Wrapped around the southern shore of the kidney-shaped lake, Paradise Pier opened as Disney's version of a seaside amusement park from the 1920s. It covers about one-third of Disney California Adventure and contains almost one-third of the attractions.

Paradise Pier’s original tacky mid-20th-century theme at DCA was ironic, and in a perverse way it brought the story of Walt Disney and Disneyland full circle. Walt, you see, created Disneyland Park as an alternative to parks such as this—parks with a carnival atmosphere, simple midway rides, carny games, and amply available wine, beer, and liquor. Amazingly, corporate Disney had made just such a place the centerpiece of Disneyland’s sister park, slaughtering in effect one of the last of Walt’s sacred cows. The 2012 refurb’s clapboard buildings and retro carnival games gave the area much-needed charm, but not everything is perfect in Paradise; the now-removed Maliboomer tower was supposed to become a lush park, but it turned out to be a few benches on concrete and a patch of green behind barricades to gaze at longingly. The foregoing notwithstanding, Paradise Pier is spotlessly clean, exciting during the day, and eye-popping in the evening with all its colorful lights.

Incidentally, those aforementioned carnival games aren’t as avaricious as their unfair fair ancestors. If you and a companion play together, you can win a modest stuffed animal for only $5 (less than you’d pay in the park’s gift shops). Some games let you combine multiple wins for an impressive prize. The fishing and racehorse games seem easiest to win.

Disney's World of Color Nighttime Spectacular, an evening show synchronized to music and Disney film clips, complete with more than a thousand water fountains shooting water hundreds of feet into the sky, was overhauled in 2015 for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary.

Note: Most of the attractions (except Toy Story Midway Mania!) in Paradise Pier will close early for World of Color performances.