Soarin’, a simulator attraction, officially opens at EPCOT in Walt Disney World. The ride is very similar to Soarin’ Over California, an attraction that opened in 2001 at Disney’s California Adventure.
The cast members wear costumes that resemble flight attendant costumes. The idea is that guests are taking flights to California. This is further reinforced when you are loaded into “gates” and with airport-themed spiels which include that you are on board “Flight 5505”, which is a homage to the opening day of the attraction (May 5, 2005).
Guests are lifted between 30 and 50 feet in the air into an 80-foot domed projection screen. Wind effects and gentle tilting of the seats create a simulated flying sensation totally unique to Disney. Scents released at key points during the five minute presentation enhance the experience.
Eighty-seven guests can fly at a time. Two theaters double the capacity. The three rows are designed to hang in a reverse stadium seating fashion, allowing each row to get a clear view ahead and below. Some fans will argue that for the purest, unadulterated soaring experience, the front row in the middle section is absolutely necessary.
The simulation hang glider will take you on a 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, the PGA West golf course in La Quinta, Camarillo, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Fresno, San Diego, Malibu, Los Angeles, and Disneyland Park 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 guests 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 hang gliding, the main theme of the ride. 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.