The Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival at the Disneyland Resort is back for another year of tasty treats and special events. I’ve attended the festival multiple days each year since 2018, and have always been impressed at the offerings. If you are thinking of planning a spring Disneyland visit in 2023 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.
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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 U.S. schools. In 2023, the festival dates are as long as ever – from March 3 to April 25, 2023 – a total of 54 days. The Festival happens daily and not just on weekends as was the case several years ago, so even more visitors can enjoy the food and events.
What. The festival is a special event held in Disney California Adventure park 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 the Disneyland Resort 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 just past Carthay Circle Theater and extending past Goofy’s Sky School to the Festival Beer Garden. There is an additional mini-hub around the stage area 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 that 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 always a number of special events like celebrity chef demonstrations, wine and beer tastings, 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 at the festival marketplaces! Keep reading to find out how to save money on your food selections.
What to Do, Eat & Drink at the 2023 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 never 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 experience it all either. Disney usually keeps a few of the favorites from previous years on the menu, but most of the food items are new each year, so there’s always more than you can possibly taste.
My best advice is to pick up one of the small “Tasting Passport” booklets that list all the menu items and scan it to find foods that fit your tastes. There are photos of each menu item posted on the festival marketplace wall so you can sneak a peek before you order. The Disney Parks Blog’s Foodie Guide to the 2023 Food & Wine Festival is also another smart place to scope out the food even before your trip.
For the sake of research, I usually eat and drink much more than the average festival-goer in my many visits the past few years. Here are photos of some of my favorites the last few years. (Full disclosure: I’m a Southern gal who loves meat and carbs so my choices probably reflect these tastes. But Disney chefs know how to do vegetarian and vegan foods so well, and I must admit that I have been surprised to find one of those items making my favorites list some years!)
Top Picks from 2022
- Carbonara garlic mac & cheese with peppered bacon (Garlic Kissed)
- SNICKERS Caramel-Peanut Milk Chocolate Mickey Macaron (Off the Cob)
Other Favorites from Previous Years (similar items are often on the menu again)
- Ranch Fried Chicken Wings with Buffalo Hot Sauce Drizzle (Cluck-a-Doodle-Moo)
- Farmstand Punch (Off the Cob)
- Brisket Fries (Paradise Garden Grill)
- Impossible No “Meat” Ball Submarine with Marinara Sauce Topped with Soy Cheese (Paradise Garden Grill)
- Shrimp and Braised Corn with Chorizo (Off the Cob)
Portions are intentionally on the smaller side to enable tasting and are priced accordingly. 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:
- Culinary demonstrations – Fridays through Sundays (often located at the Backlot stage in Hollywood Land)
- Junior Chef experience – Alice’s Wonderland Bakery Unbirthday Party (for kids)
- Musical performances on various stages and locations
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 (updated for 2023) include:
- Carthay Circle Winemaker Receptions – Enjoy hand-selected California wines, masterfully paired with an array of small plates.
- Wine, Beer and Mixology Education & Tasting Seminars – Discover something special when sommeliers, brew masters and mixologists divulge their industry expertise during these fascinating 45-minute sessions.
- Hotel Winemaker & Mixology Class Experiences – Enjoy a special Winemaker Reception and Trader Sam’s Tiki Mixology Class.
Is the Disneyland Food and 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 have really never seen that behavior at Disneyland. Adults seem to be imbibing responsibly. We Californians may drink a lot of wine, but that probably 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 picks in the bunch. Disney even lists the more kid-friendly options in the Tasting Passport booklet that festival goers can pick up. There’s nearly always a mac & cheese or two on the menu each year, so most parents should start there (perhaps leaving off any toppings).
I attended without my kids most years, and the festival is a blast for adults. 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. In previous years this experience featured Chef Goofy. Starting in 2022 it transitioned to a new character host from a Disney Junior series and is called Alice’s Wonderland Bakery Unbirthday Party. (Chef Goofy is still around for a photo meet and greet.) Kids ages 3-11 can “cook” over in Hollywood Land at the festival stage there by decorating a cupcake. If your child is determined to participate in this experience, arrive early (at least 30 minutes in advance but ideally up to 60), as there is no advance signup available.
When it comes to families, also 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 and dodge bigger crowds. 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 (note that the bridge to Pacific Wharf is current closed during the area’s renovation into Big Hero 6’s San Fransokyo). Then have a second adult in your group pick up additional food at other marketplaces.
One hot tip that is new the last couple of years that will save everyone – families and otherwise – a ton of time: Disneyland allows guests to order food from any marketplace at the cashier at every marketplace. So find a festival marketplace with the shortest cashier line, place your order there, and take your receipt to the pickup window of the marketplace serving that food for quick pickup. This “find the shortest line” rule is still quite under-utilized.
Finally, kids would really enjoy a few of the other special performances during this year’s festival. Musical act the Jammin’ Chefs especially put on a great act that gets kids up to dance and play with them. Check the Disneyland app for location and performance times.
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 visits the past several years so you can already be a pro before you go:
- Buy a Sip and Savor Pass. If you want to taste a lot of different items or just feed a family while saving money, the “Sip and Savor” pass is a must buy. This pass allows guests to try 8 food items or non-alcoholic drinks for a set price. While this pass was available only to annual passholders a few years ago, Disney has opened it up to everyone. In 2022, it was $52 for Magic Keyholders and $57 for all other guests (expect a few dollar price increase in 2023).
- Pick up a Tasting Passport booklet. Cast members 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).
- Book special experiences ahead. If you want to do any of the special ticketed events, plan and book early. When I first attended in 2018 I considered doing a special event, but by the time I 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!
- Find the shortest line. Don’t stand in long cashier lines if you don’t have to! Take advantage of Disneyland’s rule where you can order from any marketplace at the cashier at every marketplace. From what I spotted, there were often shorter lines at the marketplaces farther back in the festival. So place your order there and take your receipt to other marketplaces for quicker pickup.
- Be prepared for some long pickup lines. Although the fine the shortest line trick helps cut down on lines for cashiers, just be aware that there are a few booths where the food pickup lines can be pretty long. So you may have to stand in a line one way or another. But usually these lines move faster than the ones for the cashiers.
- 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. Note too that some food items do sell out on busy days so if there is a dish you HAVE to try, I’d recommend ordering and picking it up first.
- 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 when some Magic Keys are Blocked Out. 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).
- Arrive early for Junior Chef. If you have a little Emeril in the making who must do Junior Chef, 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 was for Jedi Training Academy when it was around. So grab some food, camp out, and be patient!
- Look for more than just festival marketplaces. While the dozen festival marketplaces get all the attention, there are even more locations where you can buy festival food, some of which are eligible for Sip and Savor pass usage. Look also for Festival Food and Beverage carts sprinkled throughout DCA. And Paradise Garden Grill has a special menu all its own for the festival (complete with Sip and Savor size smaller portions in addition to full size meals). There are even some special menu items at restaurants in Downtown Disney. In short, there are more than double the physical locations where you can buy food as the festival gets bigger and better.
- Gotta get the ears (and the spirit jerseys, and all the souvenirs). Every special event at Disneyland has tons of merchandise that is hard to resist. And Food & Wine is no exception with new colors and designs annually. The Food & Wine Festival merchandise kiosks often close before the park closes, but don’t worry too much about missing these. You can also traditionally find festival merchandise in Elias & Co. at the end of night if you shut down the park like I tend to do!
- Look out for other non-festival openings. Disney often has a few other special offerings around the time of Food and Wine. The year brings the triumphant return of Soarin’ Over California – again! Over in Disneyland, Toontown is reopening in full staring March 19, 2023 and the Magic Happens parade is already back. So there’s plenty of new things to do and see beyond the festival.
Food & Wine Festival Additional Info!
Want even more info about the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival? Check out all these related guides:
- Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival Basic Guide from This Crazy Adventure Called Life
- Complete Guide to Desserts at the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival from The Happiest Blog on Earth
- Disney California Food and Wine Festival with Kids from Mom Rewritten
- 5 Tips for Taking Kids to the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival from Disneyland with Kids
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Disclosure: I have been a guest of Disneyland for some of my Food & Wine Festival experiences in the last few years. In 2020, I received a complimentary Sip & Savor pass to facilitate this article and in 2022, I received a single day park hopper ticket to visit the Festival. Many of my other visits to Food & Wine have been at my own expense. As always, all opinions are my own.