Disneyland (CA)

First Review: Radiator Springs Racers

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All eyes in the theme park industry turn this week to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, where the grand re-opening of Disney California Adventure is being celebrated in the high style befitting the finish line of a billion-dollar makeover marathon. Before this massive expansion officially opens to the public on June 15, invited media and paying sneak-preview participants will have already had an opportunity to experience the new attractions of Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, and naturally the TouringPlans.com team is there on the scene. Touring Plans’ official photographer Tom Bricker, Unofficial Guide to Disneyland co-author Seth Kubersky, and new Touring Plans researcher Guy Selga, Jr. will all be on-property this week, documenting every detail to your touring advantage. Over the next few days, please check back on the blog for our hot-off-the-press first reviews direct from DCA, edited versions of which will appear in the 2013 edition of the Unofficial Guide.

Radiator Springs Racers (FASTPASS)

Our Rating: 5 stars

Tom Bricker says:

“Aside from ‘sacred classics,’ Radiator Springs Racers is the best Disney attraction ever, in my opinion. I was in absolute awe!”

  • What it is: Automotive dark ride with high-speed thrills.
  • Scope and scale: Superheadliner.
  • When to go: The first 30 minutes the park is open or use FASTPASS.
  • Special comments: Must be 40″ tall to ride; switching-off option provided; Not to be missed.
  • Duration of ride: About 4 minutes
  • Average wait time per 100 people ahead of you: 3 1/2 minutes
  • Loading speed: Moderate–fast

Description And Comments

To the right of the Radiator Springs Courthouse at the end of Route 66 lies the entrance to the most ambitious attraction built at Disneyland Resort in more than a decade. Disney’s Imagineers have wedded an enhanced version of the high-speed slot-car vehicles developed for Epcot’s Test Track with immersive sets and elaborate animatronics. The ride, which covers nearly 6 of Cars Land’s 12 acres, mixes slow indoor sections with thrilling open-air acceleration in a way that appeals to every end of the demographic spectrum.

You begin your road trip by walking through Stanley’s Oasis, the town’s original 1909 settlement, and end up in an cavernous loading station. There you board a six-passenger convertible, each with a smiling face on its front grill, and you’re off on a scenic tour of stunning Ornament Valley, on your way to compete in today’s big race.

After a leisurely drive past massive rock formations and a majestic waterfall, you enter the show building for a series of indoor scenes depicting the residents of Radiator Springs. These environments don’t quite match the awe-inspiring scale of scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean or Indiana Jones, but they are big step up from the old-fashioned Fantasyland dark rides, and feature movie-accurate animatronics with impressively expressive eyes and mouths (achieved through a combination of digital projections and practical effects). Along your tour, you’ll be sidetracked by a tractor-tipping expedition with Mater, which leads to a run-in with an angry harvester. Before reaching the starting line, you’ll need some new tires or a fresh coat of paint. Then it’s time to line up alongside another carload of guests as you await Luigi’s countdown.

The last third of the ride is a flat-out race over camelback hills, under outcroppings, and around banked curves, with a randomly chosen car crossing the finish line first. Radiator Springs Racers’ top speed of 40 miles per hour falls short of Test Track’s 60-plus peak, but the winding turns and airtime-inducing humps supply an exhilarating rush. After a final swing past the glowing stalactites of Tail Light Cavern, and some parting praise from Lightning McQueen and Mater, you’ll exit your vehicle and (we expect) immediately get back in line for another run.

Touring Tips

As the $200 million, 800-pound gorilla of California Adventure’s makeover, Radiator Springs Racers is expected to be a massive draw from the minute it opens every day. Luckily, the ride is engineered to handle about 1,750 riders each hour, and FASTPASS and single rider lines are available.

Note that FASTPASS tickets for Radiator Springs Racers are distributed outside of Cars Land proper, near It’s Tough to Be Bug!. This may change in later years as the popularity of this attraction runs its course.

All photos by Tom Bricker


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Seth Kubersky

Author of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. Co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland and Beyond Disney. Contributor to Unofficial Guides to WDW and Las Vegas. Live Active Cultures columnist for the Orlando Weekly. Travel and arts journalist. Theatrical director and producer.

6 thoughts on “First Review: Radiator Springs Racers

  • This ride is a joke. This the second trip here that this has not operated much of the day. Today we waited for three hours in line, ride went down and we were turned away. They were nice enough to give us fast passes to return later, but only go back wait in line again to only have it breakdown again.

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