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Soarin' Over California Attraction at Disney's California Adventure

Updated on March 22, 2013

Soarin' Over California

Soarin' Over California attraction at Disney's California Adventure theme park.
Soarin' Over California attraction at Disney's California Adventure theme park. | Source

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California Adventure

Disney's California Adventure is home to Soarin Over California, a breathtaking attraction that takes you on a flight over the very best of California - from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge to Yosemite's half dome - even across the deck of an aircraft carrier and a ride alongside the Air Force Thunderbirds, filming feats that likely would not be possible in this post-9/11 world. Soarin' Over California is the jewel of this theme park, one of the original attractions that opened with the theme park in 2001.

Fun Fact

When Soarin' Over California first opened, our smiling flight attendant told us to take our shoes off. He said it would totally change our perception of the ride. We followed his advice and it was amazing, like flying in a dream. We lifted our feet over tree-tops and mountains, and tried to dip our toes into the ocean. Now, of course, you aren't allowed to remove your shoes, and they don't like it if you swing your feet. But, put your arms out in front of you and pretend you're flying. As far as I know, that's still allowed and it's a fun thing to do.

Review of Soarin' Over California

The ride is located in the Condor Flats area of the park. If you're entering California Adventure from the main gate, you'll immediately step into 1920s early California. You'll see Buena Vista street, a quaint shop-lined stroll that will take you past the Red Car trolley stop and the Fidler, Fifer and Practical Cafe. Keep to your right and swing past Clarabelle's Ice Cream at the entrance to Condor Flats.

Overhead, the monorail rumbles past. Just past the Taste Pilot's Grill - a very nice burger and ribs restaurant that also offers kid's meals - you'll find Soarin' Over California. At this point, take a good look at the outside line. If the wait time is longer than 30 minutes, get a Fast Pass. You'll find the ticket dispensing machines just to the left of the stand-by line.

Otherwise, if the wait is not too long, join the stand-by line and wait. One of the downsides to this ride is that not much thought was put into the outside line. It's just an old-school standard theme park waiting line with nothing to look at or see, unlike the marvelous waiting line for, say, the Indiana Jones ride in Disneyland park.

The exciting part of the waiting line happens inside. Large photos of famous aviators line the walls along with a short biography of their accomplishments. Older adults will recognize many of the familiar names: Glenn Martin, Allan Lockheed, Howard Hughes, Donald Douglas. Kids will recognize the names Amelia Earhart and the Wright brothers.

But soon it is back to another dull wait, staring at corrugated metals walls and glaring blue and yellow lights. It seems Disney could have put some thought into this, but soon you are met by a cheerful flight assistant who directs you to gate area A, B or C, and from there, either Row 1, 2 or 3.

As you wait in your row, a television screen entices you with "flight instructions" given by an engaging Patrick Warburton. Nearly immediately after Warburton tells you to "enjoy your flight," the doors open, and your flight assistant leads you into the hanger, where your ride awaits.

Youtube Video - Soarin' Over California

Hidden Mickeys

I've seen only two hidden Mickeys in Soarin' Over California. The first one I've seen is in Patrick Warburton's pre-flight rundown, in the form of an "ears" hat worn by the little aviator. The second is the big Mickey during the fireworks at the end. I haven't seen any others, though I have looked for them and have been on the ride more than 50 times. Here are a few other hidden Mickeys that others have reported. Good luck finding them!

  1. A Mickey on the "little aviators" clothing,
  2. Mickey-shaped rocks in the snow during the Tahoe sequence,
  3. Another Mickey-shaped rock formation in the Yosemite sequence,
  4. Mickey on the golfball that looks like it is coming towards you during the PGA sequence,
  5. Mickey on the fieldworker's hat in the orange groves of Camarillo,
  6. Mickey on Main Street during the Disneyland sequence.

Soarin' Over California Ride Highlights

  • Take a look around the hanger as you enter the ride area, as the ride transport itself is something of an engineering marvel. It is made up of three rows of seats, but when the ride starts, the ride transport lifts you up so that each row of seats line up one on top of the other. You are pushed up very close to the movie screen. If you are in row 2 or 3, look up and you can see the dangling feet of passengers above you.
  • When the ride begins, you find yourself soaring among the clouds. A nice breeze blows in your face. Look up, down, to the left and the right, and all you will see are clouds - no screen edges, though you may notice some fuzzies and drop-outs as the movie plays.
  • The clouds soon clear, and you find yourself flying over San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. In an instant, you're cruising above the waters of Redwood Creek, and the scent of pine trees fill your senses.
  • As you fly over the sights of California, you'll notice that the scents change along with the scenery. Pass over the orange trees in Camarillo, and you'll suddenly get the scent of orange blossoms. Pass through trees in Humbolt county or Lake Tahoe, and you'll smell pine and redwoods.
  • Look to your left as you enter Yosemite and try to spot the climbers. They are easy to miss in the granduer of the scenery.
  • As you fly over the PGA golf tournament, look for a golfball that will come flying directly torwards you. Rumor is that there is a hidden Mickey on the ball.
  • Get ready for some major noise as you fly over Anza-Borrego. The Air Force Thunderbirds fly in from your right, leaving a trail of smoke as they pass.

Those are just a few of my favorite ride highlights. Soarin' Over California is a ride for your senses, you feel the wind, vibrations, and every turn. It's an excellent ride for young and old provided that you aren't afraid of heights, loud sounds, or being in a dark hanger. It isn't the best "first ride" for the very young, even if they meet the height requirements. Young riders should be able to understand that it isn't a real flight, and that it is essentially a movie with sound, smell and movement. For the "ready" child, however, it's a wonderful experience to share.

Condor Flats at Disney's California Adventure

Taste Pilot's Grill restaurant, with burgers, ribs, chicken wings and strips.
Taste Pilot's Grill restaurant, with burgers, ribs, chicken wings and strips. | Source
Fastpass area for Soarin' Over California
Fastpass area for Soarin' Over California | Source
Entering Condor Flats from the main gate.
Entering Condor Flats from the main gate. | Source
View from the Soarin' Over California line. The monorail runs above Condor Flats, and the Grand Californian hotel is in the distance. The hotel has its own entrance into the park.
View from the Soarin' Over California line. The monorail runs above Condor Flats, and the Grand Californian hotel is in the distance. The hotel has its own entrance into the park. | Source

Soarin' Over California, Selected Locations

show route and directions
A markerGolden Gate Bridge -
Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA 9412
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B markerRedwood Creek, Humbolt County -
Redwood Creek, California, USA
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C markerNapa Valley, California -
Napa Valley, CA, USA
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D markerLake Tahoe, California -
Lake Tahoe, United States
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E markerYosemite, California -
Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Village, CA 95389, USA
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F markerPalm Springs, California -
Palm Springs, CA, USA
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G markerAnza-Borrego State Park, California -
Anza-Borrego State Park, 200 Palm Canyon Dr, Borrego Springs, CA 92004, USA
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H markerMalibu, California -
Malibu, CA, USA
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I markerSan Diego, CA -
San Diego, CA, USA
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J markerDisneyland, CA -
Disneyland, Anaheim, CA 92802, USA
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