After a 6-year hiatus, the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival has made a grand reappearance at Disney’s California Adventure park. In the past, the festival was spread out throughout the parks, featuring kitchen demonstrations in the Sunshine Plaza, wine and beer walks, and over a month of seminars and presentations that you could participate in.
In its 2016 iteration, the Disney California Food & Wine Festival takes a cue card from its counterpart at Walt Disney World, the Epcot Food & Wine Festival (as well as the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival), which feature pop-up kiosks with small bites that celebrate a particular region. In this case, the California Food & Wine Festival is celebrating all food and drink that makes California the place to be!
As you may know, I am the Babes in Disneyland resident foodie and I attended both the 2009 & 2010 DCA Food & Wine Festivals (which I featured in a blog post as my favorite DCA memory). However, I have also experienced both Epcot’s Food & Wine and Flower & Garden festivals and all their delicious eats – so I’ve decided to share my top tips for tackling the Disney California Food & Wine festival (or any of Disney’s food festivals) to maximize your enjoyment, your dollars, and your time!
The festival dates for 2016 are April 1 – May 1, with the bulk of the entertainment and seminars happening on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. However, the DCA Festival Marketplace kiosks are open all week long, and according to a Cast Member, they are open from 11am – 7pm from Monday-Thursday and open until 9pm on the weekends. You can even check the Disneyland app for the kiosk times. Search “Dining” and zoom into the area near Blue Sky Cellar.
Top Tips For Festival Enjoyment!
1. Map Out Your Must-Eats
Make sure you know well in advance what you’re in the mood for as every single kiosk has a little bit of something for everyone. It’s going to be overwhelming to decide on what you want to try, either on your own or within your group (as my next tip will involve them in some way!) We’re featuring all of the major food Festival Marketplaces here so you can get an idea of the pricing and make a “must-eat
list of your very own before you tackle the festival!
2. Load up a Gift Card
Disney offers up miniature gift cards on stretchy wristbands that you can load up with a minimum of $15. While you may think that it’s unnecessary to use a gift card to enjoy the festival, hear me out. As opposed to swiping your debit or credit card at multiple kiosks, you can budget how much you want to spend at the Food & Wine festival by loading up a gift card with that amount. Your credit card statement will only reflect that one charge, so you’re not mindlessly buying food left and right without any notion of how much you’ve spent altogether. It will also be easy for you to scan your gift card at every kiosk if you wear the gift card around your wrist, which means less time taking out your wallet all the time. Your receipt will reflect how much is leftover on your gift card, which means you can make better choices and keep within your spending budget.
3. Share Your Plates
If you’re like me, your eyes are bigger than your stomach, and even though the small plates look like they won’t fill you up, if you’re trying to hit up all the festival kiosks, you may find your stomach tapping out long before you’re done. This is where sharing is caring. I was able to try at least one item from all 13 food kiosks at the Epcot Flower & Garden festival because a friend and I would decide on an item and then share the bites. This is the best strategy for getting the most out of your dining experience – getting 1-2 tastes of everything and then deciding if you want to fork over another $5 to get another bite of that favorite dish. I highly recommend sharing the plates and getting full on as many eats as you can!
4. Don’t Forget the Festival-Inspired Creations!
The Festival Marketplaces aren’t the only ones celebrating the Food & Wine Festival! Some of your favorite eateries at Disney California Adventure are also featuring “festival-inspired” creations that are only available for a limited time. I got my hands on the Dungeness Crab Corn Chowder (pictured above) from Pacific Wharf Cafe and tried the Chicken & Vegetable Dumplings. Next time, I hope to try Cocina Cucamonga’s Shredded Pork Tostadas! Many other eateries offer festival-inspired plates, such as Wine Country Trattoria and Carthay Circle Lounge & Restaurant!
5. Check out the Festival seminars, presentations, and special vendors!
During the festival, the stage that formerly house the Mad T Party has been transformed into a DCA Food & Wine Festival presentation stage. Speakers, culinary demos, and other food options are available in Hollywoodland during the Friday, Saturday, Sunday portion of the festival. Also be sure to head over to the Studio store if you’re looking for Food & Wine Festival commemorative items to take home.
There are also some really great vendors on hand, such as Rinse Bath Co., Gourmet Lips, and more! You can do olive oil tasting or find some really great gifts and souvenirs to take home to your friends and family.
**Bonus tip for Annual Passholders: Stop by Disney’s Blue Sky Cellar Lounge!
Much like the Chase Visa card lounge at Epcot, Disney’s California Adventure is offering Annual Passholders a much-needed reprieve from the festival frenzy!
Visit the Blue Sky Cellar, where Annual Passholders can purchase a Festival tasting lanyard (which has recently dropped in price from $45 to $39 and allows you tastings at 6 different Festival Marketplace kiosks), can get their hands on an exclusive button, get some popcorn, recipe cards, and even charge their cell phones (but you need to bring your own cord!). There is also a video you can watch, narrated by Jeremy Irons about California wine country.
Each week will feature a new button design so if you like to collect these items, be sure to stop by!
Hope these tips help you have a wonderful visit to the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival! Be prepared that many items may run out depending on the time of day you visit. Most of all, have lots of fun and happy eating!