DisneyRacersWatching Disney California Adventure Park continue to grow is a magical experience. The addition of Cars Land and enhancements to Buena Vista Street are, perhaps, among the most significant changes to the park yet.As a local, I remember the area when it was a dirt lot.  So I take pride and interest in seeing this park, located by Disneyland, continue its expansion. I recently brought my teen daughter, Megan, and two of her friends, to the grand re-opening of California Adventure, where we saw new shows and rode the new attractions in Cars Land. Here’s what new at Disney California Adventure Park.

Buena Vista Street
CA-AdventureThe park’s renovated entrance and Buena Vista Street pay homage to 1920s California, when Walt Disney arrived with $40 in a cardboard suitcase and a dream to create a fantasy world. A statue of Walt Disney with Mickey on Buena Vista Street symbolize his early status as an “everyday man” before his worldwide success. The Red Trolley, based on Los Angeles’ historic Pacific Electric Red Car Line, transports guests from Buena Vista Street down Hollywood Boulevard, to The Twilight Zone™ Tower of Terror (a fave attraction with my kids). Lively new street shows include “Five & Dime” and the “Red Car News Boys.”

There are also nine new shops and eight new food locations, including the elegant Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge which recalls, in name and architectural style, the great California movie palace where “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” premiered in 1937. Upstairs, guests can enjoy Southern California cuisine while the ground floor Carthay Circle Lounge offers appetizers and bar service. Even if not dining here, stop by to see historic photographs and exhibits.

Cars Land
The 12-acre Cars Land – which exceeded our expectations – is a fully detailed, three-dimensional re-creation of Radiator Springs based on the  Disney?Pixar movie “Cars.” Our favorite ride is the four-minute long Radiator Springs Racers, one of the largest and most elaborate attractions created for a Disney theme park. I love rides with surprising twists and turns – and this one certainly hos those. Seated in a six-passenger car, we cruised through the first part of the attraction, which took us on a tour of the scenic Cadillac Mountain Range. Then suddenly, another car pulled up alongside us and the race was on over rolling hills and tight turns – transforming the serene ride into a roller coaster!

Cars LandMore tame but still innovative rides are Luigi’s Flying Tires and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. On the Luigi ride (think elaborate bumper cars), you lean left and right to bop around. Giant inflatable balls glide along the floor (try to grab one!). Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree swings guests around in trailers. Hold on to your hat!

The road leading into Cars Land is dotted with large animated neon signs reminiscent of the ’50s era of cross-country travel along Route 66. My daughter and her friends enjoyed Cars Land at night when the neon signs lit up.

Glow with the Show
Capping off our night was the “World of Color Show,” a fabulous light, water and fire show we’ve seen before. But new this year are Glow with the Show Ear hats that change colors in sync with park shows. The fun, interactive versions of the famous Mickey Ear hats feature iridescent lights that change to complement the imagery and beat of the shows. Megan and her friends (OK, me too) were thrilled to wear these glow-in-the-dark Mickey hats. The hats – $25 each – are available at select locations throughout Disney California Adventure.

Follow Mimi on Twitter @mimitravelz. For more travel stories and adventures, visit www.writemimi.com and www.laparent.com. Mimi writes a monthly family travel column for L.A. Parent magazine.