As someone who spends a lot of her vacations at Disneyland, I often get the same question “Adults go to Disney??” And yes, they do! Couples, singles, bachelorette parties, and sometimes solo adventurers frequent the parks. All have a great time, no doubt. And of course, the park is located in Southern California, so if your adult mind can’t take a minute more of the magic, you can take a drive down to the beach or visit Los Angeles.
In response to my previous post about enjoying Disney World as an adult, here are some great things you can enjoy at Disneyland!
The biggest deterrent to Disney World fans is that Disneyland is smaller and only has two parks. However, there’s still plenty to do for adults and kids alike. Even Toon Town has a Roger Rabbit ride, which appeals to the millennial demographic more often than children.
New! On January 18th, Disneyland began an event-series called Disneyland After Dark. These are hard-ticket events that allow guests to stay in the parks until 1:00 AM and each one will have a fun theme. The first event was themed after “vintage Disneyland” and featured posters and entertainment from the Dapper Dan era. You can take a look at PopSugar’s pictures of the event here.
First and foremost! Disneyland isn’t just a bunch of kiddie ride. They have some thrills as well. They may not be Six Flags, but they’re definitely a good time!
The Mountain Rides: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Matterhorn are the best thrill rides Disneyland has to offer. Pro Tip: Try to time your ride on the Matterhorn during the fireworks. It’s like they’re exploding right in front of you. I’ve somehow managed to do this twice.
Haunted Mansion: So spooky! I mean, it’s no Hollywood Horror Nights at Universal, but it’s an all-time favorite for most people. The technology was very innovative at the time it was built and still proves to be impressive today. And I do love a good dark ride to escape the sun.
Indiana Jones Adventure: The perfect ride for 80’s/90’s babies. It has a bit of a thrill factor and throwback to some of our favorite Harrison Ford moments. Fun Fact: The Indiana track is the same exact track as the Dinosaur ride in Disney World!
Star Tours-The Adventure Continues: Disney has been updating this ride since the new movies came out and now feature some of our favorite new lands and characters. This attraction will satisfy your Star Wars needs until the new Star Wars Land: Galaxy’s Edge opens in 2019!
Cool Down Rides: After you’ve had your thrills, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by park chaos. Three attractions that are perfect for a break are Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, The Enchanted Tiki Room, and the Mark Twain Riverboat.
Market House on Main Street (Starbucks): Alright, I have to start this section off right. Many of us, whether we have kids or not, depend on coffee to make our day a little more magical. Although I’m a Seattleite and we tend to dislike Starbucks (because we’re coffee snobs), Starbucks will definitely do the trick. I’m glad they added the franchise to the parks. They were also able to use pseudonyms to help the shops blend into the Disney atmosphere. If the line is long, and it usually is, pop over to Jolly Holiday Bakery where they serve giant Mickey macarons and yummy mochas!
Cafe Orleans: So, this place is lacking in a romantic atmosphere, but the food is absolutely incredible and catered to an adult appetite. They serve the same famous Monte Cristo as the Blue Bayou and also the infamous Mickey beignets. If you can’t get a reservation at Blue Bayou, try this one! (I like their entrees better here anyway.)
Blue Bayou: The coolest thing about this restaurant is that it’s located inside Pirates of the Caribbean. The “nighttime” environment is dark, moody, and incredibly romantic. However, much like Rainforest Cafe, you’re paying for the atmosphere, not the food. Unless, of course, you’re talking about that previously mentioned Monte Cristo.
Carnation Cafe: This restaurant has been around since the park’s opening in 1955 and lead by Chef Oscar Martinez, the longest-tenured Cast Member, who just celebrated 60 years with Disneyland. If you’re a Disney nut like me, you’ll love the sentimental values of this restaurant. Also, the food is fantastic, with comfort foods like fried pickles and Walt’s favorite meatloaf.
Golden Horseshoe Review: This campy dinner show has been playing since the park opened as well. If you’re looking for a fun date night, this is a good option. However, if your party is full of introverts, you might want to try Blue Bayou. The show involves a little bit of audience interaction, so don’t be surprised if they call you out!
Fantasmic! Dining Package: If you plan on having dinner at either Blue Bayou, River Belle Terrace, or Cafe Orleans, you might as well book it with the Fantasmic! Dining Package. The package includes a 3-course meal and a spot in the preferred viewing area for the show. You can also do the Fantasmic On-the-Go Package if you don’t want to splurge. The new Fantasmic! 2.0 opened last summer, and it’s wildly successful. Unless you want to camp out for an hour, it’s difficult to find a clear viewing spot for the show. Fantasmic! is a great show to see whether you book the dining package or not.
Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge Experience: For an extra price, you can indulge in some Disney snacks and watch the fireworks from a private viewing area in Tomorrowland. Just make sure the fireworks are scheduled the night you book. The reservation allows you to come and go as you please, from 8:00-10:00 at night.
Corn Dog Cart: Maybe you want to save money on dining and blow it all on margaritas in California Adventure instead. The famous corn dog cart at the end of Main Street serves freshly hand-dipped corn dogs that live up to the hype.
This park is a little more grown up in regards to the dining, theme, and attractions. Now that Cars Land has been added and the transformation of Paradise Pier to Pixar Pier is soon underway, this park is becoming a rival to Disneyland park.
Incredicaoster (Closed for Renovations): Opening summer of 2018, California Screamin’, the largest and most thrilling roller coaster in both parks will be transformed into the Incredicoaster. The highly anticipated Incredibles II will inspire the new mid-century modern design.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Listen, I’m a Tower of Terror purist. I remember riding this attraction the year it opened, and I couldn’t stop talking about it. When I heard they were transforming it into Guardians of the Galaxy, I was not amused. However, the Imagineers did a great job with the re-imagining of the tower. The technology is fantastic, the ride is smoother, and even a bit more thrilling than Tower of Terror. I approve of this reinvention, but if they change it in Disney World too, I will protest.
Radiator Springs Racers: This ride is like Epcot’s Test Track on steroids. This is an absolute must-do. The architecture and rock work alone is something to see, and the attraction features animatronic cars that look almost lifelike. It also has a Single Riders Line, which is ideal when traveling with adults-only.
Soarin’ Around the World: This is a spectacular ride and a favorite among all ages. The technology makes you feel like you’re paragliding over the Matterhorn and the soundtrack is uh-mazing.
Animation Courtyard: I love this secret cove so much I wrote an entire post about it here. When I was a teenager, I stumbled upon this building with a friend, and we felt like we found a secret hiding spot in Disneyland. The entrance walkway opens up into a giant gallery room where giant projections show clips of Disney movies and play music. There’s a lot of comfy seating, generous floor space to take a load off, and it’s gloriously air-conditioned.
Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge: The restaurant is themed after old Hollywood, “amid the glitz and the glitter of a bustling, young movie town at the height of its golden age.” In other words, it’s quite fancy inside. The restaurant splits off to secluded dining areas and even has private dining nooks if you book a large group. They also share the Chef from the Grand Californian’s Napa Rose, Andrew Sutton, so you know the food is perfection.Very romantic and very delicious. The menu changes often, but last time I went I had the Thick-cut Berkshire Pork Chop and it was the best Disneyland meal I’ve ever had.
Wine Country Trattoria: The atmosphere is inspired by wine countries in California and Italy, making this place also subtly romantic. I love the outdoor patio with winding vines covering the building. I suggest the Spaghetti Aglio Olio. Delish!
Alfresco Tasting Terrace: The rooftop lounge is a bit of a hidden secret. Before you enter Wine Country Trattoria, take the stairs on your right. Most people don’t know it’s there, so it feels secluded. Great wine bar with a view of the park.
Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe (Starbucks): California Adventure’s Starbucks is towards the entrance of the park and shares a building with Clarabelle’s Hand-Scooped Ice Cream (also delicious) and the Kingswell Camera Shop (if you need a spare memory card or charger). If the line is long, try the Gourmet Coffee Cart usually located in between Pacific Wharf and the Paradise Pier entrance. They also serve on-the-go pastries.
World of Color Dining or Dessert Party: Much like the Tomorrowland Lounge, for an additional cost you can indulge in specialty desserts and watch World of Color from a private viewing area. However, the dining package is a better deal if you plan on eating at either Wine Country Trattoria or Carthay Circle.
Sonoma Terrace: If you’re not in the mood for a lounge setting, outside of Wine Country Trattoria there’s a walk-up bar and outdoor seating. They serve some snacks like cheese plates and Bavarian pretzels alongside an extensive wine and beer menu.
Other Places that Serve Alchohol in California Adventure
Although Disneyland only serves alcohol in the super-duper-exclusive Club 33, it doesn’t stop California Adventure from having all the fun. I’ve listed all the places that currently serve alcohol below. Best of all, you can get your drinks to-go and carry it around the park like Vegas! Here’s evidence of me carrying around an Island Sunset from the (now deceased) Cove Bar.
Rita’s Baja Blenders: Frozen or on the rocks? These margaritas go well with some tamales from Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill.
Bayside Brews: A Mickey pretzel and beer kiosk. Perf!
Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta: Pizza and beer, or, pizza and sangria. The choice is yours.
Lucky Fortune Cookery: Tofu and the Japanese beer, Sapporo!
Paradise Garden Grill: Two kinds of Dos Equis and red sangria!
Smokejumpers Grill: Waffle fries and beers!
Flo’s V8 Café: The 50’s style diner serves wine and beer, but I’d opt for a milkshake here.
Food Festivals Throughout the Year: They are bringing back California Adventure’s version of the Food and Wine Festival, Lunar New Year, and Festival of Holidays. All provide food, drink, and entertainment that are themed with each festival. The new Festival of Holidays is my absolute favorite special event. Last year they had concoctions like hot fried turkey sandwiches and bourbon cider with homemade marshmallows.
Downtown Disney is designed for an older demographic in mind, for sure, but not quite as expansive as Disney Springs in Florida. It still offers some good options for dining, shopping, and is free to the public. This makes it the perfect place to visit on your first day in town. Especially if you have some time before checking in to your hotel room. Drop your bags off at the front desk and visit for dinner and drinks!
Splitsville: The bowling alley (which also resides in Disney World) is replacing the House of Blues this year. Splitsville in Florida offers a full bar, and late-night eats until 12:30 every night, so I’m hoping it will be similar to that. And the retro concept art looks fantastic! I imagine this will be the new happening spot for a night out.
Star Wars Hyper-Reality Experience: This brand-new experience allows guests to journey through a choice of 4 themed lands. The idea is that your team is sent undercover on a mission fro the rebellion where you’ll interact with sets and experience sensory and immersive technology along the way. You can find tickets for the experience here.
ESPN Zone: For the longest time I thought this was just a sports bar. It actually houses a pretty cool arcade and some indoor sports, like a four-person air hockey table. And yes, there’s a lounge and huge t.v.’s that show the games everywhere you turn. ESPN will close in the next year or so to make room for a new resort coming in 2021.
The Disney Dress Shop: They added this new shop to Disney World and Disneyland and I’m absolutely in love. Finally, an adult version of Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique! (Without all the Fairy Godmother’s, of course.) The dresses, mostly designed by Her Universe, are inspired by the retro/Dapper Day aesthetic with a Disney twist. Some of the dresses and accessories are sold throughout the parks as well. If you like vintage, you’ll love this. I bought this Orange Bird bag my last visit!
Disney Homegoods Store (Coming soon!): D-Street will soon be replaced by a Disney homegood store sometime this year. The Disney themed products will change throughout the season. More Mickey mugs for me!
WonderGround Gallery: This store sells Disney-inspired art pieces like custom Vinylmations, giclées, mugs, and more. Also, if you fall in love with a giant painting of Snow White, Disney can ship it to your home, so you don’t have to worry about bringing it on a plane. Although, that can be a bit spendy, FYI.
Other adult-friendly shops include Pandora Jewelry, Sanuk, and Sephora
Catal Restaurant: With menu items like assorted paellas and filet mignon, Catal is slightly more upscale than maybe say, Tortilla Joe’s. (Although, that tableside guac is amazing.) Outdoor seating at Catal is located on the 2nd floor and a prime spot for taking in the energy of Downtown Disney. You might also be able to catch the fireworks from the patio!
Uva Bar: I love this bar. It’s an outdoor bar located right in the middle of the walkway, between Catal and Build-A-Bear. It’s a great place to take in the atmosphere, listen to the street musicians, and people watch. However, if you’re looking for a quiet dinner, this might not be a great choice.
Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen: This is an optimal venue for a date night. There’s nightly jazz, gumbo, all set within an open-air atrium design. They also have an express window that serves yummy cajun fried goods on the go. A great place to stop by for a quick breakfast beignet.
Disneyland has three official hotels, with a fourth coming in the next few years. The most adult-friendly resort is the Grand Californian. If you have the budget, this place is worth every penny. There’s poolside service, a gorgeous lobby to rest your feet, and a private entrance to California Adventure. If it’s not in your budget, you can still enjoy some of the things the resort has to offer. The Disneyland Hotel is the flagship hotel, designed when Walt was still around and also has a nice restaurant and lounge. The last hotel, Paradise Pier, is lacking in dining and entertainment values. Although, I still enjoy it because it has the Disney touch.
The Grand Californian Hotel and Spa
Napa Rose: This is my favorite restaurant in Disneyland. Everything was delicious, and the service was excellent. It’s also very elegant, and there’s an outside patio with some fire pits. On a slow night, I took my champagne outside and listened to the ambient sounds of Californian Adventure, right on the other side of the bushes.
Hearthstone Lounge: The lounge located inside of the lobby with decor that matches the rest of the resort. Cozy seats and good drinks! What more could you want?
Mandara Spa: The spa is a great place to experience luxury even if you’re not staying at the resort. After you’ve been pampered, you can use their sauna and steam room facilities. I indulged in a massage here and it was completely worth it.
Get Up and Go Power Walk: It’s a little-known fact that anyone staying at a Disney resort can partake in a guided power walk through California Adventure before it opens. Seeing Paradise Pier at sunrise was my favorite Disney experience I’ve ever had in my life. Completely unforgettable.
If you’re a kid-at-heart you’ll love this hotel. With park views and being steps away from the monorail, it’s like you’re living in Disneyland. The rooms are spacious and the elegantly Disney-themed rooms have a magical touch without being tacky. The monorail slide at the pool is also pretty cool!
Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar: On the patio, you’re treated to a live band and tiki torches. On the inside, the bar is tiny, so you might have to wait in a line until people leave to be admitted. Even then, you’re not guaranteed a seat and you might have to cozy up to the bar. What it lacks in seating, it makes up in the atmosphere. I don’t want to give away too much, but if you order a Krakatoa Punch, you’re in for a surprise.
The Coffee House: This the one place on property that serves the classic Dole Whip with a shot of rum. Extremely dangerous.
Steakhouse 55: What’s more adult than a fancy steakhouse? The steaks are friggin’ delicious, as you might imagine, and they feature a 24 layer chocolate cake. If you want a unique experience, you can try their Afternoon Tea featuring a spread of scones, tea sandwiches, and assorted teas. The atmosphere is pretty nice and the lounge has a lot of comfy seating, but in all honesty, I prefer Napa Rose for a nice dinner.
Fireworks on the Rooftop: The coolest thing about this resort is that you can see the Disneyland fireworks from the rooftop pool. They also pipe in the fireworks soundtrack while you watch. Arrive about 20 minutes early if you want a seat, and there is plenty of standing room if you come late.
Surfside Lounge: If you’re paying the price for a Disney cocktail, I suggest heading across the street to another resort or Downtown Disney. If for some reason you cant make it out the door, the Surfside Lounge will do. You can order food from PCH Grill next door, and they have some wine and cocktails available.
The Sand Bar: The pool bar, serving pretzels and cocktails. I’m really happy they have a bar up here. Otherwise, the pool would be pretty lackluster.
Some appreciate the engineering and attention to detail, some get their heartstrings pulled when they watch the fireworks, and others love to party. Whether you think I’ve drunk the Disney flavored Kool-Aid or not, the parks have a lot to offer to both young and old!
Ready for that bachelorette trip or romantic getaway? Contact me here and I’ll help you book your next adult-exclusive Disney World trip! All my travel planning services are free!