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.
Gear review: Solar Polar Short Sleeve Top
You know that great feeling when a breeze hits your hot and sweaty back during a hike, giving you a momentary blast of cool? Well the new Solar Polar Short Sleeve Top from Columbia takes that one step further—they’ve found a way to let your own sweat keep you cool, with their Omni-Freeze ICE technology. Wicking and antimicrobial technology balance out the, er, unpleasant side effects of the sweat, keeping you dry, and aroma-free during workouts. Weird, but very cool. I tested out the new Solar Polar technology during a hot and sweaty 25-km bike ride.
See Whitehorse from treetops with a ziplining adventure
Several balance beams, ziplines and tightropes obstacles are behind me. I’m feeling confident about making it this far on the above-the-treetops, high-adrenaline Yukon obstacle course.
But I’m about to head into the next level of Monkido Aerial Adventure Courses. In front of me, a participant hangs, literally twisting in the wind, too exhausted to respond to the words of encouragement from below. In front of him, a woman has burst into tears trying to navigate the sliding log.
Recapturing youth in Aulani Resort
I'm waiting at the top of the Volcanic Vertical, an enclosed waterslide, waiting for the red light to turn green. It's a safety precaution that indicates when the previous slider has hit the water.
"Go ahead," says the lifeguard stationed beside the slide.
"But the light," I point.
"You're probably fine."