A Drive-Through Tour to Celebrate Cars Land's Birthday

by Lisa Stiglic, contributing writer
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Disney California Adventure Park has taken a bit of a circuitous route since its debut almost 20 years ago. Attractions have come and gone (bye-bye Super Star Limo), original restauranteurs have parted ways (Wolfgang Puck), and several entertainment productions have taken their final bows (Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular). Some changes have been welcomed, others maybe not so much. But, most will agree that the 2012 addition of a brand new land revved up the atmosphere in Anaheim's second Disney theme park. Eight years ago this month, Cars Land drove into DCA.

BACKSTORY

Time to take a quick pit stop to delve into the history on the area before it detailed into Cars Land. Disney California Adventure Park was originally sectioned into four "lands": Entry Plaza, Hollywood Pictures Backlot, Paradise Pier, and Golden State. Golden State itself was comprised of six mini districts, one of which was Bountiful Valley Farm. This area showcased the agricultural aspects of California and included Caterpillar tractors, a few eateries, and the original attraction—It's Tough to be a Bug. (A Bug's Land was added in 2002.)

Bountiful Valley Farm was never really a popular area, other than the irrigation system set-up which doubled as a sprinkler system for those hot summer days. The Walt Disney Company announced in 2007 that the park would receive a major facelift, with construction occurring in stages. On June 15, 2012, it was rededicated with a new look and new lands. Entry Plaza became Buena Vista Street, Hollywood Pictures Backlot was renamed Hollywood Land, and Cars Land debuted.

ATTRACTIONS

Radiator Springs Racers

Right away, Cars Land was a first-place winner! Based on the Pixar film Cars, this new land was the best rest stop in DCA. Whether it was the realistic Radiator Springs set straight out of the movie, or the night-time neon light show, the new land hit a high gear with guests. The biggest draw though, was none other than Radiator Springs Racers, a simulated race throughout Ornamental Valley, complete in a life-sized Cars vehicle.

Fun Fact: The attraction is full of "Easter Eggs" and Hidden Mickeys. Look for a grouping of seven license plates on a stone wall inside the queue. The plates represent the seven states of the Route 66 trail: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois. Oh, and there's a group of cacti that show a Hidden Mickey just as racers enter the queue.


Guests can channel Lightning McQueen's tagline-"I am speed!"-as they race throughout Ornamental Valley. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

Luigi's Flying Tires (Now Luigi's Rockin' Roadsters)

Based on the concept of the 1960s Disneyland's Flying Saucers attraction, Luigi's Flying Tires was a bumper car-style attraction with a twist—the cars (shaped like tires) floated on air pockets. The attraction debuted with actual beach balls which were tossed around as the tires floated. But, due to longer wait times and a few unforeseen incidents, the balls were removed a few months after opening.

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree

The third attraction in the new land was based on a popular character from the Cars franchise—Tow Mater. Set in the tow trucks' junkyard, this whip ride featured Mater singing country songs while a herd of baby tractors (in which guests ride) square-danced around.

Fun Fact: Larry the Cable Guy, who voiced Mater in the Cars films, also provided vocals for the songs on the attraction.

FOOD

Flo's V-8 Cafe

Guests could pull up for a taste of the classic diner foods at this sit-down restaurant located across from Radiator Springs Racers. Flo welcomed weary drivers to fill their bellies and to rest awhile from their travels. Not only was this menu timeless—burgers, milkshakes, and a killer banana caramel French Toast—but the view of the racing cars in Ornamental Valley was unsurpassed.

Cozy Cone Motel

Perhaps the best concept design in Cars Land was Cozy Cone Motel. This set-up included five individual food booths, shaped like construction road cones, each with its own specialty foods served in a cone-shaped vessel! Guests could choose churros, ice cream cones, pretzels, pop-cone, and the cone-conctions which include bread cones filled with savory delights such as mac-n-cheese, pulled pork, or chili.

Fun Fact: The front "office" building resembling Sally's office, featured with a pull-through driveway where guests can meet Lightning McQueen and Mater. Present day sighting in Sally's office, through the backdoor, finds a toy Buzz Lightyear partially hiding under a set of toy construction cones, reminiscent of a scene from Toy Story 2.


If you can't decide which cone-coction to savor, request a combination! Go for the mac-n-cheese/pulled pork. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

Fillmore's Taste-In

This was a quick-stop fuel station for on-the-go guests. Fresh fruit, water, and snacks are readily available.

SHOPS

Ramone's House of Body Art

On the right, just before you turn to enter Radiator Springs Racers, was this merchandise location. Based on Ramone's detailing service garage, the shop offered racing-themed apparel, Mouse ears, and custom designed merchandise.

Radiator Springs Curios

In the movie Cars, Lizzie owns the curios shop. Across from Luigi's, Radiator Springs Curios was the ultimate highway souvenir shop. Drivers could stop and purchase bumper stickers, maps, T-shirts, key chains and several Cars-related items.

Fun Fact: Radiator Springs Curios was designed with two Hidden Mickeys-one inside, one outside. Both are yellow, round signs. Inside, the sign reads "Service" and hangs on a wall with two smaller red lights above it (head and the ears). Outside, the rusty "Pump" sign depicts some flecks of paint to resemble our favorite mouse.

Sarge's Surplus Hut

Sarge and Fillmore are best buddies, so of course their respective businesses were built next door to each other. Sarge's Surplus Hut, shaped like a Quonset hut, was the perfect place to find a plethora of Cars-themed toys, apparel and souvenirs. For a quick-pick up, the location continues to sell candy and snacks.

DECOR

Stage Set

What really sets Cars Land apart from other lands within DCA is the fact it's so immersive. When you walk down Route 66 and gaze at Ornament Valley, you feel as if you're on the actual set. The Disney details are amazing! From Fillmore's sign made up of mufflers and hubcaps, to Cozy Cone Motel's miniature cone flower beds, to the statue of Stanley—Radiator Springs founder—Cars Land is definitely a highlight.

Neon Lights

Go for racing, but stay for the lighting. When the sun sets low, Cars Land glows. Pink, green, yellow, blue, purple, orange luminescent lights bathe the town in a glory of rainbow hues. Top off a fantastic day by enjoying a Flo's chocolate shake, listening to some rockin' classic tunes, and just enjoying the essence of Radiator Springs.

HOLIDAYS

Radiator Screams

Join Superhero Lightning McQueen, Vampire Mater and Red the Clown for a frightening good time during the Radiator Screams Halloween celebration. You'll see spiders created from hubcaps and socket wrenches hanging from chain webs. Sally's cones have been transformed into evil Jack-o-Lanterns, and even the statue of Stanley dons a witch's hat. And guests can eat from scary menu of sweets and treats including a pumpkin spice milkshake from Flo's and a Screamin' Mac-n-Cheese version from Cozy Cone Motel, complete with hot Cheetos.

Fun Fact: A spider car hangs out in front of Flo's V-8 Cafe. It's actually a repurposed vehicle from Disneyland's Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Cars Land Holiday

"Season's Speeding" is the greeting you'll see when you enter Cars Land during the holiday season. Again, the magic is in the details. Wreaths made from air filters and tires hang overhead as you stroll down Route 66 taking in the holiday atmosphere. The best decorations of all are the trees! Each character has designed a special tree for the holiday season. Sarge's tree is patriotic, of course. Fillmore's is eco-friendly, and Flo's shiny silver tree is adorned with old 45 records! (Flo used to be a singer, after all!) And like at Halloween, Cars Land offers a delicious variety of holidays foods including a chocolate-peppermint shake from Flo's and a chicken, pesto cone from Cozy Cone Motel.


Sally's cone-ifer tree is constructed out of, what else? Traffic cones. At night, it lights up with the help of a car battery. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

A WELCOMED RETURN

It was announced earlier this month that Disneyland Resort will open its gates once again on July 17, which just happens to be Disneyland's 65th anniversary. Yay! Let the celebration commence! And, when returning to Disneyland Resort, make a quick pit stop in Cars Land to pay homage to one of the best "lands" inside the entire Resort. It wheel-y is a first-place winner!

For more fun facts and history about Disney California Adventure Park, check out my new book: "California Dreamin'- Disney California Adventure: an Insider's Journey" now available on Amazon.