I’ve heard from so many people that California Adventure can’t compete with Disneyland because the magic isn’t there. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of categorizing Disneyland as the more special of the two. However, I’m here to convince you that California Adventure is just as magical as Disneyland. And to prove it to you, here are my top five magical moments you can experience only at California Adventure.
#1: Meeting Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Many people don’t realize the importance Oswald the Lucky Rabbit has in Disney history. Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney created Oswald in the 1920s to be featured in their first animated series with Universal Studios. The Oswald shorts did very well, and the Disney company flourished for the first time. Just as things were looking up, Universal decided to take complete control of Oswald, and they bought the rights to the character. Devastated, Walt Disney decided to conger up another animated character, Mortimer Mouse (today known as Mickey Mouse). In 2006, Disney CEO, Bob Iger, took back the rights to Oswald from Universal. Buena Vista Street opened in California Adventure in 2012; it was added to DCA to commemorate the time Walt Disney spent in Los Angeles in the 1920s. Oswald’s Filling Station on the street is a direct reference to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Starting in 2014, guests got the opportunity to meet Oswald on Buena Vista Street. After knowing that Oswald was Walt’s first animated character, and knowing that Disney fought for the rights to the character, meeting him in California Adventure is truly a magical experience.
#2: Frozen—Live at the Hyperion
In May 2016, Elsa and the rest of the Frozen gang took over the Hyperion theater on Hollywood Boulevard in California Adventure (rest in peace Aladdin—A Musical Spectacular, *makes sign of the cross and cries quietly*). Frozen—Live at the Hyperion is truly a masterpiece. The theater closed for five months to prep for the new show as well as to rebuild the stage. A video wall and curtains serving as projections were added to make the show feel like a real experience. The performance in its entirety is truly magical, but the highlight of the performance is most definitely when Elsa sings the famous “Let it Go” atop a rotating ice staircase that stretches over the audience, all the while changing costumes from her coronation dress to her stunning blue sequent dress that she sports through a majority of the film. You really have to see the show for yourself to understand how magical it really is, but to get a sense for what I’m talking about, here’s a video by FreshBakedDisney (my favorite Disney YouTube channel) that highlights the best parts of the show.
#3: California Screamin’ at Night
California Screamin’ has always been one of my favorite rides at Disneyland. When I rode Screamin’ a year ago with my sister, I realized why it was one of my favorite attractions. Let me set the scene. It was about six o’ clock at night (my family was gracious enough to let us ride it even though our reservation for dinner was at the same time; we ended up being about an hour late). The wait time for Screamin' was about 45 minutes, and knowing that the line normally moves quickly, we hopped in the queue. It did move quickly, but we were ready to ride it when we finally got to the front. I asked the cast member if we could have the front seats (they’ll always let you ride in the front if you ask), and we boarded the car. We lowered the safety restraints over ourselves and exchanged excited looks. Then, a cast member came over the intercom, “Ladies and gentleman, we seem to be experiencing technical difficulties. Please remain seated.” So there we sat, patiently (maybe a little impatiently) waiting to finally ride Screamin’. All the while, we listened to the jokes the cast members were telling each other. After waiting for about fifteen minutes and after the cast members had exhausted all of their jokes, the nostalgic Screamin’ music started playing from the speakers, and the car finally started moving down the track towards the launch pad. In the time that we’d been waiting in the loading area, the last rays of sun had descended. It was pitch black, except for the colorful fairy lights lining Toy Story Midway Mania, the changing neon colors illuminating Mickey’s Fun Wheel, and the bright lights outlining Silly Symphony Swings and the Golden Zephyr. It was a sight to behold. My sister and I held our breaths as Neil Patrick Harris counted down 5…4…3…2…1! A blast of cool air smacked my face, and we were shot through the first scream tube. From that moment on, a smile remained plastered to my face. To date, that was one of my most magical California Adventure experiences. Riding in the front of California Screamin’ is magical just in itself; then add to the fact that we had a perfect view of Paradise Pier illuminated at night, and it was truly an experience that I will never forget.
#4: The Animation Building
Okay, if you’ve never been inside the Animation Building, what are you doing with your life? Seriously, the Animation Building is a gift from God himself. If you didn’t already know, the building is on Hollywood Boulevard across from Schmoozies (they have the best mocha frappes). There are many activities held at the animation building including: Sorcerer’s Workshop, Turtle Talk with Crush, and Animation Academy. Although the activities are wonderful, the magical experience comes from just standing in the center of the lobby area. Think I’m crazy? Watch this video by FreshBakedDisney, and then you’ll know what I’m talking about. I like to spend my afternoons relaxing in the Animation Academy. I sit on the ground, looking up in awe at the huge screens surrounding me, watching Neverland, Arendale, and Radiator Springs come to life before my eyes. Last time I was here, I watched a father dancing around the room with his young daughter to the Disney music playing in the background. They were in their own world, caught in the moment, and that’s why the Animation Building is magical: because it makes people lose track of time.
#5: Neon Lights in Cars Land
Route 66 is a HUGE part of my life. My dad grew up on Route 66 (His parents owned motels on Route 66 in its heyday), and since then, my dad has instilled in me the history and importance of the road. I live in a place where the highway is just as popular as it was in its heyday, and I’ve traveled on the longest stretch of Route 66 left in existence on numerous occasions during my parent’s Corvette tours. I realize that Route 66 is extremely important in American history, and I have immense respect for The Mother Road. So when Disney announced they were going to be building Cars Land, I lost it. And when I visited Cars Land for the first time, I lost it all over again. The land looks exactly like the road I’ve traveled on my parent’s Corvette tours. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered (while watching FreshBakedDisney) that Cars Land has a lighting ceremony every night at dusk. So, when my family visited Disneyland last year, I made them wait in Cars Land with me for twenty minutes before dusk so we wouldn’t miss the ceremony (we were late to our reservation again, but it was worth it). Then, it happened. Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream) started playing from the speakers. Halfway into the song, the neon lights started turning on in tune to the music: there was the bright orange lights of the Cozy Cone Motel and the vibrant blue lights of Flo’s V8 Café. My family was standing at the start of the road, so we saw the whole street come to life. It was more magical than I could have ever imagined. My dad always told me how special it was when the neon lights would come on at night on Route 66. I always wished that I could go back in time to see Route 66 in its heyday, when neon lights were all the rage. At Disneyland, I got my wish, and I saw Route 66 as my dad did so long ago.
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