Ultimate Photo Tour of Cars Land Part 2: Nighttime

On Saturday, Patrick and I got to attend one of the Annual Passholder previews of Cars Land at Disney California Adventure, a week before its official debut. As usual, we took scads of photos, nearly all of which are about to be inflicted upon you. Today’s installment covers the nighttime portion of our 6 hours in Cars Land. Click here for Ultimate Photo Tour of Cars Land Part 1: Daytime. The next installment will show you Buena Vista Street. If you want to wait and be surprised, STOP READING NOW.

As you’d expect with all that neon, Cars Land really wows after dark. I can’t think of another place with such a high concentration of glorious neon outside of Las Vegas. If you’re at all interested in photography, you’ll be in heaven!

I love that California Adventure finally has a place I’d just want to go hang out in at night, the way you do in Epcot’s World Showcase. I’m not sure where the actual “hanging” will occur, though. Maybe at the gas pumps of Flo’s V-8 Cafe? It’s about the only place to sit along the main drag. It will be interesting to see the crowd patterns when we all stop standing around gaping and start really using the place.

After dinner at Flo’s V-8 Cafe, we stepped outside to ogle Monument Valley in all its nighttime splendor.

After dark, the reflections on the inside of Flo’s windows obscure the view, so you might want to try the outdoor seating area instead.

I want to front-load this report with the photos Patrick got at the very end of the night, after the crowds cleared out. It’s definitely worth waiting around if you can.


Luigi’s Flying Tires was closed the first two or three times we checked it. I’m wondering if this will become a regular occurrence…

Would it be spoiling my upcoming review to say I think you can get the same amount of enjoyment outta the ride with 1/100th the wait time by simply sitting here and leaning a lot?

Patrick discovered this mural tucked away in a  seating area to the left of the fire station.

Well of course the tail light flowers light up at night!

By this time, queues at the Cozy Cone were long enough to warrant tape lines on the ground. This is definitely not somewhere I’d want to spend a hot summer’s afternoon!

Patrick got yelled at by an aggressive character meet-n-greet cast member when he tried to take a photo of the front of Sally’s office, so we waited in line like we wanted to meet Mater and then bypassed him to take the photos we wanted.

If this were a real town in the middle of the desert and this many people were standing around in the street mouths agape, you’d know something of apocalyptic proportions was going on… either that or a farmer’s market!

Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree was a walk-on, so we gave it a try.

Mater's Jukebox

With its mass boarding corral and three turntables, the ride is a lot like the Mad Tea Cups. Except that instead of making you barf from the spinning, it gives you bruises from the sliding. You sit in a free-swinging wagon behind a tractor, and if there’s any amount of space between you and the unpadded sides of the wagon, the whiplash action of the ride will send you slamming into them. This is definitely one to squeeze as many riders into as possible.

Our verdict: Fun enough if there’s no line, but nothing we’d wait for.

About the only thing we didn’t get to see at the preview was the new sign at the main Cars Land entrance. Gotta save something for the VIP premiere!

NOT for the VIP premiere

When Luigi’s Flying Tires finally opened, everyone rushed over to try it. There was already a 40-minute wait by the time we got there.

The first room of the queue is pretty spare except for a nice display of racing posters and the tire display rack.

Must... have...

The second room of the queue has an entire wall plastered in memorabilia. It boggles the mind to think about all the work that went into designing and creating each of the items. And it makes me sad to think one day people will breeze right by them the way they do in the even more detailed Expedition Everest queue. Then again, if Disney never improves the load speed for the flying tires, maybe not!

One of my favorite items is the aged, vintage-looking postcards from Radiator Springs. This is a classic example of the kind of merchandise that *should* be filling Lizzie’s Curios Shop instead of Vinylmation and pins.

A-ha! It has a name! "Willys Butte," eh?

Only about half of the queue is indoors. The first set of switchbacks outside is under shade, at least. Just as we stepped outside, Disneyland’s fireworks started!

The first of many signs attempting to explain how to ride the flying tires


Tip #4: Try not to fall asleep

Once you get within about 10 minutes of reaching the front, they reinforce the six bazillion instructional signs with a pep talk from a cast member who says exactly what you just read on the signs.

We decided not to even bother with the sad beach balls Disney added at the last minute to try to make the ride seem lively. We’d heard that Luigi’s Flying Tires has a steep learning curve, and since we were pretty sure we’d never again want to wait 45+ minutes in line for it, we wanted to get it right the first time.

The load process takes forEVER—at least 5 minutes of walking, sitting, waiting, being checked, and waiting some more for a ride that lasts less than 2 minutes. We tried to pick a tire that was set apart from the others so we wouldn’t have to waste time getting out of gridlock. Patrick kept his arm around me and steered me into each lean so that we wouldn’t work at cross purposes. But we could barely get the thing to move! And when it did, we’d just drift placidly into a wall or another tire. It was SO boring! If you stand and watch, it’s like when the guy slowly gets run down by a cart in Austin Powers.

Feeling thoroughly cheated out of 45 minutes of our lives we will never get back, we dashed off to get in line for Radiator Springs Racers again, only to find it closed. Poop!

We decided to drown our sorrows in giant Ghirardelli sundaes out in the Pacific Wharf, only to find THAT place closed too!

Back we went to Radiator Springs…

Finally, right before closing time, Radiator Springs Racers came back online. We dashed through the single-rider queue and were on in about 3 minutes. We even got to ride together!

The ride really is even better at night. I dunno if it’s the beautiful lighting on the rocks or the smoother optical transition from outside to inside and back out again… even the race part felt more thrilling! We dashed right back into the single rider line and rode again. When we tried a third time they’d finally closed the ride, about half an hour later than scheduled.


At closing time we were ushered out through Bug’s Land. There’s a nice arrangement of characters there to welcome you…. or scare the bejeepers outta you!

Afterward we remarked how similar Cars Land is to Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal in that there’s one fantastic E-Ticket ride and two kinda lame rides you go on only if there’s no line. It also reminded us a lot of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea in the level of theming. None of the other fixes implemented in California Adventure so far are this detailed. Even the Little Mermaid ride’s show building looks like a suburban AMC theater, and BoardWalk Pizza and Pasta could be plopped down in any modern mall with delusions of grandeur.

But Cars Land is right up there with the Japanese parks for intricacy of detail. In fact, it’s so well done that photographs almost don’t do it justice because your mind thinks you’re looking at a still from the movie!

Up Next: Buena Vista Street Photo Tour!

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13 Responses
  • Tammie (Magicfor2)
    June 17, 2012

    Hi Carrie! Thanks so much for your detailed report and all the great pics! I can’t wait to see it for myself.
    Do you think all of the changes at DCA will give it the boost in attendance and sales they are hoping for once the “new” wears off?

    • Carrie
      June 17, 2012

      Definitely! It’s actually a nice place to hang out now, and I thing the Racers will continue to be a draw even when people figure out how lame Luigi’s Flying Tires is.

  • Claire (Chilly)
    June 16, 2012

    So are the flying tyres supposed to be like bumper cars/dodgems?

  • Hope
    June 13, 2012

    Thank you and Patrick for your detailed report and photographs! I’m sorry he got yelled at, but it was totally worth it. Now I’ll know what to look for when we visit! I can’t wait! 🙂

    • Carrie
      June 13, 2012

      Yay! Are you planning a trip soon, or will you wait for the crowds to die down… if such a thing is even possible…

      • Hope
        June 13, 2012

        We’re giving the crowds one week to die down. We figured with Father’s Day and it being opening weekend it would be insane this weekend. So everyone get it out of your systems and clear the way for us next weekend! lol

        • Carrie
          June 13, 2012

          That’s so funny—that’s exactly what we’re doing, and now I’m worried EVERYONE else is too! ALL the Disney hotels are sold out for next weekend but not for opening weekend… gulp!

          • Hope
            June 13, 2012

            Double gulp! We have ressies at Carthay Circle and are coming with family so I hope we get to do enough of the “new DCA” to make their trips worth their while. I’ll have to remember to pack my patience and hope it’s not Disneyland/Summer crowded.

            • Carrie
              June 13, 2012

              Saturday will be better than Sunday… maybe we’ll see you at Carthay Circle!

              • Hope
                June 13, 2012

                Good because that’s when we’ll be there! We’ll keep our eyes peeled for you guys. 😀

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