California Adventure for first timers - must do rides

What are your person musts in California Adventure?

This is my current list, after reading my unofficial guide and looking at videos of the rides on youtube

Do you have any tips to share for first timers?
I am reading about California Adventure today. Do you have any personal favorites not on my list?

Radiator Springs
Toy Story
Grizzly River Run
California Screaming
Tower of Terror (if it’s open)
Goofy Sky School

It time permits
Monsters Inc Ride
Little Mermaid
Mickey fun wheel
Golden Zephyr

World of Color and Frozen Live

Carsland, Carsland, Carsland.

Ideally, supper at Flo’s V-8 Cafe. Be seated outside, by the gas pumps, just before dusk.

Life could be a dream . . .


Tower of Terror is closed - forever. It is being replace with a Guardians of the Galaxy ride. It is supposed to open on Memorial Day weekend. From what I understand, same ride, different theme.

I would add
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (much more than than it looks)
Animation Academy is nice for a break. The learn how to draw session is fun.
Silly Symphony Swings is great fun. I like it more than the Golden Zephyr.

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I will second animation academy. That building is a great place for an easy in park break. In the summer it has air conditioning, in the winter its heated. Turtle Talk with Crush is a great show for a short break. Then we usually do the animation academy (same building) and a quick photo next to the “… And they lived happily ever after wall”. We are then rested and ready for the next adventure.

I would also say check out the pier at night, it’s stunning and the lights at TSMM are beautiful and make for great photos.


I pretty much agree with your list. The Silly Symphony swings are fun, but really not much different than many others like it. Zephyr is very unique - but VERY often closed due to winds. If you see it operating, ride it; 30 min later it could be closed for the rest of the day. I also agree that Mater is a lot more fun that it may look. WOC is an absolute must.

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Lots of greats on your list! For me, I would put Little Mermaid as a must and Grizzly River Run as a if time permits. For me, Grizzly River Run is very similar to any other amusement park rapids ride, whereas Little Mermaid is a story that I love and the ride is very well done and can only be experienced at Disney. (Same reasoning could go for Monsters Inc as well, but I don’t love the Monsters franchise as much as Little Mermaid, but if you love Monsters, then it should make your of musts).

The Animation Building with its attractions are all great if time permits attractions that will give you a great break in your day (as has been said above).

I also wholeheartedly agree that Mater’s needs to be on your list as well as lots of strolling time through Carsland both day & night. It’s a beautiful land, so well done and has amazing atmosphere and detail that are not to be missed.

The pier at night is also very great but if you are seeing WOC (which is a must for me!) you can enjoy the show & the atmosphere while waiting for the show.

As for Frozen, I have only seen it once on opening weekend and haven’t been impressed enough with it to make it back for a subsequent showing, especially for the amount of time it takes to wait & then see the show. Bare minimum you are looking at 90 minutes of time from your day for the show. It would definitely fall into the ‘If time permits’ category for me, but if you are a huge Frozen fan, it may be more of a must.

As for the Golden Zephyr, it’s a very whimsical ride with a beautiful view of the pier but it definitely would fall to the bottom of the list for me because other than that, there’s not much to it. Luckily it doesn’t ever take too much time to fit in (when it’s open), so definitely follow @bswan26’s advice and ride it when it’s open. It will close not only due to wind, but also for heat (the seats get too hot to sit on) & in the somewhat rare occasion of rain in SoCal, it will close for heavier rain & even rarer lightning. But all those possibilities combined, it’s amazing to me that the ride operates much at all!

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isn’t Little Mermaid exactly the same as the one in WDW? We have done it so many times

Ah yes the rides are exactly identical with a far superior queue in WDW. In this case, Little Mermaid definitely warrants the “if time permits” category, but then Monsters Inc should become a priority, if not a must, definitely at/near the top of “if time permits”


I can’t wait! 75 more days to go


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You’re so ahead of the game with DL planning too! Excited for you to report back!

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less than two weeks to go!

Guys, is there any summer events I need to be aware of and try to schedule. My son is massive Marvel fan - where would I read some info on what is summer of heros? Any recent changes?

Here are the details for all of the summer Marvel event at the park.

I agree with your list, but like others have said would move the animation academy into the must list along with maters ride. The golden zypher is fun and we ended up riding the swings 3 times on my last trip because it was my mom’s favorite. I can take or miss the grizzly rapid ride.

Two biggest changes: Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout (used to be Tower of Terror) has opened and FPs are now being distributed during early entry/extra magic hour for a few select rides (Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, Radiator Springs are the ones I know for sure).

For Guardians ride, FPs run out within the first 2-3 or so hrs of distribution. The FP line is also quite long at reg park open (up to an hour). If this is a priority to ride & you have early entry, then you could easily pick up a FP and/or standby without too much wait. Otherwise, plan to do DCA on a day that doesn’t have early entry & be early to the gates to position to either get on as one of the first ones on standby or pull a FP.

Also another big change, the two parks DL & DCA are now connected for FPs so you have to wait for your window to open to pull the next one. The only exception is FPs for World of Color. Also, starting tomorrow Jun 21st, you will not need to hand over your paper FP when coming back for the return time, instead your ticket or pass will be scanned at readers that have soft opened today.