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Everything to Know About Radiator Springs Racers

by Leap on February 19, 2023 Los Angeles

Take a trip down Route 66 in Radiator Springs, aka Cars Land, in Disney California Adventure, and make a right turn to get to Radiator Spring Racers. Woah! Slam on the brakes! There are three entrances to this ride. Which lane should you merge into? The right lane is the slow lane, otherwise known as the standby line. The left lane is a faster lane for Single Riders (it's like the opposite of a carpool or HOV lane, but gets you on the ride much faster than the standby line). And the middle lane is also a fast lane, but also a "toll lane," called the Lightning Lane. Ka-chow!

This is far and away the most popular ride at Disney California Adventure. It’s on your must-do list — and for good reason. We can help you avoid rush hour and find the shortest wait. Here’s everything to know about Radiator Springs Racers.

Radiator Springs Racers Overview

This ride is part indoor dark ride, part high-speed thrilling outdoor race through the desert. Hop into a six-passenger vehicle, with three seats in front and three in back (similar to Test Track at EPCOT) for a ride through Ornament Valley. You’ll zoom through the hills of a scenic highway and also visit your "Cars" friends along the way on this road trip. Make a pit stop to get either a new paint job from Ramon or new whitewall tires from Luigi.

Everything to Know About Radiator Springs Racers-Start of the race

Then you’ll meet your opponent for the big race through the hills with a photo finish. Whether you win or lose the race, you come out a winner when it comes to fun.

Everything to Know About Radiator Springs Racers-Waterfall viewWhile the ride is exciting, it does not have any large hills. While racing, you'll go over bunny hills and zoom through high-banked turns around the rock formations. The views are amazing! The vehicle reaches a top speed of 40 mph (64 km/h). It makes a good first thrill ride for tadpoles.

Definitely remove those hats and ears. We've lost our hats while racing.

There is a separate loading area for people with physical limitations who need extra time for loading and unloading. You must transfer from a wheelchair to ride this ride.

Radiator Springs Racers Height Requirement

Sadly enough for your smaller tadpoles, Radiator Springs Racers has a height requirement (as do all of the attractions in Cars Land). Racers must be 40 inches (102 cm) or taller. We recommend putting shorter frogs who make the cut in a front seat (request an odd-numbered row) so they can see the best. We have a hopful post on all the Disneyland height requirements.

Rider Switch

If some of your smaller tadpoles do not measure up, be sure to ask about Rider Switch. Bring your whole party to the line entrance. Ask a cast member for Rider Switch and assign a babysitter to watch the tadpole first and assign up to two others to ride with them when the first riders return. Present their tickets (in the Disneyland app) and those three people will able able to board later through the Lightning Lane. Psst … the two guests who accompany the sitter on Rider Switch can also ride with the first party, getting to ride twice!

Other Rides in Cars Land

The other rides in Cars Land have a lower height requirement for tadpoles not quite ready to join the big race at Radiator Springs Racers. Both Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters and Mater's Junkyard Jamboree have a height requirement of 32 inches (81 cm) or taller.

How to Get the Shortest Wait on Radiator Springs Racers

Everything to Know About Radiator Springs Racers-Finish Line photo

We get the most questions about how and when to ride Radiator Springs Racers and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland. We all want to win the race and be the fastest to the front of the line! Each of those rides is the most popular ride in its park, as demonstrated by wait times and consistent demand. We have a whole post dedicated to Rise of the Resistance, and today we discuss Radiator Springs Racers. Both these rides are incredibly immersive and fun. But they also can be unpredictable when it comes to operations, which is why we have several tips for both rides. We advise readers to be flexible to more than one way to ride. There are many strategies for getting on Radiator Springs Racers. Here are a few of them!

Rope Drop

Everything to Know About Radiator Springs Racers-Line extending out of the queue

Radiator Springs Racers is not open during Early Entry at Disney California Adventure. That means that all guests have to wait until at least park opening to ride. Many people rush to Radiator Springs Racers to ride this first thing in the morning. A. Lot. Of. People. Should you do it? We offer some pros and cons for rope-dropping this ride.

Pros: If you are at the front of the line, you may get in and out of this ride quickly, checking it off your to-do list. If you have Early Entry, use the end of your Early Entry time to get to this ride before the rope droppers get there at park opening. You'll line up on the right side of Route 66 and the ride entrance.

Cons: It seems more often than not on our visits, Radiator Springs Racers has a delay in opening. If the ride is not open, you need to find a different strategy. If you are at the back of the crowd getting to Radiator Springs Racers, you may end up waiting at least an hour. That first hour of park opening is critical for knocking out a lot of rides with short wait times. If you spend it waiting for one ride, you will then also face longer lines for all other rides once you exit it.

We much prefer to hit Pixar Pier area to knock out Pixar-Pal-A-Round, Toy Story Midway Mania and Incredicoaster before retuning to Cars Land to ride Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters and hitting the Single Riders line for Radiator Springs Racers in about the same amount of time it could have taken us to wait in the standby line for that one ride. Yikes!

End of the Night

Everything to Know About Radiator Springs Racers-Short wait time during party

Some nights you can hop in line in the last hour before park close. The park thins out near the end of the night and during World of Color. Plus, if you are in line when the park closes, you can stay in line until you ride. The problem with this method is that if the ride breaks down and doesn’t reopen, you could lose your opportunity to ride.

Ride During Special Events

The shortest lines we ever see for this ride hoppen to be during the Oogie Boogie Bash and Disneyland After Dark parties (when they occur at Disney California Adventure). With low park capacity and other entertainment to keep guests busy, the wait times are crazy short, even for this popular ride.

Buy Your Way In

You can purchase an individual Lightning Lane for this ride through the Disneyland app after you have entered a theme park for the day. The ride is not included in Genie+. But for a fee, you can use the Lightning Lane to get a significantly shorter wait for this ride. The price varies per day, based on demand. We have seen it as low as $7 and as high as $20 per person. You can purchase individual Lightning Lanes through the Disneyland app.

We highly recommend this option if it’s in your budget, and you want to ride together and not split up, as you would with Single Rider. It may be worth it if you are on a trip of a lifetime and have limited time to do and see it all. Saving 90 to 120 minutes in line may mean riding many other rides or having time for a table-service meal.

You can only purchase this ride once per day. You can purchase a maximum of two individual Lightning Lane rides per day. If for some reason the ride breaks down in your window, you will have until the end of the day to ride. If it breaks down and you cannot ride, your individual Lightning Lane fees will automatically be refunded within a few business days.

Single Rider

Everything to Know About Radiator Springs Racers-Single Rider Lines

This is our favorite way to skip the line for Radiator Springs Racers, especially when we use the Single Rider line in the morning when it is the shortest. Because the car has two rows of three people, that leaves a lot of empty seats to fill next to parties of two, four and five, making this a dream ride for single riders. And it doesn’t cost any extra money, which makes our travel budget hoppy.

There are a few things you need to know about Single Rider lines. All Single Riders must be at least 7 years old and willing to split up from their party to fill in single seats. That means you may be in completely different vehicles from each other.

Don't bring a child who is afraid to ride without you into this line. Do not take your child to the front of the Single Rider line and ask to be seated together or ask for a certain seat. If you need to ride together or have a seat preference, then use the standby line or Lightning Lane.

Keep in mind that a PhotoPass photo is taken at the finish line. If it’s important to you to be in the photo with your party, the Single Riders line may not be for you. Frankly, we love it when we get lucky and get to race someone in our party. When we separate, we meet the rest of our party near the photo viewing area. We ask each other, "Did you win? Did you get tires or paint?" It's always fun to compare races and see each other's photos.

Rider Switch

Do you have a small child who does not meet the height requirement? Use Rider Switch (as mentioned above). One person or party can wait in line or use Lighting Lane while the rest of the babysitting party can do something else. Then the babysitter and two other guests can use the Lightning Lane. Let’s say you are a party of five with a mom, dad, two older kids and baby. You can purchase Lighting Lane just for dad, and add Mom and two older kids to Rider Switch. Then when dad returns, mom and the kids can ride. Don’t want to pay? Dad and the kids can ride single rider, and then the kids can ride again with mom. The kids get to ride twice.

Use DAS (only for eligible guests and their party)

Everything to Know About Radiator Springs Racers-Screenshot of DASThe Radiator Springs Racers line is ADA-compatible and fits wheelchairs and ECVs. But some people have hidden disabilities that do not allow them to wait in a standard queue, especially one as long as this line. Those individuals may qualify for Disability Access Service (DAS). A DAS user can acquire a return time for Radiator Springs Racers that is equivalent to the current wait time. They won’t have a shorter wait than other guests, but they will be able to wait outside the queue and return when it’s time to ride via the Lightning Lane. They do not need to pay an individual Lightning Lane fee to access the Lightning Lane.

Fun Facts About Radiator Springs Racers

Everything to Know About Radiator Springs Racers-Halloween lighting

There are so many details built into this ride and queue. The jaw-dropping backdrop of Radiator Springs Racers looks so realistic. We’ve had people see our vacation photos and ask where we visited in the desert! The light hits the hills differently throughout the day, always allowing us to see it in a new light. Plus the ride is beautifully glowing orange at night. The hills of Radiator Springs glow green and purple at Halloween Time. It's one of our favorite times to ride!

Everything to Know About Radiator Springs Racers-View from tunnel

At a cost of over $200 million, Radiator Springs Racers is the most expensive ride at Disneyland Resort and one of the most expensive theme park attractions in the entire world! In comparison, it cost $17 million to build Disneyland in 1955 (which would be equivalent to $189,036,194 in 2023).

Everything to Know About Radiator Springs Racers-Cars racing through the desert

The Cadillac Range mountains serve as a majestic backdrop for Radiator Springs Racers. Car buffs may notice the six mountain peaks look like tail fins of classic Cadillac models from 1957 to 1962. These mountains are inspired by the Cadillac Ranch public art installation along Route 66 near Amarillo, Texas.

In the ride queue, look for a grouping of license plates from states that Route 66 passes through: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois.

Everything to Know About Radiator Springs Racers-Guido installing tiresIn the queue, you’ll pass through the bottle house, made from recycled glass oil bottles and cement. Inside a plaque reads, “This world-famous structure is made from genuine oil bottles saved after being consumed by Route 66 travelers visiting Stanley’s Oasis. Stacked upwards from end to end, these bottles would tower past the tallest fin in the Cadillac Mountain Range and reach to almost one hundred and twenty-six-thousandths the distance to the moon.”

On the ride itself, meet Mack, Sheriff, Mater, Frank, Fillmore, Sarge, Lightning McQueen, Doc Hudson, Sally, Luigi, Guido and Ramone on your journey to the big race.

Look for a hidden Mickey of a cactus in the planter. As you make your way to the ride at the end of Route 66, look up high to the wire on the left to see a hidden Mickey.

As you walk along the backside of Flo’s, you can watch the cars race by. Be sure to read the road signs. The tunnel looking back at the Cadillac Mountain Range from Pacific Wharf is one of our favorite photo spots.

Do you have any questions about Radiator Springs Racers? Please drop them in the comments sections below. Looking to visit Radiator Springs Racers? You can save for some gas money by purchasing discount Disneyland Resort tickets through Undercover Tourist. 

Related: Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters & Other Must-See Cars Land Attractions

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

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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