What should you be sure to see if you have only one day to spend at Disney California Adventure Park?  Where can you find a tasty dinner, and is Frozen – Live at the Hyperion worth investing two hours of your time?  My friend, a Disney Cast Member working at this very Park, served as my family’s personal tour guide for the day.  Here’s the best of the best, and what he helped us discover during our highly enjoyable visit.

6 Favorite Experiences at Disney California Adventure Frozen Live at the Hyperion Theater Arrendelle

Frozen Live at the Hyperion Theater displays an opening scene of Arrendelle. / Photo credit Tami Mittan, Outdoorsy TravelingMom

This summer, my family had the opportunity to visit Disney California Adventure Park. We were excited to have my Cast Member friend join us during his day off.   He served as our valuable guide, packing in the maximum amount of fun, helping us navigate the crowds, and locating respites from the heat.  All topped off with a delicious dinner in Cars Land.

I had previously been to Disneyland, but being in Disney California Adventure Park was a first for my family- and oh, we had so much fun here.  Even though we had Park Hopper tickets (allowing us entry into Disneyland, just steps away), we spent most of our time at Disney California Adventure.  Read on for our absolute favorite experiences of the day, which we recommend for your family’s must-do list.

SOARIN’ AROUND THE WORLD

6 Favorite Experiences at Disney California Adventure Soarin Around the World

Entrance to Soarin’ Around the World / Photo credit Tami Mittan, Outdoorsy TravelingMom

This is my all time favorite Disney attraction, so I’ll admit I was leery at the thought of changes to Soarin’.  This attraction simulates flying in a hang glider over breathtaking landscapes, previously filmed at diverse locations across the gorgeous state of California.  Disney slated it to be updated, to now feature iconic destinations from across the globe in the all-new Soarin’ Around the World.

We lined up on opening day of this new release.  My fears were quickly put to rest, as the new Soarin’ Around the World footage is breathtaking.  Due to long lines, I was only able to see it once.  So I look forward to repeated experiences and pinpointing all the nuances.  I’m not sure exactly what those new smells are supposed to be?

I was impressed by the choice of filming locations included. Like the previous ride, there are some exciting 3D surprises during the journey.  Watching Soarin’ around the World will surely leave you with an appetite for global travel.

FROZEN – LIVE AT THE HYPERION 

6 Favorite Experiences at Disney California Adventure Frozen Live at the Hyperion Anna and Elsa

Anna and Elsa are beautiful to watch in Frozen Live at the Hyperion. / Photo credit Tami Mittan, Outdoorsy TravelingMom

This new Broadway-caliber production of Frozen performed at Disney California Adventure’s Hyperion Theatre will definitely take up some of your time.  It’s a popular show, requiring around an hour wait to get in.  Then the musical production itself lasts just under one hour.

For this reason, and because we were only visiting for one day, we debated whether to go.  I’m so glad we did. I can say with certainty that it is worth the time!  Frozen is a quick moving, visually stunning, highly enjoyable show.  The costumes are vibrant, stage sets cleverly done, and technology effects thrilling to watch (think Elsa making ice and snow from her fingertips!)

I wrote a review with additional photos at Is Disney California Adventure’s “Frozen – Live at the Hyperion” Worth the Time?  And TravelingMom Amy has some excellent tips to check out before heading to this show.

LUIGI’S ROLLICKIN’ ROADSTERS

6 Favorite Experiences at Disney California Adventure Luigis Rollickin Roadsters

Dancing Roadsters frolic to Italian music. / Photo credit Tami Mittan, Outdoorsy TravelingMom

The initial attraction at this Cars Land location experienced too many issues, so the newly re-imagined Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters has recently taken its place.  This ride is almost as fun to watch as it is to ride.  Adorable little roadsters float smoothly across the ground, as they perform a synchronized dance to festive, Italian-inspired music.

With a height requirement of 32 inches it’s appropriate for most, does not contain enough spinning to make you sick, and is definitely fun for all.

 ANIMATION ACADEMY IN THE ANIMATION BUILDING

6 Favorite Experiences at Disney California Adventure Animation Building

Animation Building at Disney California Adventure / Photo credit Tami Mittan, Outdoorsy TravelingMom

In spite of numerous trips to Walt Disney World Resort, we had never visited the Animation Academy at Hollywood Studios.  Our Cast Member guide insisted that “ours is much better”, as he led us into the soothing, air conditioned lobby of the Animation Building.

Once inside, I was shocked at how large it was.  Dark and cool, there were multiple movie screens playing Disney movie clips all around the upper perimeter of the central lobby.  With numerous benches to rest and take in the entertainment, pick this  comfortable and fun spot as a fantastic place to duck in and take a break from the heat.  It also serves as the entrance to three separate attractions.  Our favorite:  Animation Academy.

6 Favorite Experiences at Disney California Adventure Animation Academy stage

Animation Academy stage, with Cast Member illustrator shown seated at desk on left. / Photo credit Tami Mittan, Outdoorsy TravelingMom

When your show time begins, you are lead into a stadium seating theater.  Each guest receives a clipboard, animation paper, and pencil.  Your animation host will then lead you through step-by-step instructions on how to draw the featured Disney character.

6 Favorite Experiences at Disney California Adventure Animation Academy guests

Learning how to draw Baymax! / Photo credit Tami Mittan, Outdoorsy TravelingMom

Everyone loved this, from the adults in our group to my 5-year-old.  You’ll get a real kick out of how well your character drawing turns out!  Don’t miss this.

RADIATOR SPRINGS RACERS

6 Favorite Experiences at Disney California Adventure Radiator Springs Racers

Best…. ride…. ever! / Photo credit Tami Mittan, Outdoorsy TravelingMom

I knew this Cars Land headliner would be a highlight, but I still managed to somehow underestimate it.  Without a spoiler, I will just say they’ve incorporated similar ride technology as is used by Test Track, in Florida’s Epcot.

Exciting, beautiful, and full of story details, I could ride this ride all day.  We did so just once, using our FASTPASS and sticking together as a group.  If you can split up, the single rider line offers a much shorter line.

BBQ Pork Ribs at Flo’s V8 Café

6 Favorite Experiences at Disney California Adventure Flos V8 Cafe dinner

Cars Land truly shines when it lights up at night. / Photo credit Tami Mittan, Outdoorsy TravelingMom

We swung into Cars Land Flo’s V8 Café for dinner in the evening.  This Quick Service dining location is meticulously themed, giving you the opportunity to dine right in a Radiator Springs hot spot.  Even though it’s a fast food restaurant, the menu also serves savory non-burger entrees.

The BBQ pork ribs sounded so delicious to my entire group, that we quickly ordered up 5 plates.  It occurred to me this may be a gamble, but happily, it paid off.  The food was really yummy. Even my picky eater children had their fill and made it worth the money. We dined around 7pm on a Friday with a 9pm park closing, enjoying no lines, with plenty of cool, indoor seating.  I recommend Flo’s V8 Café if you find yourself looking for a dinner option in Disney California Adventure park.

6 Must Dos at Disney California Adventure Park