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Ready to ~Hop~ Back to Disney California Adventure Park? Here's What to Expect

by Mommy Frog on May 3, 2021 Los Angeles

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure Park - PinterestReady to get your kicks on Route 66, pal around on Pixar Pier and hop into action with the Avengers? Disney California Adventure Park reopened on April 30, and while we were toadally ready for all of those things, we were even more hoppy to learn that so much is new and exciting! We're sharing all of the important information you need to know to prepare for your visit to Disney California Adventure Park, including the best time to arrive, how to manage without FASTPASS and Single Rider and where to find your favorite foods (plus a few new ones)! Even better? Some fan favorites from A Touch of Disney are sticking around (such as the 1/2 Monte Cristo and brisket mac 'n cheese)! With the reopening of Paradise Garden Grill, more festival favorites return! Here's what to know when visiting Disney California Adventure.

We Frogs will let you in on a little secret buzzing about our pond: The sweet spot for visiting Disney California Adventure Park with the lowest crowds is midweek this May. Why is this? Many of us got a peek inside this park at A Touch of Disney, so the local crowds are heading to Disneyland Park. We can't blame them. We all want to bask in the glow of Sleeping Beauty Castle after so long without her! And more so, a lot of people are waiting to visit this park after Avengers Campus opens June 4. That means that Disney California Adventure has some May availability still (hop here to view the calendar) and that translates to shorter attraction wait times, a lot of physical distancing space, short food lines and plenty of character access. Plus with a Park Hopper ticket, you can start your day in California Adventure and still get your Disneyland feels if you hop across the esplanade after 1 p.m. (subject to capacity, but hopping has been quite simple with no issues so far).

Ready to ~Hop~ Back to Disney California Adventure Park?-Welcome Back sign on HyperionDon't tell Disneyland Park, but California Adventure is always our favorite park to start our day, even when it's not the slower of the two parks. And did we mention the food? Drool. We recently started our day at California Adventure before hopping over to Disneyland. It was amazing! Here’s what to know when visiting Disney California Adventure during this frogciting reopening period.

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure Park During the Reopening Period

Ready to ~Hop~ Back to Disney California Adventure Park? Here's What to Expect-Dopey and Snow White greet Guests at California Adventure

As we should all be accustomed to face coverings, social distancing and washing our hands at this point, we will leave those tedious (but still important) details in our Disneyland reopening post. This post is all about how to maximize your time, find the most characters, find the shortest lines and even scout out fluffernutter churros (see, we told you the food won't disappoint!).

It was so good to be back and get a taste of the magic we missed so much. Finally, the rides have returned and a new land is coming in June! Keep in mind that there is no scheduled entertainment yet. Just rides and characters and food. As we visit and get used to the new operations, we will continually update this post with our tips and advice to make the best of your journey when visiting Disneyland California Adventure.

Arriving and Planning for Visiting Disney California Adventure

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - Mom and Child DisneyBound as Up

Gone are the days when annual passholders could just hop into the park whenever they felt like it, or visitors could arrive, purchase tickets at the booth and visit whatever park they felt like hopping into. All theme parks in California must limit capacity to allow for physical distancing through advance ticket sales and reservation systems.

Disneyland Tickets and Reservations

You can find all the hopful details in our Disneyland park reservations post. But the key takeaway here is to plan ahead. There are extra steps you need to take before visiting right now. Make sure you have a ticket, and make sure you get a reservation for the same day your ticket is valid. You will choose a theme park to visit when you make your reservation. If park hopping, you will choose the park you wish to visit first and then you may hop to the other park after 1 p.m. (subject to availability).

Multi-day tickets are the easiest to deal with because they are good any day 13 days after first use and have no blackouts. They also save you money, especially if you purchase discount Disneyland Resort tickets through Undercover Tourist! Ribbit!

If we had to predict crowds, Disney California Adventure Park will be quieter than you might expect in May. We recommend a visit before Avengers Campus opens on June 4. In June, weekend days and the most affordable 1-Day tickets are filling up the fastest after the new land opens.

In terms of getting tickets and making reservations, here are three key links you need to know:

  • 1-Day Ticket Tier Calendar to find out which days which 1-Day tickets can be used. If you are going with multi-day tickets, you do not have to worry about this link. (This calendar does not show if the days are still available though, so you'll also need to hop over to the next link).
  • Park Availability Calendar — On popular days, one or both parks may be full for reservations. Check this calendar before purchasing tickets.
  • Once you have tickets and are ready to reserve (or if you want to view your reservations), head to this link: StartYourDisneylandExperience.com.

Parking, Hours and Arrival Changes

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - Family Waits in Front of Disney California Adventure

With shorter park hours, you’ll want to arrive early to make the most of your day. Disney California Adventure Park is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. As of May 14, the park closes at 9 p.m. True, there are no nighttime entertainment or shows, but that early closing will affect those of us who enjoy nighttime in the park. Definitely linger before the park closes to enjoy beautiful and uncrowded views of the Pixar Pier area and Cars Land at dusk and early evening. This park is breathtaking at night. There is no Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning at this time, but the early frog gets the flies (the flies being the shortest wait times). Plus, the park usually opens early anyway. We were in at 8:30 recently! There's no rope drop. We just went straight to the rides. (Psst... we literally hopped on the rides without any wait in the morning!)

The parking structures are the place to park (the Toy Story Lot is closed and is being used as a regional vaccination site). The structures are opening earlier. Yay! You may line up as of 7:45 a.m. and then can pay and park as of 8 a.m. If you arrive before 7:45, you may have to drive about the block, so be sure to time it right.

You can now purchase parking in advance. You can pay to upgrade to Preferred Parking at the toll booth if you want to park closer to the elevators and escalators. One party at a time can use the elevator, so expect to wait. All parties should be prepared for a longer-than-usual wait to park, go through security and get to the theme parks.

It may be tempting to park at Downtown Disney, but that lot has a new daily maximum. All-day parking will cost you $66!

If you want to avoid parking, there are two guest drop-off areas: One outside Harbor Boulevard security and one by Downtown Disney. The Downtown Disney entrance has the shortest lines to get in! There are also hotels that may let you park near the Downtown Disney security entrance (such as the Best Western Plus Stovall's Inn). You can hop in the least crowded entrance to save time. If you are staying at or parking at one of the hotels near Disneyland, on the Harbor Boulevard side, you can avoid the parking structures and walk to the Harbor security area. Keep in mind that it can get crowded near opening time, but the physically distant lines move quickly and about 30 minutes after park opening you can breeze right through. The Anaheim Hotel and the Tropicana Inn on Harbor may allow you to park in there lots for a fee if they have extra space but they can fill up by 10 a.m.

Once you make your way to the bottom level of the Disneyland parking structures, you'll go through a contactless temperature check and security screening before walking down the path the parking trams usually take to get to the theme parks. It's about a 15- to 20-minute walk. There are benches for resting along the way. Travel light because locker access is limited to the ones in the esplanade. The lockers at Grizzly River Run are available for two-hour rentals.

If you are staying on-site at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, you can access the special entrance to Disney California Adventure Park beginning May 28, 2021. Before then, hotel guests use the main theme park entrances. (Hotel guests get the earliest access in front of the parks.)

Wheelchairs and Strollers and Disabilities

Ready to ~Hop~ Back to Disney California Adventure Park? Here's What to Expect-Wheelchair and stroller rental at the parking structureThe good news is that the Disability Access Service (DAS) is available. The bad news is that there are no parking trams or Mickey vans from the parking structure. It’s fine for many able-bodied people, but for people with mobility challenges or froglets with short legs, it’s a long way to go on top of all the theme park walking you'll be doing. There are benches for resting along the way.

You can now rent manual wheelchairs, ECVs and strollers at the parking structure. Our post on using a wheelchair at Disneyland has more options, tips and advice on using it at Disneyland and renting off-site.

Joining a Boarding Group for Rise of the Resistance

The Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride is actually located in Disneyland Park, and it has a virtual queue, called a Boarding Group. However, recent changes are of interest to park hoppers. If you are park hopping and starting your day at Disney California Adventure, you are eligible to join the second Boarding Group of the day at 12 p.m. You must have entered the park that day. If the Force is with you and you do acquire a Boarding Group number, you can hop over to Disneyland Park after 1 p.m. to ride when your Boarding Group is called. We have a whole post on joining a Boarding Group so that you can brush up on all of the details for your best shot at riding.

Disneyland Attractions, Wait Times and Touring Advice

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - Radiator Springs Racers

We are developing new touring plans for visiting during this reopening period. Keep in mind that a few popular rides may be on everyone’s must-do list. They are:

  • Radiator Springs Racers  — One party per car (ride this one early if you can)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! — You'll walk through the Collector's private office. There is plexiglass between parties in row 1, row 2 is empty, and two parties may sit in opposite corners in row 3 with space between them. Pay attention to the ground out in front of this ride. It appears some multicolored liquid trail leads to the Avengers Campus fences. What could it be?
  • Soarin’ Around the World — Plexiglass separates parties in line and in seats, utilizing a booster seat with plexiglass.
  • The Incredicoaster — Rows are skipped between parties.
  • Toy Story Midway Mania! — This is another great ride to hit in the morning.
  • After June 4, WEB-SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure will be the hot ticket.

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - A strange and colorful liquid has appeared on the Ground in front of GuardiansNow that FASTPASS, MaxPass and Single Rider lines are temporarily unavailable, you'll need to keep an eye on ride wait times in the Disneyland app and follow the shortest wait times. If you see long waits at one ride, find another with a shorter wait and hop back to the ride with the longer wait later.

Wait times definitely fluctuate. Wait times were not an issue in this park for us because we followed the shortest lines and ended up with all short wait times. We hit all of our must-do rides in 2.5 hours on reopening day after hopping over from Disneyland. We did not miss FASTPASS at all, but things could change as capacity goes up. On the day we started at Disney California Adventure, we were in the park by 8:30 a.m. and started going on rides. For about the first two hours, we encountered no lines. Priority rides are Radiator Springs racers and Toy Story Midway Mania!

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - Plexiglass dividers on booster seats separate parties on Soarin'You can find our updated list of rides that are open or closed at Disney California Adventure in our post on what's open at Disneyland.

If you have small tadpoles who do not meet the height requirements or are too scared to ride, you can use Rider Switch. If someone in your party has disabilities that make waiting in a standard queue very difficult, talk to guest relations about Disability Access Service (DAS).

You'll need new strategies for finding the shortest lines after capacity goes up, and perhaps in June when crowds return to this park for the Avengers Campus opening. Will you use a touring plan? Be one of the first in line when the park opens? Plan to ride when all the other lines are at their peak in the early afternoon? Watch the ride times in the app and look for the shortest waits of the day? These are all methods we use to scout out the shortest wait times.

If you arrive after park opening, you might be able to hop on several other rides with very short waits. Usually, the last hour of park operation also has very short lines. Remember that if you are in line as the park closes, you can stay in line until you ride.

Keep in mind that with physical distancing and reduced time spent in indoor queues, lines may appear much longer than they really are. Skipping seats and rows to separate parties, on the other hand, will mean fewer people ride per hour, so that will increase wait times at some point. From what we have experienced, the wait times seem to be shorter than posted.

Character Experiences at Disney California Adventure Park

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - Woman Poses with Lightning McQueen

Disneyland theme parks always keep us on our toes with character experiences. Look for Goofy and Max fishing in Pacific Wharf. Chip 'n' Dale may enjoy a picnic in the bushes in Grizzly Peak. Keep your eyes open because you never know where characters might pop up.

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - Mrs Incredible strikes a pose on Pixar PierHere's who you can find at Disney California Adventure:

  • Look for Mickey and other Disney pals (as well as characters such as Anna and Elsa or even rarely seen characters such as Dopey with Snow White) at Carthay Circle.
  • See Pixar friends at the Pixar Pier Bandshell.
  • We got to see the Incredibles give the Incredicoaster a proper send-off (toadally cool, BTW!)
  • Say hello to Disney Junior stars, from Vampirina to Doc McStuffins to the "big cheese" himself, Mickey Mouse, on the stage of the Disney Theater in Hollywood Land (from about 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
  • In Cars Land, make a pit stop to rev your engines with Lightning McQueen, Mater and Red along Route 66.
  • Meet Super Heroes such as Black Widow, Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man, Black Panther and the Dora Milaje as they strike heroic poses on the Hollywood Backlot Stage.
  • Once Avengers Campus opens June 4, you can find Super Heroes in their new land.
  • Hop through Paradise Gardens Park to meet characters. We caught up with the Miguel puppet!
  • At A Touch of Disney, some lucky guests got to test a new and magical meet and greet with Tinker Bell. We hope to see some new character experiences come to life over the next few months.

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - Anna and Elsa greet girls in Carthay Circle

Disney California Adventure and Disneyland do not have character cavalcades like Disney World. Our Disneyland characters post will continue to have all the updated details.

Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - Avengers Campus

This newest Super-Hero-themed land opens June 4. It definitely going to be the most crowded part of the park for some time. Disney has not dropped any details, but we could imagine that capacity could be limited if cast members find it necessary to allow for physical distancing. You can get the full scoop with all the details on the land from Tad’s post on Avengers Campus.

Ready to ~Hop~ Back to Disney California Adventure Park?-Black Widow in Hollywood LandYou can look forward to:

  • A new ride — WEB-SLINGERS:  A Spider-Man Adventure
  • A new restaurant — Pym Test Kitchen
  • A new bar — Pym Tasting Lab
  • Food carts — Round churros, Terran Treats and Shawarma
  • Dr. Strange's Sanctum
  • Super Hero characters
  • Spider-Man leaping and swinging through the skies and over the rooftops!
  • Rooftop Stunt Show
  • Avengers Headquarters with the Quinjet parked on top
  • Dora Milaje training sessions
  • A new store — WEB suppliers

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - Food at Lamplight Lounge

Dining at Disney California Adventure Park

Sorry, Disneyland Park, but Disney California Adventure has the BEST food! Alas, you can expect a more limited selection of restaurants at Disney California Adventure than normal with limited hours, as well as more limited menus. Definitely look up the menus ahead of time online or through the Disneyland app. You’ll see an expanded number of Mobile Order locations to help you limit contact and maximize time. Make sure you have downloaded the latest version of the Disneyland app and order ahead for meals. Mobile Order is the primary way to get food. Just tap I'm here, prepare my order before you arrive because some locations can take awhile to prepare the food (and yes, we mean Smokejumper's Grill when we say that). Great food takes awhile, I guess.

Here are a few highlights, changes, tips and items that are not usually in those locations (so you can spot some favorites that may be found in new spots):

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - Mobile Check-in sign

  • New Mobile Dine Walk-Up List available for table-service restaurants in the Disneyland app.
  • New Mobile Check-In for dining.
  • New Mobile Order locations such as the Cappuccino Cart — Gourmet Coffee and Sonoma Terrace.
  • Pacific Wharf Distribution Co. and Rita's Baja Blenders offer chimichangas though Mobile Order. (You can also find a chimichanga at Poultry Palace).
  • Check out the new menu items at Cocina Cucamonga (QuesaBirria braised beef tacos)
  • Studio Catering Co. has Mobile Order temporarily available through Hollywood Lounge.
  • You can still get the popular 1/2 Monte Cristo, brisket mac ‘n cheese and s’mores shake at Smokejumpers Grill (holdovers from A Touch of Disney)!
  • Only the first three cones are open at Cozy Cone Motel (Mobile Order only).
  • You can find corndogs at Award Wieners.
  • You can find regular hotdogs (and turkey legs) at the cart across from The Little Mermaid entrance.
  • Looking for a pickle? We love those crunchy dills. You can find them at smaller carts across from Soarin' and outside Cars Land.
  • Two table-service restaurants are available: Lamplight Lounge and Carthay Circle Lounge — Alfresco Dining.
  • Alfresco Tasting Terrace reopens May 20 exclusively for Legacy Passholders and their guests. Reservations open May 18.
  • You can make dining reservations up to 60 days in advance. If you do not see your restaurant choice listed, try typing the name in. More times may pop up. If you do not see a lunch or dinner time, try checking hour by hour. You might see a reservation become available.
  • Paradise Garden Grill recently reopened with some festival fan favorites (such as pepperoni pizza egg rolls).
  • Eat breakfast before you arrive. Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Café has breakfast sandwiches (and also stays open a half-hour after park closing at night). But there are no breakfast options at restaurants that normally serve breakfast. The Cappucchino Cart at the Pixar Pier entrance is open for coffee and snacks.
  • If you were thinking of hopping over to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa for dining, the hotel restaurants are reserved for hotel guests only right now. As of May 28, 2021, Napa Rose, Storytellers Cafe and GHC Craftsman Bar will reopen for all guests, not just those staying on-site. Oh, boy! (Reservations open May 18.)
  • You can find the complete list of open and closed restaurants in our post on what will be open when Disneyland reopens.
  • The churro and popcorn stands switched places in the Carthay Circle area.

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - 1/2 Monte Cristo and Brisket Mac n Cheese at Smokejumpers

Specialty Churros:

  • Fluffernutter churro — Willy's Churro Cart
  • S’mores churro — Redwood Creek Challenge Trail
  • Strawberry cheesecake churro — Hollywood Land
  • Milk & cookies churro — Cozy Cone 1
  • Original cinnamon sugar churros are at various churro carts in both parks!

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - Fluffernutter Churro

Here is our advice for Mobile Order in a time of limited food options: Do not wait until you are hungry to order food!

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - Pixar Pier ParfaitPopular locations could mean that available return windows are up to a few hours away. Plan ahead what you would like to eat. Order it. Choose a return window that works for you. If you need to cancel or modify the timing, you can. But at least you will have a guaranteed meal or snack at the time you set. Do not wait until you arrive to tap, “I’m here. Prepare my order.” It takes some time to prepare food. Tap it before you walk over. This will cut down on any wait times, (though you may still encounter lines to pick up food). Practice patience as guests and cast members get used to being back in the park and operating in this new world we are living in.

You will dine in designated dining zones. Take advantage of getting to sit in new and unique places. You can enjoy the view while you eat. Rest your feet and take a breather, since this is the only place you can remove your face covering. We tried the new QuesaBirria tacos at Cocina Cucamonga. (Very tasty, BTW. This restaurant was one of the rare counter-service locations that served us on a plate instead of to-go containers.) We took our food over to the designated dining area at Paradise Gardens for a nice view of the water and Pixar Pier. But even some benches may be designated dining areas around the park.

Shopping at Disney California Adventure Park

For now, dressing rooms are closed — if you really need to check a size, purchase and try it on in the restroom and exchange if you need to. Contactless payment methods such as credit, debit, gift cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay are preferred, but shops will accept cash.

You may want to delay shopping on Buena Vista Street until the park is closing. The larger shops and Trolley Treats are open for an hour after the park closes. You can look up store hours online. That way you do not have to carry your purchases around and can make better use of your time while the park is open. Consider it a bonus hour!

Here’s a list of all of the open Disney California Adventure shops:

  • Balloons and glow carts
  • Bing Bong's Sweet Stuff
  • Collector's Warehouse
  • Disneyland Backlot Premiere Shop
  • Elias & Co.
  • Kaman's Art Shoppe
  • Kingswell Camera Shop
  • Knick's Knacks
  • Off the Page
  • Paradise Pier Sunglass Cart
  • Ramone's House of Body Art
  • Rushin' River Outfitters
  • Seaside Souvenirs
  • Studio Store
  • Trolley Treats

If you buy something you do not want to carry around with you, you can check it. Take it to the stroller shop in the esplanade, and they will hold it for you until the end of the day.

Disney California Adventure Park Reopening Tips and Tidbits

What to Know When Visiting Disney California Adventure - People play Boardwalk Games at Pixar Pier

Here are a few tips for visiting Disney California Adventure during this transitional period:

  • Get your park ticket and park reservation in advance.
  • Download the latest update of the Disneyland app.
  • Wear good walking shoes — you will be on your feet a lot more than usual (plus that walk to and from the parking structure really add to your steps)
  • Take advantage of PhotoPass photographers, and ask for Magic Shots!
  • You can purchase PhotoPass+ in the app by tapping the plus sign (+) and Buy Disney PhotoPass+. It's $19.99 per day.
  • Play games at Pixar Pier (safety measures in place).
  • Read up on Mobile Order.
  • Read up on how to join a Boarding Group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
  • You can access Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa restaurants May 28.
  • Bring cashless forms of payment (Apple Pay, dining cards, gift cards and credit or debit cards).
  • Bring ID to prove California residency. Disneyland accepts temporary IDs, mortgage bills, rental contracts or even utility bills if you have recently moved (nobody asked for ours though).
  • Bring several face coverings (they get sweaty and dirty, so you'll want back-ups).
  • Use the Disneyland app to check wait times.
  • Eat breakfast before you arrive as choices are very limited in the morning.
  • You may not eat in line to enter the parks (or in any line). Finish that coffee in the car.
  • Mobile Order food before you get hungry.
  • Look for designated dining benches and areas for snacking. They are all over!
  • Wear sunscreen and hats. You will be spending more time outside in the sunshine than usual.
  • Visit Know Before You Go for the latest Disneyland Resort news.

Are you as excited as us that Disneyland theme parks are open? Hopfully, you have better idea of what to know when visiting Disney California Adventure during this time. Remember to purchase your Disneyland Resort tickets in advance and also make a theme park reservation. With limited capacity, many days are already filling up. You can book up to 60 days in advance. Keep hopping back as we visit, learn more and share hopful tips and what to know about visiting Disney California Adventure at this time.

Related: Planning a Visit to Disneyland? Here's What It's Like After Reopening

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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