‘Disneyland California is so realistic it will blow the minds of adult fans’

Spiralling sand peaks stretch upwards in the distance as I walk past the Millennium Falcon. It genuinely feels like I’ve landed in a world in a galaxy far, far away.

Of course, I haven’t done a 12-parsec Kessel Run – just 11 hours by passenger jet. And I am at Galaxy’s Edge – the new Star Wars-themed zone at Disneyland California, in Anaheim, near Los Angeles.

While Fantasyland, Main Street and Tomorrowland are fun, nostalgic playgrounds for kids and adults alike, this place truly transports you to the land of the First Order, Sith and blasters.

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Disney’s ever innovative Imagineers have outdone themselves with the level of detail – from ­steampunk-style lighting and working robots to specially designed Coke bottles in Batuu’s food stands.

As an adult at Disneyland, I felt like I was walking on another planet. Thankfully, the rides available didn’t ruin the illusion.

Rise of the Resistance – one of Disney’s longest ever rides at a ­whopping 18 minutes – drew gasps from guests as we were confronted by Stormtroopers, marched into cells and then sped away in a rocking, jolting transportation vehicle. An escape from the Sith and everyday life all rolled into one immersive experience.

I piloted my own spaceship on Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run as the gunners on my team tried to shoot the enemy while we brought items back for Hondo Ohnaka. Screaming and flinching were common events thanks to the hyper-realism of the interactive ride. All the adrenaline of a roller coaster from the safety of your seat.

Galaxy’s Edge isn’t the only new space at the Disney parks in Anaheim, Walt Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland Paris.

Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure – the park opposite – blew me away at first sight as a (thankfully automated) Spider-Man shot webs from his hands and leapt across buildings. Kids believed the robot was a real superhero… and so did I for a while.

A series of new rides took me on the journey of a lifetime in this themed area. Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure is an updated ride similar to Toy Story Mania. Except you don’t need a gun in this version as the hi-tech engineering makes your hands shoot webs as you try to help the superhero destroy the mechanical spiders taking over the Campus.

Your arms will hurt like you’ve been to the gym, but it’s worth it as you feel like a part of the superhero team. And Avengers geeks will obsess over all the hidden details as you queue (hint: look for the names on the lockers).

Meanwhile, the Tower of Terror has been transformed into an all new quest – with Rocket the irritable raccoon – as Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! I definitely clung to the man sitting next to me a few too many times as we were dropped from the top of the tower (I may have also popped his eardrums as I shrieked).

The new version of the ride has plenty to entertain you as you wait. Instructions from Rocket accompany the Avengers’ archive of weapons and artefacts collected on their travels around the universe. There’s even a tiny hidden Mickey on a shelf in the loading room.

Compared to the original ride there are a greater number of stomach-churning drops, making it seem far longer and scarier. And, on a very clear day, you can even spot the Hollywood sign from the 183ft-high opening at the top of the ride. Until you plunge to the floor, that is…

But, rides aren’t the only thing to make you feel transported into another realm. I loved indulging at Pym Kitchen where food isn’t quite what it seems on the menu. You can tuck into massive meatballs, tiny pasta, pretzels as big as your torso and a chicken burger like no other. Proton Punch – a tart, fruity, bubbly concoction with popping boba balls – is a bizarre but worthwhile treat.

Not everything at the parks needs to be new to make you feel as giddy as a child. Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain is just as zippy and exhilarating as when I first rode it as a kid. A Disney guide’s tip to watch the goat statue as I rode it had my stomach doing flips and my head spinning as though it was a whole new ride.

Pirates of the Caribbean flooded me with nostalgic joy, while Splash Mountain soaked me to the skin – a good thing in the California heat.

The classic Incredicoaster blasted my fears away as it hurtled at 55mph through the park. The drops, humps and loops on this coaster were perfect for keeping me awake ahead of the Halloween-themed nighttime show at Disneyland’s castle. Be warned, little ones may be terrified by the appearance of bad guys and villains charging across the skies. Even Oogie Boogie showed his face…

California may be a longer flight time than Paris or Orlando, but Walt’s first ever park, opened in 1955, sums up what Disney is all about. The founder once said: “Disneyland will never be ­completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” And, I think he’d be proud, and in awe, of what his Imagineers have created recently.

And, that brings me to the other side of Disney I saw on my trip. The D23 Expo featured Imagineers, guests, superfans dressed as favourite characters, and park chairman Josh D’Amaro who explained everything that would be coming to Disney in the next few years.

Fans will be able to ride a roller-coaster bike as TRON: Lightcycle/Run comes to Disneyland next spring. Splash Mountain will reopen as Tiana’s Bayou Adventure in 2024 and three new Frozen lands will open at Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea.

Head Imagineers even hinted at an Encanto and Coco-themed village in California and maybe, just maybe, a land entirely filled with Disney villains – though these have yet to be confirmed.

Frankly, my trip to California imbued me with all the dizzying, wide-eyed fun of Disney once again and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!

The Tower of Terror reboot opened in 2017 and it’s a far better, more modern ride for an Avengers-loving audience.

You’ll pass through the doors of the revamped building to spot items gathered by Taneleer Tivan (The Collector), from a Sakaaran head to a Kree Obelisk. Then you’ll be strapped into your seat where Rocket lays out the plan… which mostly involves you being plunged from great heights with no warning. CUE: screaming and your stomach doing backflips.

World of Colour

Taking place at Disney California Adventure, this nighttime show, which came to the park in April this year, is a dazzling display of water, projection and classic Disney songs.

I danced away by the waterside as family favourites Pocahontas, Moana, Simba and more lit up the skies as they were projected on to blasting sheets of water.A cinematic masterpiece that’s sure to have you singing along to the tracks all week long.

Book it

A one night stay at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California starts at around £492 per person, including 2-day theme park tickets (admission to one park per day) for the party. Price based on two guests sharing on November 1. disneyland.com

Get there

Virgin Atlantic flies from Heathrow to Los Angeles, California, starting at £399 return. virginatlantic.com

For more information see: visitcalifornia.com

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