Perhaps you have vacation time saved up and the kids or grandchildren have winter break and you’re looking for something fun to do. Maybe you’re already starting to plan your summer-time adventures. Regardless, let me tell you about a place that accommodates family time and your gearhead desires.
This magical place was inspired by an animated comedy adventure movie with the car characters voiced by the likes of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Larry the Cable Guy, and even Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mario Andretti, Michael Schumacher, and Jay Leno. It was released in 2006 by Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures. If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m talking about the movie Cars.
Cars had a sequel which debuted in 2011 and the franchise inspired a 12-acre themed area of Disney’s California Adventure Park — Cars Land — which opened in 2012.
Cars Land is the real-life version of Radiator Springs, the fictional town off of Route 66 where most of the movie Cars takes place. As you walk the streets of Radiator Springs, you will appreciate the realistic surroundings undeniably inspired by Route 66 near the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park which spans the border between Arizona and Utah. It has everything – cactus, massive sandstone monuments — and perfectly achieves that vintage old ghost town vibe so prominent along historic Route 66.
You will also feel completely emerged in the beloved movie as you recognize key establishments from the movie, such as the Cozy Cone Motel, Flo’s V8 Café, Ramone’s House of Body Art, Sarge’s Surplus Hut, and you’ll even squeal with excitement as you see the movie’s life-size characters, Tow-Mater, Lightning McQueen, and others driving down the road or stopped taking photos with fans.
Radiator Springs contains three rides, restaurants, and some shops.
The most popular is the Radiator Springs Racers ride. The attraction puts guests in a six-person car which takes them through the winding roads outside Radiator Springs and the popular waterfall scene from the movie where Lightning McQueen and Sally had a moment. The car then enters the mountain where it takes a wild ride past some of the movie characters, ending up inside Radiator Springs where the car either goes to see Luigi or Ramone before entering a race against another set of passengers in another car.
The race begins as both cars accelerate and go through hairpin turns with step banks, ending with a randomized race result as guests finish the ride with a pass through the Tail Light Caverns.
For those not interesting in adrenalin-pumping races, Cars Land offers two other rides — Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, a ride in a trailers attached to tractors, and Luigi’s Flying Tires, where guests ride around in hovering tires (think bumper cars on an air hockey table).
While Cars Land is set in a facet of Disney Land, the setting provides something for everyone, including those nostalgic for classic Route 66.
Photography by Nicole James