Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cars Land

Jenny and I finally visited Cars Land, a remarkable addition to Disney California Adventure. Quick verdict? Cars Land presents an intricately detailed reproduction of Radiator Springs, and a perfect illustration of how Route 66 is becoming "Route 66." This is not to critique the achievements of those amazing Disney imagineers. Touring a life-sized Cozy Cone Motel, gazing upon Ornament Valley's perpetual late-afternoon glow, and savoring the thrill of glorious animated neon at night, you get a charming Route 66 fantasy squeezed into 12 kid-friendly acres. [Check out my video, and click 720 for highest quality!]

Cars Land is predictably crowded, but that's part of the fun. And folks seemed to enjoy the sense of place in this part of the park (something DCA hasn't quite pulled off with their 1920s Hollywood reboot). Sure, beneath the colorful facade resides the same Disney experience: wander-wait-ride-eat-shop. If only Cars Land included more spaces built to inspire interaction among park guests, perhaps a wandering storyteller or two, or at least a couple educational displays about the real Mother Road. Maybe Disney will add a little more Route 66 to their version of "Route 66." But there's no point in complaining. Cars Land, simulacrum that it is, still offers up one heck of a ride.

Planning a visit? Here are a few tips:

1. If you want a chance of snagging one of those Radiator Springs Racers fastpasses, line up early outside the DCA entrance, before the park opens. On both days we visited, they were gone by about 9 a.m.

2. Got your Radiator Springs Racers fastpass? Great. Prepare for frustration anyway. The ride seems to break down a lot.

3. Missed a fastpass? Try the single-rider line, which allows the park to fill every last seat with folks willing to separate from their groups. When Jenny and I used that line (twice!), we managed to sit together anyway.

4. One last Radiator Springs Racers tip: Ride it at night. The neon glow adds to your personal show.

5. Grab a meal at Flo's V8 Cafe. The food is tasty and reasonably priced (considering that you're on a Disney property).

6. Take a look at the Blue Sky Cellar near the Cars Land entrance. They've got a small but interesting set of "making-of" displays.

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