Soarin' Over California

Condor Flats, Disney California Adventure

  • Land: Condor Flats
  • Type: Thrill Rides
WhereCondor Flats
ExperienceThrill Rides
Height40" (102 cm) or Taller
Duration4:51 minutes

Fly away on a gentle breeze of music and inspiration! Soarin' Over California is an exhilarating simulated hang-glider flight over California's famous natural and manmade wonders.

Feel your feet dangle free as you are suspended up to approximately 45 feet in the air. You're immersed inside a high-speed Omnimax film projected all around you on a massive 80-foot domed screen. Your flight is accompanied by calming movement and a tranquil musical soundtrack.

The journey begins as the foggy clouds of San Francisco part to reveal the crimson expanses of the Golden Gate Bridge. From there you explore picturesque locations including Yosemite National Park, Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Palm Springs, San Diego harbor, Malibu at dusk and the frenetic lights of downtown Los Angeles. Return to the Disneyland Resort for a triumphant flight over Disneyland Park and up into a burst of fireworks.

Ride Experience

The attraction, which lasts about four minutes and 51 seconds, takes 87 guests at a time on a simulated hang glider tour of California, flying over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Redwood Creek in Humboldt County, Napa Valley, Monterey, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park (including Yosemite Falls and Half Dome), the PGA West golf course in La Quinta (credited in the queue video presentation as Palm Springs), Camarillo, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego, Malibu, Los Angeles, and Disneyland itself during the Christmas season. The last few scenes transition from daytime to dusk and then to night, culminating in Disneyland's Holiday fireworks surrounding the riders in the nighttime sky. In addition to the state's various landscapes, the ride also highlights its diverse recreation, including snow skiing, river rafting, kayaking, golf, horseback riding, hot air ballooning and of course, hang gliding. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) at San Diego's Naval Air Station North Island are also featured. An original score by film composer Jerry Goldsmith accompanies the imagery, and appropriate scents (citrus, pine, sagebrush, ocean mist) fill the air as the ride vehicles themselves move gently to simulate the sensations of flight.

Soarin' Over California is one of the most popular attractions in the Disneyland Resort and usually has wait times ranging from 30 to 150 minutes. However, the attraction is tied into the park's FASTPASS system, allowing guests the option of bypassing a long wait.

While waiting in line, guests pass the Wings of Fame, an homage to significant aircraft in the history of aviation in California. Some of these include the P-51 Mustang, SR-71 Blackbird, and the Bell X-1. There is also a section dedicated to individuals such as Amelia Earhart, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, Jack Northrop, the Wright brothers, Howard Hughes, Jacqueline Cochran and Chuck Yeager.

Before entering the theater area, guests are placed in one of three preshow areas, called "Alpha Gate", "Bravo Gate", or "Charlie Gate," (named for the first three letters of the NATO phonetic alphabet). Just before boarding, guests watch a pre-boarding video hosted by their chief flight attendant, Patrick, portrayed by actor Patrick Warburton. Ironically, he is wearing the uniform of a first officer.

Touring Tips

  • Soarin' Over California is a Fastpass attraction. It opens when the gates to the park are open (e.g. 1/2 hour before official park opening), and that's a great time to ride using the standby line. Plan to exerience this attraction early in the day since the standby line is usually quite long, and all Fastpasses for this attraction are often distributed long before the end of the day.
  • There is a Single Rider line - see the Cast Member at the Fastpass Return and tell them you are a single rider.
  • This is NOT a roller coaster or fast-moving ride, but those prone to motion sickness, back and neck problems or other medical conditions, and those with a fear of heights should consider the advisability of riding.
  • If you decide you don't wish to ride, just alert the Cast Member at the boarding area, and you will be directed to the exit.
  • The front row of any of the boarding areas will put you in the highest row of the ride vehicle, where you won't be able to see feet dangling above you.
  • Other than a very brief period of darkness at the beginning, this ride seems to be a fun experience for young and old.
  • "Smaller aviators" who don't measure up to the height indicator on the seat are required to pass their seat belt through a loop between their legs when fastening it to provide additional security.
  • "Aviatrix Minnie" can often be found greeting guests beside the airplane on the far left-hand side of the attraction building.
  • Make sure to catch the Wings of Fame and Legends of Flight exhibits inside the main queue. The photographic displays celebrate the daring and genius of the aircraft and people who made California a pioneer in the history of manned flight.


  • Soarin' Over California opened with Disney's California Adventure on February 8, 2001.
  • One of the most unforgettable aspects of Soarin' Over California is the serene and dramatic musical score. The music was written and recorded for the attraction by Academy Award-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith. Inspired by the optimistic spirit of California, the magnificent score is one of the master musician's final works and the culmination of a 5-decade career.
  • Soarin' Over California is a simulator attraction at Disney California Adventure Park (part of the Disneyland Resort). It debuted with the park on February 8, 2001. The same attraction opened on May 5, 2005, at Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, as Soarin'.
  • A special Christmas parade was staged for the final Disneyland scene.

Ride Design

Soarin' Over California was first conceptualized in 1996 as "Ultra Flight," a name which can still be seen on the tower consoles of the California Adventure attraction. It was to feature an OMNIMAX screen with an inverted track allowing guests to fly over California's landmarks. The attraction would have three load levels and the system would operate on a horizontal cable, much like a dry cleaner's rack. This plan was abandoned, however, when it was determined that the construction and labor costs for that design would be prohibitive. It seemed that Soarin' wouldn't become a reality until engineer Mark Sumner developed a different idea for the ride vehicles, using an Erector Set and string to create a working model. This design would allow Disney to efficiently load guests on one level instead of three, thus cutting construction and labor costs greatly.

Each ride vehicle within consists of three rows of seats under a wing-like canopy. After guests have been safely restrained in the vehicle using standard lap belts, the canopy descends slightly and a cantilever system lifts the chairs forward and into the air with the guests' feet dangling freely. The vehicle is lifted forward so that guests look into a large, concave movie screen onto which aerial views of California are projected. The scenes were shot with an IMAX HD frame rate - 48 frames per second, twice the conventional output for regular films. Since the vehicle is moved forward toward the center of the dome, guests can only see the images projected on the screen and experience the sensation of flight. The ride structure contains about one million pounds of steel, and 37 tons are lifted during each ride cycle.

To enhance the illusion of flight, subtle vertical movements of the seats are synchronized to the film. According to cast members who operate this attraction, the carriages do not move horizontally. Sensations of horizontal motion are created using a combination of vertical carriage movement and then turning image on the screen. In addition, scents complementing the various scenes are injected into the air streams blowing on riders. In the Ventura orange field scene, for example, guests are treated to the scent of orange blossoms. The mountain scenes are accompanied by the aroma of evergreens. The Monterey and Malibu scenes have the scent of a sea breeze.


Both versions of the ride use the same orchestral score by composer Jerry Goldsmith, who is said to have come down from his first ride in tears. In addition to finding the ride visually beautiful and magical, he said that his father was a pilot who loved all things Californian. "I'd do anything to be part of this project," Goldsmith said. "I'd even score the film for free." The soundtrack he wrote plays throughout the entire attraction, starting with a crescendo in the low strings while the screen is still dark. Numerous variations of a serene theme for horn and strings can be heard, as well as several statements of a fanfare that accompanies the film's grandest vistas. The entire ride score can be found on Music from Disney California Adventure and recent Walt Disney World official albums, and the exit music is also played as part of a loop in the Disneyland Resort's and Epcot's entrance plazas.

Inspirational music from a variety of films, many of them war- or flight-themed, is played outside the ride building at the California Adventure version and in the queue hallways in both versions. Some film scores featured include Patton, MacArthur, Air Force One, The Blue Max, Explorers (all by Jerry Goldsmith), The American President (by Marc Shaiman), Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (by Randy Edelman), The Last Starfighter (by Craig Safan), Apollo 13 and The Rocketeer (both by James Horner), Always (by John Williams) and the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (by Michael Kamen). The Air Force Song and "Jupiter" from Gustav Holst's orchestral suite The Planets are also included, based on their use in The Right Stuff. In the California Adventure version of the attraction, the "History of Aviation in California" hallway of the queue uses the scores to many different films.

Hidden Mickeys

  • During the preshow video there is a little aviator that they use as an example. If you look at his shirt and shorts you will surely be able to identify the two hidden characters on our little friends clothing. Grumpy is looking rather himself across the little fellows chest and our old pal Mickey seems at home on the small child's shorts.
  • When you get to the part with the snow if you look straight forward but down slightly you can see three rocks with in the shape of a hidden Mickey.
  • When you're flying over Palm Springs a golf ball is hit towards you Mickey is hidden on the golf ball. It goes quickly so you might have to go on a second time to catch it but the second trip is worth it for this realistic ride.
  • At the end of Soarin' Over California, you pass over Disneyland. After flying over the castle, Tinkerbell starts the fireworks. In the middle of the screen, a hidden Mickey made up of one huge and two small skyrockets appears about halfway through the fireworks. This is the same kind of Hidden Mickey that appears in the "Believe" fireworks show.

Touring Details

  • Best: Before 11am, after 5pm

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