The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling: Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure Park

Erin Glover

by , Director, Publicity, Walt Disney Animation Studios

I love the beach – especially in the summertime – and the first time I visited Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure park, I was captivated by the feeling of being near the shore. When I set out to research this installment of “The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling,” I wanted to learn more about how that feeling of warmth and summer that is felt year-round here at the Disneyland Resort (most of which is probably due to the beautiful Southern California weather.) So grab your sunscreen, and let’s have some “Fun In The Sun For Everyone!”

Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure Park

The design and allure of Paradise Pier pays tribute to the classic California coastal amusement parks that populated beaches from Santa Cruz to San Diego from the turn of the 20th century to the 1940s. This “pleasure-filled promenade” recreates the excitement and innocence of those bygone parks of yesteryear. When Disney California Adventure park guests visit Paradise Pier today, the setting is sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s – right around the same time Walt Disney arrived in California. Even though he never built a seaside theme park, the design of Paradise Pier pays tribute to the details Walt would have appreciated had he visited one in its heyday.


Paradise Pier is divided into three distinct neighborhoods: the Boardwalk, Paradise Gardens and Paradise Park. The Boardwalk begins at the entrance to Ariel’s Grotto and continues all the way to Mickey’s Fun Wheel. The defining characteristic of this area is the actual boardwalk beneath your feet. The land then transitions to Paradise Gardens, beginning at Silly Symphony Swings and continuing to Seaside Souvenirs. Legend tells a unique story for both Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta and Paradise Garden Grill, the two restaurants found in Paradise Gardens. The story goes that they were both built by an enterprising family of Italian immigrants. To provide patrons a cool and shaded dining area, they began planting trees and building shaded structures just off the Boardwalk. Next along the path is Paradise Park – a large expanse of grassy knolls, pathways and shaded areas stretch to The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. A common feature of many seaside areas is a greenbelt park space where people can enjoy the fun of the beach without all the sand, and for Paradise Pier this area is Paradise Park. Continuing the look and feel of the 1920s, the architecture of the beautiful building that houses The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure is inspired, in part, by the “Dragon Gorge” – a scenic railway coaster in Ocean Park, Calif.

We’ve visited many Disneyland Resort lands and attractions so far in this series, so now I want to hear from you! What land or attraction do you want to learn more about? Leave your answer in the comments and I’ll see what I can find out for you.


  • @Dustin. Kungaloosg to that my fellow adventurer! I’ll plus that idea with adding to the list the backstory of Pleasure Island and it’s adventurous founder Merriweather Adam Pleasure, who I learned a little about in my youth during an old Disney Institute class I think was called “Passport: A Mission to Other Lands”, where we solved riddles to find a treasure that Pleasure had left in the France Pavilion of EPCOT Center!

  • @Ian. How could I forget the Jungle Cruise? Thanks for that. Along the same lines, I would add Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. And, perhaps also the now defunct Adventurer’s Club in WDW. The backstory and details of these attractions would be incredible!

  • Another great post, Erin! While I have read about and listened to numerous stories about Walt’s beloved Main Street, U.S.A., I’d enjoy your take on the magic of its story. 🙂

    Bob A.

    • Hi Bob! 😀 I’ll add Main Street, U.S.A., to the list.

  • Hi Erin! I would love to learn more about my favorite land found both in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom: Adventureland! I am a huge fan of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, which is found on both coasts, but I know that some of the other attractions differ on in each park. Great Article, love the history and learning the back stories, keep them coming!

    • Thanks, Jennifer! Adventureland is one of my favorites as well. 🙂

  • I too can not get enough of this series! While Dustin has covered a good deal of what I’d love to hear about, I must add The World Famous Jungle Cruise to the mix. Now, I know the historical backstory of how Walt was on a goodwill tour of South America and combined that experience with his True Life Adventure series, but I want to know more about the myths and lore of the Jungle: How did the Jungle Navigation Co. come into being; Who are these Skippers and what brought them to the Rivers of Adventure; Who is Chief Namee really and what has caused his business to shrink, etc. I’d also like to know how the Jungle Cruise backstory differes at all the locations that it exists at around the world!

    • I like that!

  • I agree with Bob, I’d be interested in some back story on New Orleans Square in Disneyland. Always one of my favorite areas located in the Park. The architecture, the sounds and of course the food 🙂

    Thanks for the posts, I’ve enjoyed them


  • Oh Erin, you’re going to be sorry :-P. First, great post on Paradise Pier! PP is one of the defining areas of DCA, and to know its backstory makes it that much more enjoyable. Second, as I’ve mentioned since your first storytelling post (on Pirates), this is one of the best blog series on Disney Parks Blog– keep it up! As such, here is a, ahem, short list of attractions I’d love to learn more about: Indiana Jones Adventure, Haunted Mansion, Aladdin A Musical Spectacular (Hyperion Theater), Carthay Circle/Restaurant, Tower of Terror, The Matterhorn, Big Thunder, Space Mountain. And if the series is expanded to include WDW, I would add: Expedition Everest, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Tower of Terror, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, any/all of the World Showcase pavilions at Epcot, Spaceship Earth. Thanks again!

    • Wow – all great ideas, Dustin! Thanks 🙂

  • Erin,

    I love this series you do on the blog. I don’t believe you’ve done one on New Orleans Square in Disneyland yet. Maybe you could tell about the story behind the area and its many buildings and details.

    • Thanks, Bob! Great suggestion.

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