoots up, stops, drops, shoots up, moves forward towards open doors looking like you will fall out the side of the building, drops suddenly, etc. If you can't take some stomach drops, this ride is not for you. But there are no violent movements or quick turns, just some ups and downs. Overall, a fun thrill ride, over way too fast. Try it at least once - you may be a little scared, but it is fun. Most of the other attractions here are theater attractions. The Aladdin show is an almost-Broadway show, with great music and special effects set in a large theater. It features live actors. Muppet Vision 3-D is a 3-D movie (yes, you have to wear those glasses) with some fun interactions, like water spray and steam to make it seem like the theater is coming alive in synchonization with the movie. Not a bad break on a hot day, but nothing to write home about either. Playhouse Disney Live on Stage is another live actor show with characters and songs from the popular TV shows from the Disney network. Great for tots, terrible for teens. The only other attraction here is the brand new Monsters Inc. ride. This is an old-style Disney ride where you site in a moving car that follows a track through a number of scenes from the hilarious Monsters Inc. PIXAR film. Cute, fun for kids, we rode it 3 times over 2 days, not much of a line in the mornings. Worth checking out, but not something you'd wait more than 15 minutes for. And that wraps up Hollywood Pictures Backlot -- head back to Sunshine Plaza.

Next stop, A Bug's Land, a small area themed around the Bug's Life movie. To get there, exit straight ahead to the right out of Sunshine Plaza -- Grizzly Mountain will be to your right, and you will quickly find Bug Land on the left. There is a nice fountain and water spray area immediately on the right as you enter - a godsend on hot summer days, with or without kids. Stop here anytime you want to cool off for a few minutes. The rides inside A Bug's Land are all kiddie style rides, nothing here for teens, though the 3-D movie "It's Tough to be a Bug" is pretty fun for the whole family -- another interactive (complete with stink beetles) 3-D film environment with a little bit of spray, squirts of air, and strange things poking through your seat at times simulating the motion of bugs and critters. Keep in mind it is all make believe -- enjoy it and have fun, as the movie runs every 15 minutes or so and the theater holds a pretty good size crowd. Recommended. Flik's Flyers features pretend little hot-air balloon cars that rise off the ground and then go around in a circle. Heimlich's Chew Chew Train is a mini kids roller coaster on a caterpillar shaped train - not fast, not scary, just goes around. Tuck and Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies are mini, slow bumper cars. Everyone has to go around the track in the same direction, minimizing impacts, safe for all ages. Overall, this is a fun area for small kids. During a recent summer visit, lines for these rides were no more than 5-7 minutes.

Now back to the Sunshine Plaza area -- if you exit out to the right (opposite the Hollywood section), you end up in the Golden State area, though you can also get here by continuing on past Bug Land and looping around to your right. The main landmark here is the big Grizzly shaped mountain, home to one of the best rides in the park, Grizzly River Run. This is a water ride which seats you in a big, round raft contraption, with seats around the outer edge facing inward. This round raft floats freely (and spins as it floats!) through big troughs of water, gets carried up a hill, and comes down a nice sized hill for the finale. The fun here is the random splashes and soakings -- you will probably get at least a little wet, but some people get literally DRENCHED, so be prepared. Not a scary ride, just exhilarating, but best done during the warm parts of the day. The only other ride here is Soarin' Over California, another favorite in the park. This ride is a motion simulator, where you are lifted in a dangling row of chairs in front of a huge movie screen, making it seem like you are flying over some great California scenery. Keep in mind that you don't really move once positioned in front of the screen, just some slight tilts, but the motion in front of your eyes makes it seem very real, complete with scent effects (pine, oranges, etc.). This is a pretty short ride, but everyone seems to love it - highly recommended.

Here is a picture of the Paradise Pier Area:
california adventure photo

DCA Paradise Pier Rides

The last area is way in the back right corner of the park, but has some of the best rides -- Paradise Pier. Designed to look like an old boardwalk park, the big roller coaster here is called California Screamin'. This is a real coaster - BIG hills, fast turns, even a loop -- that's right, an upside down ride at Disneyland! The start is really exhilirating, as you rocket UP the first big hill, rather than the old clinkety-clinkety slow climb of coasters of old. Then comes the twists and turns, more hills and drops, and the loop - very fast, scream and laugh kind of ride, my personal favorite at DCA. Also back here is the Maliboomer, which looks like a giant version of the old carnival game where you smash the thing with the hammer and try to send the thingy flying up to ring the bell -- but in this case, you will be sitting in a chair wrapped around one of these poles, and YOU will go shooting straight up at high speed (along with 15 other riders), then drop, then go up, then drop, etc. as you work your way down. But man, that first rocket skyward will make you scream. Not for the faint of heart, but once you do it, you will probably want to ride again. A smaller herky-jerky roller coaster here is Mulholland Madness, named after the skyline ridge drive above the Hollywood Hills. Not super fast, no terrifying loops or plunges, but you make a series of hairpin turns about 35 feet in the air, and it looks like you are about to go right over the edge on each one. Fun, OK for kids, thrilling but not terrifying. Another fun one over here is the Orange Stinger. Looking like a giant, partially unpeeled orange, dangling swing chairs will spin you around inside the orange globe as the centrifugal forces pull your chair out sideways as you zip around in a circle. Very fun ride, make you feel like you are a flying bee. The Sun Wheel is a giant ferris wheel with a twist -- some of the cars slide in and out on the arms of the ferris wheel rather than just hanging gracefully - you can choose the line for moving or stationery cars. The Golden Zephyr has hanging silver rocket ships, and when it spins, the forces again pull these rocket ships up and out as you sail around and around - pretty mild ride over all, fun but simple. For the kids there is Jumpin' Jellyfish which is a small rise and drop ride, and King Triton's Carousel, a basic merry-go-round. And that pretty much wraps it up for rides at Disney California Adventure.

California Adventure Height Restrictions

Some rides at DCA require you to be a certain height in order to ride. The list below shows you which rides have height requirements, and how tall you or your child have to be in order to ride:
  • Tuck & Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies - 42"
  • Soarin' Over California - 40"
  • Grizzly River Run - 42"
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - 40"
  • California Screamin' - 48"
  • Maliboomer - 52"
  • Mulholland Madness - 42"
  • Orange Stinger - 48"
  • Jumpin' Jellyfish - 40"

DCA California Adventure Tips and Secrets

One important tip to know is that Grizzly River Run uses a Fastpass system that is not connected to the rest of DCA, so even though your Soarin' Fastpass says you can't get another one until 2PM, you can go grab a Grizzly pass right now if you don't already have one. So a lot of people enter the park, turn right and pick up a Soarin' Over California Fastpass, then keep going towards Grizzly and grab another Fastpass, since you can hold both at the same time, for use any time later in the day. Another tip is to check out the Single Rider line at the entrance of Grizzly River - you and your friend can just say you are single riders and move into a short line where they fill extra riders into nearly full boats - you may not ride together, but you might cut your line time down from 45 minutes to 5 minutes. There is also a single rider line on Maliboomer (not always open, but usually) over to the far left of the line area -- again, follow it up, move quickly to the front of the line and cut a 25 minute line down to 2 minutes. Again, you may not sit right next to your pal, but you can't really talk or visit on that ride anyways!