Mommy Frog's Note: As a mom of a tween, it can be hard to gauge what family activity will make Tad hug us with joy or pretend not to know us, so I feel parents’ frustration and anxiety when planning a vacation that includes a tween or teen. Between you and me, most tweens and teens magically stop worrying about their “cool factor” when they enter Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. There is very little they won’t love about the parks, from meeting characters from their favorite childhood Disney movies (while wearing personalized Mickey ears) to riding an upside-down roller coaster for the first time. They will fluctuate between behaving like the sweet, wide-eyed toddlers they once were to sharing on-ride photos of themselves braving the big rides. Based on all of our Frog Family trips to the theme parks, I've put together all of my best tips for taking your teen or tween to Disneyland in a separate post, as well.
Knowing how to entertain this unique age group so they get most out of their journey can help bond you together and make hoppy family memories. That’s why Tad is here to share his favorite thrill rides at California Adventure, as well as his favorite pads to chill out on when he doesn’t admit he needs a break to rejuvenate. Plus, what Leap and I love is that the Disney parks provide a safe place to give Tad a sense of a little bit of freedom if he, say, chooses a ride that Lily is not tall enough for. We feel comfortable letting him ride a thrill ride and then meeting back up with him to hear all about it.
'Sup, teens and tweens! I’m about to let you in on my favorite thrills and chills (as in places to chill out) at Disney California Adventure. The great part about both Disneyland and California Adventure is that it’s toadally cool to be in touch with your inner little kid, but at the same time, there is a lot more excitement available to you once you are finally tall enough (and brave enough) to experience the dopest rides in the parks. I’ll start off telling you my must-dos at California Adventure, but be sure to hop over to check out my top teen and tween thrills at Disneyland.
Disney California Adventure's Best Thrills and Chills for Teens and Tweens
Disney California Adventure's Best Thrills
1. Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout! With its Guardians of the Galaxy retheming, the former Tower of Terror added more thrills and intensity ... plus, a rockin' soundtrack and a lot more fun! It tops our list of Disney California Adventure thrills for teens and tweens. You can help Rocket rescue the guardians and enjoy six different ride sequences on this must-do attraction! if you are visiting during Halloween Time, be sure to also ride the nighttime version of this ride: Monsters After Dark!
2. Incredicoaster. This is the only upside-down roller coaster in either park, but my most favorite part is the high-speed launch at the start. Dash from "The Incredibles" counts us down for the chase to catch Jack-Jack. (Jack-Jack escaped from Edna, who was supposed to be babysitting.) It’s all uphill, then downhill, and uphill, then downhill, and upside-down from there as the entire Parr family works together to use their super skills to capture baby Jack-Jack! Smile for the camera near the end and be ready to snap a picture of it off the screen when you exit.
3. Grizzly River Run. This water ride is great for a hot day, and if the rest of your family is not into getting soaked, I recommend using the Single Rider line. Have your family take your phone and wait for you in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail across the way. You can meet them there to chill out (and dry off) after the ride — more on that later.
4. Radiator Springs Racers. Kids of any age love this ride, which takes you on an exciting car race through the desert. FASTPASSes (distributed behind Ramone's House of Body Art) run out soon after the park opens. I highly recommend getting Disney MaxPass, so you can reserve your FASTPASSes through the Disneyland app to save time. If you can’t get a FASTPASS and your group does not mind being split up, I recommend using the Single Rider line. It's usually much shorter than the regular line or even sometimes the FASTPASS return line. If you get lucky, you may end up in the same car as a family member, or even better, you end up racing them! But do not expect to get seated together.
5. Soarin' Around the World. Get set to take flight high above the world's wonders on this flight simulation ride. Thanks to its 80-foot dome projection screens, you'll get a spectacular view of the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China and more!
Disney California Adventure's Best Chills
Going on all those rides can tire you out or make you feel a little green (or even greener than usual in my case)! When you want to chill out and relax in the park, these are my favorite things to do.
1. Take an art class at the Animation Academy. While my little sister, Lily, is waiting to meet Anna and Elsa, I take an art class next door at the Animation Academy where we learn to draw our favorite Disney characters. You can check the schedule out front for the day’s lineup so you can be sure to catch a lesson on how to draw your favorite character. This is one of my favorite free things to do at the Disneyland Resort.
2. See a show. The Hyperion Theatre is literally one of the coolest places to chill out on a hot day. It got even cooler by adding the Frozen — Live at the Hyperion show. Now you can cool off with your favorite snowman ;)
3. Toy Story Midway Mania. OK, this is actually a ride and while it is not necessarily a thrill ride, it is a 4-D video game that moves you from game to game that it is nothing like any video game you can play at home. There are a lot of online hints and secrets to scoring big on this one. Even Mommy Frog doesn’t nag me about playing this video game because she is busy trying to beat my score. (She never does!)
4. Pixar Pal-A-Round. This one can be a thrill or a chill. Take your pick. You can ride in a non-swinging gondola for a relaxing and higher ride around the wheel. Or, you can choose my way. I like the swinging and sliding gondola. But even though it is exciting, it is still mostly a really relaxing place to rock, look out over the park, and rest all at the same time.
5. As promised, the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail is one of California Adventure’s best-kept secrets. You forget you are in an amusement park as you climb up rope ladders, ride zip line tire swings (12 and under for that one), and run across swinging bridges. You can practice climbing a rock wall, slide down tunnel slides and find out your spirit animal. This escape from the park crowds to the shady wilderness is a fun way to race your family, play hide-and-seek with your siblings, and just get some down time when the lines are long or you just want to dry off a bit from the Grizzly River Run. Your parents will appreciate having a shady bench to rest on, too. Once you are refreshed, you can head back to the park ready for the next thrill!
All that playing and screaming can make you hungry, so be sure to check out some of our favorite restaurants at California Adventure while you are there. Just thinking of my favorite things to do at California Adventure has me hopping excited to go back! I always bring my camera so I can record rides and experiences and then share the videos on our YouTube channel. Be sure to check them out and have fun making your own videos, but be aware that selfie sticks have been banned in both parks.
Did you know that Undercover Tourist now sells discount tickets to Disney California Adventure and Disneyland? You can even purchase tickets preloaded with MaxPass to help you skip the lines and get more thrills in!
Related: Best Teen and Tween Thrills at Disneyland