(Review and Photo Credit: Ember)
California Screamin’ is quite a landmark. The large lift hill (and obvious giant Mickey Mouse-head silhouette behind the loop) can be seen from most places in Disney’s California Adventure— and because this happens to be one of the longest roller coasters in existence (with a track length of 1.15 miles!), you also have the opportunity to walk under much of its structure while exploring (part of it even encircles the Maliboomer, another California Adventure attraction).
As you head over towards its large frame, one way you can choose to come at it is by crossing a lake over a bridge into ‘Paradise Pier’. Here, you’re able to witness the very odd-looking start of the ride. For people who are not acquainted with the ride or its technology, it’s even more puzzling: The train leaves the station, moves to a long, flat, straight section of track over the lake, and then completely stops! (: A few years ago there was no warning for what happens next— bringing a deliciously startling element of surprise to the launch. Now, unfortunately, they have a quick countdown. ) The track that the train is stopped on contains a Linear Induction Motor (LIM) launch system, a way to electromagnetically propel coasters. It’s great technology.
So, after you’ve wound around the line and reached the double-tracked loading platform, settled into your seat (any of the rows on this ride are good, although if you can finagle yourself into the back row you should), and the shoulder harness is down, you’re ready to ride one of my favorite steel coasters (and one of my favorite coasters, period).
The train winds to the left for a few feet, then stops, and you stare down that long straightaway to the first hill. [: The water does lap at the track here, and depending on its wave height and where you’re sitting, it may give you a bit of a splash; however, having been on this ride literally too many times to count, I believe that only happened to me once.] Then the LIM’s begin to hum and you hear the countdown…
…And the train leaps forward from zero to 55mph, accelerating fast and powerfully. Before you really know it, you’re at the base of the first hill; soaring up and over, you feel utterly weightless for just a tiny split-second, but the speed takes over again immediately. Diving down, you bank up to the right, make a tight U-turn, then bank to the left. The train then speeds up the tall lift hill, climbing and slowing to a near stop before engaging the chain about halfway up. It’s a fast chain, and there’s not very far to go, so look to your left in the time that you have— the bird’s-eye view of the park is awesome.
Soon the front car tips over the edge, and that 108-foot plunge is cleared so fast that it almost feels shorter than the first drop. You tip back up and then around a big, banked U-turn— and now the Vertical Loop is straight ahead! Dipping down and then soaring up and around the smooth loop, you curve up onto a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it platform before diving down into the third drop… which is really a tightly right-banked U-turn that curves up as it reverses your direction. You then have a pause of a second or two as the train rides over another platform, followed by a few last, fun bouts of airtime with several great bunny-hops. And for the finale, the train dives, circles around twice in a fast horizontal spiral, and comes to a stop.
Oh, and a bonus? The great music that plays during your ride is perfectly synchronized to every turn, drop, and lift!
Disney’s California Screamin’ is one of the classic steel coasters of our time, and I highly recommend it.