I have a love-hate relationship with Cars Land. The Cars franchise may well be Pixar's weakest concept,* and it really has nothing to offer me in particular. There are several reasons, but for our purposes here, the main one is that I'm not interested in cars. Never have been. And especially in the context of a theme park, where I prefer to be surrounded by things I don't see and hear every hour of every day. If it had been my decision to make, I never would have put Cars in a Disney theme park, especially not to the extent of building an entire huge themed land.
I cannot deny that Cars Land, apart from the dumb name, is really, really well done. I mean, look at this:
And that's not even the town part. This is the town part:
This is Imagineering at its placemaking best. The attention paid to detail here is phenomenal. You walk into Cars Land, and you're there, in a tiny town in the American Southwest, with jagged cliffs of red sandstone in the distance. I'm sure it helped that they had the setting pre-rendered in three digital dimensions for their convenience, but they still had to figure out how to create it in three actual dimensions, and it's stunning work.
A lot of cleverness went into the execution. The businesses of Radiator Springs have been translated into typical theme park fixtures. The hippie VW bus's “organic fuel” station is a beverage stand, the paint shop is a clothing store, the souvenir shop is...a souvenir shop. Businesses with no ready counterpart have either been adjusted or made the sites of rides. But the area's tentpole attraction, Radiator Springs Racers, isn't located in the town at all—it takes place on the outskirts, amid those magnificent buttes seen in the top photo.
I actually haven't been on it many times—three or four, total, since it opened. This is because a) it's in the park I don't favor, b) it's Cars, and c) the wait time frequently tops two hours. But I never regret riding it. It's too dang good...maybe the best execution of a ride concept in years.
Actually, calling Radiator Springs Racers a ride is underselling it. It's three rides in one, plus a fantastically immersive queue that expands on the source material in a charming way. I'll start with the queue since—as mentioned above—we're going to be standing in it for a while.