A Cool (Seg)Way to see Disney California Adventure

| August 28, 2010

For several years the Disneyland Resort has offered a Segway tour called “Cruzin’ Disney’s California Adventure Park“. We recently experienced this tour and cruised through the park early in the morning before guests arrived. We had a ton of fun and would recommend it to anyone old enough (18+, or 16-17 with parents) who has a desire to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of this California theme park.

As everyone knows, Segways have not succeeded in significantly penetrating the marketplace of personal transportation, so a clever marketing person at the Segway company decided to start marketing to tourist attractions. I have seen tourists on Segways in Washington, D.C., in Cozumel, Mexico, and I even considered signing up for a Segway tour around Pisa and the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.

My first personal experience with Segways was briefly at Epcot’s Innoventions a couple years ago. In the summer of 2008, my family and I toured Gettysburg National Park in Pennsylvania. While there we went on a Segway tour of Gettysburg offered by a local company.

After three hours on Segways at Gettysburg we became proficient and enthused about these machines. I thought the “Cruzin’ Disney’s California Adventure Park” tour would be a fun departure from the rides and shows that we normally focus on. So I signed us up 30 days in advance and everyone was excited – except for my youngest son who is 14. Disney limits the tour to 16-year-olds and above. With the tour starting at 7:15 am, the youngest got the consolation prize of a sleep-in morning. His three hours of Segway experience at Gettysburg when he was 12 fell on deaf ears when I asked Disney about exceptions to their age limit.

My wife and two of my sons (17 and 16) took the tour with me. As instructed we wore closed-toed shoes and did not bring any bags with us (you can bring bags with you, just not on the Segways – so it is better not to bring them). They wanted us to show up a few minutes before 7:15 am at the entrance to Disney California Adventure (DCA).

Year round DCA opens officially at 10 am and unofficially at 9:30 am with a single ride running – Soarin’ Over California. This summer, Fastpasses for the new World of Color were issued starting at 9:30 as well (with Disney hotel guests allowed into DCA at 9 am for World of Color Fastpasses). Before 10 am the area of the park open to guests is limited. Until the guests show up inside DCA the Segway tour gets free run of the park – which is a big part of the fun.

The day of our tour we arrived at Disney security at 7:05 am. It was a sunny Wednesday morning in late July – and not a Magic Morning at the Disneyland park. Hence Disneyland was scheduled to open at 8 am and security was not yet allowing people through. We told security we were there for the Segway tour and they knew all about it. They let us through and told us where to go.

Our guide Tyler met us outside the park entrance near the “C” letter in California. We left our room at the Grand Californian Hotel that morning through the east stairwell and did not go through the lobby – which means we did not have time to get any coffee. So I asked Tyler right away if they had coffee inside so my wife could relax and know she would get her morning brew shortly. Tyler confirmed coffee was waiting for us.

Tyler took us in through a door near guest services and into a small room with a small continental breakfast of juice, muffins, fruit and, of course, coffee. While munching on the breakfast we filled out legal waiver forms and then watched a short video about Segways. There were four others in our tour that morning: Linda and Paul from Northern California and two young ladies from Japan who spoke little or no English. Along with Tyler we had another Disney tour guide who spoke Japanese and translated.

I would love to show you some photos of the training area and rest of the tour but I don’t have any. Tyler was very clear that we were not allowed to take photos. He said there were certain areas where we could take photos and he would let us know.

We grabbed some helmets and then walked from the office out into DCA and over to Condor Flats near the entrance of Soarin’ Over California – the Segway training area – where our Segways were gassed up (errrr, charged up) and waiting.

Tyler asked about our previous Segway experience and we told him about Gettysburg. He soon got to see for himself that we four were Segway proficient. Nevertheless, he asked us to perform all of the training moves which included traversing in and out of some poles and up and down the ramp where the Soarin’ ride exits. None of the other four in our tour group had ridden Segways before.

After everyone was comfortable, we were off. I am not sure of the top speed of Segways, but I do remember at Gettysburg we rode them on the roads with cars and were considered a vehicle – not a pedestrian. Since we had so much ground to cover at Gettysburg our Segway speed was limited to 12 miles per hour (19 km/h).

At DCA Tyler had our Segways configured to “turtle mode” which topped out at a modest 6 miles per hour (10 km/h). What Tyler did not realize was that my 16-year-old son’s Segway turtle mode speed control was not set properly – so whenever Tyler was not looking very closely my son hung towards the back of the group and zipped around at high speed. Once we got going the 6 mph limit did not seem overly restricting to me.

After training it was close to 8 am. As instructed, we followed Tyler single file and made our way through Condor Flats (see map) and up past Grizzly River Run and then to Paradise Pier. Every few minutes Tyler would stop and we would gather around while still mounted on our Segways and he would explain some detail about DCA – including pointing out several hidden Mickeys around the park. Tyler talked liberally about all the new changes coming to DCA and which parts were planned for Yesterland (awaiting demolition) and what new things were going to be built.

We made our way over to the World of Color viewing area and down the ramps there to the Paradise Park water play area. Tyler gave us a rundown of World of Color which was helpful for us in particular because we had reservations at Ariel’s Grotto later that day and planned to see the 9 pm World of Color show that night. Tyler was a big Disney fan in addition to being an employee, and he had seen World of Color 15 times. He explained his favorite viewing spot was from the bridge that crosses over to Ariel’s Grotto.

We circled Paradise Pier Lagoon counter-clockwise and took a turn into a bug’s land. Once we got there, Tyler took us under the only four-leaf clover in the area. From there we took a backstage shortcut over to Hollywood Pictures Backlot presumably because guests were now in the front part of the park for World of Color Fastpasses. At the end of the street there we had photos taken by a Disney photographer – and Tyler volunteered to take all of our photos with our own cameras as well.

Finally, we had five minutes for some free Segway time out in front of the Monster’s Inc ride. During this time the photos were printed out and we were all given a complimentary photo and unique pin only given to those who go on the tour. I am not a Disney pin collector but this pin is kind of cool because the Segway moves across the pin.

By this time it was 10 am and regular guests were streaming in the DCA entrance. Going on the Segway tour does not require you to have park admission that day, so Tyler offered to escort us out of DCA or to scan our park tickets for us – saving us the trouble of exiting DCA and then re-entering through the turnstiles if we wanted to stay in DCA that morning. We elected to get our tickets scanned.

All in all, we thought the Cruzin’ Disney’s California Adventure Park was a hoot. Touring around DCA before opening was more fun than I expected. It felt like and was a special experience. You can get a 20% discount off the current $99 price with Deluxe or Premium Annual Passes, with a Disney VISA card and with AAA. I highly recommend the Cruzin’ Disney’s California Adventure Park tour and hope you will as well!


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Category: Disneyland

About the Author ()

I live in Colorado and have four sons in college and high school. By day I am a mechanical engineer. I have visited the Disney resorts in Paris and Tokyo. I grew up near Disneyland and started going there before I can remember.
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