What Is Disney's California Adventure?

Jessica Ellis

Disney’s California Adventure Park, often referred to as DCA, is the second park of the Anaheim Disneyland Resort. Part of a major reconstruction of the resort, Disney’s California Adventure opened in early 2001, themed entirely after the state of California. Visitor turnout has never matched up to administrative expectations, however, and in 2007, officials announced a major, multi-year overhaul of the entire park.

Grizzly Peak represents California's wilderness.
Grizzly Peak represents California's wilderness.

In the early 1990s, Disneyland park officials planned to build a second theme park on the parking lot site adjacent to Disneyland. After several different ideas were rejected, the administration decided on Disney’s California Adventure, in honor of Disneyland’s home state. Construction began in 1998, and the park opened in February 2001. Because of budget problems due to lower movie sales and the less-than-successful Euro Disneyland, the budget for DCA was cut dramatically during construction. The original build of the park cost around $600 million US Dollars (USD), just over 1/8 of the cost of the $4 billion USD Tokyo DisneySea park, which also opened in 2001.

Disney's California Adventure is a theme park dedicated to and themed after the state of California.
Disney's California Adventure is a theme park dedicated to and themed after the state of California.

The entrance area to Disney’s California Adventure is called the Sunshine Plaza. It features enormous murals of California landmarks, a large replica of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, a large fountain, and several gift shops. It also contains part of the performance corridor for DCA parades. This area serves as a gateway to the rest of the park, and is one of the areas that will be heavily redone during the expansion.

Hollywood Pictures Backlot area of Disney’s California Adventure is meant to mimic the early 20th century look of the movie town. The Backlot section features several shows, including Turtle Talk with Crush and Muppets 3-D. The main ride attractions of the area are the family-themed Monster’s Inc: Mike and Sulley to the Rescue!, and the haunted hotel thrill ride, Tower of Terror.

The Golden State area of the park is divided into several sub-sections, each mimicking a specific part of either California natural features or historical sites. The Bay Area section features Golden Dreams, a movie starring Whoopi Goldberg that tells the history of the state. The Pacific Wharf area is modeled after the coastal city of Monterey, and has several restaurants. The Golden Vine Winery celebrates the famed Wine Country of California, and contains two upscale Italian restaurants and a wine-tasting bar.

The Golden State section contains two of the most popular rides in the park. In Grizzly Peak, a section devoted to California’s wilderness, the Grizzly River Run is a fast-paced ride through rapids on which most, if not all, patrons emerge soaking wet. The Condor Flats area contains what many fans believe to be DCA’s best ride, Soarin’ Over California. This innovative ride is a hang-glider simulation through parts of California, including San Francisco, Napa, Monterey, Anza-Borrego Desert, Yosemite State Park, and of course, Disneyland itself. Guests “fly” in a three-row carriage, several feet above the ground, and are even treated to area-appropriate scents, like oranges and fir trees.

The boardwalk towns of Santa Monica and Santa Cruz served as inspiration for Paradise Pier. The area is filled with carnival-like rides, games and shops, including the park’s largest coaster, California Screamin’. Paradise Pier will be the recipient of much of the park’s overhaul, as guests have been consistently dissatisfied with the lack of theming and cohesion in this section of the park. Work has already begun with the construction of Toy Story Midway Mania, a 3-D ride set to open in 2008.

Disney’s California Adventure is an excellent place to spend a day on your trip to Disneyland. With the addition of the kid-friendly Bug’s Land in 2003 and the planned expansion throughout the early 21st century, DCA looks poised to become a premier theme park, worthy of its adjacent neighbor, Disneyland. As of 2008, prices for a single day at DCA currently stand at $56 USD for children under nine and $66 USD for visitors ten and over. For a great deal, you may also wish to consider purchasing a park-hopper ticket, which begin at $81 USD for children and $91 USD for adults, and offers same-day admission to both Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland.

Disney's California Adventure has a replica of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
Disney's California Adventure has a replica of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.

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