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Inspired by the 2006 Pixar Animations Studios film Cars, Disneyland Cars Land brings the town of Radiator Springs to life. With three rides and lots of fun places to eat, shop, and meet the characters, Cars Land delivers a fun-fueled experience for the whole family!
When Cars Land opened in 2012 at Disney California Adventure, my son was seven and at the height of his Cars-loving little life. Waiting in line for three hours to ride Radiator Springs Racers was a small price to pay for the awesomeness delivered on the 4-minute ride. Getting an ice cream cone at the Cozy Cone was a no-brainer and eating lunch at Flo’s V8 Diner was surreal. Visiting Disneyland Cars Land was like stepping into a Disney movie, and all the kids there were the stars.
Today, Disneyland Cars Land is still magical – though these days I think I am more enamored with it than my now teenage son. Still, we never miss the opportunity to stop by whenever we’re at Disneyland (which admittedly, is a lot). Over the years we’ve learned some tricks and tips. So, here’s a complete guide to help you have the best possible experience when you visit Cars Land!
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A Bit About Disneyland Cars Land
Cars Land opened in June 2012 amid much fanfare and has remained one of the most popular areas of the Disneyland Resort ever since!
Radiator Springs has been intricately re-created in Disneyland Cars Land, from the rocky Southwest landscaping to the Route 66 businesses that include Mater’s Junkyard, Sally’s Cozy Cone Motel, Flo’s V8 Cafe and Ramone’s House of Body Art. Serving as a backdrop is the spectacular 125-foot tall Cadillac Range, the largest rockwork created in a Disney theme park. Cars Land spans a whopping 12 acres, making it a truly a must-see for anyone visiting Disney California Adventure park. And, during the holidays, Cars Land is reimagined in a truly magical way!
As amazing a sight to see as Cars Land is during the day, it’s even more beautiful at night. The whole town lights up with neon signs illuminating Route 66. The towering Cadillac Range glows in the background. It is an amazing sight at our favorite time of day to visit!
Cars Land Rides
There are three rides in Cars Land – the “E-Ticket” Radiator Springs Racers and two equally awesome though more little-kid-friendly attractions, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters.
Radiator Springs Racers
Cars Land’s most popular ride and one of the best thrill rides at Disney California Adventure is Radiator Springs Racers. It is the only Disney FastPass attraction in Cars Land. Radiator Springs Racers combines classic storytelling in Disney “dark ride” fashion with a thrilling, high-speed race as its grand finale.
For a limited time you can purchase 4-Day/4-Park tickets that allow you to visit each theme park once at an amazing price.
Radiator Springs Racers immerses riders in the world of Lightning McQueen, Sally, Doc Hudson, Mater, Luigi, Guido and the rest of the gang. Guests ride in a convertible resembling characters from the movie Cars, complete with eyes on the windshield and a mouth on the front fender. Each car holds six riders.
The ride starts with a scenic drive through Ornament Valley and Radiator Springs. It ends with a thrilling side-by-side race with another car. If you’ve ever gone on Test Track in Epcot at Walt Disney World, you have an idea of what to expect on Radiator Springs Racers. The technology is similar. Your ride vehicle makes all sorts of cool moves – speeding up, slowing down, even bouncing around a bit as Luigi fixes you up with brand new tires for the big race!
Like almost everything with Disney, pay attention to the details! The level of detail on this ride is staggering – from the way the characters’ mouths move to the decorations in town to the cute and clever wording on the signs. (Welcome to Taillight Caverns! This hotel serves a free Lincoln Continental breakfast!)
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Is Radiator Springs Racers for everyone? I give this question a hardy “Yes!” Although Radiator Springs Racers is often billed as a thrill ride, it’s pretty tame by thrill ride standards. I would venture to say that as long as your kids are tall enough to meet the 40” minimum height requirement, they are old enough to have a blast on the ride!
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
At the top of Route 66, the first ride you’ll see entering Cars Land is Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree. This ride is a swinging, spinning, tractor-pulling hoedown hosted by Mater.
While Mater – aka Larry the Cable Guy – belts out some truly hilarious songs, 22 baby tractors (11 on each of two sides) travel in overlapping figure eight patterns along interlocking turntables. Guests ride in trailers attached to the baby tractors. The seat accommodates up to two adults and one child, secured by a single lap belt. Kids must be 32 inches or taller and accompanied by a rider 54 inches or taller to ride.
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree may look like a basic kiddie ride at first glance, but it delivers an unexpected thrill that even my teenager loves.
The line for this ride moves quickly and never gets too long. It winds through some of Mater’s junkyard treasures, such as his collections of hubcaps, oil cans and license plates. There is even a hidden Mickey made from hubcaps tucked up in a corner.
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters
If the theme for Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is country hoedown, then Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is all about a big Italian family celebration!
The premise here is that Luigi’s cousins (colorful mini Italian roadsters) from Carsoli, Italy are in town, showing off their signature dance moves. Guests ride in the cars, which whirl and spin to songs such as Mambo Italiano. Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters uses a trackless vehicle system, meaning that the cars are independent of each other as they traverse the dance floor.
The cars can move in all directions, and also spin around and move side-to-side. Each ride is different; sometimes they dance in formation, and sometimes with each other. In addition, each car has its own signature moves and there are also variations depending on which song is playing. Just watching the ride while you are waiting in line is an Italian feast for the eyes!
Like Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, up to two adults and one child can sit in each car, and the minimum height requirement is 32 inches.
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters opened in March 2016. It replaced Luigi’s Flying Tires, a flying saucer-type of ride, which closed in early 2015 after ongoing technical issues.
Where to Eat in Cars Land
Dining in Cars Land is as much a part of the experience as going on the rides! Disney did an amazing job integrating Radiator Springs and the Cars characters into its dining and snacking options.
Flo’s V8 Café
Reminiscent of the classic roadside diners that dotted the original Route 66, Flo’s V8 Cafe is a quick-service dining location open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is one of my family’s favorite places to eat, not just in Cars Land but at the entire Disneyland Resort! Flo’s kitschy atmosphere and patio tables overlooking scenic Monument Valley and Radiator Springs Racers make this a memorable location to grab a meal.
Flo’s V8 Café serves American comfort foods such as meatloaf and turkey sandwiches. Some of the menu’s highlights include the Coca-Cola BBQ Sauce drizzled pork loin, brioche French toast with salted caramel and bananas and homemade pies for dessert. The kids meals at Flo’s are also pretty awesome, and plenty of food to satisfy a growing kid’s appetite.
More than the food though, it’s the atmosphere that will lure you in! Flo’s V8 Cafe showcases 60s-era car culture. Aside from its giant neon sign and retro façade, gas pumps, posters, trophies, jukebox tunes and a black and white checkered floor give the whole place a fun Cars feel.
The restaurant’s décor also tells the story of Flo’s career as a singer in her 1960s heyday, with memorabilia from the Motorama Girls, including some of their gold records. These touches breathe a cool backstory into one of Radiator Springs’ most overlooked characters.
Cozy Cone Motel
Check in to the Cozy Cone Motel and sample different treats at each of the five giant traffic cones. Okay, so it’s not really a motel (though how cool would it be to spend the night in Cars Land?) but it does resemble Sally’s motel in the movie Cars. This is our favorite spot to grab a quick bite in all of Disney California Adventure!
The Cozy Cone Motel’s design is inspired by the quirky “wigwam” motels once found along Route 66. Here is a basic rundown of what each of the five cones serve:
- Ice Cream Cones
- Chili Cone Queso
Our go-to favorite snacks include the pretzel bites at Cone 3, frozen lemonade at Cone 4, and popcorn at Cone 5. The awesome thing about buying popcorn at the Cozy Cone Motel is you can pick your flavor! Options include butter, dill pickle, Buffalo ranch, white cheddar, sriracha, pizza or garlic parmesan.
If there’s one downfall to the Cozy Cone Motel, it is that lines can get pretty long! Since each cone sells a different kind of food, line lengths vary. For example, when it’s hot out, the line for ice cream at Cone 2 can get super long, while there’s no line at the other cones. The other downside of the Cozy Cone Motel is that if members of your family want to try different things, you have to wait in multiple lines.
If you’re looking for a healthy snack, Fillmore’s Taste-In is a great option! This snack stand offers a great selection of fresh fruit (both cut up and whole), pickles, chips, bottled water and juice.
Character Meet & Greets
The Cozy Cone Motel is not just a place to go for snacks. It’s also where you can meet Mater and Lightning McQueen. They make alternate appearances in front of the lobby at the Cozy Cone throughout the day. Red the Fire Truck greets guests near Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters.
You can also check out DJ’s Dance and Drive. Look for the ultimate party car and one of his impromptu dance parties on Route 66 in Cars Land.
Shopping in Cars Land
Looking for some Cars-inspired gifts or other mementos from your Disneyland trip? Cars Land has a number of shops that are so unique and fun, shopping in them is a must-do experience in Cars Land!
There are three stores in Cars Land: Radiator Springs Curios, Sarge’s Surplus Hut, and Ramone’s House of Body Art. Here you’ll find clothing, housewares, Cars-themed toys, pins and more.
Radiator Springs Curios is our favorite because it features some really unique merchandise, including Cars-themed pins and vinylmation, antenna toppers, window clings, license plate frames and magnets.
Holidays at Disneyland Cars Land
It used to be that if you wanted a magical Disney holiday experience, Disneyland Park was the place to be! But in the last couple of years, Disney California Adventure has really upped their game with the holiday decorations – and that goes for both Halloween Time and the December holiday season!
Beginning every September, Cars Land transforms into Radiator Screams, dressed up with colorful “Haul-O-Ween” decorations. From the moment you approach Cars Land, you’ll see the seasonal changes, beginning with the Welcome sign.
Two of the three rides in Cars Land get into the spirit of Halloween Time. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree has a Halloween overlay, transforming into Mater’s Graveyard JamBOORee. Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters becomes Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween.
At Christmastime, Cars Land sees similar ride overhauls. Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters becomes Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl, and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree becomes Mater’s Jingle Jamboree. Both rides feature fun holiday decorations and festive music.
The streets, shops and restaurants in Cars Land are equally decked out for the holidays. My favorite is the Christmas trees made out of traffic cones, or the ones decorated with blingy hubcaps in front of Radiator Springs Racers. During the holidays, you’ll also see your favorite characters dressed up for the occasion.
Cars Land Insider Tips & Tricks
For better or for worse, Cars Land’s reign as the newest land at the Disneyland Resort came to an end in May 2019, when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened. But it still remains one of the busiest and most lands. Here are some insider tips and tricks to help you manage your time and not miss a thing!
1. Take Advantage of Extra Magic Hours
If you stay at one of the Disneyland Resort’s three hotels – the Grand Californian, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel or the Disneyland Hotel – your family will be able to access one of the parks one hour early each day of your stay. These “Extra Magic Hours” are one of the most valuable benefits of staying on-property! Use your Extra Magic Hour and head straight to Cars Land.
2. Use the Disneyland App to Check Wait Times
Download the Disneyland app so you’ll be able to check wait times in real time. The app will give you an overview of posted and predicted wait times for all the rides at both Disneyland Park and Disney’s California Adventure, including of course Cars Land!
3. Use Mobile Food and Beverage Ordering at Flo’s
If you’re hungry and don’t want to wait in line to order, use the mobile ordering feature on the Disneyland App at Flo’s V8 Café! The Disneyland app recently added mobile food ordering and it’s a game changer. This new feature allows you to view a restaurant’s menu and pricing, place your order, pay, and pick up your meal at the restaurant all without ever having to wait in line.
4. Use a FastPass or MaxPass
Of the three rides in Cars Land, Radiator Springs Racers is the only one to offer FastPass. Arrive early if you are planning on picking up a Disney FastPass in person for Radiator Springs Racers as they run out very quickly.
5. Take Advantage of Single Rider Lines
The line for Radiator Springs Racers can stretch for two or more hours on a busy day. But did you know you can cut that wait time down to a fraction by using the single rider line?
With the Radiator Springs Racers single rider line, you still wait in line with your family, but you’ll all ride separately. Basically, single riders are used to fill empty seats in ride vehicles created by other groups riding together. The single rider line is much shorter and goes much quicker than the regular stand-by line.
Note: kids must be at least seven years old to experience Radiator Springs Racers as a single rider.
6. Use Rider Switch if You Have Little Kids
If you are going to Disneyland with kids too small to ride, take advantage of Rider Switch. All three rides in Cars Land will let you do it! Rider Switch allows parents to trade off watching the kids; you only have to wait in line one time! Best of all, they let you bring a buddy. So if you have an older kid he gets to go twice. Score!
7. Know Where to Go for the Best Photos
In this Instagram world, finding the best backdrops for your photos is essential. Whether you use Disney’s Photopass photographers or take your own pics, keep an eye out for scenic spots in Cars Land.
Some of our favorite photo opps include the main entrance next to the Cars Land sign, in front of Flo’s V8 Café, at the Cozy Cone Motel, in the center of Route 66 with Cadillac Range in the distance, in front of Luigi’s tower of tires, and next to the Radiator Springs Racers ride.
8. Hunt for Hidden Mickeys
There are Mickey Mouses (Mickey Mice?) hidden all over Cars Land! Look for the Hidden Mickeys on the hoods of the cars in the windows of Ramone’s House of Body Art. We also spotted one in the line for Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree!
9. Don’t Miss Seeing Cars Land Light Up in Neon
Be sure to visit Cars Land right before sunset so you can be there when 16 neon signs light up Radiator Springs! Every evening immediately after sunset, the lights go on in Cars Land. They start on the far end of Cars Land at the courthouse and move up Route 66 in a progression. The best spot to watch is from the opposite end near Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree.
The most important tip I can offer is just have fun! Cars Land is an immersive experience. Don’t just go for the rides, but take the time to explore the whole land. Stop and smell the roses! Or, you know, in the case of Cars Land, the tail-light “flowers” at the Cozy Cone Motel.
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Could you please share with me the quaint little town outside Anaheim that you’ve shared before to save money when coming to Disneyland on a budget? I can’t seem to find it again.