Long known as the Disneyland park you can drink in, Disney California Adventure is doubling down on its culinary highlights with the month-long food and drink bonanza which began on Friday, March 10 and runs until April 16. Nothing is shaped like Pixar characters or a tricked-out hot dog — when it comes to eats, this is the real deal.
Though this isn’t the first year of Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival — it ran from 2006 to 2010 and returned in 2016, but this is on a whole new scale. The massive success of similar booze and bites-filled festivals at Walt Disney World’s Epcot in Florida has likely spurred the recent food-focused additions, with smaller-scale festivals unveiled at the Anaheim park during the recent holiday and Lunar New Year seasons.
What to eat at the fifteen new food kiosks
The big highlight — and why Disney die-hards hit the gates when the park opens — are the individual festival booths. Up to 15 marketplaces from eight last year, these kiosks highlight California produce like artichokes, olives, and corn, as well as coastal dishes, with standalone beer and wine outposts. The marketplace kiosks stretch between Carthay Circle to Paradise Garden Grill with additional easy-to-miss booths in Hollywood Land by the Festival Showplace; if you are casually walking around, it’ll be the main path taking you through the park.
Popular sweets like bacon whoopie pies and meyer lemon macarons from last year’s festival have returned, along with the White Cheddar Ale soup, while the beloved Triple Cheese Mac with Smoked Chicken has been split into two new less-than-stellar iterations. Some item prices have increased from last year, but so have their portion sizes, with dishes costing between $5 and $7, tax included.
As for the food? The black garlic and soy-braised pork belly bao at Garlic Kissed is perfectly executed, and its garlic-rosemary and avocado oil ice cream pop will blow any Mickey-shaped ice cream bar out of the water. Given that Bacon Twist ran out of bacon on the first day, its maple-bacon whoopie pie and smoked bacon mac and cheese are bound to be best-sellers, but aren’t as good as the festival’s other highlights, like Sweet and Sourdough’s bay shrimp louie salad.
Other destined-for-Instagram dishes include the meatless jackfruit carnitas banh mi nachos at Off the Cob and Sweet and Sourdough’s white cheddar lager soup served in a boudin sourdough bread bowl. Full kiosk menus are available on Disneyland.com.
The famous chefs and food personalities cooking dishes
The newly enhanced Festival has really overtaken the park, with marketplace kiosks trailing across the park’s walkways, food seminars in the Festival Showplace (hosted inside Hollywood Land’s Stage 17) and events offering insights on local beers, wines and California-bred ingredients. Culinary demonstrations are offered throughout the festival’s duration with local and visiting Southern California chefs, including Sotto’s Steve Samson and Michael Hung of Mama Lion (and formerly Viviane and Faith & Flower.) These abbreviated half-hour demonstrations, which include a tasting portion of the featured dish, cost $10 per person Monday through Thursday and $15 per person Friday to Sunday; tax not included.
If you’re more interested in a cooking seminar led by Food Network talent than waiting in line for Radiator Springs Racers, California Adventure’s Food & Wine Festival’s got that too. TV stalwarts like Guy Fieri, Jet Tila, Graham Elliot, and G. Garvin will be toplining the festival’s celebrity chef demonstrations, which cost $99 apiece, with Duff Goldman, Keegan Gerhard, and Emily Ellyn hosting three Sweet Sunday dessert events for $79 each. (Tax and gratuities for servers not included.)
There’s plenty to drink inside California Adventure
There’s also plenty of boozing going down, with Golden Vine Winery hosting education and tasting seminars with California wines hosted daily for $15 per person Monday through Thursday and $20 per person Friday to Sunday, not inclusive of tax. California wine pairing dinners and beer pairing dinners for Anaheim-based breweries and San Diego’s Karl Strauss Brewery will additionally be offered on select evenings. (Reservations are required for all events and can fill up quickly; The Disney Family of Wines series, featuring Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter’s eponymous winery, has already sold out.)
At the Festival Showplace, beer and spirit seminars are offered daily, with Modern Times, Stone Brewing Co., and Ballast Point among those making appearances and additional sessions focusing on mezcal, cider, and whiskey. Each includes up to three tastings for $15 per person Monday through Thursday and $20 per person Friday to Sunday; tax not included.
Specialty cocktails and alcoholic beverages are offered at each kiosk, as well as specially themed marketplaces. Uncork California offers flights of white wines ($16) and red wines ($20), and for those who like to make their mornings count, mimosa flights ($16), while California Craft Brews, which was already a hit on the festival’s first day, offers twelve local beers as well as SoCal and NorCal-themed flights ($13.25). Wineology in Hollywood Land has sangria flights ($9.50), and the Festival Beer Garden is worth the walk to the back of the park, with flights ($13.25) and a full menu of Anaheim brews.
How to get in and enjoy the food festival
Park admission is required for all Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival demonstrations, special events, and dinners, but not everything costs money — there are complimentary seminars throughout the month outlining how to create the festival’s dishes at home as well as Jr. Chef kitchen, where kids can make a healthy oatmeal cookie alongside the Michelin-aspiring Chef Goofy. There will also be live music performances as well as a kitchen-themed STOMP-like percussion performance starring Chip ‘n Dale in chef whites, naturally.
Annual Passholders can purchase a Sip and Savor Pass for $45, which includes eight pull-tab item coupons redeemable for one food or non-alcoholic beverages, as well as a complimentary button at kiosks when each coupon is used. (Note: there are no AP discounts on individual kiosk purchases.)
The festival runs until April 16th; one-day adult admission to Disney California Adventure costs between $97 and $124 depending on the day. If you’re local, consider taking advantage of the current SoCal resident promotion, which costs $149 for three visits between now and May 25th, with blackout dates beginning April 9th.