Eric Lassiter, a freelance reporter, took a hard-hat tour of
Disney's California Adventure theme park last month.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Disneyland, the venerable if sometimes prim
theme park carved out of orange and walnut groves 45 years ago, is
about to find itself with a vivacious and rambunctious sibling.
Rising up from where the main parking lot of Disneyland used to
be is Disney's California Adventure, the centerpiece of a $1.4
billion expansion of the Disney complex in Anaheim.
The new 55-acre theme park, along with a handsome new hotel and
the addition of the Downtown Disney entertainment complex, marks a
considerable effort to add to Disney's presence in Southern
Although Disneyland continues to be a success by most measures,
the new projects will undoubtedly infuse the existing park with a
new energy and bring a more adventurous and sophisticated feel to
The projects also are designed to broaden the resort's
traditional appeal beyond families with young children.
The new park's goal is to give "guests a taste of the fun,
diversity and lifestyle found only in California," according to
Considerable attention has been given to both the broad vision
and the small details.
Park designers clearly were encouraged to be fun and quirky; one
gets the impression that the designers had active imaginations and
reasonably generous budgets.
The new park, with a few exceptions, offers new rides,
restaurants and other elements that are not found at Disney World.
And although many parts of the park should appeal to all age
groups, designers worked at creating elements that appeal
specifically to young children, teen-agers or adults.
Guests entering either Disneyland or California Adventure will
first make their way via monorail, trams or buses to a broad plaza.
The north side of the plaza offers entry to Disneyland, while the
south side leads to California Adventure, its entrance framed by
20-foot-high letters spelling out California and a stylized Golden
A sampling of what lies beyond follows:Hollywood Pictures Backlot celebrates moviemaking and offers an
ideal that is impossible to find in the real Hollywood.
enter through grand studio gates, topped with a gigantic pair of
sitting elephants. Straight ahead at the end of the street and
dominating this portion of the park is a towering outdoor mural
featuring the bluest sky and fluffiest clouds ever found on a
In between is a quarter-mile street featuring the facades of
some of Los Angeles' most architecturally distinct buildings,
including the art-deco Wiltern Theatre Building, the streamlined
moderne May Co. Building and the post-modern Disney Imagineering
Among the attractions housed inside these facades will be Jim
Henson's Muppet Vision 3-D, a 2,000-seat theater for stage
productions, and Disney Animation, where guests explore the art of
There also will be the ABC Soap Opera Bistro, a restaurant that
seats guests in the middle of replicas of the sets of several ABC
Considerable attention was focused on the details, and the
restaurant looks to be a fun experience.Paradise Pier will re-create the California beachfront
amusement centers popular in the early 20th century and promises to
have a carnival-like atmosphere, complete with many bright lights
and amusement park noises.
One of its main draws will be California Screamin', a
6,000-foot-long steel coaster disguised as a white wooden coaster,
which features a loop inside Mickey Mouse's head.
Also, the Sun Wheel, a huge Ferris wheel, is expected to be very
popular. Most individual carriages are on tracks that slide toward
the center of the wheel as it rotates.
There also will be a variety of other rides, some aimed at the
park's youngest visitors.The Golden State section of the park features six distinct
districts and is highlighted by a bear-shaped "mountain" called
One ride in this part of the park may well be the high point of
a visit for many: Condor Flats will mark California's aviation
heritage by presenting the illusion of flying.
Sets of movable seats will rise up and place guests inside a
white, half-spherical movie screen that has a diameter of about 40
Guests will be able to look down below their feet, above their
heads, to either side and forward to view a film of California from
Because it creates the illusion of motion and free flight, the
ride probably won't be suitable for very young children.
Another major draw of this part of the park will be Grizzly
River Run, a white-water rafting ride that twirls guests 360
degrees as they drop down two waterfalls.
Several attractions will celebrate the state's agricultural
heritage, including a walk-through area, where citrus, walnuts,
avocados and artichokes grow, and "It's Tough to Be a Bug," a
comical 3-D presentation.
There also will be a Pacific Wharf district giving guests a
first-hand look at sourdough bread and tortillas being made.
In partnership with Robert Mondavi Wines, this area of the park
will feature a mini-winery complete with a small vineyard, a
wine-tasting area and a restaurant for fine dining.Occupying several acres adjacent to the new theme park is
Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, an upscale property evocative of
the Craftsman architectural style of early 20th century
The centerpiece of the 750-room hotel -- the first to be
designed and built by Disney on the West Coast -- will be a
spacious and dramatic six-story lobby with soaring wooden beams and
a huge fireplace.
The hotel will be one of the most distinctive in Southern
California and will provide a sharp contrast to the bland
convention and roadside properties long associated with
While the dominant architectural look is a modified, updated
arts-and-crafts style, the extravagant use of beautiful wood
finishes and large hardwood beams and the cultivation of young
redwoods around the hotel are reminiscent of some of the best
elements of grand hotels found in some national parks in the West,
such as the Ahwahnee in Yosemite, Calif.
The hotel will have 38 suites, at least two of which are
suitable for hospitality and have a patio or balcony.
The size of standard guest rooms will be about 360 square
The hotel will have fine and casual dining and an indoor-outdoor
space overlooking two swimming pools that will double as a daytime
coffee house and as an evening lounge.
It also will have a licensed day-care facility, the only one in
the Disney complex.
In addition to being a few steps from Downtown Disney and the
theme parks, the hotel will have its own public street entrance and
It also will have 20,000 square feet of technically advanced
meeting space, including a ballroom, breakout rooms, a boardroom, a
catering kitchen and a separate entrance from that of the main
Winter season rates for a two-night package start at about $400
per person, double.Downtown Disney echoes the look and feel of the similarly named
entertainment complex at Disney World.
Connecting Disneyland, California Adventure and three Disney
hotels, it will feature a variety of restaurant, entertainment and
Tenants will include AMC 12 Theaters, House of Blues, La Brea
Bakery (a popular Los Angeles-area establishment), Naples
Ristorante & Pizzeria, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen and
A Latin-theme dining and entertainment club called Y Arriba! Y
Arriba!, the Catal Restaurant and Uva Bar and ESPN Zone also will
occupy retail space.
'A resort destination'
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Clients who want to get the most out of the
new Disney's California Adventure park and Disneyland itself should
plan at least a three-day visit, a Disney official recommended.
The opening of California Adventure and the Downtown Disney
dining-entertainment district "really rounds out the vacation
options that we have to offer," said Claire Bilby, Disneyland's
vice president of sales and travel operations. "We are becoming a
full-scale resort destination, with a wide variety of daytime and
nighttime entertainment, dining and lodging options."
The entire resort will be a walking destination, Bilby noted;
guests staying at Disney or other nearby hotels will not need to
use a car during their time spent in Anaheim.
At least a day's visit will be needed to fully appreciate the
new 55-acre park, she noted, while new attractions at neighboring
Disneyland, notably the totally revamped Tomorrowland, are worth
Bilby said that Disney officials will concentrate on marketing
the resort as a self-contained, three- to four-day getaway to
clients from the western U.S.
For those coming from farther away, she said, a week's trip
could work well, with two or three days spent at Disney theme parks
and the remaining time spent exploring other Southern California
attractions while using Anaheim as a central base.
Bilby said that Disney will focus on marketing California
Adventure, Downtown Disney and the new Disney's Grand Californian
Hotel to agents through the end of the year.
The Walt Disney Travel Co. recently released its 2001 California
brochure to agents.
For more details, call (800) 854-3104 or visit Disney's
agent-only Web site, www.disneytravelagents.com.