Cars Land has been five years in the making, which is also about how long my daughters Kate, 9, and Lila, 6, have been campaigning to go to Disneyland. And now here we are—finally, for the first time—entering the legendary gates. We’re here for the grand opening of the all-new, 12-acre expansion in Disney California Adventure Park (adjacent to the classic Disneyland) that replicates the “town” of Radiator Springs from the Disney-Pixar animated movie Cars. Here, Cars-themed shops like Radiator Springs Curios and Flo’s V8 Café make it feel like a place literally plucked from the movie, with chrome-plated countertops, vintage gas pumps and even 16 blazing neon signs. As we walk down the main street, Lila grows wide-eyed. “Mommy,” she says. “Are we actually in* Radiator Springs?”
Radiator Springs Racers
We make a beeline for the main attraction. This is the ride that’s had Kate in a state of unbearable anticipation, and the real thing exceeds all our expectations. It’s takes us on a jolly ride through all the major settings and characters of Cars before suddenly revving up; the last half of the ride is a high-octane race over the highway up on the Ornament Valley range that leaves everyone breathless with both adrenaline and sheer how-did-they-do-that wonder. (One of the largest rides ever created for Disneyland, the highway is a 160-metre track, the “mountain” stands 38 m high, and the whole thing took 4,000 tons of steel and 26,012 square metres of rockwork to construct.)
Verdict: “That ride was so screamy!” —Lila
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
Looks like a gentle, little-kid ride, but it has some surprising kick. This high-energy tractor-pull pumps up the fun with tunes from Mater’s massive, homemade jukebox as the wagons careen behind friendly tractors.
Verdict: “I thought it was a baby ride, but this was really cool.” —Kate
Cozy Cone Motel
For a quick snack, fuel up with “cone-fections” and “popcone” at this food court where the kiosks are actually bright orange traffic cones.
Luigi’s Flying Tires
Riders glide around on family-sized tires that are air-buoyed through the 6,714 vents in the floor. You control the direction by leaning and, if you are quick enough, you can lob giant beach balls around the course.
Verdict: “Awesome.” —Kate
Flo’s V8 Café
Our waitress cheerfully explains that the menu is inspired by food found in real cafés along America’s historic Route 66 highway. We order up some waffles (stamped with a car shape, of course) and tamales and sit down to enjoy the retro décor, complete with jukeboxes and Formica tables.
Verdict: “So, is this what it really looked like in the ’60s?” —Kate
Yes, actually, this is what it would look like in the ’60s—in Radiator Springs, at least. Exactly what Disney was going for.