Disney California Adventure Celebrates Its 13th Anniversary


Can you believe thirteen years have passed since California Adventure first opened its gates? The park had a slow start out of the gate, but with a few remodels and expansions over the years, it’s now generally accepted as a success.

To celebrate the park’s anniversary, Disney has created a video showcasing 13 of its most magical moments:

As a guest who camped out in Disneyland the night before DCA’s grand opening, I remember how exciting it was to be a part of something historic at the Disneyland resort. But the park had been in soft openings for weeks before February 8th. We all knew how easily the glitter would come off if you just scratched the surface. It was bad enough that until the big makeover, I only called it California Adventure, in my view it didn’t deserve the Disney moniker.

That said, there was a lot to enjoy in DCA, even right from the beginning. While the average tourist may not have appreciated the unique take on in park entertainment, I was a fan of the shows. It was nice to have a parade route that was built with the intention of hosting a parade. The Eureka parade is still one of my favorites. A lot of detail was put into the park from facades, to architectural styles, the park was always visually appealing.

The “rides to restaurants” mix did leave a lot to be desired, but Soap Opera Bistro was always a blast to dine at. Again, the tourists from Topeka may not have understood, but we locals appreciated the effort of the cast. Having Hyperion Theatre right in the park was always a delight on a hot afternoon. I saw many a great performance there, but they finally scored a crowd favorite with Aladdin. An expanded version of that show is now on Broadway (or very soon at least).

I have not yet been back to see the changes Imagineering delivered in their extreme makeover of the entrance and Paradise Pier and the addition of Cars Land. But the photos show a park transformed. Like Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it seems Disney California Adventure is a park still in search of a theme. But layering in some of Walt Disney’s experiences when he first came to Southern California, are a good start.

I’m looking forward to getting out to DCA real soon and making some new memories. What are your favorite memories of the park?

Note: Thanks to Katie Brockman for help on this article.

8 thoughts on “Disney California Adventure Celebrates Its 13th Anniversary”

  1. We went to DCA for its opening as well. We were shocked how few people were there! We were expecting it to be packed wall-to-wall with outrageous wait times, but it was really quite manageable. We went back the next day and there was NO ONE there. We rode Soarin’ Over California several times in a row, just circling back around from the exit to the entrance.

    We found DCA to be very charming when it first opened. The theming actually seemed very good, with distinct “lands” and lots of variety. Sure, there weren’t a whole bunch of rides on opening day, but no Disney park ever opens with a huge number of attractions.

    I still have all my opening day merchandise — the commemorative opening day tickets housed in a the plastic case, the opening day t-shirts and mugs, even an opening day pin that contains a tiny amount of real gold dust.

    Of the attractions that are no longer there, we really liked “Eureka! A California Parade.” We found the Golden Dream movie to be quite charming, sort of a “California”-ish version of Epcot’s American Adventure. “Seasons of the Vine” was another opening day attraction that we really enjoyed (and we still enjoy it at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival).

    Less impressive were the “Steps in Time” stage show at the Hyperion Theater (just not all that great) and Superstar Limo. Thankfully, they’ve replaced both of those with far superior attractions.

    The restaurant selection was quite impressive in those early days. The loss of the Soap Opera Bistro and the Wolfgang Puck restaurant was unfortunate, but there are still a lot of great places to eat there. The restaurant in the Carthay Circle Theatre is really quite nice.

    Overall, we were happy with the park upon our first visit, and we’ve been happy with the changes made since then. Back in 2001 until about 2004 we’d go to Disneyland for three days, spending one day at DCA and two in Disneyland, but since about 2005 we’ve always gotten five- or six-day passes. It helps to have the DVC wing at the Grand Californian now, because we can stay “free” — with a view of the park to boot!

  2. Sourin’ over California has always been my wife and my favorite ride. There are a lot of other rides that are great but that one is the best.

  3. Before last Sept. The last time I was at Disneyland was early 90’s. And DCA was just the huge parking lot back then. Got in twice last Sept.

    Had heard “Soaring” was not that good… And was abbe to finally ride it. I am totally afraid of heights. A 6′ ladder is pure terror for me! That ride is the best! Since I now have a Annual Pass. Its on the top of the list of rides when im there! Need to catch it a few more times before the updates occurring.

    The other favor is the Aladdin show! That is one heck of a show!

    And I do recommend the Tower of Terror at night! Did a daytime and night. Love the night better!

  4. Why don’t they simply call the park “Disney’s Adventure Park”? The “California” moniker is too restricting. The park has improved with the makeover, but it still needs a lot more work and attractions. And “mountainous” ride couldn’t hurt.

  5. I´m brazilian and I went to DCA last year. Since it was my first time in the park I loved everything about it! The California Screaming, the World of Color show, Alladin, and specially, Cars Land!! I can´t wait to come back!

  6. I’ve only been to DCA once. My least favorite Disney Park, but I did enjoy Ariel’s Undersea Adventure a lot (went on it twice), had fun enjoying an old-fashioned chocolate coated ice cream Mickey while watching the Pixar Play Parade and was pretty awestruck watching Aladdin at the theater when Aladdin and Jasmine came soaring over our heads on the Magic Carpet.

    1. Oh and we saw the Mad T Party which really rocked. It was Halloween time, so the group performed Marilyn Manson’s version of “This is Halloween” from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. :)

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