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Home / Blog / Theme Park Rides, Shows & More / All of the Not-to-Miss Rides, Experiences and Food at Disney California Adventure Park

All of the Not-to-Miss Rides, Experiences and Food at Disney California Adventure Park

by Leap on June 7, 2024
Los Angeles

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If it’s your first trip to Disney California Adventure or you have one day at the park to do it all, you probably want to know the must-see and must-do rides, entertainment and experiences. This park has a few attractions and highly themed lands you cannot find at Disney World, such as Cars Land, Avengers Campus, San Fransokyo Square and Pixar Pier. You can certainly dig into must-try foods that are unique to this park, as well. Here’s our not-to-miss Disney California Adventure Park information!

What Not-to-Miss at Disney California Adventure - DCA at Night

Even though Disney California Adventure is just across from Disneyland, this park has a toadally different vibe. You get a taste of Hollywood, a beachside boardwalk, wine country, the desert and the California forests. Plus you can celebrate different cultures during certain times of the year and enjoy adult drinks throughout the park. This is the only Disneyland theme park that has its own hotel entrances — Disney's Grand Californian Hotel has a side entrance that opens right into the park! Pixar Place Hotel has its own entrance across the street from the hotel. Whether you have toddlers or teens, or you're making an adult-only trip, let's hop to it and explore the top Disney California Adventure rides, food and entertainment.

Not-to-Miss Small Thrills at Disney California Adventure Park

We're breaking up our top rides and attractions by those smaller thrills without a height requirement and those bigger thrills just for bigger frogs because we know that Tad’s and my top rides may differ from Mommy Frog’s preferences and what our toddler Lily can access. If you have a small fry, our guide to Disneyland height requirements and Rider Switch is most hopful for planning purposes. Of course, there is so much more to do than we can mention here, but we're sharing the major highlights.

What Not-to-Miss at Disney California Adventure - Toy Story Midway Mania

Toy Story Midway Mania!

It's a 3D video game and a ride, all in one! Put on your 3D glasses, your vehicle will take you to play classic carnival games with a modern twist. Your "Toy Story" friends will guide you. Score points for some family-friendly competition.

What Not-to-Miss at Disney California Adventure - The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

This slow, dark ride will have the whole family singing along to classic songs such as "Under the Sea" and "Part of Your World." Step into your clamshell seat and take a journey under the sea, but watch out for Ursula. This is one of our favorite rides on hot days when you need a little relaxing break in the AC.

Pixar Pal-A-Round

Don't let its beloved nickname, Mickey's Wheel of Death, or the fact that there are barf bags in the gondola scare you off. Even Lily loved this rocking ride as an infant! And can it really be that scary if it doesn't even require seatbelts? You can choose the tamer non-swinging gondola or the swinging one that glides on rails and swings along tracks on this giant Ferris-wheel-like ride with added thrills. The views from up top are worth the trip. We like to ride this one just after park opening for the shortest wait.

WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure

This 3D ride is the newest one in the park and the newest land, Avengers Campus. You'll attend a WEB open house hosted by Peter Parker, but the demonstration goes horribly wrong when the Spider-Bots get stuck in replication mode. Can you help Spider-Man sling webs to catch the Spider Bots and save Avengers Campus? Much like Midway Mania! This ride is a 3D game. However, with new technology in place, there are no physical game tools to use. You simply point and shoot your own arms to start slinging some webs. It might be a workout, but boy is it fun!

Animation Building

It’s easy to walk right past this Hollywood Land building, but there is Disney magic inside this Disney California Adventure hidden gem. You can learn to draw a Disney character, chat with Crush during Turtle Talk and even meet Anna and Elsa. This is another great spot to cool off, relax and reset during your day.

Honorable Mention: Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

While we might not call it a must-do item, if you're not on a time crunch, the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail will thrill your tadpoles. They can enjoy some unstructured, shady playtime. Our tadpoles love running along the course, climbing rocks or gliding on tire zip lines. (However, note that some parts of the experience may technically have a height requirement.) During the holidays, this is the place to find Santa and do additional seasonal activities.

Not-to-Miss Big Thrills at Disney California Adventure Park

What Not-to-Miss at Disney California Adventure - Radiator Springs Racer race through the desert

This park has two of our favorite thrill rides at Disneyland Resort. The thrills make Disney California Adventure especially popular with tweens, teens and adults.

Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout!

Unique to this park, the ride was originally Tower of Terror but was re-themed. And we Tower of Terror fans hate to say that we absolutely love this fun thrill ride. Ride it more than once if you can because you can get up to six different songs and video/drop sequences!

Radiator Springs Racers

Cars Land is an immersive must-see land. At the end of Route 66, make a right and pull into Radiator Springs Racers for a dark ride meets thrilling race through the desert. Meet your favorite "Cars" friends along the way as they prepare you for the big race. Do you need tires or a new paint job? The cars are here to help you with speed and style. If your party can split up, the single rider line is significantly shorter than the standby line.

All of the Not-to-Miss Rides, Experiences and Food at Disney California Adventure Park - Incredicoaster

Incredicoaster

Join the Incredibles on Disneyland's only upside-down wooden roller coaster. Edna is perhaps not the best choice for a babysitter. She's lost Jack-Jack, and all members of the Parr family have to use their skills to get him back. Oh, and you're along for the thrilling ride! Dash will count you down for the 0 to 55 mph launch. Travel through three tunnels and down three large drops in your quest to catch Jack-Jack. Can you smell the cookie num nums in the second tunnel?

Soarin’

The riders generally break out into a round of applause at the end of this visually stunning trip over beautiful sights around the world. You'll soar over the real Matterhorn, Great Wall of China, pyramids in Egypt, Fiji, The Eiffel Tower and more distinct locations around the world. Take a big whiff as you can smell the aromas of places you visit and feel the breeze on your face. If you visit in the spring during the Food and Wine Festival, you'll get treated to Soarin' Over California.

Grizzly River Run

Chances are you will get wet — even soaked — on this wild raft trip. You'll encounter waterfalls, rapids and geysers as you float and spin your way through the river of Grizzly Peak.

Not-to-Miss Disney California Adventure Entertainment

You'll always want to check the entertainment calendar to see what shows are available on the day you visit.

What Not-to-Miss at Disney California Adventure - World of Color

Shows in Avengers Campus

There are several show moments when heroes spring to action in Avengers Campus. One of our favorites is The Amazing Spider-Man! Several times a day from about 10 a.m until 4 p.m., Spider-Man swings above the rooftops of the WEB building. You can usually see people waiting near the main Avengers Campus entrance to catch it. Our Avengers Campus characters post lists all of the show options.

World of Color

The world is a carousel of color. This breathtaking nighttime spectacular with fountains, colorful lights, projections and music is the perfect ending to a day at Disney California Adventure! This is the only Disney park with this amazing show and the perfect addition to this unique park. Currently, you can see World of Color - ONE, which includes scenes from beloved Disney and Pixar movies as well as new scenes from Star Wars and Marvel.

Disney Junior Dance Party!

This show is Lily’s pick for a must-see show if you have any toddlers and preschoolers in the house. Dancing? Bubbles? Live characters? What's not to love?

Parade

The "Better Together: A Pixar Pals Celebration!" all-new parade debuts during Pixar Fest (April 26 through Aug. 4, 2024). The parade includes Pixar pals, colorful floats, costumed dancers and of course Luxo Jr. the Pixar lamp. Plus, a new float debuts Panda Mei and friends in the park as well as the boy band 4*Town (all from "Turning Red").

 All of the Not-to-Miss Rides, Experiences and Food at Disney California Adventure Park - Mike and Sulley on float

 

Festivals and Seasonal Entertainment

This park has many festivals throughout the year that don't take place at Disneyland Park. If you hoppen to visit during one of them, you’ll be treated to special entertainment, character interactions, decor, food and beverage. Festival food booths line the paths to bring in special tastes of the season. The year kicks off with Lunar New Year, followed by Food & Wine Festival in the spring. In the fall, Halloween Time takes over Paradise Gardens with the Plaza de la Familia (plus Cars Land and Carthay Circle are highly decorated, especially when lit up at night). The Oogie Boogie Bash, a separately ticketed Halloween party, takes place on select nights during September and October. The year ends with the most entertainment-filled festival of them all — the Festival of Holidays!

Not-to-Miss Disney California Adventure Food & Beverage

What Not-to-Miss at Disney California Adventure - Lamplight Lounge Lobster Nachos With a View of Pixar Pier

This is a tough category to pin down. Disney California Adventure has the best food and beverage, in our opinion, and we have so many favorites, including seasonal flavors that are only around at certain times of the year. This park has adult drinks and lounges that make it popular with the parents while still offering kid-friendly bites. The whole family can enjoy themed eats and delicious frozen treats. You cannot try them all in one visit, but if you share, you can do some serious damage. Here’s a look at our favorite dining locations or tasty items!

Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge

What Not-to-Miss at Disney California Adventure - Pixar Pier Parfait

These are two different high-end dining experiences with different menus. You cannot go wrong either way. Try to get a reservation or join the walk-up lists through the Disneyland app once you are in the park and near the restaurant. When you dine indoors, you definitely can froget you are in a theme park! The lounge (both indoor and outdoor seating) has small bites (we like the meatballs and Brussels sprouts for a hearty snack), but the main dining room has a full seasonal menu.

Lamplight Lounge

Lamplight Lounge also has two eating options, the downstairs restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating that takes reservations or the upstairs Boardwalk dining that only takes walk-up availability (through the app). Get the Lobster Nachos or make them vegan. If you sit upstairs at Boardwalk Dining, get the Barbacoa Nachos (with the sliders while you're at it). There are many themed drinks and even a secret menu (you bet we have a post for that!), but the one Mommy Frog goes back for time and again is the Sequel, aptly named for this bubbling beverage.

Various Frozen Treats

On Pixar Pier, Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats has non-dairy DOLE Whip treats and beverages, including some boozy options! The beautiful Pixar Pier Parfait will satisfy your Instagram and taste buds. Smokejumpers Grill and Schmoozies! each have seasonal shakes that are always so fun and delicious. For sundaes, waffle cones of hand-scooped ice cream, chocolate-dipped bananas and hand-dipped ice cream bars, it is Clarabelle’s all the way. You can even get a hard float or a Mich-Helado (basically a michelada with ice cream).

Asian-Mexican-American Fusion Foods at San Fransokyo Square 

San Fransokyo Square is like visiting San Francisco with hints of Latin America and Tokyo without leaving the park. You can get clam chowder or curry beef in a sourdough bread bowl or fresh themed sourdough bread. Slurp birria ramen, bite into San Fransokyo-style street corn or enjoy noodle dishes, salads or mac and cheese! The birria tacos are so popular that guests are limited to ordering no more than two at a time!

All of the Not-to-Miss Rides, Experiences and Food at Disney California Adventure Park-Shrimp soba salad at Aunt Cass

There are a number of tasty plant-based items as well here (we especially love the Yaki Udon and the Soba Noddle Salad. Be sure to stop and give Baymax a hug and a fist bump fist bumps (ba-la-la-la-la). Read more in our San Fransokyo Square post.

While in the square, make sure to stop by the Port of San Fransokyo Cervecería if you have a beer lover in your party. Adults can easily grab a cold Karl Strauss brew while passing through.

Pym Test Kitchen

What Not-to-Miss at Disney California Adventure - Avengers Campus Chicken Sandwich

Whether you're looking for a full breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can enjoy heroic meals at this lab test kitchen, which uses Pym particles to grow and shrink food. We've tried everything on the menu — the not-so-little chicken sandwich and giant pretzel are our favorites, but we like it all, including the green Pingo Doce soda, which isn't sold anywhere else. The tots are pretty good too! Our post on Avengers Campus food can help you pin down your best food choices in this new land. New or seasonal items pop up all the time!

Cozy Cones 

Over in Cars Land you'll find a few different cones at the Cozy Cone Motel offering different kinds of treats. Above and beyond the most popular is Cozy Cone 3, where you can find the Chili Cone Queso and the Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese cone. Both of these conecoctions are served in a Bread Cone. Next door at Cozy Cone 4, adult frogs can grab a Vodka Lemonade or Vodka Pomegranate Limeade (so good!). The Cozy Cones tend to form lines, so we suggest taking advantage of mobile order, especially during lunch and dinner times.

Honorable Mention: Churro Toffee

I cannot mention food in this park without pointing you to the churro toffee in the two candy shops: Trolley Treats or BongBong's Sweet Stuff. It's our latest addiction, and luckily, you can find it year-round. Yum! Of course, Mommy Frog cannot turn down a themed caramel apple. Hop into the candy shops for some take-home treats to make the magic last after you leave the park.

As you can see, there is a lot to cover. If you want to hit most of the not-to-miss Disney California Adventure attractions, you'll need a solid plan. Hop over to our posts on tips to maximize time at Disneyland and Disney Genie to find out how to save time on your visit.

Do you have any not-to-miss Disneyland fun we didn't mention? Let us know in the comments section below. Ideally, you would take a couple of days to explore Disneyland Resort. If you need Disneyland Resort theme park tickets or hotels, you can save some green through your favorite froggy friends. We even sell tickets pre-loaded with Genie+/Lightning Lane Multi Pass so you can skip the lines for key attractions. Ribbit!

Related: All of the Not-to-Miss Rides, Experiences and Food at Disney California Adventure Park

Related: The Best Quick-Service Restaurants at Disney California Adventure Park

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