The Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival at the Disneyland Resort is back for another year of tasty treats and special events. I had the chance to attend the opening weekend in 2018 to get a first look at the fun that Disneyland has to offer festival-goers this year. If you are thinking of planning a Disneyland visit this spring to check out Disneyland’s version of the Food & Wine Festival, here are the details you need to know to make the most of a trip.
Disneyland Food and Wine Festival Basics
When. Disneyland’s Food and Wine Festival takes place in early spring every year, usually spanning the spring break periods of most West Coast schools. In 2018, the festival dates run from March 2 until April 12. Unlike in some years past, the Festival is happening daily — not just on weekends — so more visitors can enjoy the food and events.
What. The festival is a special event where “festival marketplaces” (small food stands) are set up in strategic areas of the park. These marketplaces serve speciality food and drink that you cannot find at Disneyland the rest of the year. There is also plenty of live entertainment as well as special seminars for festival goers (more on all that later, so keep reading).
Where. Food & Wine is located entirely within Disney California Adventure park (DCA). The bulk of the activity is along the pier area, starting in front of the entrance to A Bug’s Land and extending past Goofy’s Sky School to the Festival Beer Garden. There is also a mini-hub of additional festival marketplaces, one stage, and a special spot for Annual Passholders in Hollywood Land as well, so don’t miss this location. If you want to visit attractions in Disneyland park the same day you visit Food & Wine, remember you’ll need a park hopper ticket.
Cost. There is no cost for attending the basic events in the festival. The festival marketplaces and stages are open to anyone with a park ticket to DCA for the day. However, there are a number of special events like celebrity chef demonstrations, wine and beer tastings, Sweet Sundays and more, that cost extra. Reservations are usually required for these special ticket events as well. And, of course budget for food and drink purchases!
What to Do, Eat & Drink at the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival
So now that you know the basics, let’s get on with the nitty gritty details. What is there to do and see? And eat and drink?
Food & Drink
There is so much food and drink at the festival that I’m not even going to try to comprehensively cover it all. Unless you have a bottomless budget and a couple of days to devote to only drinking and eating, you won’t be able to cover it all either.
For the sake of research, I did eat and drink much more than the average festival-goer. Here are my top seven favorite dishes to help guide your purchasing decisions. Full disclosure: I’m a Southern gal who loves meat and carbs so my choices probably reflect these tastes. If you are a vegetable lover, there are plenty of options at the festival for you too (see The Healthy Mouse’s guide to all the vegan, vegetarian, & gluten-free foods at Food & Wine for more).
Top Disneyland Food & Wine Festival Entrees
- Teriyaki Chicken Slider with Spicy Dole Pineapple Jam (LA Style) – $ 6.50
- Creamy Mac & Cheese with Garlic Breadcrumbs (Garlic Kissed) – $7.00
- Sweet Corn Nuggets with Beef Chili (Off the Cob) – $6.75
- Grilled Harris Ranch Beef Tenderloin Slider (Cluck-a-Doodle-Moo) – $8.00
- Salt and Beer Vinegar Parmesan Chicken Wings (Cluck-a-Doodle-Moo) – $7.50
- White Cheddar Lager Soup in a Mini Boudin Sourdough Bowl (California Craft Brews) – $6.00
- Bourbon Chocolate Whoopie Pie (I Heart Artichokes) – $4.50
Portions are intentionally on the smaller side to enable tasting and are priced accordingly. I’ve seen some complaints that portions were skimpy in previous years. Judging from photos through the years, however, I’d say portion sizes look a bit more generous in 2018 than in previous years.
That said, for an adult, one dish is definitely not enough for a meal. If you plan on doing more than just snacking, budget for 2-3 dishes per adult per meal (1-2 for younger kids). Sharing is a smart strategy if you want to taste more variety.
Seminars, Performances, & Special Events
The other big part of the California Food & Wine Festival in Disneyland is the special performances and events that take place all over the park.
If you just want to experience what is free, look for the following:
- Seminars on the Backlot stage in Hollywood Land
- Junior Chef with Goofy (for kids)
- Musical performances on various stages
If you have a little more room in your budget and want more of a VIP experience, the special ticketed events that cost more and that require reservations include:
- Sweet Sundays: Celebrity chefs demonstrate dessert-making prowess in Napa Rose restaurant at the Grand Californian ($99/person)
- Celebrity Chef Live: Guy Fieri and Robert Irvine make special appearances to cook before guests’ eyes at the Hyperion Theater ($99/person, $250 for VIP on-stage seating)
- Winemaker Dinners: Wine pairings with speciality dinner hosted at some of Disneyland’s top restaurants, Steakhouse 55, Carthay Circle, and Napa Rose ($175-300/person)
- Brewmaster Dinners: Dinner event hosted by the brewmaster Karl Strauss Brewing Company at Steakhouse 55 ($150/person)
- Wine, Beer and Spirits Education & Tasting Seminars: 30-45 minute seminars to learn more about the beverages you love ($20/person)
- Culinary Demonstrations: Chefs on stage in Paradise Park ($30/person for VIP seating which includes tastings)
Is the Disneyland Food & Wine Festival Kid-Friendly?
With a name like Food & Wine, I’m sure a lot of families are questioning whether this is really an event for kids. Will your kids eat the more unique recipes the festival features? Will the booze be flowing a bit too freely for families to feel comfortable?
Let me at least put those fears to rest. While there have been a few reports of partying at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival getting out of hand at Walt Disney World, I saw none of that behavior at Disneyland. Adults were imbibing responsibly. We Californians may drink a lot of wine, but that just means we know how to handle it too.
As for the food, there are certainly dishes many of your little picky eaters might not try, but there are some kid-friendly gems in the bunch. Disney even lists the more kid-friendly options in the Passport booklet that festival goers can pick up. For the pickiest of eaters, I’d recommend the creamy macaroni and cheese at the Garlic Kissed festival marketplace, minus the garlic breadcrumb topping. I can’t imagine most kids turning up their noses at that.
I attended without my kids on a girls weekend with a few blogging friends, and it was a fun time for adults. But I’d certainly not hesitate to bring my kids back in future years. That said, visitors with kids would benefit from knowing a few insider tips to make the most of the experience.
First and foremost, the highlight for kids is the Junior Chef experience. Kids ages 3-11 can cook with Goofy over in Hollywood Land at the festival stage there. If your child is dead set on this experience, arrive early (up to an hour beforehand), as there is no advance signup or Fastpass available.
Second, be aware food lines can get long for the festival marketplaces, especially around mealtimes. Your kids are probably not going to want to stand in one more line at Disneyland. Go early or go late to minimize waits. One strategy for families might be for one parent to grab a table at the Festival Beer Garden or Pacific Wharf with the kids after getting food at a first marketplace. Then have a second adult in your group stand in line to get additional food at other marketplaces. Divide and conquer.
Insider Tips for Making the Most of a Visit to the Disneyland Food & Wine Festival
Ready to visit the Food and Wine Festival? Here are the best tips I gathered from my visit so you can already be a pro before you go:
- Book special experiences ahead. If you want to do any of the special ticketed events, plan and book early. Our group considered doing a special event, but by the time we checked a few days in advance of our visit, many were already sold out. The booking window for the entire festival opens 60 days in advance of the festival start date, so plan ahead for next year!
- Pick up a Passport booklet. Cast member have small “Passport” booklets that include a map and a list of all the food and drink options at each festival marketplace (although not the prices).
- Bring your ID. While I didn’t get carded (because I’m not as young as I used to be), bring your ID if you want to imbibe. You never know when you might need it.
- Go with an AP Holder. If you have an annual pass yourself or know an AP holder who you can attend with, there is a special chance to save. The “Sip and Savor” pass allows AP holders to try 8 food items or non-alcoholic drinks for just $45. The pass is available at a few merchandise carts in the festival, Kingswell Camera Shop near the park entrance, and several other locations.
- Or . . . go when some APs are Blocked Out. If you can’t take advantage of the AP perks, then try an opposite strategy. With all the perks and the draw of a special event, Food & Wine draws a lot of locals. To avoid crowds, look for dates when a lot of the local passes are blocked out from entering the park (see pass blockout dates on the Disneyland site here).
- Eat early or late. The lines at the festival marketplaces can get long, so try to skirt the crowds if you can by avoiding peak mealtimes. The ones we noticed that were especially long were Cluck-a-Doodle-Moo and Garlic Kissed (where some of the most kid-friendly dishes can be found). Hit those first.
- Arrive early for Junior Chef. If you have a little Emeril in the making who must do Junior Chef with Goofy, plan head. The cast member experts we talked to recommended up to an hour in advance to ensure your spot on the busiest weekends. There is no pre-signup like there is for Jedi Training Academy so grab some food, camp out, and be patient!
Saving Money on Your Visit to Disneyland Food & Wine!
I always want my readers to get the best deals on their Disneyland vacations. After all, saving on tickets, hotels, and transportation means more money to taste a few extra dishes or attend that special wine tasting you have been eyeing!
I recommend and have partnered with Get Away Today, a top seller of Disneyland and SoCal vacations, for some amazing Disneyland ticket and vacation discounts. If you are planning a multi-day visit, it is as simple as booking your tickets or vacation packages with them and saving every time. Use promo code TYKES10 for an extra $10 off all package stays of 2 nights or more.
Is your Disneyland vacation a little too late for Food & Wine this year? Never fear! As soon as Food & Wine ends on April 12, Pixar Fest begins the very next day on April 13. I’ll be there opening day for a first look at Pixar Fest. In the meantime, get a look at all that’s new this spring and summer at Disneyland to plan the best time for your vacation.
Disclosure: Disneyland provided me with complimentary park tickets and some food credits during my visit to Food & Wine. As always, all opinions are my own.