Out of Disneyland’s two theme parks, California Adventure Park definitely has a more adult vibe, if for no other reason than the fact that you can get alcohol there – though Disneyland does now serve alcohol in Oga’s Cantina. Originally intended to be more California themed – hence the name – that focus has shifted over the last few years with Paradise Pier being revamped into Pixar Pier and a brand new Marvel land set to debut soon.
Out of the two parks at Disneyland, California Adventure definitely feels more like it’s geared toward adults with a couple of great bars and winery-themed dining. If you’re planning to visit without kids, this guide full of California Adventure tips, highlights, and FAQs is all you need. If you’re also planning to visit Disneyland Park without kids, you’ll want to check out my guide for that too.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, and should you choose to make a purchase I may receive a small commission. Also, on my most recent visit to California Adventure, I was provided a complimentary one day park hopper ticket by the Disneyland Resort. I’ve paid to visit previously, and all opinions are my own.
Best California Adventure rides for adults
Hands down, my favorite California Adventure ride is Radiator Springs Racers (aka the Cars ride). It’s definitely geared toward the whole family, but it’s phenomenally done and the race at the end is super fun. I had a perfect record going until I finally visited with my boyfriend and he made us lose. Probably. Either way, it’s an absolute blast. And it has a pretty good single rider line that has let me skip hour+ waits and be on the ride in under 5 minutes multiple times, so check that out. It’s easier to split up when you don’t have to worry about accompanying kids.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout occupies what used to be Tower of Terror and will be part of the soon-to-be Marvel Land. My initial reaction to them retrofitting my beloved Tower was less than thrilled, but after riding it a couple times I have to admit that it’s pretty well done. It’s still one of my favorite attractions at the park. The queue through the lobby and the pre-show area are full of fun artifacts for fans of the movies and the ride experience itself is great. The last time I rode, it had one of the best drop sequences I’ve had on any of the Towers I’ve ridden, so it was full of that stomach flipping sensation I love so much.
Incredicoaster is the centerpiece of the recently renovated Pixar Pier area of the park. Formerly known as California Screamin’, it had some light Incredibles theming added during the redo. It still has the same launch, loop, and track, but some figures and audio have been added to enhance the ride a bit.
Toy Story Midway Mania – This arcade-style ride through is great for competitive adults. It wouldn’t be fun to dunk on a kid in the seat next to you, but when you’re playing adults you can let your competitive juices flow and go for the big win.
Grizzly River Run – This one is definitely not for everyone. You’ll almost certainly get wet. I’ve stayed pretty dry, but had the person sitting next to me wringing out their clothes at the end. If you don’t mind getting a little wet, it’s a pretty fun white water raft style ride around the park’s icon, Grizzly Peak.
Pixar Pal-A-Round – Ok, to be honest, I don’t even really know what this ride’s name means. It’s the Ferris Wheel formerly known as Mickey’s Funwheel and I love it because it’s gorgeous from across the lagoon and because you can choose to ride in a car that travels on a track instead of being fixed in place. It’s way more fun than your average Ferris wheel, but it could be a little nerve-wracking. There is a separate line for those who want to ride in more traditional cars that stay right on the edge.
Best food at California Adventure for adults
My quick service pick’s here are both in Cars Land – Flo’s V8 Cafe is a great counter-service style restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. It’s my go-to spot for breakfast even though their waffles are Cars-themed instead of Mickey-shaped and they offer a solid lunch and dinner selection full of diner-esque dishes like fried chicken, club sandwiches, and a blue plate special. You can even use mobile ordering on the Disneyland app to skip the line if you’re into that sort of thing.
For a less formal strolling meal, the Cozy Cone Motel has a kiosk that serves up food in a cone. I love the Chili Cone Queso because it’s delicious and also a great pun. You can even order it with vegetarian chili. It’s not considered a full meal, but it’s more than enough for me to eat for lunch or dinner.
Nearby you’ll also find Pacific Wharf, an area with a San Francisco feel with different food stands with what I’ve always considered to be somewhat limited menus. You can find street tacos, Asian rice bowls, and soups and salads there along with Ghirardelli chocolate and beer. It can be a good option if your group can’t decide on one thing to eat as everyone can grab their own food and then meet up.
Wine County Trattoria is my pick for a table service grown-ups meal at California Adventure. It features an Italian-inspired menu full of some of my favorite dishes and – you guessed it – wine. You can order that by the glass or try flights from both Italy and California wine country. If you can’t snag a reservation there, you can try to grab some lighter food and drinks at the Sonoma Terrace, Mendocino Terrace, or Alfresco Tasting Terraces, all adjacent to the main restaurant.
The Lamplight Lounge in the Pixar Pier area also takes reservations and offers food, but it’s the specialty cocktails there that really stand out. If you need an adult beverage at California Adventure, I’d highly recommend making a stop here and checking out their semi-secret drink menu.
Best photo spots in California Adventure
- #1 is definitely the view of Pixar Pier. I have to confess that I liked the original Paradise Pier layout better, but the reflection of the white wooden coaster track and ferris wheel on the water are beautiful.
- Check the park’s times guide to find out when the Cars Land neon lights will be lighting up the day you’re there. Grab a spot on the main “road” through the land and watch a very brief – if you’re a minute late, don’t bother – lighting ceremony as the neon lights all kick on.
- In the far corner of Hollywood Land near the water tower, you’ll find a wall with Buzz Lightyear wings painted on it for a photo op. It’s reminiscent of the angel wings walls popular on Instagram but 10x cooler because Buzz Lightyear. You might even find a PhotoPass photographer stationed there.
- As you enter the park, if you continue straight through Carthay Circle, you’ll pass around the back side of Grizzly Peak and come to a thundering artificial waterfall inspired by some of the real ones in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
- After World of Color, the fountains will stay lit for a few minutes. If you can make your way down to the front, you’ll be able to capture some gorgeous photos.
Where to find characters in California Adventure
California Adventure has some of my favorite character meet and greets. I highly recommend downloading the free Disneyland app to locate them in the park. You can even get an approximate list of the times each character will be out.
Hollywood Land is currently home to several of the Marvel super heroes. I love these meet and greets because Disney World is very limited in terms of what they can do with the Marvel franchises due to the proximity to Islands of Adventure, but Disneyland has no such restrictions. Black Panther and Captain Marvel are two of the most popular ones now, and Spiderman, Thor, and Captain America make frequent appearances in the area as well.
The Incredibles meet near Incredicoaster at Pixar Pier, and my favorite of all is the great Edna Mode. My favorite character photo of all time is with her. (It’s not this one though. My favorite is from a few seconds before this photo, but it’s accidentally kind of inappropriate and I’ve chosen to not publish it.)
You’ll find Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy meeting near the fountain on Buena Vista Street frequently. Their outfits vary a bit by season, but you’ll typically find them in 1920s style outfits. Their lines tend to be pretty long most of the time, but there seem to be fewer autograph books at Disneyland so the lines seem to move a bit faster than they do at Disney World.
Places to relax in California Adventure
Head to the Art of Animation building in Hollywood Land to get a take a break and enjoy some air conditioning. You can join a short drawing class, visit the Sorcerer’s Workshop exhibit, or see Turtle Talk with Crush there.
The Hyperion theater is currently home to a live production of Frozen that replaced the much beloved (and, frankly better than the Broadway touring version I saw in Detroit) Aladdin show. Still, the performances are great, and it’s a place to sit in the air conditioning for quite some time if you need to take a break.
The quietest areas of the park that I’ve found are around Grizzly River Run. Those walkways seem to have less foot traffic than other areas of the park and could offer a bit of peace and quiet.
OMG World of Color
When World of Color was first introduced a few years ago, I was absolutely drooling over it. In fact, the special Diamond Anniversary show they did for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary was a big part of what drew me to make my first ever visit there. After being closed for several months in 2018 and early 2019, it recently reopened and is as good as ever. And I mean it. That show is a work of art. If it’s not #1, it’s definitely high among the rankings of best things to do at California Adventure.
The colors, the music, the movie clips. They’re all woven together beautifully and no photo can do it justice. Having watched it from the reserved FastPass viewing area and where everyone else gets stuck, I’d highly recommend FastPassing it or doing a dining package. Without FPs, we were stuck on the far side of the walkway with guests and Cast Members crossing in front of us during the whole show and the view just wasn’t as good.
California Adventure events
Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival
The west coast’s Disney parks answer to Epcot’s wildly popular Food and Wine festival, this event surrounding – yes, food and wine – is perfectly geared toward adults. Instead of an around the world theme, the Food and Wine Festival here focuses on dishes made with California-grown ingredients. Menus vary by year, but you can expect to find avocado, citrus fruits, berries, cheeses and more. Plus, you’ll be able to sample wines and beers from California. It’s definitely a great excuse to leave the kids at home for a visit. This event typically runs in early spring and is included with your regular park admission (though you do have to pay for your food).
Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party
This brand new event is taking the place of the beloved Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party previously held across the way at Disneyland. It will feature a special World of Color presentation (yes!), villains themed areas, trick or treating, a Halloween parade, special character meet-and greets, and more! It’s also the only time of the year that adults are allowed to dress up in costumes, so start planning your outfit now. Scheduled for certain nights in September and October, this is a special ticketed event, so you’ll need to purchase a separate admission than the regular daily use tickets.
Disney Festival of Holidays
California Adventure’s Christmas celebration kicks off shortly after Halloween and runs through early January. The park will be absolutely decked out with holiday decorations and special events. The ¡Viva Navidad! celebration is held in the Pixar Pier area and serves up a street party with mariachi bands, Disney characters, and more. You’ll also be able to snack on festive – and frequently highly Instagrammable – foods from around the world, so come hungry. The Festival of Holidays events are included in your regular park admission.
California Adventure Frequently Asked Questions
How much time do you need for California Adventure?
If you want to see and do everything, I’d devote a full day to California Adventure. It’ll give you time to catch all the rides you want – and depending on crowds and your FastPass strategy, maybe even ride them more than once, enjoy a meal or two, and catch World of Color at the end of the night. If you’re in a rush and are trying to combine it into one day with Disneyland, I’d skip the dining and hit the top few rides on your list. But definitely make time for World of Color.
How much are California Adventure tickets?
Thanks to a new crowd-based pricing system, California Adventure ticket prices vary depending on what day you want to visit, the number of days you’re buying tickets for, and whether or not you want to park hop. The most expensive option would be a one-day park hopper at a peak season like Christmas. You can find the pricing schedule on the Disneyland Resort website. I prefer to buy my tickets through a discount site called Undercover Tourist. They don’t offer savings on one-day tickets, but if you’ll be visiting for longer you can save yourself a few bucks. They’re an official ticket partner, so the tickets are real and can be linked to your Disneyland account almost instantly.
What should I bring to California Adventure?
Basically anything you think you’ll need and not want to/be able to purchase at the park during the day. I wrote a day bag packing guide with all the things I bring to the parks for me. If you intend to ride Grizzly River Run, I’d also consider tossing in a pair of cheap flip flops and possibly a change of clothes – at least a pair of shorts. My shirt usually dries pretty quickly, but jean shorts and heaver pants materials seem to take forever even when it’s hot out.
How easy is park hopping between Disneyland and California Adventure?
Park Hopping between California Adventure and Disneyland is as easy as it gets. If you walk at a halfway decent pace and aren’t trying to fight through parade or fireworks crowds, you can easily get from Frontierland in Disneyland to Pixar Pier in California Adventure in just a few minutes. The California Adventure entrance is right across a small plaza from Disneyland’s so as long as you have a park hopper ticket you’ll be golden. On my last visit, we logged 5 park entries, starting at California Adventure, heading to Disneyland, returning to California Adventure to use our Guardians FastPasses, heading back to Disneyland for the rest of the afternoon, and then running back over to watch World of Color at the end of the night.
California Adventure tips
- Take a look at the current California Adventure map to get a sense of what you want to hit during the day. There’s no need to plan every second, but have a rough idea of which rides and attractions are the most important to you and your group.
- If you want to dine at one of the table service restaurants, it’s highly recommended that you book a reservation in advance. Disneyland dining reservations can be made 60 days out.
- If you can’t snag the reservation you want in advance, continue checking for cancellations up until the day you’re there. You might just get lucky.
- The free Disneyland app will save you loads of time during your visit. You can check wait times, book FastPasses (if you purchase Maxpass – otherwise you have to walk over to the rides to get them), use the mobile ordering feature at certain quick service restaurants, find characters, check show schedules, and more with it.
- Radiator Springs Racers is one of the most in-demand rides in the park, so the lines tend to fill up quickly and FastPasses are claimed early in the day. If you get there early, I’d head there first to either hop in line or book a return time.
- Popular character meet and greets like Black Panther can draw long lines. You can avoid some of that by arriving before they make their appearance. The app will list projected appearance times – typically 20-30 minutes long – and if you hop in line or wait at the meeting spot a few minutes early, you can usually be right at the front. Once the characters arrive, people walking by will see them and flock to the lines making the waits long enough that people arriving later might not get a chance to meet them.
- If you want to watch World of Color from a preferred viewing area without using a FastPass, you can book a dining package that gets you a table service meal and access to a priority area. It’s a good option to consider if you were planning on eating a sit down meal anyway.
For more Disneyland planning tips, check out these other posts:
- The Grown-up’s Guide to Disneyland for Adults
- Everything You Need to Pack the Perfect Disney Park Bag
- The Best Shoes for Disney World and Disneyland for the Whole Family
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