Though the new Finding Nemo attraction is getting all the attention, the Anaheim Resort’s newest ride is actually a tour through Disney’s California Adventure.
It has been some time since the Disneyland Resort introduced a new guided tour, so I was intrigued to receive an e-mail announcing a new offering called Cruzin' Disney's California Adventure Park. There have been rumors of a Segway guided tour ever since Disneyland brought inventor Dean Kamen and his Segway HT to Innoventions in 2002, and I was thrilled to learn that the wait was finally over.
Cruzin' Disney's California Adventure Park is a 3-hour experience that starts at 7am (or three hours before the park opens) outside DCA. Participants are taken to a conference room tucked behind the Guest Relations office at DCA where a light continental breakfast, including baked goods, fresh fruit, coffee and bottled juices, is provided. Each participant must sign a liability waiver. Participants are allowed to wear waist packs during the tour, but purses or bags with neck, arm or shoulder straps must be left behind in the lockers provided. Participants may bring cameras during the tour, so long as the camera can safely be contained within a pocket or waist pack, but photographs may only be taken in specified locations. Disney’s California Adventure is closed during the tour, so participants may catch a glimpse of some “after hours” activity.
After about 45 minutes the tour guides begin a brief orientation and show a short video about the Segway. This tour uses the Segway i2 model, and the tour guides quickly demonstrate the basic features of the device, and describe the morning’s itinerary. Then the group is led through the Guest Relations lobby and into Disney’s California Adventure for a quick walk to the Hollywood Backlot District and a waiting lineup of Segways. The tour guides help each rider adjust the provided helmets, and then begin the Segway training.
Cruzin' Disney's California Adventure Park lets participants ride a Segway i2 through DCA. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
Depending on the size of the tour group, participants will be asked to split into two groups for the training. For many, this is the first time they have stepped onto a Segway, and the guides make sure that each rider can step onto and off of the device; roll forward and backward; navigate 180- and 360-degree turns and – most importantly – stop on a dime. Though the top speed of this Segway model is just over 12 miles per hour, Disney’s tour units are kept in “turtle” mode for safety.
Once riders master the basics they can move onto more advanced maneuvers. The tour uses the Hollywood Backlot as a natural obstacle course, with the exit from Muppet*Vision 3-D providing a steep ramp and the Sorcerer Mickey fountain a landmark around which to practice turns. The support poles of the canopy above the queue area of the former Who Wants to be a Millionaire attraction serve as a perfect slalom course. During our tour the guide had us practice ducking by having us ride under a plastic sword he held at head level – “have to include pirates somewhere,” he said with a laugh.
While we waited for the other group to complete their training, our guide encouraged our group to explore the immediate area on our Segways, and it was during this “free time” that we discovered why Disney includes the disclaimer that the tour orientation does not replace Segway's Operator Training. After 45 minutes of training we were feeling rather over confident in our abilities, and the jazzy area music in the Hollywood Backlot had us bopping along. We found that it is possible to swing dance while on a Segway – and also that it’s a pretty bad idea for beginners to try it. Suitably chastened, we spent the rest of the time playing “follow the leader” and looking for ramps and uneven pavement on which to test our skills.
After both halves of the tour regrouped, our guides gave riders the option to “opt out” of the tour at that point if they did not feel that they were safe and comfortable on the device. Our guides also said that they had the option of asking riders to leave if they felt we were acting in an unsafe manner, or failed to follow directions. After every participant acknowledged that they were comfortable on the devices, the actual tour began.
One guide led the way to the Hyperion Theater, with his co-worker bringing up the rear of the single-file line of riders. During a brief stop the guide launched into his script, telling us a little about the architecture and theming of the area. From there we made our way to the Sun Plaza, and our guides encouraged us to spread out a little and explore the landscape on the way. We made several more stops, outside Soarin’ Over California and in front of Grizzly River Run, but whatever background info and trivia our guide may have tried to impart was completely overshadowed by the exhilaration of navigating through the closed theme park. We made a loop around Grizzly River Run, and then explored the rougher terrain of the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail area.
Tour guides show tour participants how to move their i2 over obstacles. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
The group stopped for a short rest break outside Burger Invasion before making our way to MaliBoomer. Once there, our guides said that we could explore Paradise Pier on our own, and told us to come find them near California Screamin’ in about 10 minutes. We asked for and received permission to tackle the steep Sun Wheel queue, and the attraction’s cast members waved as we came down the ramp. After racing across the wooden boardwalk of Paradise Pier and steering through the tight queue for King Triton’s Carousel, we rejoined the other riders and headed to the amphitheater for our group photo. A PhotoPass photographer was on hand to take a tour group shot, and also snapped photos of each couple, family or group of friends on the tour.
By this point we had been out on our tour for about 45 minutes, and it was time to make our way back to Hollywood to end our tour. I expected that we would return the same way we came, crossing the Sun Plaza and into Hollywood, which would bring us in sight of the visitors waiting for “rope drop” at park opening. Instead, we took a shortcut though A Bug’s Land and across a backstage area to emerge near the Tower of Terror. I later asked why the tour had bypassed such an obvious marketing opportunity, and our guides said that the tour was already sold out nearly every day.
Once back outside the Monster’s, Inc attraction we reluctantly stepped off our Segways and trader our helmets for a commemorative Segway tour pin. One guide led us to the Greetings From California store where we each received a copy of the group photo. We also had the opportunity to purchase our individual photos, or have them added to a PhotoPass so we could purchase them later or from home.
This tour has a significant number of physical requirements. Participants must be at least 16 years old, and accompanied by a parent or legal guardian if they are under 18 years old. Participants must wear closed-toe shoes, and Disney highly recommends that participants wear athletic shoes. Participants must be between 100 and 250lbs, able to step onto and off of the Segway, and to maintain lateral balance while riding.
Cruzin' Disney's California Adventure Park is $99.00 per person, and Annual Passholders, AAA Members and Disney VISA Card holders receive a 20% discount. Depending on the skill of the group, participants will spend between 45 and 60 minutes learning to use the Segway, and 45-60 minutes actually riding the device through the park. Participants do not need to have tickets to DCA to participate in the tour, though those without valid DCA admission will be escorted out of the park immediately after the tour.
When this tour was announced, some members of our MousePad discussion board questioned spending $79 or $99 per person for just over an hour of actual riding, when local cities offer Segway rentals and tours. Segway Orange County offers 90-minute “glided tours” of the Balboa Peninsula for $59 per person, or 2-1/2 hour tours of the Newport Pier for $89 per person. Segway of Long Beach offers a self-guided tour at $75 per person.
The Disney tour, with breakfast, a photo and a commemorative pin, seems to be a better value, even for someone who is just looking to ride a Segway and doesn’t care about the “Disney” experience. For Disney fans, this is definitely an “E” ticket tour.
Reservations for Cruzin' Disney's California Adventure Park can be made 30 days in advance by calling the Guided Tour office at (714) 781-4400.
You can read more about the former Segway exhibit in Innoventions here.