With appearances from Lightning McQueen, Mack, Mater and Luigi, the Cars-themed Radiator Springs Racers is one of the most popular rides at Disney California Adventure. It’s such a thrill racing through Ornament Valley and Radiator Springs and we’re huge fans of the ride!
We wanted to share our guide to Radiator Springs Racers including our favourite strategies for short wait times and how to make the most of rope drop to get to the top of the line for Radiator Springs Racers!
Radiator Springs Racers
Location: Cars Land, Disney California Adventure
Individual Lightening Lane: yes, typically $15 to $20 per guest
Minimum height requirement: 40″/102 cm
Riders board Cars branded convertibles before taking a scenic drive through Ornament Valley. Expect some familiar faces (or cars!) as you arrive in Radiator Springs with Lightning McQueen, Mack, Mater, Luigi, Doc Hudson, Sally and Ramone all making appearances. The ride finale is a road race against another set of riders with the vehicles reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour!
Radiator Springs Racers rope drop tip: up to 6 passengers can ride in each car with the 2 rows of seats each fitting 3 riders. Our 3 year old has been able to ride Radiator springs since she was around 3.5 years old.
How can I ride Radiator Springs Racers?
There are 5 options for riding Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure:
- Standby Line: riders can wait in the standby line for Radiator Springs Racers. The line typically exceeds 60 minutes a few minutes after the park opens and can reach 90 minutes or even 2 hours at peak times. If you wait until just before closing you might grab a spot in less than an hour.
- Single Rider Line: riders aged 7 and over can ride alone through the Single Rider queue. This can significantly cut the wait time but it can still take 45 minutes at peak times
- Individual Lightening Lane: Radiator Springs Racers is the only ride in California Adventure with an Individual Lightening Lane. It typically costs $15 to $20 per guest depending on the day. We purchased one set of Individual Lightening Lanes and walked onto the ride when the standby line was over 90 minutes.
- Standby Line at rope drop: with a successful rope drop you can ride Radiator Springs Racers with a short wait time. We’ve done it many times and always manage to ride together with a 10 to 30-minute wait time – I’ve included more detail on this later in the article!
- Early Entry and rope drop: if you are staying at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels you have access to 7 rides at Disney California Springs 30 minutes before the park opens. Radiator Springs Racers isn’t open during this period but you can join its line any time before rope drop and you will only wait in line a few minutes e.g. if the Disney California Springs opens at 8am then you can use the first 25 minutes of Early Entry to enjoy rides like WebSlinger or Guardians of the Galaxy and then join the Radiator Springs Racer queue by 7.59am. This puts you ahead of the rope drop queue and you will be able to ride within minutes of the park opening!
Radiator Springs Racer is not eligible for Genie+.
Rider Switch on Radiator Springs Racers
If you have younger kids who don’t make the height requirements for Radiator Springs Racers then remember you can do a Rider Switch with the supervising adult. This means they can ride again (usually with up to 2 kids as Radiator Springs seats 3 in a row).
To ride switch on Radiator Springs Racers let the Cast Member know at the entrance. They will give you a rider switch lanyard which you present to another Cast Member close to the top of the queue. The second Cast Member will scan your tickets and add a rider switch pass to your ‘My Day’ board in your Disneyland app. The supervising adult can then use this to enter the Lightening Lane and ride Radiator Springs Racers.
Radiator Springs Racers rope drop tip: Rider Switch allows one adult to queue and ride along with any kids who are riding. They then switch with the other adult who is supervising the non riding kids and they are granted access to the Lightening Lane so they don’t have to queue again.
Radiator Springs Racers Rope Drop Guide
Radiator Springs Racers is one of the most popular attractions in DCA and one of our rope drop favorites. Rope Drop is the only real opportunity to ride Radiator Springs without a huge queue or having to pay for a Lightening Lane entry.
First of all, let’s cover how rope drop works at Disney California Adventure.
What is Rope Drop?
If you are a first-time visitor to Disney you might be wondering what rope drop actually is. It is really just a special name for Disney opening time and the process by which guests enter the park at that time!
Disney typically allows guests to make their way through some of the park in advance of opening time so they have fast access to the rides. So if the park opens at 8am and you arrive in advance of this, you will have the chance to pass through security and the ticket entrance and be in the main thoroughfare of the park ready to make your way to the rides by the time the park opens.
The cast members often section of the park with a rope across this area and, at park opening time, the rope is dropped – hence the name rope drop!
Where is the Radiator Springs Racer Rope Drop in Disney California Adventure?
The rope drop locations can vary but there is a regular rope drop location for Radiator Springs Racers along Performance Corridor. Based on our 2023 rope drop experiences at Disney California Adventure, typically you will find the rope drop locations at:
- Hollywood Land: located at the end of Hollywood Boulevard, access to Guardians of the Galaxy and Monster Inc
- Cars Land/Avengers Campus: located halfway down Performance Corridor, access to WebSlingers and Radiator Springs Racers
- Soarin’ Around the World: located just off Carthay Circle, access to Soarin’ Around the World.
What time do I need to arrive for Radiator Springs Rope Drop at Disney California Adventure?
To cut the wait time for Radiator Springs Racer you will need to be close to the front of the rope drop line. We recommend arriving at the Disneyland main entrance at least one hour prior to park opening – so for an 8am park opening you will want to arrive at the entrance at 7am. It might seem excessive but there are three stages to rope drop:
- Security: all guests need to pass through security before entering the park. If you are staying offsite then you will pass through security off Harbor Boulevard at the main entrance to the park. We’ve always found security to be really efficient at this entrance and it’s taken us less than 15 minutes to pass through pre rope drop – it tends to take longer on busy days like weekends and public holidays.
- Park entrance: after you pass through security you will then make your way to the Disney California Adventure entrance. The first guests are usually scanned in about 40 minutes prior to the park opening. These queues move more slowly, in part because photos have to be taken of guests on the first day of using their ticket. We try to allow 20 minutes for park entry.
- Rope Drop: once you are scanned in you will then walk to your rope drop location along Performance Corridor. Allow another 5 to 10 minutes to find your rope drop depending on your familiarity with the park layout – you can check with Cast Members if you are the correct location.
How do I successfully rope drop Radiator Springs Racer?
Radiator Springs Racers is a super popular ride and, even at rope drop, the shorter lines only last for a short time. If you want to rope drop Radiator Springs successfully and kept your wait time down, then here’s what you need to do:
- arrive at security at least 60 minutes before the park opens to make sure you are close to the front of the line when the park opens.
- go directly to the Radiator Springs rope drop entry point on Performance Corridor
- make your way straight to the line for Radiator Springs when the rope drops. The cast members direct guests to Cars Land and make sure that there is no running or stepping out of line! There isn’t really much scope for skipping people as everyone is walking in the same direction on the same section of the path. It’s very orderly!
- if you have kids who are in strollers and they are riding Radiator Springs then you need to be ready to park the buggy, lift them out and get in line without breaking stride – this might sound dramatic but hundreds of people are filing towards Radiator Springs so if you spend 5 minutes sorting out kids then you’ve likely added half an hour to your wait time! We do it with 3 kids aged 5 so we understand!
Is it worth rope-dropping Radiator Springs Racers?
There are differing opinions on whether it’s worth rope-dropping Radiator Springs Racer as the queue builds up really quickly, even at rope drop. The Single Rider queue is often suggested as an alternative – it does work great for adults or families with kids aged 7 or over who don’t mind riding alone but it doesn’t work for families with younger kids or those who prefer riding together.
We absolutely think it is worth rope-dropping especially if you have younger kids. We have a 3 and 5-year-old who absolutely love to ride Radiator Spring but they aren’t old enough for the Single Rider queue – if we don’t rope drop we either have to wait in line for over 1.5 hours or we have to drop an additional $60 to $80 on an individual lightning lane. Rope drop is our best option and we’ve successfully rope-dropped Radiator Springs many times -we have waited in line for between 10 and 30 minutes on those days.
Can I use Genie+ on Radiator Springs Racers?
Radiator Springs Racers is not included in Genie+ so it won’t have an impact on your rope drop strategy for Radiator Springs.
If you do have Genie+ then it will influence your plans after you rope drop Radiator Springs Racer and you should set up a lightning lane for a ride after you are scanned into the park. We like to start with Toy Story Midway Mania as it can a while to secure a Genie+ slot – this means we have plenty of time to enjoy the lower crowds and wait times after rope drop before making our way over to Pixar Pier.
If you haven’t heard of Genie+ it is a paid daily add-on at Disneyland that allows guests to pre-book lightning lane entry on a select list of rides. It typically costs between $25 and $30 per guest per day.
Can guests enter the park and ride Radiator Spring before Rope Drop?
Guests staying at one of the 3 Disneyland Resort Hotels (Disneyland Grand California, Disneyland Hotel and Disney Paradise Pier) are granted 30 minutes Early Entry to either Disney California Adventure or Disneyland Park if they have a park reservation. However, Radiator Springs Racer does not open during this Early Entry period.
There is a special line for hotel guests and they can access 7 rides prior to park opening – Guardians of the Galaxy, Incredicoaster, The Little Mermaid, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, Monsters Inc, Soarin’ Around the World and Web Slingers.
Early Entry and Radiator Springs Racers
Many guests with Early Entry at Disney California Adventure make their way to the Radiator Springs Racers line just before park opening. They’ll be the first to ride Radiator Springs when the ride opens but it doesn’t impact the line too much as Early Entry is only granted to the 3 Disneyland Resort hotels and those guests are split over the two parks.