Disney California Adventure Park's Pixar Pier — Photo courtesy of Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort
As a southern California resident and parent of a Disney-loving tween, I've spent my fair share of days at Anaheim's Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park.
Yet, regardless of how often we visit, we inevitably discover something new and noteworthy due to the constant evolution of these parks. While we may miss some of the phased-out rides or experiences, we are always impressed with the new attractions and adventures. As the sassy costume designer Edna Mode would say: "I never look back. It distracts from the now." So is the case with us and Disneyland.
Here's a look at what the "now" or "soon to be" has in store.
California Adventure's Pixar Pier
Originally designed to celebrate all things California, Disney California Adventure has been transitioning in recent years to a park that highlights Disney's storytelling history not to mention its knack for cross-marketing. So, it should surprise absolutely no one that the most recent evolution is focused on Pixar, creators of some of Disney's most memorable characters.
Previously known as Paradise Pier, the new Pixar Pier which debuted in 2018, features (or will soon feature) four new lands: Incredibles Park, Toy Story Boardwalk, Pixar Promenade and Inside Out Headquarters.
Edna Mode poses with guests at The Incredicoaster — Photo courtesy of Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort
Featuring mid-century modern design and architecture, this new land's piece-de-resistance is The Incredicoaster: an exhilarating roller coaster that takes you on a thrill ride to find baby Jack Jack who escaped from his babysitter, the aforementioned Edna Mode. Previously known as California Screamin', the coaster has maintained its reputation as the most scream-worthy in either park, with loops and drops at speeds of up to 55 mph.
Nearby, cast members at Jack-Jack Cookie Num Nums are baking hot chocolate chip cookies (don't forget to order a glass of cold milk) and gluten-free shortbread cookies with a jam filling.
Pixar Pal-A-Round — Photo courtesy of Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort
Maintaining its nostalgic boardwalk theme, Pixar Promenade features the most visually-memorable attraction, the Pixar Pal-A-Round, California Adventure's 150-foot version of the Ferris wheel. Twenty-four gondolas, some fixed and some that swing and glide, have been rebranded to feature favorite Pixar characters.
With a nod to the turn of the century, this area also includes a number of boardwalk games including La Luna Star Catcher, Wall-E Space Race and Heimlich's Candy Corn Toss. Nearby, a bandshell stage is home to The Pixarmonic Orchestra, a nice option for those who need a break from the heat or the constant walking.
The Lamplight Lounge at Pixar Pier — Photo courtesy of Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort
In addition to these four new lands, Pixar Pier is also where you can find the park's first gastropub, the Lamplight Lounge (previously Ariel's Grotto), which offers playful dishes like the carne asada roll sushi and a crispy chicken sandwich with a chili glaze, vinegar slaw and pineapple butter. The casual, sit-down restaurant (make reservations in advance) is designed with Pixar in mind; be on the lookout for collectible toys and other treasures from the Pixar filmmakers.
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Inside Out Headquarters
Try the Bing Bong (candy) Apple — Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort
Even though Disney is the happiest place on earth, visitors who head to Inside Out Headquarters, at the west end of California Adventure, can acknowledge their range of emotions at this new land inspired by the 2015 movie. Although still under construction, the area will feature a new ride, the Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind, that will debut soon.
Toy Story Boardwalk
Jessie's Critter Carousel will open this year alongside the very popular Toy Story Mania! The new, whimsical carousel characters were inspired by Jessie's wilderness friends from Toy Story 2. Toy Story Mania!, meanwhile, remains (thankfully) unchanged, offering visitors willing to wait in the almost-always long line a chance to ride into a 4D laser game to battle it out for the highest score. (A fast pass is available for Toy Story Mania!, so plan accordingly.)
Food options here include the giant turkey legs Disney has come to be known for, as well as chicken drumsticks and corn on the cob. Those with a sweet tooth can grab a treat at Senor Buzz Churros.
Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire
A rendering of the soon-to-open Star Wars Land — Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc./Lucasfilm, Ltd.
Guests to Downtown Disney (which does not require a park entrance ticket) can now experience this hyper-reality attraction, which opened January 5. After being transported deep into the Star Wars universe, participants walk freely as undercover Stormtroopers throughout a multi-sensory experience.
There are plenty of new discoveries that await in the coming year (and beyond, as Buzz Lightyear would say), including:
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
This Star Wars-themed land at Disneyland Park, which will be the hottest ticket for 2019, will transport guests to a previously unseen planet and a remote trading port. There, guests have the opportunity to take control of the Millennium Falcon on a secret mission, or fight in a climactic battle.
Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland (and Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando) is Disney Parks' largest single-themed land expansion ever at 14 acres (each), transporting guests to one of the last stops before wild space, where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life. Details on exact timing are scarce, but we'll be keeping our (mouse) ears to the ground as more information becomes available.
Marvel Super Hero-Themed Land
Planning and construction are already underway for a new Marvel-themed land at California Adventure. Bugs Land, which was a favorite of toddlers, has closed and an immersive super hero universe is scheduled to open not far from the Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: BREAKOUT attraction sometime in 2020.
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