Saving the Guardians of the Galaxy. Training with Hawkeye and Black Widow. Dancing with Groot. Getting a selfie with Captain America. These are just a few of the things that superhero fans can do at Disneyland this summer during the Summer of Heroes at Disney California Adventure. Get one of the very first exclusive looks inside the event to plan your trip. And get crucial tips for surviving the busy summer vacation season at the Happiest Place on Earth.
The summer season at Disneyland is always special, but Summer 2017 is shaping up to be truly epic. Officially coined the Summer of Heroes, all things superhero have taken over Disney California Adventure. The action kicks off May 27, 2017, and TravelingMom got an exclusive sneak peek to help you in your trip planning as early as possible. The special event is likely to be popular, but don’t worry. We even have a few expert tips for experiencing Disneyland during the busy summer months.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
The biggest news coming out of the Summer of Heroes is the launch of a new thrill ride: Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! The former Tower of Terror in Hollywood Land is now the fortress of Taneleer Tivan, the Collector featured in the movie franchise and comic books. He has imprisoned the Guardians in his tower to display among his other spoils and relics from around the galaxy. Guests help Rocket commandeer a lift to break the other Guardians out. Plenty of thrills follow.
Do not be fooled into thinking this is just a basic ride overlay to the Tower of Terror. The entire ride, from the décor to the music (!) to the ride sequences, has been totally transformed. Without giving too many spoilers, suffice it to say that adrenaline junkies will not be disappointed. On the other hand, if you have a family member who has balked at the Tower of Terror in past years, you may want to screen this ride first before attempting it! (For lots of spoilers, photos from inside the ride, and tips check out Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! ride tips and first look.)
TravelingMom Tip: Lines are going to be very long in the ride’s first months. Already opening day early reports have the line stretching almost to the park entrance! Based upon the launch of Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land a few years ago, I’d predict Fastpasses are going to run out within the first couple of hours of park opening. Get one early or get ready to stand in a 2-3+ hour queue.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Dance Off
For younger kids or guests who don’t have the stomach for the thrills of Mission: BREAKOUT!, you can still get your Guardians of the Galaxy fix. And it doesn’t require quite the line either! The Guardians of the Galaxy also hold a dance party several times daily in California Adventure.
Star-Lord and Gamora lead the mildly competitive grooving, with Groot himself making a fashionably late appearance to join in the dancing. And the music for this party is – of course – nothing short of “awesome.” Grab a times guide at the park entrance or check Disneyland’s app for party times.
Avengers Training Initiative
The Summer of Heroes doesn’t end with the Guardians. The Avengers are out in full force too. Superhero loving kids can participate in an event similar to the Jedi Training Academy with their favorite Avengers. Called the Avengers Training Initiative, kids ages 6-12 train with Black Widow and Hawkeye to join the Avengers team.
One important planning note: signing up is required and necessary to get a spot in this popular attraction. Head early in the morning with your child in tow to the kiosk in the Hollywood Backlot (near Stage 17 and Sunset Showcase Theater) to make sure your superhero-in-training gets on the list. Sign-ups open during Extra Magic Hour so make sure to account for the effect of that (and take advantage if you have it!).
TravelingMom Tip: Photopass photographers are all over this event and will get some excellent close ups of your kids that you won’t be able to capture from your seat. If there is ever a time to splurge on Photopass this is it!
Character Encounters with Captain America, Black Widow & Spider-Man
Grab those cameras and autograph books to meet a few additional Marvel superheroes elsewhere in Disney California Adventure. Captain America and Spider-Man are regularly stationed for meet-and-greets in Hollywood Land. Black Widow makes the occasional special appearance in her armored vehicle. Again, check the daily times guide or the official Disneyland app so you can find your favorite character at the right time.
TravelingMom Tip: The characters often take regular breaks (it can get hot in those costumes!). Sometimes guests can experience a shorter line for a character meet by lining up during a break and being one of the first to see the character when he or she comes back.
Food & Souvenirs Fit for a Hero
No special event at Disney parks is complete without decadent food offerings and lots of merchandise to accompany the rides, shows, and meet-and-greets. The Summer of Heroes is no different.
As far as food goes, the summer certainly promises to have some seriously Instagram-worthy food offerings for super-fans. Not to be missed is the sourdough bread Groot head. Also enticing are the giant donuts, each with a different color scheme to represent a different hero. Look for Spider-Man, Hulk, and Captain America varieties.
Merchandise standouts include just about every kind of Baby Groot toy you can imagine – stuffed plush Baby Groots of every size as well as lots of dancing varieties. Loyal Marvel followers are going to want to have the special edition comic books that can only be bought in the parks. Me? I went for the pressed pennies. Three new designs (Star-Lord, Groot, and Rocket) can be found in the machine in the gift shop as guests exit the Guardians ride.
Disney Junior Dance Party
Last but certainly not least, Disney is throwing in something new this summer for the little ones too. The show that used to be Disney Junior Live on Stage in Hollywood Land is now the Disney Junior Dance Party. The puppets are gone, but the actor/dancers remain, now joined by full sized Disney Junior characters.
Since I’m a mom of a 3 year old preschooler who loves all the Disney Junior shows, I naturally put this new show on my must-see list during my last visit. It’s a huge improvement and a much-needed refresh. While the old show required kids to stay in their seats until the final musical number, kids are permitted to get up and rock out whenever the mood strikes them. The lights are brighter and the music is catchier. New hit shows like Mickey and Roadster Racers, Doc McStuffins Pet Hospital, and Lion Guard are featured, keeping the show relevant to the preschool set. The show is also a bit shorter, making it a better fit for little attention spans and also for impatient big siblings who might be anxious to move along to a thrill ride or two.
Tips for Summer at Disneyland
With this many new and innovative offerings at Disneyland this summer, the result is likely to be some major crowds. Here are a few expert tips to help you dodge the worst of the lines and get to experience the most attractions on your Disneyland vacations:
- Consider staying on-property: Guests of Disney’s three resort hotels have access to Extra Magic Hour (EMH) which allows one hour early entry into the parks. California Adventure opens early on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday for EMH. The hour can be a smart time to make the mad dash to Guardians of the Galaxy or take a spin on the ever-popular Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land.
- Rope drop: The early bird catches the worm! If you want to beat the worst of the crowds, aim to start before park opening time at “rope drop.” If you don’t have EMH access, start in the park that doesn’t have EMH for the day.
- Make the most of single rider: If you have older kids who are comfortable riding by themselves and being split up, do it. Many of Disneyland’s thrill rides have a single rider queue where the line is much shorter. Look for them at Matterhorn, Indiana Jones, and Splash Mountain in Disneyland park and Radiator Springs Racers, Goofy’s Sky School, California Screamin’, and Grizzly River Run.
- Maximize Fastpass: Do your research to know how to get as many Fastpasses as possible during your visit. They’re free – so you might as well use them. And if you have little ones, maximize Rider Switch.
- Take a break: When the ride lines get long on hot summer afternoons, take a break. Head back to your hotel for a swim or seek out some of the shows and performances with more reasonable lines. Watch the Dapper Dans barbershop quartet. Pop into Main Street Cinema for a showing of Steamboat Willie. Sit down on a park bench for a chat with a Citizen of Buena Vista Street. (More ideas for things to do on a crowded Disneyland day). You might discover some real memorable Disney charm in the less obvious.
Disclosure: Disneyland hosted me at the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! media preview event, providing tickets, accommodations, and transportation. My family regularly visits Disneyland other times at our own expense. All opinions are my own.