2: Disney's California Adventure, Paradise Pier, Anaheim GardenWalk
You may wake up feeling tired and your feet will definitely be sore, but the excitement of Disney's California Adventure will make it easy to work through these issues. Opened in 2001, DCA (as the locals call it) has traditionally been a more relaxed and less-crowded theme park than Disneyland. However, a renovation and the unveiling of a new "land" in summer of 2012 have generated a level of intrigue and foot traffic that the park has not enjoyed since its debut.
The sister park attempts to give you some typically Californian experiences, such as a trip to a Hollywood-esque back lot, a taste of wine country and a stroll down a beachside boardwalk area. It also tips its hat to Disney's Pixar by focusing a couple of areas to two of the computerized animation studio's movies: "A Bug's Life" and "Cars." The latter movie serves as the basis for the park's kid-friendly Cars Land. Its freshness also makes it the most crowded section of the park, so you may want to start the day off here so your kids don't have to wait in too long of lines, especially for the massive Radiator Springs Racers attraction which allows them to zip through some of the movie's most memorable pieces of scenery.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which re-creates a scary ride inside an out-of-control elevator, still reigns as the park's main attraction. The huge Hollywood-style apartment building façade that encases the thrill ride impressively looms over the entire park, drawing your attention from all angles.
Paradise Pier is home to California Screamin', a super-fast rollercoaster boasting a 360-degree vertical loop. Golden Zephyr is a carousel-style ride that allows families to climb into a silver rocket-shaped car and take in a panoramic view of the area. Grizzly River Run is a get-wet water ride, so make sure you buy a plastic poncho if you don't want to leave soaked. But the most popular ride in this section of the park is Soarin' Over California. This simulation ride makes you feel like you are flying in a hang glider as you zoom over the history, scenery and even smells of California and its vast natural and man-made treasures.
Just like Disneyland across the way, DCA is full of music, parades and live performances such as Frozen — Live at the Hyperion , a musical adaptaion of the film which will debut in May 2016. The show-stopping spectacle here is World of Color, a spectacular nighttime show that uses light, fire and water to bring your favorite Disney characters to life in new, exciting ways.
Fast food casual dining options abound in DCA. Eat a rice bowl with chopsticks at Lucky Fortune Cookery. Interact with Disney characters as you dine in Ariel's Grotto. Nosh on healthy Californian cuisine at Pacific Wharf Café. Relax with one of 25 different wines by the glass to accompany a romantic Italian dinner at the upstairs Wine Country Trattoria (one of the only places inside either park where alcohol is served). Go to Carthay Circle Lounge for a cocktail handcrafted by a mixologist. Or, after a California-themed day, the night may best be capped off by indulging in the chef's prix-fixe dinner with accompanying wines at the neighboring Napa Rose.
After the day at DCA is wrapped up, some feel the need to shop on the way back to the hotel. Downtown Disney is the perfect place to check out novelty shops for that ideal gift or souvenir. Studio Disney 365 is an interactive experience where stylists give children the chance to be made over like their favorite Disney stars. World of Disney contains an abundance of Disney-themed gifts, clothing and bric-a-brac. If you are not in a shopping mood, you can cool your heels at the AMC Theatres, ESPN Zone, Rainforest Café or Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen.
If you want to get away from the complex altogether, a long stroll or short drive will bring you to the Anaheim GardenWalk (located on Katella Avenue between Harbor Boulevard and Anaheim Boulevard), a sparse entertainment complex featuring Roy's Hawaiian fusion cuisine, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., The Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen and HEAT Ultra Lounge, one of OC's hottest nightclubs. Elegant dining experiences such as Morton's the Steakhouse and The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon are all located within a couple miles outside the park. The latter venue, which is located at the base of a six-story office building, is highly recommended.
Continue to Day 3