After the world seemed to get ahold of the Time Stone and delay just about everything, Avengers Campus is finally set to open at Disney California Adventure Park. Starting June 4, Disneyland visitors can look forward to a brand-new Spider-Man ride and stunt show, an Ant-Man restaurant and beer bar, and a comic-universe–deep roster of costumed character encounters.
Though the heroes are all pulled straight from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers Campus doesn’t take place at one particular point in the timeline (hence why you’ll find Iron Man as well as two versions of Captain America). So it’s kind of an MCU greatest hits playground, meaning you can pal around with Spider-Man, tap into some ancient magic with Doctor Strange and learn the ways of Wakandan warriors from the Dora Milaje—and pay your respects to fallen kings with a moment of silence, a clear tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman.
We had about two hours earlier this week to preview as much of Avengers Campus as we possibly could, and if we could do it all over again, here’s what we wish we knew first.
1. You absolutely need to see the flying robotic Spider-Man.
We’d followed the prototype videos and gawked at the slo-mo shots, but we were still astounded to see Spider-Man’s high-flying stunt-double animatronic in real life.
Here’s the deal: Throughout the day, you can watch a human Spider-Man practice some flips along a catwalk near the Carthay Circle-adjacent entrance to Avengers Campus (there’s no posted schedule, so just keep an ear open for some music coming from around there). But then Spidey will run off to summon up the courage for an altitude test, at which point the action switches over to a robot that’s flung 65 feet into the air all while executing some spot-on Spider-Man flips and stances.
Catch it once just to see it to believe it, and then watch it a second time because you still won’t believe it. The flying robot part only lasts a few seconds, so make sure to stick around to see the human-again Spider-Man crawl down a building and then pose in front of a graffiti wall for photo ops with plenty of awkwardly charming Peter Parker chatter (in our case, he reminded us to smile underneath our masks while we took a selfie).
Just a heads up, though, that Spidey swings roughly from east to west, so if you catch the show front-on in the morning you’ll likely be staring (and attempting to shoot photos) directly into the sun. Which leads us to…
2. Save most of the land for the evening, if you can.
We previewed Avengers Campus late in the morning as the June Gloom was starting to burn off. But in a not-so-tall, not-so-leafy land, we found ourselves constantly fighting against the sun, particularly when facing the centerpiece Avengers hangar backdrop. Bright, hazy skies don’t really do the brick-and-metal aesthetic any favors, either.
The biggest daytime disservice, though, has to be Doctor Strange’s Ancient Sanctum, a magic show of sorts held in a courtyard of ruins. It’s an entertaining enough assembly of illusions thanks to its pretty convincing Benedict Cumber-clone. But once we saw footage of it at night, aglow with hanging lamps, fiery portals (on a screen, no real pyro here) and an adjacent faceted glass sculpture, we’d realized that we were missing out on most of the ambiance.
That seems to be true for much of the land: If you’re looking for it to feel a bit more alive, visually speaking, wait until the sun starts to do gown and the lights turn on. There’s one big exception, though…
3. The Spider-Man ride is super fun, but there’s a bunch to know before you get in line.
For starters, WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure won’t have a standby line when it first opens. You’ll need to join a virtual queue (which opens twice, at 7am and noon, and which you can join from home) that’ll assign you to a boarding group. So forget about just strolling up to it in the evening. There may also be a standby queue just to enter the land, but once your WEB SLINGERS number is called, that’ll let you in.
As for the ride itself, it’s a fun (if a little chaotic) 3-D ride similar to Toy Story Midway Mania. But this one uses some seriously impressive but hidden tech that’ll have you flicking your wrists like Spider-Man to shoot webs at mechanical Spider-Bots run amok. There’s no sort of blaster or gun to fire, just your own two hands; you can, however, buy a $30 WEB Power Band that slips onto your wrist and lets you shoot multiple (digital) webs at once on the ride. For another $25, you can arm it with a character-inspired WEB Shooter that’ll further alter your web-slinging abilities (one turns them into Iron Man’s repulsors, for example).
For what it’s worth, we went on the ride twice without using any of those buy-up accessories and feel like we still got a complete experience. Since you’ll likely only be able to ride once, you’ll need to decide beforehand whether or not you want to boost your just-for-bragging-rights score with a power band. Speaking of, by our second ride we’d seemingly grasped the most important part of the complex scoring system on the ride vehicle—shoot any Spider-Bots that glow and they’ll likely trigger chain reactions and net you more points—yet somehow we scored lower than our first ride. Clearly our Spidey-senses are a little rusty.
4. Forget about the $99 panini, it’s all about the fried chicken sandwich.
When Disneyland released the full menu for its Ant-Man–themed Pym Test Kitchen one item got most of the attention: the family-sized Pym-ini, a $99 Italian sandwich that feeds six to eight people in a restaurant whose whole gimmick is portions that are comically shrunken or enlarged (and sometimes a mix of the two). But there’s a far more modestly-priced item that should have you way more excited, though: the hilariously-proportioned chicken sandwich.
The “Not So Little Chicken Sandwich” is easily the best fried chicken sandwich we’ve ever had at a theme park. It’s more of a well-breaded schnitzel, really, that’s been hilariously plopped onto a slider-sized bun and covered with cabbage slaw, teriyaki sauce and chili mayo.
You can wash it down at an outdoor bar next door with beer cocktails and a beer float, but we unfortunately weren’t able to try any of the drinks (sure, we were there around 10am, but we were totally ready to down an ice-cream–topped stout for breakfast). We did, however, try the neon-green Pingo Doce soda, a slightly creamy and pretty satisfying dose of (not actually) irradiated Hulk blood.
5. It’s a bit smaller than you might expect.
In MCU terms, Avengers Campus is neither shrunken-down Ant-Man nor Giant-Man, just kind of Paul Rudd-sized Ant-Man. It doesn’t have that same feeling of exploration that you’ll find in the sprawling Cars Land or Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, where you could easily wander around for a half hour without even setting foot on a ride or spending a dime. Your time is definitely best spent doing something—though we’ll say the many impromptu character interactions go a long way in satisfying that.
So, you know, it’s a theme park, where you visit in order to get on rides and eat things, not some sort of superhero roleplaying retreat. But considering that the Marvel movies have clobbered the box office with the might of Thor’s hammer and Cap’s shield for the past decade-plus, you’d maybe expect a corresponding land to leave a Hulk-smash–sized crater. Instead, it’s basically just the size of the A Bug’s Life-themed land it replaced, plus the annexation of the area around Mission Breakout (a 2017 makeover of the Tower of Terror into a Guardians of the Galaxy drop ride). We imagine, though, that criticism could single-handedly be solved if something were to ever appear behind the facade of the Avengers Headquarters, what seems to be the gateway to a massive “phase two” ride that was announced in 2019 with zero updates ever since (its only role for now is to host a stunt show with Black Widow, Black Panther and Taskmaster).
Check out some more of our Avengers Campus photos below.