Paradise Pier at California Adventure Park is the part of Disneyland Resort that most reminds me of classic seaside amusement parks. At first glance, Paradise Pier looks like a 1920s boardwalk revival. But up close, of course, Guests discover instead Disney’s spin on the traditional.
What appears to be an old-time wooden roller coaster is actually a super smooth, state-of-the-art steel thrill ride. California Screamin’ has that nostaligic look without the clank-clank-clank-jerk of an old wooden monster.
There are also carnival games—with prizes—at the Pier’s Games of the Boardwalk. Kick that up a Disney notch for the fan favorite Toy Story Midway Mania, where Guests become Andy’s toys and compete in 4D games of skill.
Honestly, though, I can’t leave any carny or fair without taking a whirl on the Ferris wheel. And you know it, Disney’s Imagineers plussed that experience too! Mickey’s Fun Wheel is considered eccentric in the pleasure wheel design spectrum. Featuring 24 gondolas, it stands 150 feet high and rotates for 9 minutes, allowing Guests breathtaking views of Disneyland Resort and its surrounding area. What makes this attraction unique is that of those 24 ride vehicles, only 8 are fixed to the outer rim to sway as the wheel spins. The remaining 16 are free-mounted and slip and slide along tracks on the inside spokes.
This “spin-sational” Ferris wheel was modeled after Coney Island’s (New York) 1920 Wonder Wheel and is built to similar dimensions. It was designed in conjunction with IntaminWorldwide, a Switzerland firm renowned for their thrill ride installations who also co-created California Screamin’. Both DCA attractions opened in 2001. Mickey’s Fun Wheel, originally called the Sun Wheel, was refurbished and reopened in 2009.
Build your own (small-scale) Ferris wheel and discover the playful side of physics by following these simple instructions.
• 2 pieces of cardboard at least 12” long by 12” wide
• Hot glue gun
• Disney Character stickers, optional
• Small wooden dowels, 8 – 3” and 7 – 10” lengths
1) Cut two 12” diameter cardboard circles.
2) Using ruler and marker, divide each of the 2 circles into 8 equal wedges.
3) Decorate your Ferris wheel with markers, paint or Disney Character stickers. (Mickey’s Fun Wheel gondolas feature Minnie Mouse, Donald, Goofy and Pluto, and of course, Mickey’s classic smile on the facade of the wheel greets everyone to the Pier!)
4) Use your scissors to cut a small “X” into the cardboard approximately 1” from the outside of the circle in each of the wedges of cardboard. Also cut 1 “X” at the center of each circle.
5) Insert a 3” wooden dowel through one of the “X” marks on one circle and then through the corresponding “X” on the remaining circle. Repeat this for each of the “X” marks on the cardboard. Secure each with hot glue gun.
6) Insert 1 – 10” dowel through center “X” of each circle, leaving equal length extending from each side. Do not glue.
1) Form 3 of the 10” dowels into an equilateral triangle and hot glue each angle. Repeat for second side.
2) When glue has set, attach one triangle to each end of the protruding center post of the wheel. Hot glue in place. Stand should be tall enough to give wheel ground clearance to spin.
*Additional study options: fractions, diameter, perimeter, area of circle, physics of motion, triangles, angles
SCHOOL SUBJECT: Physics
SKILL LEVEL: Middle grades, high school