Any links in this post to a merchant may contain an affiliate link, which means that if you click on that link and then buy something, I may earn a commission from it. However, all opinions in this link are 100% mine and 100% honest. If I didn't believe in a particular product, I wouldn't recommend it to you.
Planning a trip to Disneyland? Short on time and not sure what to do? Fortunately, Disney’s California Adventure is relatively small and doesn’t have a ton to do. This means that you can experience most of the park in a day. But, to make sure you get the most bang for your buck, here are my magical must-do’s at Disney’s California Adventure. Please note, this list is geared towards families with children who may not be the biggest thrill seekers out there. The items on this list can be enjoyed by everyone in the family. So, let’s get on with the fun!
1. Radiator Springs Racers
Radiator Springs Racers is the headliner ride in the Carsland section of California Adventure. It is also, arguably, the most popular ride in the entire park. And for good reason: it is a blast for people of all ages! Head here as soon as the park opens. And, to ensure you get to ride it more than once (trust me, you will want to), grab a fastpass either before getting on or as soon as you get off. After boarding cars, you ride through a series of show scenes getting some help from the residents of Radiator Springs. Then, you race another car through the open landscape of the surrounding area to a thrilling finish. It is so much fun! Please note that the height requirement for this ride is 40″.
2. Soarin’ Over the World
Want to experience the thrill and freedom of flying while enjoying some of the world’s most beautiful landmarks? Then, Soarin’ Over the World, located in Grizzly Peak, is for you! This innovative ride simulates the sensation of hang gliding by combining a unique swing structure with an Imax movie where you fly over the world’s most famous landmarks. Disney really sells this experience by adding in 4D elements, such as wind, water, and scents from the movie. You will walk away saying “Wow!” Even though I don’t enjoy heights, I love this ride. Children must be at least 40″ tall to ride Soarin’.
This is the one attraction on this list that may not be appropriate for younger members of the family or those who really don’t like thrills, because it is an intense roller coaster. The Incredicoaster is California Screamin’ that has been rethemed to the Incredibles. It includes a rocket launch, inversions, and speed. My son decided this was a one and done, but my husband declared it the best roller coaster he had ever ridden. I fell somewhere in between. The daredevils in your family will love it, but the more timid members will probably want to avoid this one. Find the Incredicoaster in Pixar Pier. The height requirement for the Incredicoaster is 48″.
4. Toy Story Mania
If you have read my Magical Must-do’s at Hollywood Studios, you know that I think Toy Story Mania is one of the best rides ever created. It is just a fun experience for everyone in the family. Just like you should ride it while at Disney World in Florida, it is also one of my magical must-do’s at Disney’s California Adventure. You will feel like you are in the midst of a video game! You use a spring-loaded gun to compete in a series of carnival games hosted by the characters of Toy Story. In each game, you earn points. Your car keeps track of your score throughout the games. While you can compete against other person in your car, you can also work together to open up secret bonus targets for even higher scores. This ride is located in the Pixar Pier section of California Adventure.
5. Goofy’s Sky School
Goofy’s Sky School, located in Pixar Pier, is a fun little introduction to roller coasters. Your kids will probably love this one more than you will because it tends to be a little on the rough side. It is short and has small, quick dips and turns that will make your children squeal with delight. This is a great roller coaster for those who are scared of heights or intense coasters because it is pretty tame in the grand scheme of things. There is a lot of cute theming here too, so look for all the fun details as you wait in line and board the ride. The height requirement for this is 42″.
6. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue
You will find Mike & Sulley to the Rescue in Hollywood Land. It is a classic dark ride where you join the best friends as they race through the scare factory to get Boo back home. The Roz audio-animatronic at the end is pretty impressive. This is a cute ride that everyone can enjoy. There are lots of fun details from the monster world throughout the ride and queue, so keep an eye out for those!
7. Turtle Talk with Crush
Turtle Talk with Crush is a show, but it is one of the funniest things in all of California Adventure. Basically, you sit on benches in a theater while children sit on the carpet down in front. Through the magic of Disney, Crush, the sea turtle from Finding Nemo, talks to the kids for 15-20 minutes. He asks the kids questions and they get the chance to ask him some questions. You never know what little nuggets will come out during these shows. Because of the audience participation factor, every show is different. If you go to Disneyland with children, you need to go see this show. You will be laughing the rest of the day! It is located in Hollywood Land.
There are three rides in Carsland, but it is so much more than rides. This land is so detailed and immersive that you will feel like you just stepped through a movie screen and on to the streets of Radiator Springs. The entire land is a feast for the eyes. Take some time during your day at California Adventure to just walk around and enjoy the environment of this land. There are shops, restaurants, and lots of photo ops. This land is fabulous during the day, but it takes on a whole new life at nighttime where it comes alive with neon lights everywhere. Be sure to take some time to absorb it all during both the day and night.
9. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is one of the three rides in Carsland. It is not a headliner, but is a fun little ride to be enjoyed by adults and kids alike. Basically, you sit in one of the cute little tractors from the movie while Mater plays some country music. The tractors swing and whip you around from side to side. It is very similar to the Aliens Swirling Saucers ride at Hollywood Studios in Florida. This is one of those rides where you and your kids will be laughing the whole time. Kids must be 32″ to ride.
10. Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is the last of the rides in Carsland. Like Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, it is a little ride that will have you giggling the entire time. Here, Luigi has brought in some of his Italian car friends to perform with you as their dance partner. The cars move in unexpected ways as they dance around each other. It is so much fun! You can’t help but enjoy this cute addition to the park. Your kids are sure to love it too! This also has a height requirement of 32″.
There you have it: my magical must-do’s at California Adventure. You are sure to love your time here when you experience these ten attractions. They are (almost) all fun for the whole family. They are all a great way to have fun with your kids during a day at Disney. To get tickets for Disneyland and California Adventure, visit Disney’s website. For more tips, see Disney trips with grandparents, magical must-do’s in Disneyland, and my list of unique quick-service restaurants in Disneyland. Happy travels!