Yesterland

Strolling through
Disney California Adventure
 
February 2001
Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Allen Huffman, February 2001

Has it really been 20 years already? Well, almost. The grand opening of Disney’s (now Disney) California Adventure was February 8, 2001.

Let’s visit the park during its opening month through historical photos.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, February 5, 2021


It’s February 2001 at Disney’s California Adventure. Welcome to the newest Disney park. It’s been less than three years since Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened April 22, 1998. Tokyo Disney Sea will open later this year on September 9, 2001, with Walt Disney Studios Paris coming soon after on March 16, 2002. Disney is on a roll opening new parks.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

C A L I F O R N I A, here I come!

You enter the park through a giant postcard.

When Disneyland Park opened in 1955, it had five lands, including Main Street, U.S.A. Disney’s California Adventure of 2001 has just four lands:

  • Sunshine Plaza
  • Golden State
  • Paradise Pier
  • Hollywood Pictures Backlot

But it’s not that simple. One of the lands, Golden State, is divided into six mini-lands, called districts:

  • Grizzly Peak Recreation Area
  • Bountiful Valley Farm
  • Pacific Wharf
  • Condor Flats
  • The Bay Area
  • Golden Vine Winery

The whole park is supposed to be about California, the state that’s nicknamed the Golden State. Yet three lands are separate from Golden State, the land.

Let’s take a stroll to all the lands and districts.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

California Zephyr, now leaving from Information Station

Your first land is Sunshine Plaza. The highlight here is the California Zephyr. Even though the train doesn’t move and the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego has been reduced to an information kiosk, it may still be the most charming feature of the land.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

Grizzly Peak Recreation Area

We begin our visit to the six districts of Golden State with the Grizzly Peak Recreation Area. Experience the grandeur of California’s mountains and the deliciousness of California’s churros.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

Bountiful Valley Farm, Presented by Caterpillar

Our next district is Bountiful Valley Farm. Here, you can watch fruits and vegetables grow, admire Caterpillar tractors, and let your kids get drenched in a water play area.

The big attraction here is It’s Tough to Be a Bug, a 3D movie that’s been playing at Disney’s Animal Kingdom since the park opened in 1998.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

San Andreas Shakes and Fresh Fruit at Bountiful Valley Farm

Throughout the park, attractions and eateries are named after places in California. Puns are everywhere. If San Andreas Shakes makes you think of earthquakes, that’s intentional. Signs promote the shakes as delicious to a fault.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Allen Huffman, February 2001

Cocina Cucamonga (where Lucky Fortune Cookery is now)

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

Lucky Fortune Cookery (where Cocina Cucamonga is now)

Our next Golden State district is Pacific Wharf. At an outdoor seating patio, a small, but popular, Mexican restaurant and a large, but less popular Asian restaurant face each other. How do you suppose the park could deal with these disproportions?

We’re halfway through the districts of Golden State.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

Condor Flats

You might have seen pictures of the wide-open high desert airfields of California where aviation history was made. Condor Flats is supposed to represent such an airfield, but, to tell the truth, this cramped district is completely unconvincing. It feels more like a mountain valley.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Allen Huffman, February 2001

Soarin’ Over California

The good news about Condor Flats is that it’s home to the park’s breakout star attraction, Soarin’ Over California. The outside is a hangar for large aircraft, but the inside simulates hang-gliding—which has nothing to do with large aircraft. Oh well. Doesn’t matter. The attraction is exhilarating, highly repeatable (even though it’s a film), and shows off California brilliantly.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

Golden Dreams

We’re now at the Bay Area district, which is San Francisco without hills. Here, a reduced-size replica of the Palace of Fine Arts serves as the landmark entrance to Golden Dreams. You’ll experience scenes of the history of California presented by Whoopi Goldberg as Queen Califia. The 70mm movie is grand and well worth seeing—once.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

Golden Vine Winery

Back in the Bay Area district, the Dreams were Golden. Here in our final Golden State district, the Vine Winery is Golden.

At the Golden Vine Winery district, Robert Mondavi Corporation operates an actual vineyard, several wine tasting bars, wine tours, reserve tasting opportunities, the Wine Country Market delicatessen and wine shop, the Vineyard Room fine dining restaurant, and the Seasons of the Vine movie theater.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

Paradise Pier skyline, with the Maliboomer as its highest point

That takes care of Golden State. Now we’re at our third land, Paradise Pier, dedicated to the ”Golden Age” of amusement parks. From the inconsistent theming, it’s hard to tell when that was.

Paradise Pier wraps around all of Paradise Bay, except directly in front of the Bay Area district. So it’s less of a pier and more of a shore.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

Paradise Pier entrance past Wolfgang Puck’s Avalon Cove fine dining restaurant

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

The wooden planks and garish stalls of the amusement pier

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Allen Huffman, February 2001

Bee body seats of the Orange Stinger

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

Mulholland Madness, the wild mouse coaster behind the big map

There’s one more land—Hollywood Studios Backlot. When you first step onto the land’s Hollywood Blvd., it seem you’re on a city street. But as you head further, you’ll discover it’s all just a movie backlot, with fake facades, soundstages, and scattered moviemaking junk.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Allen Huffman, February 2001

Kuzco and Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove on Hollywood Blvd.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

Steps in Time, the first show at the Hyperion Theater

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

Hollywood & Dine, a food court honoring classic Los Angeles restaurants

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

A crashed spacecraft at Muppet*Vision 3D

In an attempt to bring movie studio authenticity to this land, there are barrier sawhorses and all sorts of messy studio artifacts.

We’ve now scrolled through the lands of California Adventure. It’ time for a parade whose route includes all of them.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Allen Huffman, February 2001

California deity Eureka as a sun-worshiping beach beauty

Eureka! - The California Adventure Parade is packed with inventive elements—and is completely devoid of Disney characters.

Strolling through Disney California Adventure, February 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, February 2001

Mickey and Minnie on vacation

Speaking of Disney characters, they’re not entirely absent from this park. You won’t find Mickey in his red pants or Minnie in her polka dot dress. Those are their work clothes. Here at Disney’s California Adventure in February 2001, they’re on vacation.


When Disney California Adventure reopens after the COVID-19 shutdown and then unveils its newest land, there will be eight lands—and no districts:

  • Buena Vista Street
  • Hollywood Land
  • Cars Land
  • Grizzly Peak
  • Pacific Wharf
  • Pixar Pier
  • Paradise Gardens Park
  • Avengers Campus

All Disney parks change substantially during their first 20 years, but, arguably, Disney California Adventure changed more than any of the others. Pieces of the park from 2001 have survived, but even those pieces have been largely re-imagined.

Disney California Adventure has become an outstanding Disney park.


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Updated February 8, 2021