During the event, which ended at 1 a.m., Guests had access to Frontierland, Adventureland, and New Orleans Square, which was decked out with banners and giant Mickey-shaped lights that touted “Fantasmic! 20thAnniversary.” Music entertainment featuring Disney classics performed by pop stars blared over the loud speakers prior to the Fantasmic! performance. Four attractions (Indiana Jones, The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Jungle Cruise) remained open for Guests’ enjoyment. As 11:30 p.m. neared, my friends and I found an open spot near the Harbor Gallery on the steps and waited for the show to begin. A nearby Cast Member told us that people had started camping out for seats as early as 5:30 p.m., with most APs settling into their seats by 7:30 p.m. We were fortunate to find standing room and still had a good view of the Rivers of America.
Disney California Adventure holds a special place in my heart. As luck would have it, one of my first jobs in college was as a show hostess and dough divider at the Boudin Bakery Tour on the Pacific Wharf when the park first opened in 2001. I’ve watched it grow and change over the past 11 years and one of the most exciting events that DCA offered was the Disney’s California Food & Wine Festival.
For years, I had heard of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World and wished that the Disneyland Resort would host a similar event to showcase California’s culinary landscape. It is no secret among my friends that I love food and it is a passion that I learned from my parents, who taught me to cook and enjoy putting together a great meal. As both of my parents’ birthdays happened to coincide with Disney’s California Food & Wine Festival, my brother and I decided to treat our parents to a wonderful afternoon at The Disneyland Resort – and it has become one of my favorite DCA memories.
Prior to this event, my parents had never set foot in Disney California Adventure. While my mother is well-versed in the ways of Disneyland, having taken me there when I was younger, it was priceless to see her face light up in awe at this new Disney park that she hadn’t experienced before. For those who have never attended, the Disney’s California Food and Wine Festival was a showcase of food, wine, and beer from California. Featuring celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, wine and beer walks, wine education events and special food offerings throughout the parks, the festival celebrated all things epicurean and DCA became the perfect showcase for it.
My dad was extremely excited to see Chef Robert Irvine of “Kitchen Impossible” fame perform a culinary demonstration in the Sunshine Plaza, and I couldn’t wait to try the food offerings. My family and I checked out the many educational wine walks that showcased California’s wine region, took a walking tour throughout DCA, and for the first time, I admired the Imagineers’ handiwork as I didn’t go on one single ride during this visit. This goes down in the books as one of the nicest Disney outings I’ve ever had – and I got to share that with my parents, the people who first introduced me to Disney.
With the exciting expansions happening at DCA (stay tuned for all the updates here!), there hasn’t been an opportunity for more Disney California Food and Wine Festivals, but hopefully in the near future we’ll see them again!
On May 14, 2012, I attended the first of four Annual Passholder (AP) events celebrating the 20th anniversary of Fantasmic! – Disneyland’s pyrotechnic and water show on the Rivers of America. The event began at 10 p.m., with a special performance of Fantasmic! slated for 11:30 p.m. When I saw the announcement, I was ecstatic – out of all the Disney Parks I’ve been to and all the shows I’ve seen around the world, Fantasmic! is still my favorite Disney performance. It is not often I get to attend the exclusive Passholder events, so I invited three friends to join me and RSVP’d right away.
For anyone interested in the registration process, APs received an email about the event with instructions on how to RSVP. I had to select from four available dates (May 14, May 15, May 21, May 22) at the Main Entrance ticket booths a week prior to the event and then received a voucher good for me and three AP friends to attend. On my selected day, I brought my voucher & three guests to the ticket booth, showed our annual passes to the Cast Member and received bright yellow wristbands for all of us, indicating we were allowed to stay in the parks past Disneyland’s 10 p.m. closing time for the Fantasmic! event.
My friends and I meandered through Disneyland, enjoying Fantasyland and Tomorrowland attractions before the park’s closing. Then we headed to New Orleans Square for dinner. There were so many special event foods available for our choosing, such as “Berry Brownie Skewers” at Bengal Barbecue, “Bacon Mac and Cheese” hot dogs at the Harbor Gallery, and a “Fantasmic” cupcake from the French Market.
We decided to take advantage of some of the special event offerings at The French Market in New Orleans Square. Two of us chose the popcorn shrimp plate, which came with a side of refreshing coleslaw and a giant pile of grapes. My other friends opted for the French Dip sandwich, which came with a side of N’awlins chips and grapes as well. For dessert, we headed over to the churro cart in New Orleans Square to grab some churros with spicy chocolate sauce. The churros were served bite-sized and the chocolate sauce was warm, gooey, and a delicious alternative to the usual stuffed churros I’ve had for special events. Later in the evening, my friend Andy decided to top off his meal with a chili cheese corn dog from the Stage Door Café.
The performance opened on the water screen with video clips from 1992, featuring newsreels and video clips about the creation of Fantasmic! and the premiere of the show. We saw interviews with the producers and rave reviews from patrons who saw the show for the first time. The video paid homage to the creators of the show and ended with the names of everyone responsible for Fantasmic! As the lights dimmed, a hush fell on the crowd as the show began. Fantasmic! may be 20 years old, but it’s still one of the most fun, innovative, and entertaining shows that I’ve ever seen.
As an Annual Passholder, I highly recommend taking advantage of these special Passholder events. If you do not receive emails about the events, you can log on to your Passholder profile at the Disneyland website and view announcements and special offers. While the Fantasmic! event is quite late for APs with little ones, there are many opportunities to experience Disney in a whole new way, alongside Disney fans like yourself.
About the Author: Vy T. is a travel industry PR specialist and Disneyland Annual Passholder based out of Orange County.