Have kids who are mad about Mater? In love with Lightning McQueen? Then a visit to Cars Land in Disney California Adventure park is a must-do on a Disneyland vacation. Cars Land is exceedingly popular and often very crowded. Uncover the best planning and strategy tips from a Disneyland veteran in this complete Disneyland Cars Land guide.
Cars Land in Disney California Adventure park in Anaheim, California has been one of the most successful Disney theme park lands of all time. Cars Land opened at Disneyland in the summer of 2012 and has been packed with crowds ever since. My family visited with our then three-year-old daughter that very first summer, and we’ve been back many times.
Because Cars Land is so popular, a well-researched strategy for visiting is important, particularly if you want to do and see it all. Keep reading for an overview of all the attraction and entertainment offerings as well as tips and tricks for the perfect touring plan!
Disneyland Cars Land Ride Guide
There are three ride attractions within Cars Land and most Cars-loving kids (and adults!) will want to do them all. Here’s what you need to know about each one.
Radiator Springs Racers
Radiator Springs Racers is a thrill ride that immerses riders in the world of Lightning McQueen, Mater, and company. It uses and improves upon the technology used in Test Track in Epcot at Walt Disney World for an amazingly smooth (and ultimately very fast) ride. The first half of the ride is a more of a classic dark ride character-driven experience, and the second half is when it picks up some serious speed.
What age is the right one for Radiator Springs Racers? My thrill-seeking daughter did it for the first time at 3 years, 4 months old when she just barely made the height minimum of 40 inches. The dips (more than the speed) were a bit much for her at that age, but she toughed it out. She’s enjoyed it immensely on subsequent visits. I’d say that 4-7 years old is probably a safe zone for most kids to first enjoy Radiator Springs, depending on their need for speed!
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is a spinning ride aboard the tractors made famous in the “tractor tipping” scene in the original Cars movie. Mater sings along to the music of Disneyland favorites Billy Hill and the Hillbillies as you wait in line and ride. The thrills are mild, but super-satisfying and family-friendly. I never leave the ride without a giant smile on my face.
Kids have to be 32 inches to ride with Mater. We took our son on the ride for the first time when he was 1.5 years old and he laughed hysterically through it all. I think all but the most sensitive toddlers will be fine with the speed of the attraction.
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is the newest addition to Cars Land, just having opened in the spring of 2016. The previous attraction in the same spot (Luigi’s Flying Tires) had frequent technical difficulties and only lasted 3 years. The new ride is a definite upgrade, although it is still fairly low capacity so lines will build by lunchtime most days. On Luigi’s, cars frolic and dance on a trackless ride system to Italian music favorites in synchronization.
Like Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, the height minimum is 32 inches meaning that all but the youngest of babies and toddlers can ride. Waits tend to be similar to those for Mater (sometimes a tiny bit longer because the ride is still fairly new).
Cars Land Ride Strategies and Tips
Since Cars Land is so popular, it’s also home to some of the longer lines in California Adventure. But you want to do all three rides without much of a wait, right? Sure! Here are my very best tips for minimizing wait times:
- Extra Magic Hour: If you are staying in one of the three official Disneyland hotels (the Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, or Paradise Pier), your best bet for hacking Cars Land is to take advantage of Disneyland’s Extra Magic Hour. This on-property benefit entitles you to early access to one of the two Disneyland parks each morning 1 hour before park opening. California Adventure currently offers Extra Magic Hour on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Plan to be in line and make a beeline first to Radiator Springs Racers. The other two rides will still have very short lines by the time you are done.
- Rope Drop: Another way for the early birds to beat the Cars Land crowds is to be there first at park opening (a.k.a. “rope drop”). I always recommend lining up 30 minutes before opening time to truly be in the front of the line. But note one important caveat: If you don’t have access to Extra Magic Hour and are going on a day where those early morning hours are offered to Disneyland resort guests, Cars Land will already be crowded by the time you enter the park at regular rope drop. As a result, this early rope drop strategy really only works on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
- Fastpass Radiator Springs Racers: Radiator Springs Racers is the only one of the three Cars Land attractions to offer Fastpass to shortcut waits. Make getting a Fastpass a priority. Fastpasses can and do go quickly and are often gone for the day by mid-afternoon, so don’t wait too long.
- Single Rider on RSR: By far the best way to skip the long line for Radiator Springs Racers if you can’t get a Fastpass at the right time is to use the single rider line. When regular waits are 1.5 hours, often single riders wait just 20 minutes, so it is a huge time savings. Groups can use the line, but prepare to be split up.
- Rider Swap: All 3 rides in Cars Land offer Rider Switch, which allows parents to trade off caring for kids too small to ride, with only the first parent having to wait in line. Make use of this benefit if you have little ones in your family. Unfortunately, you can’t combine both single rider and Rider Switch on Radiator Springs Racers (that would be quite the hack if you could – I’ve tried!), so pick a strategy that works for your family based upon who wants to ride and commit to that.
Cars Land Entertainment & Other Things to Do
While the rides are definitely the headliners of Cars Land, a few other entertainment options and things to do keep you busy as you stroll the streets of Radiator Springs.
Character Meet & Greets
Right in front of the Cozy Cone Motel is the main character meet-and-greet location for Cars Land. Lightning McQueen and Mater (and sometimes Red) take turns parking in this spot for photo opportunities. Lines to meet them can vary wildly from just a minute or two to a half hour or more. If you see a short line as a new car rolls out, jump in it right away. Photopass photographers are always staffed at this location to get the right shot.
DJ’s Dance and Drive
Another Cars Land entertainment favorite is the oldies dance party that takes place several times a day in the main crossroads of Cars Land. Check the daily entertainment guide you receive as you enter the park for times. Energetic performers get kids in on the dancing action. One word of warning: the music is very loud, so be careful if you have kids who have sensory challenges or just have more sensitive ears.
Disneyland Cars Land Shopping
There are three stores in Cars Land where you can snag Cars movie-inspired and other Disney merchandise to your heart’s delight: Radiator Springs Curios, Sarge’s Surplus Hut, and Ramone’s House of Body Art. Expect lots of Cars-themed toys, Route 66 style gear, as well as the usual specialty pins and Vinylmation.
Where to Eat in Cars Land
You’ve ridden all the rides, taken in the sights, and now you are HUNGRY! Although no table service restaurants are located in Cars Land,there are still plenty of food options. In fact, Cars Land features some of the most fun and unique of Disneyland food offerings.
Flo’s V8 Cafe
One of my family’s favorite eateries in all of Disneyland is Flo’s V8 Cafe, offering American classics like meatloaf and even the occasional healthy veggie. It’s what I’d consider a “nicer” counter service restaurant with more unique and filling meal choices. If the weather is nice, there’s plenty of outdoor seating to take in the sights and sounds of Cars Land as you dine. On hotter days, the ample air conditioned indoor seating is a welcome relief.
Cozy Cone Motel
The Cozy Cone is probably the most famous of all the Cars Land eateries. Made up of 5 snack stands shaped like traffic cones, it offers salty snacks, mini-meals, and sweet treats – many are shaped like cones or served in cones. My favorites include the pretzel bites and the “chili cone queso.” Don’t miss TravelingMom’s complete guide to the Cozy Cone Motel for more details.
Often overlooked in Disneyland Cars Land is Fillmore’s Taste-in, a snack stand offering an impressive array of options, many of them quite healthy. Fresh fruit choices abound, making it one of the best stops for a quick bite in the morning if you didn’t eat at your hotel.
More Tips for a Terrific Time in Disneyland Cars Land
A few more things to know before you go to Cars Land:
- Keep cool and sunscreen it up: Cars Land always seems about 5 degrees hotter to me than the rest of Disneyland, probably due to the asphalt and lack of shade. It’s especially important to hydrate on hot days and use sunscreen and hats.
- Don’t Miss Cars Land at Night: While Cars Land is beautiful during the day, it is breathtaking a night when the neon signs light up the southwestern landscape. Even if you hit all the rides early in the morning to beat the crowds, come back at night just to take in the views.
- Fastpass Distribution: As you go racing for your Radiator Springs Racers Fastpasses, know where you are going first! The Fastpass distribution machines for the attraction aren’t near the ride entrance and aren’t actually even in Cars Land. Check the map carefully. The machines are located near the It’s Tough to Be a Bug attraction.
- Use the Right Apps: The best way to track crowds and lines in Cars Land (or anywhere else in Disneyland!) is to use the right wait time apps. Disneyland has an official app that works well, but also consider third party Disneyland apps for even more features and functionality.
- Photopass: There are usually at least five key spots where you can reliably find Photopass photographers in Cars Land to take a family photo:
- At the main entrance to the land next to the Cars Land sign.
- In front of the Cozy Cone Motel at the character meet and greet spot.
- About halfway down the main “highway” in front of Flo’s.
- (My personal favorite, especially at night): With Cadillac Range and part of the Radiator Springs Racers ride as a backdrop.
- At the secondary Disneyland Cars Land entrance coming from Pacific Wharf in front of the Cars Land arch.
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