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Parenting in the Park
Tips and ideas for the traveling family
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Adrienne Krock, editor
What's a Kid to do... at DCA
Regular MousePlanet readers know by now that Disney's California Adventure (DCA) lacks a lot of attractions for the younger audience. But let's face it: many of us are going to visit at least once this year to see what the new park is all about, right? I know that several readers have already made their travel arrangements. So if you are heading for DCA with a child, here are a few tips for what DCA does offer.

Play Areas

Matthew enjoyed trying out the surfboard
Matthew enjoyed trying out the surfboard

Two of the listed attractions at DCA are play areas. One in Paradise Pier is called S.S. rustworthy. This area is themed as a shipwreck. What do you get when you have a shipwreck? Wet! Most of the activities here involve water. Matthew enjoyed trying out the surfboard, and pushing buttons to make sounds. There are a few areas where guests can aim water cannons at targets, and there is even one area where guests can aim water canons at each other! (We stayed out of that area...)

Matthew on the rock slide
Matthew on the rock slide

The second, larger play area is called "Redwood Creek Challenge Trail." If your child is at least 42" tall, there is a lot to do here. Unfortunately, there is considerably less to do here if your child does not make this height requirement. One of these height "challenges" is a tunnel slide, which Matthew repeatedly asked to slide down, because he loves the tunnel slides at our local park. However, this tunnel slide has the 42" height requirement. Don't ask me why, but it does.

Matthew in the hanging tube
Matthew in the hanging tube

There are a few challenges without restrictions including a hanging tube to crawl through and a smaller slide area. Be sure you don't miss the bear cave, either. Matthew enjoyed climbing up and down the rope bridges. There is also a small "theater" where a "Native American" periodically tells folktales throughout the day. The Redwood Creek Trail Challenge closes in the evening.

The most unpleasant part of our play area experiences, quite frankly, were the other guests! At Redwood Creek, we were a little slower on the rope bridges, so we kept to the right. Although the bridges are certainly wide enough for passing, we were repeated crashed into by other guests, both children and adults. At the S.S. rustworthy, children were pushing other guests out of the way and were very impatient while waiting for their turns on the various apparatuses. Based on the comments I've received in my email, I know these guests were not representative of my readers, but don't say I didn't warn you -- these people are out there!

Hollywood Pictures Backlot
Hollywood Pictures Backlot

Hollywood Pictures Backlot

Although this area has the fewest number of attractions, they are all child-ready. We had never seen Jim Henson's Muppet*Vision 3D before and we enjoyed it. Matthew does not know all the Muppets, but thanks to our VCR, satellite dish, and books (you all remember books, right?), he knows a few and that was enough to keep his attention.

We did ride Superstar Limo. It has bright colors. It has a car. There is no height restriction. As for a plot, there's no point to this ride that I could tell, but it is a ride that children can ride on.

The Animation Building has many small displays that children can experience, including one where guests can add their voices to an animated video clip. However, the word is out that this is a great attraction, so expect the lines here to be very long. After having to stand in line just to enter the building, you may face several more lines inside to get into the various rooms of the building, and then again to interact with the displays.

It's Tough to be a Bug
It's Tough to be a Bug

Golden State

At the risk of sounding redundant, I'm going to repeat what has been said again. If you are not familiar with the It's Tough to be a Bug attraction, although there is no height restriction on this attraction, the show inside the theater has very intense moments. Disney has a small sign to alert parents that this attraction may be too intense for some children, and I highly advise parents to heed this warning. If you have any doubts, you can do what Doc Krock and I did. Go on It's Tough to be a Bug! once yourself, without the kids, so that you can make up your own mind.

Stay off the tractors!
Stay off the tractors!

Another area of Golden State is Bountiful Valley Farm. Don't expect a lot of bells and whistles here. This is a rather sedate and, uhm, simple, area. There are small gardens with vegetables growing in them. There is also an area with "state farm" displays about agriculture in California, as well as a coloring station where children can draw. There are several Caterpillar tractors in this area for display only; no climbing allowed. The "irrigation station" is a water play area, which means another opportunity for the kids to get wet! When you take your children to DCA, I'd love to hear what your experience is like! What do you think?


Mission Tortilla Factory

The (infamous?) Mission Tortilla Factory and the Boudin Bakery are located near Bountiful Valley Farm. The tortilla factory tour is brief, but the tortillas at the end taste very good. You can choose between flour and corn. I tried both, and thought that the corn tortilla was very tasty fresh from the oven. I think most children will be able to appreciate the brevity of the tour, not to mention the free food at the end.

While I thought that the bakery tour was cute, I think Sue Kruse summed it up far more eloquently in her review of this "exhibit" than I ever could:

(We) were salivating over the thought that we'd probably get to sample some of this bread at the end. As you enter the tour it smells so good that the smells of yeast and freshly baked bread are enough to drive a hungry man mad. Unfortunately, there is no such payoff with the bread tour.

Although I don't know if children would feel the same letdown that Sue and I did, but these "attractions," are simple, and better still, have no height or age restrictions!

Golden Dreams is on the far side of the Golden State, near a border with Paradise Pier. You may have read that there is a death scene in this movie. Frankly, I did not think that this scene was very obvious since you don't actually see anyone die. There is an explosion, and you can't actually see whether the people involved were able to escape or not. The narrator makes a comment that leads you to believe that the people did die, but you do not actually see anyone hurt or killed. Because I had been forewarned about the noise level by a friend, I held my hands over Matthew's ears during the explosion. Otherwise, he was fine throughout this movie. Nevertheless, there is discussion that this scene may be edited out of the movie, so this may become a moot point.

Paradise Pier

King Triton's Carousel
King Triton's Carousel

Although it's technically a merry-go-round, I'll ignore the semantic error because King Triton's Carousel is cute. The animals are all brightly decorated. At one point, my son was even able to convince one of our friends to take him on this ride five times in a row. The Paradise Pier smoking area is adjacent to the waiting area for this attraction, which I find unfortunate, but it is one of the few rides in DCA that should directly appeal to young children. Don't miss it.

There are some inconsistencies among various references that list ride restrictions at DCA. I previously reported restrictions based on two factors: a Cast Member Reference Guide, and the preview event maps. However, recent editions of the Cast Member Reference Guide and the Guests with Disabilities Guide have different listings! According to these two sources, there is no height restriction on Paradise Pier's Golden Zephyr, and there is no restriction for pregnant women either. When the winds blow at 10 miles per hour, this ride is supposed to close for safety reasons. It does not take much wind to reach 10 MPH.

Golden Zephyr
Golden Zephyr

The Sun Wheel does not have a height restriction. And while pregnant women are advised against riding in the moving gondolas, Cast Members (CMs) I have spoken with do allow us to ride the stationary gondolas. This Ferris wheel definitely "goes up high." When we rode it, Matthew enjoyed seeing the view. Another advantage of riding the stationary gondolas is that this line is generally shorter than the lines for moving gondolas. Because of a complex loading process, this line moves very slowly.

In addition to these thirteen attractions, there are the live shows in Hollywood Pictures Backlot. Disney characters will also be available for photo opportunities. If you have a train lover in your family like I do, stop by the Engine Ears shop near the main entrance to the park for a train themed souvenir.

Although Disney's California Adventure theme park is not nearly as child-friendly as its next-door neighbor, there are still a few things to do with your children. Slightly older ones are likely to have a lot of fun on many of the attractions. And if you find that there isn't enough to do, you can always go across the street to Disneyland... assuming you have an annual pass, or are staying at one of the Disney resort hotels (the only ones that can sell you park-hopper passes). If not, well, there's always shopping at Downtown Disney...!


Wanted: Your questions and feedback! They will help me plan future columns! Write me at: AdrienneK@mouseplanet.com

What's a Kid to do... at DCA

DCA HEIGHT RESTRICTIONS:

40"-- Jumpin' Jellyfish

42"-- Grizzly River Run
Mulholland Madness
Soarin' Over California
parts of Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

48"-- California Screamin'
Orange Stinger

52"-- Maliboomer

EXPECTANT MOTHERS RESTRICTED:

Grizzly River Run
Soarin' Over California*
California Screamin'
Golden Zephyr*
Jumpin' Jellyfish
Maliboomer
Mulholland Madness
Orange Stinger
Sun Wheel (inside swinging cars) * Early Guest and Cast Member guides listed these attractions as restricted, but later editions and other guides do not.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Adrienne gathered experience taking kids to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job, being Matthew's Mom.

Adrienne and Matthew visit Disneyland several times a month, usually with Daddy, too.

Besides Matthew, Adrienne and her husband Kevin created and maintain The Happiest Potties on Earth website.

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