12 Best Rides and Attractions at Disney California Adventure (ranked!)

Disney California Adventure was opened as Disneyland Resort’s second theme park in February of 2001. 

The 72-acre park opened with lack-luster reviews but has greatly improved its offerings in the past 20-plus years. 

Grizzly Peak
Image: Grizzly Peak, Disney California Adventure. A Guy Named Nyal. [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

A major remodel was announced in 2012, and the new and improved areas of Disney California Adventure (DCA) were opened with much fanfare.

With the addition of Buena Vista Street and Cars Land, the park became a major draw for tourists from across the nation and the world!

Lightning Mcqueen in Cars Land
Image: lightning mcqueen. alextengco. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

With a park-hopper pass, guests can easily, and quite literally, HOP from Disneyland to the gates of DCA in under two minutes! 

Visit Disney California Adventure and see what fun awaits!  Here’s a countdown of the best rides and attractions DCA has to offer!

Hey! Want more Disneyland content? Check these out!

12.  The Animation Academy

Huey Dewey and Louie
Image: Huey, Dewey and Louie show off at the Animation Academy.
Loren Javier. [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

Located in Hollywood Land, this attraction offers guests the opportunity to learn from a Disney Animator and create their very own drawing of a popular Disney character. 

Guests are encouraged to take their artwork home to display.

All ages are welcome to learn, and guests often return on subsequent visits to learn how to draw new characters and add to their character gallery.

11.  Turtle Talk with Crush

Turtle Talk with Crush sign
Image: Turtle Talk with Crush at Disney Animation.
Loren Javier. [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

This interactive attraction was one of the first park collaborations Disney had with Pixar. 

The improvisational show has remained a popular retreat from the heat since it’s first appearance at DCA in 2005.

Crush, a beloved character from the movie, “Finding Nemo” interacts with the audience through the large “aquarium” screen. 

He strikes up conversations with children, seated at the front of the theater and the adults, seated nearby. 

The animated Crush reacts in real time and flips, spins and surfs across the screen while cracking jokes and asking questions. 

Everyone will walk away from the experience repeating “DUDE!” for the rest of the day. 

Show times are posted online and at the attraction entrance.

10.  Monsters Inc. – Mike and Sully to the Rescue

Mike and Sully
Image: Break Out 0823. mliu92. [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

This dark ride, only found at Disney California Adventure park, is based on the 2001 Pixar movie, “Monsters Inc.” and features scenes from the popular film throughout the attraction as you join Mike and Sully on their adventures rescuing Boo, a little girl from the outside world.

Guests board a taxi-style ride vehicle with a monitor in each row that acts as a guide throughout the ride. 

Hilarity ensues as you follow the pair of monsters through Monstropolis and the Scare Factory.  Cool effects create hundreds of swinging doors and a color-changing monster, Randall.

At the end of the ride, the every-watching, Roz seemingly recognizes guests and comments on their clothing or ride experience. 

Make sure to notice all the details in the monster world such as product names in the vending machine located in the ride queue and nods to real-world places and people, such as Ray Harryhausen, the famous film monster creator, honored as the name of the sushi restaurant, Harryhausen’s.

9.  The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

Entrance to Ariel's Undersea Adventure
Image: The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. Loren Javier. [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

Experience the beloved 1989 movie, “The Little Mermaid” come to life in this magical dark ride.  Board a seashell and descend “under the sea” through bubbles, after a short introduction to the story by Ariel’s friend, Scuttle, a talkative seagull.

The attraction includes animations, audio animatronics and guests sing along to the familiar soundtrack.

The colorful and bustling “Under the Sea” scene is always popular, with spinning starfish and dancing sea slugs. 

Equally as popular is the sea witch, Ursula, who seems to follow you with her gaze as you float by. 

Your seashell returns to the surface as the story comes to a close and all the mer-people rejoice with Ariel, Eric and King Triton.

Even on busy days, this ride loads quickly and the line moves fast.  Step into this attraction and cool off from the California sun, under the sea!

8.  WEB Slingers – A Spiderman Adventure

WEB control panel
Image: WEB control panel, Avengers Campus, California Adventure, Disneyland, Anaheim, Orange County, California, USA. Cory Doctorow. [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

As one of the newest rides at Disney California Adventure, WEB Slingers as received mixed reviews.

Located in the new Marvel area of DCA, Avengers Campus, the interactive ride is based on the movie Spider Man and features the actor, Tom Holland, as your ride guide.

The story is, robot spiders (Spiderbots) are taking over the Avengers Campus and you need to help Spiderman by slinging webs, from your wrists, to round up all the rogue mechanical arachnids.

Guest board a WEB Slinger Vehicle and riders wear 3D glasses. Although it is a quick ride, it takes a lot of arm movement to capture Spiderbots and add up points. 

Guests leave the ride tired, but with sense that they helped save the Avenger’s Campus from an infestation.

You may purchase accessories, called WEB Power Bands, to aid in your Spiderbot capturing adventures at the nearby store and at several kiosks.  The accessory adds webslinging power to the player and can help acquire additional points during the ride.

7.  The World of Color

World of Color
Image: World of Color – Celebrate! [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

This night-time spectacular is a favorite at Disney California Adventure. 

The water, laser, fires and projections add multiple layers to this robust and entertaining show, located at Paradise Bay. 

Spectators gather around the north-side of the lake to watch the show.

The show features well-known songs and scenes from various Disney and Pixar movies, the most popular being scenes from “Pirates of the Caribbean” with Jack Sparrow and bursting flames that shoot up from the water.

Several dining and dessert packages are available for special seating at the show. 

Two shows per evening are offered during peak seasons with general seating being chosen via a virtual queue on the Disneyland app.

If you don’t want to get wet, make sure to stay back from the first level, closest to the water!

6.  Grizzly River Run

Grizzly River Run
Image: Grizzly River Run. Loren Javier. [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

If you are hot and need a quick way to cool off, THIS tops the Disney California Adventure rides list! 

Lock your belongings in one of the temporary, free lockers at the ride entrance and get ready for some fun in the rapids! 

This fast-moving ride has you seated within a round raft, with seven other passengers, all ready to face the white water action of the Grizzly River.

The raft randomly turns and provides a different ride experience every time you take on this adventure. 

The first time around, you may make it out relatively unscathed – with only a light splash on your shoes and hat. 

The next time, you’re facing backwards down the big drop, only to get doused with water as the raft splashes down into the calms of the river below.

Are you ready to take a chance with some white-water fun? 

Join the adventures on Grizzly River Run!

Fun fact:  The water used to run the ride comes from the basin at Pacific Wharf – not only helping store water for the ride, but also as an environmental feature for the wharf, simulating the rise and fall of the Northern Californian ocean tide.

5.  Toy Story Mania

Midway Mania
Image: Toy Story Midway Mania. Loren Javier. [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

Located at Pixar Pier, Toy Story Mania is a fun, 4D attraction that delights all ages! 

Mr. Potato Head acts as Carnival Barker, joking with the guests in the ride queue which even makes the wait in line fun!

Once you board your ride vehicle and put on your 3D glasses, get ready to start rapidly pulling at that ball on the “shooter” to throw pies, knock down plates, toss rings and shoot down army men to hit targets in a variety of midway-style carnival games. 

The ride moves you, swinging into each different game zone to wrack up points based on hitting targets worth anywhere from 100-5,000 points! 

Each game contains at least one special object to hit that can trigger extra points and targets.

Several Toy Story characters voice their encouragement during your experience as your score ads up and is displayed at the end of the attraction with a corresponding “critter” from Woody’s Roundup. 

Will you be an armadillo or a bear? 

A beaver or a deer? 

Try out this exciting attraction to find out!

4. The Incredicoaster

Image: Incredicoaster. Patrick Pelletier. [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

Originally built as the main attraction at Paradise Pier, the ride formerly known as California Screamin’ has taken on a new persona to match the re-imagined Pixar Pier to become the Incredicoaster. 

Based on Pixar’s, “The Incredibles”, this high-flying, fast launching, rollercoaster is Disney California Adventure’s biggest and fastest ride. 

Guests are launched from ground level up and steep climb, then rush down and around several turns and one big loop, during a 1:20 minute ride, reaching speeds up to 55 mph!

As of 2020, the Incredicoaster was the longest inverted roller coaster in the world, at 6,072 feet long and 122 feet high. 

It is the tallest rollercoaster at any of the Disney parks.

Are you ready to ride this record-breaking attraction?

3.  Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout

Mission Breakout
Image: Disney California Adventure. Jeremy Thompson. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

This is another attraction at Disney California Adventure that has been re-imagined since it’s opening as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and re-themed to Guardians of the Galaxy to coincide with the new Avenger’s Campus next door.

The attraction is an accelerated drop tower dark ride and changes it’s drop length and drop count for each rider experience, carrying guests up and down at random intervals.

The story behind the attraction is that Rocket Raccoon is trying to release his friends, the other Guardians of the Galaxy, from the grips of The Collector. 

The attraction pre-show is just as much a part of the attraction as the actual ride, starring an animatronic Rocket who is trying to convince the guests to help him on his mission.

The ride is full of upbeat rock classics, stomach-flopping drops and entertaining characters.  Help Rocket rescue his friends on this exciting attraction located between Hollywood Land and the Avenger’s Campus.

2.  Soarin’

Front entrance to the Soarin' Over California ride
Image: Disney California Adventure. Jeremy Thompson. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

Originally named Soarin’ Over California, the ride has now taken on two versions and is simply known as Soarin’, regularly featuring Soarin’ Over the World and on special occasions at Disney California Adventure, they show the classic Soarin’ Over California – a fan favorite.

This ride is consistently known as one of the best Disney California Adventure rides. 

Guests make it a must-do for each visit, enjoying the beautifully scored music and gently swaying lifts, sights and smells!

Each version highlights beautifully filmed scenery from around the world or that of the State of California. 

Guests load into several rows of seats, buckle up and wait to be lifted high above the floor in front of a giant movie screen. 

The ride mimics the movements of the camera and guests “fly” through the sky over mountains, waterways, cities and forests.  

The wind blows and smells, such as oranges over the orange groves of California, waft through the air. 

Guests get a real sense of place while visiting various locations around the world, coming in to land at Disneyland during the famous nighttime fireworks spectacular.

1. Radiator Springs Racers

Radiator Springs Racers
Image: Disney California Adventure. Jeremy Thompson. [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

Radiator Springs Racers is a true Disney California Adventure gem! 

Located in the immersive Carsland, this ride is a hit with guests and a must-do for each visit to the park. 

The ride queue can be quite long, so if you plan to splurge on Genie+ Lightening Lane, this would be one to choose! 

Single-riders are also welcome on this ride and is a great choice for this experiencing the parks on their own.

Guest hop into one of many brightly-colored race cars with up to five other passengers, in two rows. 

The experience starts off slow, gently riding through the wonders of the Cadillac Range, located just outside of Radiator Springs. 

The music swells as you drive around the bend to gaze upon a glorious waterfall, lulling passengers into a sense of peace . . .

Then, you are suddenly entering the dark of the evening, greeted by your guide, Mator and other residents of Radiator Springs as they prepare you for the best race of your life! 

Another car lines up aside yours and with a countdown, you’re off, racing around sharp corners, up and down hills, back and forth, head-to-head with your opponents in the other ride vehicle. 

The big finish determines the winner and bragging and pointing rights at your fellow racers. 

Win or lose, everyone comes off the ride with a huge smile, excited to ride again, soon!

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