How to Make Disney California Adventure a Two-Day Park

When you go on vacation, you probably want to relax. You don’t want the stress of having to do things within a short amount of time. By scheduling two days at Disney California Adventure, you’ll be giving yourself more than enough time to get all of the attractions in during your trip. You could likely do all of the attractions in one day without much of a push, but if you get sick for some reason, the extra day gives you the opportunity to go back to your hotel room to rest up and recover your strength. You don’t have to worry about pushing through tiredness or other issues. Still, by midmorning of the second day, you might be wondering what there is left to do. If you don’t want to pay for a park hopper, here are ways to fill out the rest of your day.

A Typical One-Day California Adventure

You should always start your morning with a good breakfast. If you eat outside the park, don’t settle for one of those “Breakfast Included” meals from your hotel. Grab something filling and relatively healthy from a nearby restaurant. Otherwise, you can start in Disney California Adventure with a decent meal from Pym Test Kitchen. The breakfast food from the Shawarma Palace court was also pretty good. The only other choices, at least in September 2022, was the Starbucks Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Café on Buena Vista Street and the cappuccino cart at the intersection of the Pacific Wharf and the Pixar Pier Bridge. (Rumor has it that the Corn Dog Palace also served an interesting breakfast item, but we didn’t make it to that side of the park to find out.)

Once you have a good breakfast on board, you should head to one of the E-ticket attractions. If you have Lightning Lane, I suggest hitting up the Guardians of the Galaxy there, and going to Radiator Springs Racers if your stomach can handle it. Standby wait times for this attraction can reach up to two hours or more, so be sure to have your sunscreen and water on board before you get into line. (If you’re one person or a group that doesn’t mind being split up, try the single rider line.) The Lightning Lane for Radiator Springs Racers cost extra, so while it would be good for my Disney stock value for you to purchase it, finding a lower wait time is likely better for you and your budget. Do not expect wait times to get lower throughout the day; they remain pretty high.

The next attractions you want to look at are Toy Story Midway Mania, which had a Lightning Lane available, and WEB Slingers, which had a pay lane available. Grab the Midway Mania Lightning Lane when it’s available, and head over to WEB Slingers. The wait their can get to be pretty long, but while we were there, it was between 40 and 60 minutes.

Soarin’ is the last attraction where the wait times can get to be horrendous. It has a Lightning Lane, so you’ll be able to get on board at least once. Along with Goofy’s Sky School, which also has Lightning Lane, the standby lines were about 45 minutes. Monster’s, Inc.: Mike and Sulley to the Rescue often have longer wait times of about 40 minutes.

After that, it’s really a matter of what you want to do and what’s available as far as attractions go. Finish off Cars Land with Mater’s Jamboree and Luigi’s Honkin’ Halloween, and take a stroll through Pixar Pier, and Paradise Gardens Park to catch up with Pix Pal-A-Round, Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind, and the Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. You could also squeeze in the barely themed Silly Symphony Swings and the unthemed, leftovers of Jumpin’ Jellyfish and Golden Zephyr. If getting wet is your thing, Grizzly River Run is usually less crowded during the cooler times of the day.

During our trip, attraction breakdowns were common. Radiator Springs Racers was shut down the first time we tried to go on it. The Incredicoaster was also closed when we decided to try to ride it. We ended up missing out on the Incredicoaster.

One more thing to include in your day is the World of Color. If you have the Disneyland app, you can join a virtual queue, but I always suggest heading over to Wine Country Trattoria and choosing something from their World of Color menu. You just need to make reservations ahead of time.

Midway Mania and WEB Slingers

Both Toy Story Midway Mania and WEB Slingers use your arms to make the attraction more enjoyable. They are far enough apart, that your first rides can be consecutive. However, after that, you may want to wait until your arms have recovered to go again. It’s an unexpected and fun workout. (Start getting those fast twitch arm muscles in shape before you go. I’d put a link here, but I don’t know anyone who is doing those types of workout routines, especially for Disney Park attractions. If you do, let me know.)

What to Do Day 2

We finished our first day with only the Incredicoaster and Radiator Springs Racers left to do, and we didn’t have a plan for our second day. However, there are a lot of things that we could have done to fill our day rather than wondering what we should do while wandering around.

Ride ‘Em Again

Obviously, a lot of the appeal of a second day is the ability to get on the E-ticket attractions again, especially if you have Lightning Lane access. WEB Slingers and Toy Story Midway Mania are big draws because of their playability. You can try to improve on your previous scores, you are part of the show, and there is something to be said for the endorphins that come from the extra fast twitch muscle use. Guardians of the Galaxy is geared to provide a different ride each time due to its randomness. During Halloween, you get the added bonus of having Monsters After Dark in addition to the BREAKOUT! Version. Radiator Springs Racers has two tracks: one you get a paint job, the other gives you new tires. Mater and Luigi offer different songs to ride to though you’re likely to hear all of them while waiting for your turn to experience the attraction. You won’t find this specific Ariel Undersea Adventure anywhere else in the U.S.; the Walt Disney World Version is slightly different. But what should you do while you’re on your way to riding these attractions again?

Pictures with Characters

Decide to make it a day with character(s). If you have Genie+, all of the photos you take with the Photopass people are yours! That makes standing in line for characters, so much the better. If you don’t have Genie+, cast members are usually happy to take photos with your camera. Or you can opt for selfies.

Characters can be found on Buena Vista Street, at Avengers Campus, and in other areas of the park. Those who have a Disney Visa can take advantage of a special, time-limited photo opportunity. (Don’t have a Disney Visa? You can apply for one here where you can earn up to a $300 Statement Credit after qualifying purchases, and I can get a bonus.  Learn more. https://www.referyourchasecard.com/200a/N8NY3U2R9A!)

Animation Academy

Anyone who says Disney never gives anything away for free has never visited the Animation Academy. When you visit the Academy, you get to learn how to draw a Disney character from a Disney artist. It’s a hands-on experience, so you get to practice what you are learning, and you get to keep the paper you drew on. Sometimes, the Disney artist will also give away their drawing. It’s free, and it’s something that only the most knowledgeable Disney guests take advantage of. If you don’t have any money left for souvenirs, this drawing makes for a good take home memory. Even if you think you can’t draw, you should give this activity a try.

Other Attractions

Mickey’s PhilharMagic and Disney Junior Dance Party are two ongoing attractions where you can sit and enjoy something indoors. Coco has a party with his family in the Paradise Gardens Park. Spider-Man leaps through the air in his product testing show. Doctor Strange uses the mystic arts to protect the Avengers Campus from an other-dimensional threat. During other times of the year, parades may also be offered. These pleasant, and in the case of Spider-Man, amazing, shows provide a pleasant diversion that will help you appreciate Disney California Adventure all the more.

The World of Color

If you’re going to Disney California Adventure for two days, make sure you see World of Color both of them. The first time, you get a sense of where to stand for the performance. The second time, you can get there early enough to get where you want to stand. Jenya and I did World of Color twice, and the first time we stood behind a stroller. By the time the show started, we had two tall men in front of us on the left side, and a man who put his child on his shoulders on the right side. No one can be faulted for their height or for wanting to give their child a better view of the show.

When we went the second time, we were there early enough to get in front of our viewing section for preferred dining. Being ale to see the whole show without having to look through people made such a huge difference. There were even portions of the show that I didn’t see in the first performance because they were blocked by the taller people in front of us.

A Penguin Asks for Identity and Awaits the Answer

According to “Every Penguin in the World” (affiliate link), a penguin’s call is its identity. Each call is unique. It’s how life mates find each other in a colony of look-alikes. When a king penguin called to Author Charles Bergman, who was standing on the penguin path, the penguin was announcing and identifying itself, and it waited for Bergman to do the same.

What could Bergman answer? Who was he and what response would be appropriate to give to a king penguin?  In part, “Every Penguin in the World” is Bergman’s response, but it goes deeper for him. This one penguin questioned Bergman, wanting to know who he was and what his responsibility to the colony was. Bergman wanted to know the answer as well.

Identity is a powerful motivator. Who are you and what are your responsibilities to the colony? How would you answer the king penguin?

Too often, we hide behind our names and what we do for a living. Those aren’t who we are, we just gird them on like armor to protect us from the difficult journey that involves questioning ourselves and our place in the world. Our identity gets tied up in groups, politics, hobbies – these allow us to connect, give us a sense of certainty, and when done correctly, bring us joy. However, until we use our power to discover our own unique voices, we cannot be as forthright as the king penguin. The inward journey that requires is tough to make. It is continuous, but the rewards may be trumpeted through our entire being.

Penguins partner with Melting Pot Candy
Penguins in a basket for penguin awareness day

If you like penguins, check out Jenya’s handmade penguins at Etsy.com. A portion of the adoption fees will go to the Royal Albatross Centre in New Zealand for their work with little penguins and other birds.

Polly Penguin Wants to Fly
Polly Penguin Wants to Fly

Shad’s books “There Are No Penguins in Alaska” and “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly” are available at Amazon or when you use a contact form from Penguinate.com. We have a limited number of “There Are No Penguins In Alaska” in hard copy for coloring. They run $8 each plus shipping and handling. A portion of the sale of each “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly” goes to support Tiritiri Matangi Island for their work with little penguins and other New Zealand wildlife.

At Penguinate, we believe creativity happens at the intersection. When two or more fields of knowledge interconnect, you’ll find something new. That’s why we vary our content. However, creativity cannot happen without a core set of knowledge, and that’s why we focus on some topics more than others. Creativity is a meta-skill that everyone possesses, and with practice, you can improve your creative powers.

This site uses affiliate links. If you buy something from an affiliate link at Amazon, it won’t cost you more than if you went there on your own to get it, and we get a small portion for steering you to the product.

Time to Get Your Penguin Holiday Gifts Ordered

Jenya has put many of her stuffed penguins on Etsy. Because each of these penguins is one of a kind, it’s important that you adopt your favorite quickly. Jenya puts so much time and love into these penguins; they are hand-crafted with hand-embroidered eyes. The fabric is soft and huggable, and every penguin has its own personality. For every penguin adopted, we make a donation to the Royal Albatross Centre in New Zealand for their work with little penguins and other birds.

If you want something for stress relief, Jenya’s Roly Poly Penguins are just the thing. Hand-knit from the softest yarns, these penguins are cute, and happy for you to squeeze them. The tactile experience will help you feel calmer.

All of these penguins come with their own names, likes and dislikes spelled out on a penguin passport. There are limited number available for the holidays. Adopt one today.

Penguin Books

Looking for something different to read, Shad has written two books about penguins: “There Are No Penguins in Alaska” and “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly.”

There are no penguins in Alaska
There are no penguins in Alaska

“There Are No Penguins in Alaska” is a coloring book that includes several animals that are in Alaska. The ending will leave you with a chuckle. It is available on eReader, though we do not recommend coloring on your eReader. Shad also has a very limited number of IRL coloring books (around 30 are left from the first printing).

Polly Penguin Wants to Fly
Polly Penguin Wants to Fly

Shad wrote “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly” as a book his mother could read to her grandchildren. Newly hatched Polly Penguin is amazed at the birds she sees flying overhead. She wants to fly. But penguins can’t fly, can they? This book is available on eReader, in paperback on Amazon, and directly from Shad (if you want an autograph). One dollar from each copy sold, regardless of format goes to Tiritiri Matangi Island for their work with little penguins and other New Zealand wildlife.

Penguin Flat Friends

Part of the meal on the train
Part of the meal on the train (flat friend: penguin not included)

Only three flat friends are available for adoption. These felt penguins are about two inches tall and two dimensional. They were hand-crafted by Jenya out of felt. They make great ornaments, bookmarks, and decorations. Get them before they are gone.

The Lowdown on Disneyland Resort’s Genie+

You have to have a smartphone to access Disneyland Resort’s Genie+ in the parks. I suppose you could probably carry around a laptop or tablet, but neither of those is convenient. If you don’t own a smartphone, you can do what I did. There are several companies that offer pay as you go smartphones. $23 for the phone and $30 for the plan was more than enough to get me through five days in the Disneyland Resorts. I didn’t use the phone for anything but the Genie+ app, and the park Wi-Fi was generally strong enough outside the attractions to update with little to no lag. If you don’t have a smartphone in your party, Genie+ isn’t for you unless you’re just going for photos. So, what does Genie+ bring to the experience, and is it worth your while?

Genie+ and Photos

If you purchase Disney’s Genie+ service for your Disneyland Resorts trip, you get access to all of the photos taken of you by Disney photographers. This is called “PhotoPass,” and back in the day, it was a good way to include everyone in the photo. Fewer people were willing to take advantage of the photographers in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, so it was relatively easy to get your money’s worth with photos. Now, there are lines in front of the iconic photo spaces, like Sleeping Beauty Castle and the big pumpkin at the beginning of Main Street, U.S.A. during Halloween. Still, it’s nice to be able to run into an unoccupied photographer and get a couple of photos, especially when they throw in a little pixie dust. It can be a good way to extend your day if you’re running out of things to do in Disney California Adventure.

Lightning Lane

Photos aren’t the only benefit of Genie+. Lightning Lane is the replacement for Disney’s formerly free service – FastPass. Because Genie+ is set at a specific amount per ticket per day ($20 as of Sep. 23, 2022), PhotoPass wasn’t enough to offer guests, even with the touted app “benefits.” Lightning Lane allows you to reserve a time at an attraction and to board that attraction with little to no waiting. Even the longest line we got in at the Haunted Mansion Holiday went relatively quickly as cast members herded Lightning Lane users through the phone scanners with phenomenal efficiency. You only get one Lightning Lane use per attraction per day – I guess lightning never strikes twice. Still, if you’re on a limited time schedule and you want to get through all the attractions in Disneyland, Lightning is well worth using.

However, there is a caveat. Some attractions that offer Lightning Lane, do so at an extra cost. Radiator Springs Racers, Web Slingers: a Spider-Man Adventure, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance would allow you to pay to go to the head of the line. The prices differed by attraction and by day. At up to $20 a person, it might just be better to plan your trip to hit those attractions early in the day, avoiding both the crowds and the additional fees. Web Slingers had the lowest wait time of the two throughout the day while we were there, even getting down to 40 minutes, so that is the one I would least likely spend additional money on, even if it was the most fun.

Plus, seriously, think about what you can do with the fee before spending it on a three- or four-minute attraction. If it makes your vacation better because you hate standing in line, go for it. (It’ll help improve the value of my Disney stock.) But even at $7 a person, that’s a churro with change left over.

Other App Benefits

The app features quite a few IRL experiences. In Peter Pan’s Flight, you can find hidden objects in line that lead to Tinkerbell, and for a 45-minute wait, that’s something to do. Esmeralda and Fortune Red offer up tales of adventure – one card a day is free. (You can continue the adventure with additional coins if you don’t have the time to complete it.) And there are a series of Imagineer talks available to listen to. (I didn’t use those because I was with my wife and thought I should spend my time with her. We didn’t have headphones, either.)

While the app will plan your day for you, telling you which attraction you should hit next, the biggest benefit is knowing the wait times for attractions before you get to them. It was especially useful for knowing when attractions had broken down. If the stand-by line is unavailable, you know not to go there.

Mobile ordering for your meal is also available.

Disneyland Resort’s Genie+ Conclusion

Getting into the parks is expensive, the Disneyland Resort’s Genie+ allows you to maximize your time with its Lightning Lane and can bring more enjoyment through its games and IRL freebies if you are inclined to collect or use them.

Jolly Holiday Bakery Café for Surprise Breakfast

Jenya and I decided to eat at the Jolly Holiday Café for breakfast on our final day in Disneyland. We stood in the standby line and tried to glance through the bodies of the people in front of to see what they had for breakfast. There was a croissant with egg, cheese and bacon, but we opted for something sweeter. We shared a cinnamon roll and a yogurt parfait. To drink, Jenya ordered a tea, and I ordered a caramel macchiato. Jenya found a place outside, and I gathered our drinks and food from the counter.

When I sat down to breakfast, I raised my caramel macchiato to my lips, tilting the cup as I did so. There was coffee on the top of the lid, and it spilled on my shorts. It didn’t seem to stain my shorts, and there wasn’t much anyway, so I didn’t think much of it. I wiped at the spot with a napkin and started eating. With every sip of macchiato, caramel was coming up through the straw in delicious waves of sweetness.

About half way through the meal, Jenya points out a yellow spot on my t-shirt near my shoulder.

I look at it and say, “What? Did I spill caramel on my shirt? How did that get there?” I swiped it away with my finger and put my finger in my mouth. “That’s not caramel…”

This will likely bring back memories for my sister when we were eating a meal at the Big Thunder Ranch many years ago. The birds were active back then, too.

Disney California Adventure Faces Change in Light of Failure: A Prediction

In 2001 when Michael Eisner opened Disney’s California Adventure, people questioned the wisdom of building a park based on California in the state of California. Who would want to pay to see a fake Golden Gate Bridge or visit a fake beach side boardwalk when the real things were so close at hand? What was the point of having a mock-up of California when people could readily see the real thing? Park attendance was poor, and the project was chalked up as a failure. Still, Disney tinkered with the theme and the lands in an attempt to draw more guests over to Disneyland’s sister park. After all, part of the success of Florida’s Walt Disney World has to do with its ability to capture guests for long term stays, rather than just a couple of nights.

Marvel Takes Over

When Guardians of the Galaxy replaced the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Disney was starting to retheme a part of the park that had been aimed at children – “a bug’s land.” At the time, the casual guest may not have thought of it as such, but the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction, which was original placed in Hollywood Land, is now one of two attractions in Avenger’s Campus. The themed land appeals to fans of Marvel at any age.

But there’s more than a subtle switch from one land to another in this move. Hollywood Land is also being taken over by Marvel. Photo ops on the backlot feature Marvel character cutouts. Stores feature Marvel products. With no musical in the theater and the Art of Animation Building mostly closed (in September 2022), there’s every reason t believe that Disney will begin to retheme this space to something better. Currently, only the Animation Academy is worth visiting with Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sulley to the Rescue being only slightly entertaining. Mickey’s Philharmagic no longer draws people (if it ever did), and Disney Junior Dance Party is strictly for the little ones.

So as Hollywood Land, with no stunt shows, no backstage magic, and only a tenuous grasp on the term “Hollywood,” is slowly consumed by superheroes, other Disney California Adventure lands are facing their own park identity crisis.

Cars Land and Pixar Pier

Cars Land is the easiest of the lands to show that it doesn’t belong in California. The fabled Route 66 did go from Chicago to Los Angeles, but Radiator Springs is located in a version of Monument Valley – a place in Arizona. It is clearly lacking in California character.

Pixar Pier has completely taken over Paradise Pier. All of its attractions, including the rethemed Flik’s Flyers, now called Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind, are themed to various Pixar movies.

Remaining California Lands

Grizzly Peak maintains its California feel, largely due to the Redwood Creek Challenge and Grizzly River Run. The idea of a California adventure has suffered here through the loss of Soarin’ over California. Now, simply called Soarin’ the attraction takes guests hang gliding through famous places of the world. The queue still features a history of California aviation.

Pacific Wharf is still largely California in flavor. The dining area features Ghirardelli, Boudin, and the Wine Country Trattoria.

Buena Vista Street is trying hard to hold onto its 1920 – 1930s vibe. The Red Car Trolley, still rolls down the street. The Carthay Circle Restaurant still serves food, and Walt and Mickey are still on hand with their suitcase and a dream.

Paradise Gardens Park

The last land is the most problematic. It’s a mishmash of characters and experiences that have no unifying theme. Paradise Gardens Park features Coco as a show attraction. “Coco” is based in Mexico, and while the roots of California are undeniably linked to Mexico; the state is no longer located in Mexico.

The Silly Symphony Swings are a somewhat clever retheme of a giant swing ride more fitting for a cheap thrill than a Disney style attraction; it’s a good example of Disney imagineers doing the most they can with the least amount of work possible. California averages about 11 tornadoes a year, so it’s possible that this Silly Symphony could take place in the state. Goofy’s Sky School is a mouse-style rollercoaster that is fun and cheaply rethemed, though brilliantly done assuming the budget for the attraction was small. The rollercoaster is a nod to California’s aviation history, in case you missed it at Soarin’.

Jumpin’ Jellyfish and Golden Zephyr were lifted straight from a seaside boardwalk or a carnival with no retheming. These two rides, they certainly don’t embody the term “attraction,” have nothing to do with anything Disney. It’s possible the Zephyr tips its hat to the Rocketeer, which takes place in California, but the mention is so haphazard, that it seems more like a coincidence than something intentional.

The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure was out of place when it opened in 2011. At the time, it had nothing to do with the theme of the park or the area. Within the first few months of its opening, lines were as short as five minutes. It’s not that the attraction is bad; it’s just not good enough to anchor an entire section of the park. This area’s lack of cohesive theme is something Darth Vader would find disturbing, and Disney should, too.

What’s in a Name?

The original theme park name was Disney’s California Adventure. The apostrophe gave ownership to Walt as the park did its best to create the atmosphere of California when Walt arrived with $40 in his packet and an Alice reel under his arm. Hollywood Land, Buena Vista Street, Paradise Pier were all set in Hollywood’s heydays.

Simply by losing an apostrophe and an ‘s,’ Disney California Adventure has become generic. When guests come to the park, they’ll have a Disney California Adventure. The park is in California. It’s run by the Disney company and has a lot of Disney intellectual property, and it’s an adventure. Still, there is likely a plan hidden somewhere deep in the Disney offices with a new name. Something that will create a better sense of identity for the park and what it offers. What do you think it will be called?