At the Sonoma Terrace at Disney California Adventure is a $16 (as of 10/2022) pineapple rum cocktail. It’s 10% alcohol, and packs more of a punch for the money than any other drink in the park (beyond something the real bars at Lamplight Lounge or Carthay Circle could make, of course).
And, it’s a bit unique — from Hawaii and not available many states. If you are looking for it, here it is:
In February 2001, I got to visit the just-opened Disney’s California Adventure Park. It seems the first thing we did was get breakfast at the ABC Soap Opera Bistro. Here’s a few minutes of video from that brand new restaurant.
I visited Disney’s California Adventure about a week after it first opened. I intentionally planned my visit to avoid the “opening crowds.” Looking back, I wish I had been there for opening day. I was lucky enough to see a few things during my first visit that were gone a week later, and never returned, like the “bee bodies” at the Orange Stinger:
But I digress.
One of the (unsubstantiated) rumors about DCA during its early planning was that it would not have Disney characters in it. Really? Disney already tried that with EPCOT Center, which opened without Mickey and gang, but added them soon after because, apparently, people expect to see Disney characters at a Disney park.
True or not, the park certainly opened with characters. Here’s a look of some of them I saw during my first visit to the brand new park.
Over in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot, characters were on the street…
Inside the Animation Building, I was surprised when Mickey and Minnie came over to hang out with us. It was a great, air conditioned way to get some mouse time without a long line. (And notice their costumes… They are dressed as if they are on vacation. They live at Disneyland, but visit DCA.)
Over at Bountiful Valley Farm, Flik from Bug’s Life was making appearancs. This made sense since It’s Tough to be a Bug was located there, and featured him.
Near the entrance of the park, at Sunshine Plaza, you could find some of the classic Disney characters — also dressed as if they were on vacation. Here’s Goofy.
And Max! (I will admit I’ve never seen anything featuring Max. I think I aged out of cartoons before The Goofy Movie and things like Disney Afternoon, so there is a large collection of Disney characters I just don’t recognize or connect with.)
Since there wasn’t any specific meet and greet area for characters, you could find them pretty much all over the park. Even in San Francisco. (I’m the goofy one on the left, with camera bags galore.)
When I visited later that year, I ran into him over in the Paradise Pier area with some duck. It’s interesting seeing how outfits change the “look” of a character.
And there was even a street show featuring many of your favorite Disney characters…
So IF the rumors of “DCA won’t have characters” were ever true, it’s clear that they went the opposite direction and made sure the park was packed with them, even on opening week.
I think I will make this the final part (at least for now) since it has become clear I could spend a month just writing about what was going on during the construction years of Disney’s California Adventure. And I get bored easily.
There is one other significant preview item from 2000 – the other DCA preview center that was open inside Disneyland at the Opera House exit:
Unlike the original preview center in the esplanade, this one allowed photos. It also had far, far less on display than the other one.
Unfortunately, the low resolution of my digital photos makes this sign hard to read, but I found it interesting that it says “Beginning early in 2001” rather than a specific opening date. And look! There’s that Walt Disney quote about “Disneyland will never be completed” too.
Inside were some concept photos around a large map of the new resort area. Disneyland (blue/purple blob) was at the top, and the “districts” of Disney’s California Adventure were shown below it. Instead of “lands” like other Disney parks, DCA was going to have areas that groups together sub-areas in a way that certainly made sense to someone.
In this map, I think the red was the Grand Californian hotel, and yellow/orange represents Downtown Disney.
I have the very first press package for Disney’s California Adventure, and what was eventually built was a bit different. These concept drawings, however, were much closer to reality since this was just a year from opening.
There is so much “Yester-DCA” in this photo. You can see the original Paradise Pier with the Mickey ears on the roller coaster loop. The Orange Stinger is shown, as well as the Maliboomer space shot ride. The Sun Wheel has its original face.
Basically, nothing in that drawing still exists, at least not in that form.
Do you remember this preview center?
At some point, I need to dig out my original press packet and go through it and do a series on “what was planned” versus “what we got.” If you know of a site that already did this work, please let me know and I’ll just link to that instead.
Unless I come up with a part 5, this concludes this series. For now.
As the year 2000 rolled around, and we all survived the “Y2K Bug,” things were really happening. Disney’s California Adventure was less than a year away from opening.
Grizzly Peak had appeared…
California Screamin’ had appeared…
A beautiful new tram area for the Pinnochio lot was in use, with the Grand Californian Hotel across from it…
The old ticket booths in front of Disneyland were gone, and new ones had been built on each side…
It was $41 per day to get in, or $199 for a Premium Annual Pass? Geez, Disney. Who has that kind of money for an amusement park? At least the Southern California pass was “only” $79. Man, ridiculous pricing.
The construction wall had been moved up closer, and now had large windows in it so you could see the new park’s entrance.
Let’s take a peek through those windows.
Oh. In May it wasn’t very interesting. I’ll keep jumping around 2000 until I find something that is.
By August, we had a much better look at the new post card entrance, the Golden Gate bridge, and the huge letters that would spell “CALIFORNIA.” The park is supposed to open just five months after this photo was taken. Can they possibly make it? Let’s see how they were doing a few months later…
By November, the mural painting was going up and things were looking much more like a theme park entrance. Disney might just pull this off after all (take that, highly inaccurate and wildly speculating Disfan rumor sites of the day).
I also remember how excited folks where to see the Hollywood backdrop lit up for the first time:
And, of course, Disney had already began selling merchandise earlier in the year. They had a little cart set up outside of Disneyland in the esplanade area.
Look at all the stuff! Shirts, buttons, pens, mouse pads, and more! I wonder how much these things would go for on eBay these days?
This is also when the fancy new outdoor picnic area first appeared, with its special lockers.
And, of course, Downtown Disney construction was in full swing.
Also, this was the year the parking structure would open. In May, it was still blocked off:
But in August, it was open for business!
Though there was still work going on. The escalators had opened without any roof, so temporary coverings were added.
I could probably do a few more pages about what was going on with the parking structure. The original traffic routing and layout was quite different than what it is today. Instead, I’ll put in one more photo showing the new parking structure tram loading area, along with construction on one of the other escalators.
There was so much going on. One of the hardest things to remember is that the area surrounding Disneyland used to be quite … rough. Liquor stores, run down convenience stores, crappy motels… These things were what drove Walt Disney to buy so much land in Florida so he could control what was built next to his projects.
But during the Disneyland Resort project, the entire surrounding area got a facelift. I wish I had photos of “before” to share, but I never thought to take pictures of run down motels and scary looking liquor stores.
Previously, I showed you a bit about the state of parking in 1998 as construction on the upcoming Disney’s California Adventure began. Let’s jump ahead to the next year now.
My visit in 1999 began with me parking at the Lion King lot.
A tram would take guests to the “Christmas tree lot” at the front of the park. Notice the copper color scheme on Space Mountain back then, from the “new” New Tomorrowland that had recently opened.
The same lots (Lion King and Pinnochio) were still being used, but this directional sign was new. Notice something added?
A Disneyland Resort Preview Center had been opened to give guests a glimpse of things to come — specifically, Disney’s California Adventure, the Grand Californian hotel, and Downtown Disney.
The Preview Center was set up along the construction wall across from the Disneyland entrance.
It was basically just a tent with some potted plants (er, potted trees?) around it, and lots of scaffolding. Because scaffolding is magic.
I’d love to show you what was inside (such as all the concept art that was on the walls), but there was a strict “no photography allowed” policy — and a cast member enforcing it! (Somewhere I have a picture of the sign that says I can’t take pictures there, but I couldn’t find it at the time of this writing.)
You could, however, climb up to the top of the observation deck and take pictures of the construction progress.
There wasn’t much going on at this point.
They did have a panoramic photo of the view with an artist rendering overplayed on it so you could better picture what they were working on.
Hey, look! This hole is going to become Soarin’ Over California!
This was also when they were building the new cast member costuming building.
And it went up much faster than DCA! Two months later and…
If you parked in the Pinnochio lot, you could see the parking structure construction:
Although the construction made getting in and out of the park a bit inconvenient, it was a very exciting time to be visiting. In just three years the resort would more than double in size with a new theme park, high end resort hotel, and shopping complex.
But, there was still more previewing yet to be done.
Happy Anniversary to Disney’s/Disney California Adventure (February 8, 2001).
Yes, Virginia, there used to be a time when you could park in front of Disneyland and walk to the entrance. The construction of Disney’s California Adventure (today known as Disney California Adventure) changed all that. Let’s take a peek back to the pre-DCA days. We’ll begin in the year 1997.
The Disneyland parking lot was still in use in 1997.
By my visit in May of 1998, it was not. They were using the Pinnochio lot near the Disneyland Hotel, and the Lion King lot (Simba and Timon) at the corner of the old parking lot.
I am not sure which lot this is (Pinnochio, I think?), but the entrance area was far less dramatic than the old Disneyland entrance:
$7 to park? Are you kidding me? Geez, Disney.
This was also the time when the tram would have to wait for traffic and cross a public road!
Of course, this required Disney to staff the “open” tram entrance with a guard.
This was also when the new tram drop-off spot for the Lion King lot opened up. Disfans were calling it the “Christmas tree lot.” It had color-coded light posts (red, blue and yellow) and those odd oversized concrete traffic cones. If you look in the right of this photo, you can barely make out the old Disneyland sign, too:
There was quite a bit of a barren walk from the tram drop-off to the park entrance back then. (It’s just as far today, but you pass ticket booths and such now.)
Construction walls were up across from the entrance to Disneyland. In this photo, you can see the transition between the older, smaller yellow and blue trams, and the new mega trams (called “Tramzilla” by Disfans back then).
But in the “public” area where guests could walk, much nicer construction walls were used, and they had concept art. The tree lined walkway in the left of this next photo is the one I showed in an earlier post.
And that’s what 1998 was like. The former Disneyland parking lot (which I believe was larger than all of Disneyland itself) was turned into a construction zone with only a corner left for parking. The rest of parking was across the way (the side where Downtown Disney extends to the Disneyland Hotel today).
The parking structure was under construction, but it was still two years away from completion.