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Cars Land: A Family Travel Mecca

Matt Villano

As a trained journalist and all-around skeptic, I’m generally not a drinker of Kool-Aid. When the consensus about something is generally positive, I gear up to pick it apart. When the masses rave, I distrust the object of adoration even more.

That said, after the better part of a week at the Disneyland Resort, I must admit: the new Cars Land at Disney California Adventure rocks as much as everyone told me it would.

IMHO, the place brings the fictional town of Radiator Springs to life in ways I’m not sure the characters themselves could have dreamed. The details are amazing: The road is paved with fresh asphalt, there’s a (blinking yellow, of course) stoplight at the lone intersection in town, and the Radiator Springs Racers ride mimics those epic contests between Lightning and Doc. Throw in four movie characters that drive and “talk” and otherwise interact with the crowd, and a trip down the park's biggest attraction makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into the movie.

Proof of the Land's awesomeness: L, our 3-year-old, simply didn’t want to leave.

We visited on three occasions over three days, each time my daughter pleading to “go back into Cars.” On every trip, L obsessed over something different: the cone-shaped cups from the Cozy Cone Motel, the pins inside Radiator Springs Curios, and the fountain statue of Stanley.

I discovered something new on each visit, too. Some of my faves:

  • The Arches National Park-style arch on the back-side of the Land, which serves as a gateway to and from the Pacific Wharf section of the park.
  • The off-menu Neapolitan milkshakes at Flo’s V8 Café—the shakes are topped with crunchy chocolate bits called “gravel.” (As an aside, Flo’s also serves amazing chicken tamales for breakfast, and has beer from the Bear Republic, a brewery in my hometown, on tap.)
  • The giant beach balls you get to throw while screaming your head off on the Luigi’s Flying Tires ride.

Heck, even the “Road to Cars Land” film and exhibit inside the Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar is worth checking out—especially if your kids behave in museum environments and you appreciate behind-the-scenes type stuff.

Perhaps my only complaint about the place pertains to crowds; two of the times we visited, the throngs made it nearly impossible to push our double-stroller.

The bottom line? Cars Land is definitely worth a special family trip. Even if you spend hours exploring Radiator Springs during daylight, try to keep the kids awake long enough to go back and experience the place at night. When the sun goes down, neon lights along Route 66 create a vintage vibe. Nothing else in a Disney Park even comes close.

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