A Fun Morning at Disney California Adventure

We had a great time on our last trip to Disneyland earlier this month, mostly because we finally got to experience the “reimagined” Disney California Adventure (DCA) park that has been under construction in one fashion or another since 2007. The improvements in the park are truly spectacular and now the resort truly has two destination parks worthy of the Disney name. We visited the park over the course of our five-day / four night trip to Southern California, and we enjoyed numerous sights and sounds including the breathtaking Buena Vista Street entrance area to DCA and our favorite attractions across the esplanade at Disneyland park.

This post highlights a fortunate set of events that allowed us to ride nearly all of DCA’s E-Ticket attractions in quick succession before lunchtime on a single day.

DCA Best Kept Secret - DCA Today
DCA's Best Kept Secret - DCA Today

I arrived at the DCA gates shortly after 7:00 am to wait for the park’s general opening at 8:00 am (the park does open at 7:00 am for guest of Disney’s three hotels). The plan was for me to get to the front of the line at one of the turnstiles so I’d have a good spot in the the FastPass line for Radiator Springs Racers, DCA’s headliner attraction. The way Disney operates DCA is that even though the park doesn’t officially open to the general public until 8:00 they do let people into Bunena Vista Street at 7:30. This allows guests to pick up a Starbucks coffee at the Fiddler Fifer and Practical Café and Bakery or to rent strollers or lockers. It also allowed me to enter the FastPass line for Radiator Springs Racers and to get a good spot since was at the front of the turnstiles.

At around 7:45, Julie and the boys entered the park and handed me their tickets so I could get FastPasses for the entire party. Meanwhile, they waited at “rope drop” to ride Soarin’ Over California. At 8:00 the park opened and the “hotel guest” FastPass line and the “general admission” FastPass line for Radiator Springs Racers merged. Shortly after 8:15 am I approached the FastPass machines to get our passes.

In addition to FastPasses for Radiator Springs Racers at 10:30 am I also was presented with two “surprise FastPasses” for California Screamin’, DCA’s thrilling roller coaster. Earlier in the trip we got surprise FastPasses for the Little Mermaid ride but that attraction never has much of a line so getting FastPasses for Screamin‘ was really a score. Even better, we received two of these and each one was good for “up to six people”. So we could all ride twice (well, Riley didn’t ride because he doesn’t like coasters with inversions).

We immediately walked over to Paradise Pier and entered the shorter-than-average 20 minute line for Toy Story Midway Mania, then used our FastPasses to ride California Screamin’ twice. It was already getting hot so we walked over to Cars Land and rode Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree before getting some refreshments at the Cozy Cone Hotel.

It was almost time for our Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses and were hanging out in Cars Land when my iPhone buzzed. It was a push notification from Twitter that the DCA Today account had tweeted: “Are you feeling bug sized today? First 10 Guests in the park to find us will receive a special surprise!” This was surely a reference to A Bug’s Land, the themed area right next to where we were standing. So, we rushed over and met the DCA Today people right outside the gates of A Bug’s Land – mere steps from where we started. We presented ourselves and as a reward for finding the team we were presented with four FastPasses for any ride in the park (except for Radiator Springs Racers). After signing some paperwork and getting our photo taken we were on our way.

We headed straight for Radiator Springs Racers, and experienced what is perhaps the greatest theme park attraction ever built (at $200m it’s likely the most expensive). Such a great, fun ride! It’s even fun just hanging out and watching the other riders and gazing at the spectacular rock work. Everything you’ve heard about Cars Land is true – it’s maybe the best themed area of any Disney park.

At this point we decided to use our free FastPasses before lunch. Quinn wanted to ride Goofy’s Sky School, a wild-mouse coaster, so I took him to ride it. Julie and Riley decided to ride Soarin‘ instead.  We met back at our favorite restaurant location in either park, the Paradise Garden area of Paradise Pier that features the Paradise Garden Grille (love the kabobs!) and Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta (love the flatbread pizza!).

Thanks to some planning and little bit of good luck we had seven ride experiences on some of DCA’s best attractions before 11:30 in the morning! Thank you to Apple and Twitter for high-tech alerting systems! A big thanks to the DCA Today team too. They do giveaways like this it seems nearly every day, so be sure to check in frequently with what I like to call “DCA’s Best Kept Secret” – the DCA Today crew.

Mercury News Road Trip Scavenger Hunt

Once again we participated in the Mercury News’ road trip scavenger hunt. The idea is to collect all the items and have a photo of a member of your party in the photo with the items of note. We did this back in 2010 but were not successful in finding all the items. This year we got all 20 items, plus the two bonus items (pending judging from the Mercury News judges of course).  Julie and I took most of them on our road-trip up to Seattle before taking the Disney Cruise to Alaska. The only item we didn’t find was the funny mailbox so it was very easy to find one of those at Disneyland last week.

1. Tree with a trunk at least as twice as wide as you (or a member of your traveling party)
Victoria BC, in front of Parliament


2. Fully loaded roof rack
near Kelso WA


3. Church steeple
Ketchikan, AK


4. Town motto printed on a sign or archway
Ketchikan, AK


5. Clown
Medford, OR


6. Funny or elaborate mailbox
Anaheim CA


7. Election sign
Skagway, AK


8. Abandoned building
Skagway, AK


9. Someone (not in your travel group) consulting a paper map
Skagway, AK


10. Train or cable car not on tracks
Skagway, AK


11. Statue made of wood
Redding, CA


12. Hat or headgear worn in the region you’re visiting
Skagway, AK


13. A sign that is intentionally or unintentionally funny
Weed, CA (this sign is both intentionally AND unintentionally funny)


14. Lion, real or not
Disney Cruise Line – Alaska Inside Passage


15. Member(s) of traveling party in the water
Disney Cruise Line – Alaska Inside Passage


16. Musical instrument
Victoria, BC Street Piano


17. Restaurant sign advertising the “best” whatever
Ketchikan, AK – Best Pizza in Town (at Mexican Restaurant)


18. Motel/hotel ice machine
Seattle, WA


19. Roadside stand
Woodland WA


20. Something unusual that is not on the list
Seattle, CA – Gum wall


21. Foreign Bonus: A building mural that is not graffiti
Victoria BC, Chinatown


22. Foreign Bonus: McDonald’s, Starbucks, or other U.S.-based franchise with a sign or part of menu in a foreign language
Victoria BC, Starbucks (a sign and a menu)


Camp Royaneh Photos

Here are some photos from Quinn’s Webelos Adventure Camp week at Camp Royaneh. These were taken by the camp photographer.