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The History of California Adventure

Some of my favorite memories of visiting the Disneyland Resort are dancing in the California Adventure main entrance to the Beach Boy’s California Girls, conquering my fear of riding Tower of Terror when I was 12, and crying happily while watching World of Color Celebrate. These past few weeks, I haven’t written about California Adventure because I wanted to emphasize the importance and uniqueness of Disneyland. Of course, California Adventure is still magical, and the park deserves to be talked about. Without further ado, here’s a short history of California Adventure.

Disney California Adventure (DCA) opened on February 8, 2001. DCA was built in the old Disneyland parking lot, only a little more than 300 feet away from Disneyland. Jack Lindquist (a former Disney president), had been throwing around the idea of building a second gate at the Disneyland resort since the early 1990s. The idea was to attract more tourists to visit the resort for longer periods of time, in an attempt to make the Disneyland resort a vacation destination. At first, the plan was to build Westcot, a west-coast version of Epcot. However, the plan for a second gate was brushed aside when talk of opening a Disney park in Paris gained traction.

After Disneyland Paris opened in 1992, the new Disney president, Michael Eisner, revisited the idea of a second gate. He completely changed Jack Lindquist’s ideas of Westcot to a California themed park that would be an homage to the diversity of California. Disney wanted to create "precise reproductions of California landmarks, charming streets, and gorgeous landscaping that simulates the state's forests and farmlands". This expansion would also include the addition of Downtown Disney as well as two more resort hotels: Disney’s Grand Californian and Paradise Pier Hotel. Construction began in 1998, and the park opened three years later.

Unlike Disneyland’s opening day, DCA’s opening day went smoothly. The attractions worked effortlessly and there were bathrooms and drinking fountains (luxuries that Walt had to choose between on Disneyland’s opening day). Also, unlike Disneyland’s opening day, DCA wasn’t busting at the seams with guests on opening day. There were only a few hundred guests on opening day in California Adventure compared to Disneyland’s thousands of guests. Disneyland saw over 12 million guests in the first year while DCA only received 5 million. Some people say that the lack of a good berm pushed away guests from DCA. The berm is built to keep the outside world hidden while guests are visiting Disneyland parks. While you visit Disneyland, you can’t hear or see cars traveling up and down Harbor Boulevard, you can’t see power lines, and you even can’t see the surrounding buildings. However, in DCA, hotels, power lines, and the Anaheim Convention Center are visible from inside the park which some say can ruin the magic.

Current president of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, announced in 2007 that DCA would receive a huge overhaul. “Any time you do something mediocre with your brand, that's a withdrawal. California Adventure was a brand withdrawal,” he stated. Toy Story Midway Mania was added to Paradise Pier in 2008 and that was followed by Paradise Pier receiving a complete overlay. The classic boardwalk attractions like the Sun Wheel, Orange Stinger, and Mulholland Madness were reimagined to incorporate classic Disney characters. The Sun Wheel transformed into Mickey’s Fun Wheel, the Orange Stinger into Silly Symphony Swings, and Mulholland Madness into Goofy’s Sky School. The Golden Dreams Theater was transformed into The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. The park entrance was revamped to Buena Vista Street which was modeled after Los Angeles in the 1920s when Walt Disney first moved to the city. The new nighttime show, World of Color, was added in 2010 which has quickly become one of my favorite shows to watch at the Disneyland Resort. Cars Land was by-far the crowned jewel of DCA’s expansion. The new land opened in 2012 with a record number of guests attending the opening ceremony.

I can’t imagine the Disneyland Resort without California Adventure (maybe that’s because I don’t remember a time without California Adventure). Although nothing can compare to Disneyland, DCA is a pretty wonderful place. Goose bumps cover my arms when I walk through the entrance onto Buena Vista Street and hear the Newsboys singing “California Here We Come” from the Red Car Trolley, a smile comes to my lips when I walk through the Animation Building and see my favorite Disney movies come to life on the screens circling around the room, and tears form in the corners of my eyes every time I watch World of Color after a wonderfully magical day. I’m pretty positive that Walt Disney would be proud of what the Disneyland Resort has become.

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