Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Disneyland Review: Soarin' Over California

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: The thrill of gliding with none of the danger
Cons: Very long line
The Bottom Line:
A thrilling glide ride
Beautiful California
Pure Disney magic

You Are Cleared to Soar Over California

As big a Disney fan as I am, I will quickly admit that California Adventure, the second park at the Disneyland Resort, could use some improvement.  The one ride that was a huge hit from day one is Soarin' Over California.  It's so popular that they copied it exactly at EPCOT in Florida.

The ride is located in the Condor Flats region of the park, just to the right of the main entrance.  From the outside, it looks like a giant airplane hanger.  The inside is pure magic.

You are seated in three rows of hanging seats.  After buckling up and storing your bags beneath you (or near the support poles), the seats rise off the floor and bring you closer to the giant screen (we're talking IMAX size or bigger).  The movie proceeds to take you from the Golden Gate Bridge to a redwood forest, orange grove, ski slope, Yosemite, Napa Valley, Malibu, downtown LA, and Disneyland.

The magic of the ride is in the motion.  As you watch the screen, the seats tip and move to give you the feeling of hang gliding over these locations.  There is a breeze blowing on you at all times that gets stronger when you are moving faster.  Finally, they do include two mild scents, but these smell very artificial to me.

They warn you before the ride that this is not for those who are afraid of heights.  I am afraid, but not nearly as afraid as my mom.  This is her favorite ride at either park.  The last time we were there, we went on it 4 times and would have done more if time had let us.  The restraints really do make you feel safe.  You'd have to be trying to fall out.  There is a 40 inch height limit, and smaller kids have to use a second restraint.

The people in the first row have an unobstructed view as they are pulled highest when the ride starts.  Rows two and three are pulled forward and up.  They have a mostly unobstructed view, but you can see the feet of the row in front of you dangling at the top of the screen.  Frankly, it is slightly annoying but the screen is so big you can see plenty of it without the feet in the way.

To me, the biggest issue is the wait time.  This is the most popular ride in the park.  If you arrive at opening, the wait will be short.  By mid afternoon, it is an hour or more.  Fast Pass goes quickly.  Most of the line wanders around outside with nothing to look at.  Once you enter the hanger, there are exhibits on the history of aviation, but the line moves too quickly to read them all.

But Soarin' Over California is absolutely worth the long wait.  I always see nothing but smiles leaving the ride.

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