Road Journals Blog—If you have ever wondered what it would be like to step into your favorite animated movie, and it happened to be Cars, it’s safe to say you struck oil at the newest addition to California Adventure Park in Disneyland.
Cars Land opened to the public on June 15, but I was invited to preview Tow Mater  and the gang’s new stomping grounds earlier that week. Set against the backdrop of a hand-carved Ornament Valley mountain range, the freshly paved main street of Radiator Springs (I wonder if Lightning McQueen helped the Imagineers?) is lined with life-size replicas of the beloved businesses from the film.
Sarge’s Surplus Hut, Radiator Springs Curios, and Ramone’s House of Body Art sell the expected Cars souvenirs, along with Cars Land postcards and some kitschy Route 66–inspired gifts such as a shelf shaped like a Cadillac fin. I suggest taking home the squishy “Luigi’s Flying Tire” hat. If people attended the Piston Cup championship, this doodad would be the equivalent to the foam finger.
The three rides offer something for all ages. The big-ticket draw is Radiator Springs Racers, which reportedly had a wait of three to four hours on opening day. Jump in a sports car for a scenic drive on a highway that takes you through the Cars story narrated by an impressive cast of animatronic characters. Doc Hudson, a curmudgeonly police vehicle, hints that you’re in for a wild ride when he says, “Slow down! Yer not racin’ yet!” Be prepared for a veil of mist that smells like fresh car paint when you pass through Ramone’s body shop. Before you know it, you’re zooming along a racetrack, pitted against other riders, at nearly 50 mph.
Little ones (as small as toddlers) will especially enjoy Luigi’s Flying Tires . Grab a humongous beach ball—you get to toss it at other riders—and hop into an oversized Fettuccini-brand tire. You’ll glide across a large area, gently bumping into other tires along the way. An important tip: Be sure everyone in your group leans in the direction you want to go to get the most out of your ride. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, similar to a scrambler ride at a county fair, whips you and other guests around in baby tractors.
After the thrills, you can refuel with healthy snacks under the tie-dyed tent of Fillmore’s Taste-In; finger-licking-good treats such as churros and the chili “cone” queso sold out of traffic cone–shaped wigwams over at the Cozy Cone Motel; and old-fashioned comfort food including a cheddar-apple pie at Flo’s V8 Café.
For Disneyland fans and crew, Cars Land is already making history. What’s your favorite memory from the Happiest Place on Earth?
This blog post was first published in June 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.