90’s babies have grown up and the challenge to market to our interests has surfaced for a lot of companies. I don’t want to speak for everyone in my age group, but one way to strike a chord with us is to tap into our childhood nostalgia. If we visited as kids, we want to revisit the memories of vacations and if we didn’t, we probably still watched Disney movies. In response to “grown-ups” gaining an interest in the parks, I’ve written a series on what to do at Disneyland as an adult.
This park was a little easier to write about than Disneyland proper. First off, California Adventure is not a “dry park” like Disneyland. Meaning, alcohol is sold in this park and there’s a lot of it. If you don’t like to drink there are plenty of thrill rides and entertainment to peak your interest. Now that Cars Land has been added and the transformation of Paradise Pier to Pixar Pier is complete, this park is becoming a rival to Disneyland.
This article is focused on California Adventure so be sure to check out my previous adult guides to Disney:
Most of the festivals at California Adventure appeal to an older demographic because they tend to be food & beverage-centric. We love posting pictures of beautiful cocktails and dishes on Instagram so why not make it easy for us? It’s basically free advertising for Disney anyway.
Food & Wine Festival: This is the baby version of Epcot’s Food & Wine in Disney World. Instead of featuring snacks and cocktails from around the world, this festival puts a spotlight on California-inspired food and beverages. I paired their version of the “frushi roll” with a wine slushie and all my Disney dreams came true.
Festival of Holidays: This is my favorite festival at the parks. The food and entertainment si inspired by holidays from around the world like Hanukkah, Christmas, Diwali, and Kwanzaa. Last year they featured bands like Mostly Kosher (Hannukah tunes), an all-female mariachi band, and an a cappella group that sang both Kwanzaa and Christmas songs. It was a ton of fun and I’m hoping to go back next year!
Pixar Fest (2018): I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney kept some of the elements of Pixar Fest for next year and beyond. The festival featuring Pixar-inspired beverages, food, and entertainment has been a hit. You can check out my full guides to Snacking at Pixar Fest and Entertainment for a full review.
Lunar New Year (2018): This year they rang in the Year of the Dog with food, entertainment, and character meets inspired by the holiday and culture that surrounds it. Obviously, Pluto was the star of the show. I’ll keep everyone updated if they decide to bring this one back next year!
Soon California Adventure will feature a land devoted entirely to the Marvel canon. They’ve already transformed Tower of Terror into Guardians of the Galaxy and they’re getting ready to close down Bug’s Land to make way for more action-packed attractions.
Attractions with Single Riders: If your travel group doesn’t mind being separated, use the Single Riders Line. This will cut down your wait time considerably.
- California Adventure: Radiator Springs, Grizzly River Run, Goofy’s Sky School (strange, but true)
- Disneyland: Matterhorn, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones, Space Mountain
Incredicoaster: The Incredibles hype made it possible for Disney to transform California Screamin’ into an incredible roller coaster. Overall, the ride is the same as it once was with some elements added to fit the Pixar Pier environment. It’s the only large coaster on property with an upside loop.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Listen, I’m a Tower of Terror purist. 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 this attraction. The technology is fantastic, the ride is smooth, and I’d say it’s more thrilling than Tower of Terror. I approve of this reinvention, but if they change it in Disney World, I will protest.
Radiator Springs Racers: This ride is like Epcot’s Test Track on steroids and an absolute must-do. The architecture and rock work alone is magnificent and the attraction features animatronic cars that look almost lifelike.
Pixar Pal-Around: Formerly called Mickey’s Fun Wheel, now with Pixar themed gondolas. If you seek a bit of thrill, try the swinging cars that rock in and out while you rotate. Even some grown-ups find this Ferris wheel a little too intense.
Soarin’ Around the World: There are plenty of attractions that will help you wind down after a morning of coasters and high-speed rides. Soarin’ is a spectacular ride for all ages, but adults seem to appreciate the technology. The ride is relaxing and gorgeous.
Animation Courtyard: I appreciate this hidden gem so much I wrote an entire post highlighting why it’s the best attraction at Disneyland (in my honest opinion). With large projection screens featuring clips of Disney movies and sweeping orchestrations, it’s the perfect place to catch your breath before heading back out into the sweltering sun.
Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge: “Hollywood, 1939. Amid the glitz and the glitter of a bustling, young movie town at the height of its golden age.” This restaurant is inspired by the real Carthay Circle and yes, it’s quite romantic. If you’re looking for a cocktail, the first floor has a lounge that does not require a reservation. Up the stairs is the main dining room which splits off to secluded dining areas and private dining nooks reserved for large groups. This place shares the same Chef from the Grand Californian’s Napa Rose, Andrew Sutton, so you know the food is perfection.
Wine Country Trattoria: The atmosphere is inspired by wine countries in Italy complete with an extensive wine list. I love the outdoor seating, covered in winding vines. I suggest the Spaghetti Aglio Olio. Delish!
Alfresco Tasting Terrace: Before you enter Wine Country Trattoria, take the stairs on your right. The rooftop lounge feels secluded and removed from the park hustle. You will have access to the same wine and appetizer menu from Wine Country plus a great view!
Sonoma Terrace: If you’re not in the mood for a lounge setting, near Wine Country Trattoria is a quick-service bar with outdoor seating. They serve some snacks like cheese plates and Bavarian pretzels along with wine and beer.
Lamplight Lounge (Formerly Cove Bar): As we say goodbye to Cove Bar, we greet Lamplight Lounge with open arms. The re-conceptualized lounge is stunning and features unique cocktails, sushi, and the old Cove Bar favorite: Lobster Nachos. There’s even a secret door that leads to a private dining area. I’d give this place a 5 star rating if they didn’t charge $20 a dish. Yikes!
World of Color/Paint the Night Dining or Reception Party: The World of Color package is temporarily unavailable until the show is done with refurbishment. Hopefully, it will be back soon! Much like the Tomorrowland Lounge, for an additional cost, you can indulge in specialty cocktails and snacks then watch the Paint the Night parade from a private viewing area. The dining packages are a great deal if you already plan on eating at either Wine Country Trattoria or Carthay Circle. Great way to beat the crowds and have a unique experience!
I feel like I can never write a post without mentioning my one true love, coffee. There are three great places to find coffee at California Adventure I’ve listed below and if you want more ideas for coffee take a look at my full guide to good coffee at Disneyland.
- Starbucks (Pseudonym: Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe): Located towards the entrance of the park and shares a building with Clarabelle’s Hand-Scooped Ice Cream (also delicious).
- Schmoozie’s: Best iced coffee available at California Adventure, in my humble opinion. You can also indulge in one of their frozen blended mochas.
- Gourmet Coffee Cart: Located at the Pixar Pier entrance. This will have always have a shorter line than Starbucks and they also have some breakfast pastries and other goodies.
There are a lot more places that serve alcohol in this park, so I made a short-list of every place you can find it. You can do a “Drink Around California” excursion akin to the “Drink Around The World” at Epcot. Best of all, you can get your drinks to-go and carry it around the park. Just like Vegas! Here’s evidence of me carrying around an Island Sunset from the (now deceased) Cove Bar.
Pacific Wharf Cafe: Grab an infamous soup in a bread bowl and either a “hazy” unfiltered IPA or a blood orange blonde beer.
Rita’s Baja Blenders: Frozen or on the rocks? These margaritas go well with some tamales from Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill.
Mendocino Terrace: I’ll take a cheese plate and sparkling white wine!
Bayside Brews: A Mickey pretzel and beer kiosk. Perf!
Karl Strauss Beer Truck: Need I say more?
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.
Maybe you think I’ve drunk the Disney Kool-Aid, but I think the parks have a lot to offer to both young and old! Whether you seek thrills, a relaxing day out, or frozen margaritas, you have a ton of options. Make it a honeymoon, a trip with friends, or go rogue and do a solo Disney trip. All you need is a touch of magic, a shot of tequila and a sprinkling of pixie dust to make the perfect Disney vacation for grown-ups!
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