There was a time when California Adventure was an afterthought, the "second choice" park after Disneyland. After our most recent trip, however, I can confidently kabosh that perspective.
We spent an entire Saturday at the Golden State themed park and were completely mesmerized. The new Buena Vista Street welcomes you in with the class and cheer of Disney. From there, you can opt to explore Paradise Pier, Grizzly Peak, Condor Flats, Pacific Wharf, Hollywood Land, A Bug's Land, and Cars Land.
Our family particularly enjoyed the sights and sounds of Cars Land, which opened June 2012. Though we didn't get to drive the Radiator Springs Racers (There was a 190 minute wait! Eek!), our girls had a ball on Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and we had fun tapping our feet to 50's tunes at the Flo's V8 Cafe. Breakfast options include: Seasonal Fruit Plate with yogurt and blueberry muffin for $5.49, American Breakfast with Scrambled Eggs, Potatoes, Bacon, and a Biscuit for $7.99, and French Toast with Salted Caramel Sauce and Bananas for $7.99.
Other favorite experiences: relaxing aboard a seashell on Ariel's Undersea Adventure and Soarin' over California. Our 6-year-old rode Goofy's Sky School twice, laugh-screaming for the entire duration of the ride. In the past, we've also enjoyed the thrills of Grizzly River Run and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
When the afternoon heat picked up, I made use of the Baby Care Center to change and nurse our 5-month-old baby (such a lovely amenity - thank you, Disney!) and our family picked up chocolate samples at the adjacent Ghirardelli shop.
As with any Disney park, there are ample opportunities to meet and greet characters, watch flawless live song and dance performances, and bask in the magic of creativity. I would love to see an addition of an attraction called Calipreneur, where you watch a film or go on a ride that gives an overview of what makes the state such a "hot spot" for innovators and also highlights some of the diverse companies that have their origin in California - Apple, Safeway, Hilton, etc.
I'd also love to see a play area (perhaps with a water component?) called "Robin Hood's Sherwood Forest."
If you have to choose between the parks, go with Disneyland if you've never been (just to be a part of the history). But don't undermine the adventure that awaits just a few steps away. Park Hopper or multi-day tickets are worthwhile.
Have you been to California Adventure? What is your favorite attraction/show?
* Thanks to Disney for providing us with complimentary day passes at California Adventure.