Cars Land Opens at Disney California Adventure

by Laura Gilbreath
AllEars® Feature Writer

Feature Article

This article appeared in the June 19, 2012 Issue #665 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Cars Land SignOn October 17, 2007 the Disneyland Resort revealed plans for an unprecedented resort-wide expansion. In addition to renovations of the hotels and new attractions and shows at the theme parks, the project also included plans for an entirely new land in Disney California Adventure: Cars Land.

Construction of Cars Land began in July, 2009 and for the last three years park guests have only been able to catch tantilizing glimpses of the new land from vantage points like the Fun Wheel and the terrace of the Blue Sky Cellar. On June 15, 2012 Cars Land celebrated its Grand Opening, welcoming all of us to Radiator Springs.

Inspired by the Disney*Pixar film "Cars", Cars Land brings the animated world of Radiator Springs to life. The town has been faithfully re-created from the movie and guests will find themselves walking down Route 66 past familiar places like Mater's Junkyard, Sally's Cozy Cone Motel, Flo's V8 Cafe and Ramone's House of Body Art.

Behind Radiator Springs is the spectacular Ornament Valley, dominated by the 125-foot tall Cadillac Range, the largest rockwork created in a U.S. Disney theme park. It's also the location of Cars Land's signature E-ticket attraction: Radiator Springs Racers.

Cars Land features two other attractions: Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Flying Tires. There are also several merchandise locations: Sarge's Surplus Hut, Radiator Springs Curios and Ramone's House of Body Art. Hungry guests can fill their tanks at Fillmore's Taste-in, Sally's Cozy Cones and Flo's V8 Cafe.

Let's take a trip down Route 66!

On the outskirts of town is Tow Mater Towing and Salvage, home of Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. Baby tractors pull guests behind them in trailers as they whirl in a serpentine pattern on a series of spinning turntables to one of seven different songs on Mater's Jukebox - performed by Mater himself, of course! Don't be fooled into thinking this ride is just for little kids - while the kids love it, so do the adults. It's deceptively fun, with a mild thrill factor - everyone I saw came off smiling! There is a 32" height requirement. The bench seat will accommodate up to two adults and one child and all riders are secured by a single lap belt. Though it spins I did not find that it made me dizzy at all, but those with motion issues should consider that.

Cozy Cone MotelAcross the street is Fillmore's Taste-In, which offers a variety of fresh fruit and healthier snacks. Next door is Sarge's Surplus Hut - likely to be a favorite with kids, with its selection of Cars toys and merchandise, some of it exclusive to Cars Land.

At the Cozy Cone Motel is Sally's Cone-anza - five large orange cones each serving a cone-coction, like Pop-cone and Chili Cone Queso. The latter is served in an edible cone-shaped waffle cup. The popcorn comes in different flavors like dill pickle and bacon cheddar and is served in a cone or a Lightning McQueen souvenir bucket. At the other cones you can find ice cream cones, pretzel and churro bites and themed beverages such as a "Route" Beer Float, Fillmore's Fuelin' Groovyades and Ramone's "Pear of Dice" Soda. Mater or Lightning McQueen can usually be found greeting guests in front of the Cozy Cone Motel's office. And be sure to check out the decor - Sally has a cone waterwheel, cone fencing, cone lawn ornaments...

Radiator Springs Curios is a classic example of the kind of souvenir stand you'd expect to find along Route 66. The selection inside is more generic - Disney pins and accessories, antenna toppers and other small souvenirs.

Running on empty? Pull up to Flo's V8 Cafe for a plate of her rotisserie beef, pork, or turkey accompanied by classic comfort food sides like mashed potatoes, peas & carrots, and corn medley. Or try the Veggie Tater Bake - a vegetarian shepherds pie. For dessert consider one of her special "Pie-O-Ramas" - apple-cheddar, mud pie, or seasonal berry. And inside don't miss all of the memorabilia from Flo's days as a Motorama Girl, including some of their gold records. If you're looking for a meal with a view, the corner dining room has a great view of Ornament Valley.

Next to Flo's is Ramone's House of Body Art, offering a selection of t-shirts and other apparel, including "Flying Tire" hats and items from the "Low and Slow" and "Champions Custom Speed Shop" collections.

Across Route 66 is the leaning tower of tires outside Luigi's Casa della Tires, the entrance to the Luigi's Flying Tires attraction. The queue proceeds through the tire showroom and out into Luigi's garden, where he's celebrating the Festival of the Flying Tires. After riders board their own Fettuccini tire, Guido fires up the compressors and the tires float on a cushion of air. To make the tire move, lean in the direction you want to go - which might involve bouncing off another tire!

This attraction brings back fond memories to those who remember the Flying Saucers attraction (1961-1966) at Disneyland. These tires are quite a bit larger, though. It takes most people a couple of rides to get the knack of steering them - lean too far and they bottom out and stop, not enough and they get stuck against a wall. They will seat one or two adults or two adults and a child, all secured by a single lap belt. Riders must be 32" tall. There is a small storage compartment behind the seat for bags and loose items.

At the end of the street is the Traffic Court, Fire Department and Sheriff's office, with a statue of Stanley, the radiator-cap-salesman-turned-founder-of-Radiator-Springs and his bubbling spring in front of it. (The Pixar short "Time Travel Mater", currently showing in the Blue Sky Cellar, tells the story of Stanley and Radiator Springs, and you'll also find elements of the story in the Racers queue.)

radiator springs racersAnd next to that... the entrance to Radiator Springs Racers! This is an amazing attraction. What to say without giving too much away? Guests sit in six-seater convertibles, and start off with a scenic ride through Ornament Valley, followed by a visit to the town of Radiator Springs, where they encounter a number of its citizens. Then it's off to the races - literally - racing side-by-side through Ornament Valley with another car. You never know who's going to win! (On one of our rides we raced another car containing Disneyland President George Kalogridis and a local news celebrity - and we won!) The race is filled with steeply banked turns, camel humps, speedy straightaways - it's a rush. So much fun!

If you've seen photos of the track or the cars you might think it's like Test Track - but it's so much more than that. It doesn't go as fast, but the side-by-side aspect adds a lot to the experience, as does the beautiful scenery that you drive through and the soaring soundtrack you're hearing. While my logical side knew that everything I was seeing was man-made, I could still believe that I was really in a magnificent red rock valley.

As I mentioned before, the race cars seat six people, in two rows of three, each with their own seat belt. Riders must be 40" tall. The ride is about four-and-a-half minutes long. Radiator Springs Racers is a FASTPASS attraction, but right now FASTPASSes disappear very quickly - within two hours after the park opens. There is a single rider line which is usually considerably shorter than the standby line.

In addition to meet and greets with Mater and Lightning McQueen, guests have other opportunities to interact with the citizens of Radiator Springs. There might be encounters with Red the Fire Truck as he waters the flowers (and anyone else who might be passing by), or D.J, the ultimate party car, as he puts on one of his impromptu dancing in the street parties.

There are three entrances to Cars Land. The main entrance, straight down Route 66, comes in from the direction of the Golden Vine Winery. A second entrance, from Flik's Fun Fair, is on Cross St, and goes between Luigi's Flying Tires and the Cozy Cones. But it's the third entrance that is my favorite, and I think the most spectactular. From the Pacific Wharf the entrance is through a giant arch, which frames Radiator Springs Racers, Ornament Valley, and the Cadillac Range. In an interview, Executive Producer Kathy Mangum told us that this archway was not in the original plan. During the virtual design phase they realized that guests would have a view of the Paradise Pier Hotel from the track, so they put in the arch to block it. And then one day Kathy was looking at the real model and looked through the arch from the other side and said "Oh you guys! We are framing the Cadillac fins beautifully!"

As amazing as Cars Land is during the day, I think it's even more magical at night when the neon lights come on along Route 66. I don't think I have the words to describe it - you just have to see it for yourself. There's a lighting moment just before dark when the lights start to come on, moving from the fire department on up the street. Just beautiful.

The level of detail throughout Cars Land is incredible. The Disney Imagineers working with the Pixar animators have really brought it all to life. From the buildings to the rockwork to the plants and trees, I really felt like I had stepped into the Cars movie. Wow.

In case you couldn't tell, I was impressed. Not just with Cars Land, but with all of the enhancements they have made to the Disneyland Resort, and especially at Disney California Adventure. If you're a Disney fan and you're not planning a trip to California, then what are you waiting for?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Laura Gilbreath was an invited media guest of Disneyland Resort, however, this did not influence this story, and her opinions are her own.

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Cars Land and Buena Vista Street Media Preview:

Annual Passholder Preview:

Cars Land Grand Opening:

Buena Vista Street:

Video Snippets from around Cars Land Opening Weekend:

Disney California Adventure Grand Reopening Day:

Radiator Springs Racers Ride-Through Video and Interviews:


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.