What’s new at the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival
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The Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival is in full swing at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. The festival runs a record-breaking 54 days this year from Feb. 28 through April 21, 2020, in Disney’s California Adventure Park. It features fresh California ingredients like garlic, avocados and berries, as well as wine, beer and spirits from around the state.
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Disney fans on the East Coast may be familiar with Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival that happens each fall. Disneyland’s version is similar. Entry to the festival is included with a regular Disney California Adventure Park ticket, although guests who want to visit Disneyland Park on the same day need to purchase the more expensive park-hopper option.
When purchasing amusement park tickets, remember that the purchase usually codes as entertainment and not travel, so use a credit card like the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card or Citi Premier℠ Card that rewards you for that category. (Capital One Savor Cash Rewards gives 4% back on both dining and entertainment, making it the perfect choice.) If you don’t have a card like that or simply want to save some money, you could alternately purchase your tickets and snacks using discounted Disney gift cards. (The information for the Citi Premier card and the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.)
During the festival, a dozen marketplace kiosks line the pathways of the park. Guests can stroll from kiosk to kiosk purchasing small dishes and drinks that are unavailable at Disneyland any other time of year. There are special entertainment offerings, seminars and tastings with celebrity chefs, some for an additional fee.
Although there are plenty of things to do for adult travelers, the Food & Wine Festival is surprisingly kid-friendly. As the festival has grown over the last few years, Disney has added more and more to appeal to families.
The festival has many favorite foods, shows and experiences returning in 2020, but there is a lot new to explore. Whether you go every year or are a newbie to the event, here’s what to look for in 2020.
New festival foods
Over 80% of the menu items at the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival are new every year, so even regular festival-goers can find something they haven’t tried. I did my best to sample as many of the new menu items as I could to showcase the best of the best. Here are some 2020 highlights:
Mickey-shaped caramel-peanut milk chocolate macaron
When you’re vacationing at Disneyland, there’s nothing wrong with going straight to dessert! Available at the Off the Cob marketplace for $6.50, this macaron perfectly blends peanut butter and chocolate flavors in a highly photographable Mickey shape. Macarons are everywhere right now, but I highly recommend this one even if you have macaron fatigue. The combination of flavors is not overly sweet and it’s a festive treat.
Carbonara mac ‘n’ cheese with Nueske’s bacon
For kids and adults alike, it’s hard to go wrong with macaroni and cheese. This menu item is so good that families may need to order more than one to prevent fighting. The bacon adds texture and crunch, but you can always request that the topping be left off if you think your child might balk at too many ingredients mixed together. The dish is available at the Garlic Kissed kiosk near Goofy’s Sky School for $8. (The other mac and cheese at the festival, a meat-free Impossible™ Cheeseburger Mac & Cheese, is highly talked about but wasn’t my favorite. The mustard flavor overpowered the cheese.)
Related: Review of The Disneyland Hotel
Ranch-fried chicken wings with buffalo hot sauce drizzle
Chicken wings of some sort have been on the festival menu for many years, but this year’s version is the best of the last three years. Available at Cluck-a-Doodle-Moo for $8, this dish comes with four wings perfect for sharing topped with a spicy buffalo sauce. The sauce is good, but the ranch-fried crust is the true standout so you can order these plain if you aren’t a buffalo-sauce fan.
As a Southerner, I take my brisket seriously, so I approached this dish skeptically. But I found California can do it well. The festival’s dish is a slightly more refined version of chili cheese fries, and the brisket is melt-in-your-mouth tender. Find it at Paradise Garden Grill in either a $13.49 full-size version or a smaller (but still very generous) sampler size that you can purchase with a Sip and Savor Pass.
Enhanced marketplace looks
The dozen festival marketplaces are temporary booths along park walkways, but Disneyland has been sprucing them up more each passing year. In 2020, many of the signs for the booths feature moving pieces and parts. Be on the lookout for festive lights after dark as well.
But the most talked-about new feature of the marketplace kiosks is on the sides — not the fronts — of several booths. Recognizing the current obsession with Instagram walls, Disney has added colorful murals to the walls of several kiosks — perfect for posing or taking photos of the beautiful food. Look for the ones at I Love Artichokes, Cluck-a-Doodle-Moo, Peppers Caliente and Uncork California.
Chef Goofy meet and greet
Chef Goofy has always been a huge part of the Food & Wine Festival, hosting a Jr. Chef experience where kids ages 3–11 get to mix up a recipe with him in Hollywood Land.
In 2020, Chef Goofy’s role is even more prominent in the festival. Disneyland has added a meet-and-greet location with him near the Hollywood Land stage. Check the Disneyland app for his appearance times. Arrive early to beat long lines.
Next to the Chef Goofy meet-and-greet, Disneyland has added an expanded section for kids this year, with mostly shaded craft tables where everyone in the family can take a break to color or rest.
Tips for visiting Disneyland’s Food & Wine Festival
If you plan to visit the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, here are a few tips to have the best experience:
Purchase a Sip and Savor Pass. This $56 pass ($51 for annual passholders) entitles guests at the festival to eight food items or nonalcoholic drinks. That’s just about the right amount of food for a family of four to share for a single meal or a couple to share for a full day of eating. The pass will save most guests money over buying items a la carte, especially if you plan to order several of the more expensive, meat-based entrees.
Scope out food choices in the Tasting Passport. Before you walk halfway across the park with aching feet in search of the perfect item to eat or drink, review the Tasting Passport. This booklet lists all the food and drink items served at each Festival Marketplace. Pick it up at the first information booth as you pass Carthay Circle Theater or at several other strategic locations.
Don’t wait in long lines. The festival continues its policy from last year that allows guests to purchase food at any festival kiosk from the menus of all of the kiosks. So find the shortest line, order there and take your receipt to the pickup window of the marketplace serving the food you ordered. Just be aware that while this has cut down on cashier lines to order, a few of the pickup windows can have very long lines instead. (Avoid the LA Style kiosk during peak times; that tends to be the biggest pickup choke point!)
Eat early. The lines at Food & Wine kiosks can be long, so avoid the most rushed times. The festival opens most days at 10:30 a.m., and lines remain short for at least an hour. Consider an early or late lunch to dodge a lot of the crowds. And expect crowds to be much heavier on weekends (especially Saturday night) when local annual passholders come in for a date night.
What’s new this spring in Disneyland Park: Magic Happens!
Disneyland Park across the esplanade isn’t part of the Food & Wine Festival, but I’d be remiss not to highlight a huge new offering that opened the same day as the festival this year. The brand-new Magic Happens parade has been highly anticipated since Disney announced it at the D23 Expo last summer. I had the chance to view it twice on opening weekend — once during a midday show and once for its run after dark.
The Magic Happens parade has new floats and new music as well as bold, creative costumes and choreography. The total effect is edgier than previous Disneyland parades, but totally in keeping with the spirit of the park. Fan-favorite floats included Moana’s outrigger canoe with a backlit sea effect and a Coco float featuring the Marigold Bridge crossing into the Land of the Dead.
Getting a front-row seat can be a challenge, with many guests camping out an hour or more. If you don’t want to wait too long to see the parade and are willing to stand, it’s sometimes easiest to see it right near the train station on Main Street USA where it either ends or starts, depending on the time of day. If you can only view Magic Happens one time during a visit, I’d recommend the after-dark showing to see the full lighting effects on the floats.
Featured photo by the author.
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