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Park Spotlight: Disney California Adventure Part 2

During Part 1 of my spotlight on Disney California Adventure Park (DCA), you took an in depth look at how DCA came to be and discovered the must-do attractions.

Now, in Part 2 of my spotlight on DCA, you will discover the incredible dining options and where to have a California wine-tasting experience without ever stepping foot off of Disneyland Resort property, which characters experiences are available, information about the nighttime shows and special events, as well as a sneak-peek of things to come in the next few years. If, when you visit a Disney theme park, you’re interested in more than just the attractions, this section is for you! Plus, it’s always fun to be in the know!


Many frequent park guests fancy the chance to see the lights turn on in Cars Land each night. Other guests enjoy the ambience of Paradise Pier at dusk when California Screamin’ and Mickey’s Fun Wheel are illuminated. Some guests prefer an award-winning hot dog, flavored popcorn, or a sugary churro while cruising the park. No matter what you choose, DCA can deliver!

Mickey’s Fun Wheel

Photo credit: Ashley Hunt

Quick-Service Restaurants

Seeing the lights turn on at dusk in Cars Land is magical. Seeing the lights turn on while enjoying a home-cooked dinner at Flo’s V8 Café is magical perfection. Insider tip: Get a seat facing Radiator Springs Racers to optimize your viewing experience.

Flo’s V8 Café at Sunset

Photo credit: Ashley Hunt

Do you prefer options such as Chili Cheeseburgers; Gourmet, Street-Style Hot Dogs and Sausages; or Chicken with Thai Coconut Curry? Be sure to try Smokejumpers Grill, Award Wieners, or a hidden gem of DCA: Lucky Fortune Cookery (located in Pacific Wharf). Each of these options is especially delicious!

Table-Service Restaurants

While guests are informed that reservations aren’t necessary at DCA, I highly recommend making them if you plan on dining at Ariel’s Grotto, Carthay Circle Restaurant, or Wine Country Trattoria. Sometimes, it is possible to sit down for your meal without a reservation at these locations; but, guests have definitely been turned away if the restaurant has no available seating.

If you prefer to not make a reservation, a great secondary option is to have a light meal at Carthay Circle Lounge, Cove Bar, or Alfresco Tasting Terrace. Each offers its own small bites that are sure to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.

Charcuterie Board at Carthay Circle Lounge

Photo credit: Ashley Hunt

Insider tip: The lobster nachos at Cove Bar are plenty big enough for two. Get them to share!

Wine Tasting

John Lasseter. Diane Miller. Skywalker. Kurt Russell. If you haven’t been to Alfresco Tasting Terrace, all of those names have one thing in common: Disney. But, did you know that each is also connected through the California wine industry? At Alfresco Tasting Terrace, guests can find wines from the Lasseter Family Winery, Silverado Vineyards, Skywalker Vineyards, and GoGi Wines. The terrace is first-come first-served, offers a secluded location in the heart of the park, and serves its wine by the glass or flight sampling. There’s also quite a view of Guardians of the Galaxy –Mission: BREAKOUT!

White Wine Flight at Alfresco Tasting Terrace

Photo credit: Ashley Hunt

Character Experiences

At DCA, the character experiences are aplenty; however, only a select few (:cough: Thor) really walk around. Throughout the park, expect to find:

  • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

  • Nick Wilde & Judy Hopps

  • Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Red the Fire Engine

  • Anna, Elsa, and Olaf

  • Black Widow

  • Captain America

  • Spiderman

  • Groot

  • Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins

My husband and me with Red the Fire Engine

Photo credit: Disney PhotoPass Photographer

Of course, if you’d rather the characters come to you, plan on making a dining reservation at Ariel’s Grotto for breakfast or lunch with Ariel and other Disney Princesses. The expected characters at these meals include:

  • Ariel

  • Aurora

  • Belle

  • Snow White

  • Cinderella

An important note: the characters are not available at dinner or with World of Color dining packages.


Nighttime Shows

World of Color is an extravagant nighttime spectacular featuring nearly 1,200 fountains of water shooting upwards of 200 feet in the air, pyrotechnics, as well as scenes and music from beloved Disney and Pixar animated and live-action films. The show takes place nightly in front of Mickey’s Fun Wheel in Paradise Pier and does have a FASTPASS option. Similar to Fantasmic! at Disneyland Park, guests can hold a FASTPASS for both World of Color as well as one other attraction just as they normally would at any other time. Another option to guarantee you a standing spot for the show is to book a dining package at:

  • Ariel’s Grotto

  • Carthay Circle Restaurant

  • Wine Country Trattoria

Special Events

Food and Wine Festival

Typically occurring during March and April each year, the DCA Food and Wine Festival brings guests a sampling of food and wines from California. The festival features booths similar to that of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival as well as a Festival Center and other festival events such as seminars and Celebrity Chef appearances. Additionally, look for festival-themed merchandise as well as California Wine Pairing dinners and beer pairing dinners from Anaheim-based breweries.

This festival was on a short hiatus prior to its 2016 return; but, as it did occur in 2017, it is expected next year as well.

Halloween Time

Photo credit: Disney Parks Blog

Beginning on September 15, 2017, and lasting through October 31, 2017, Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort is expanding to DCA. Guests can expect to find the residents of Radiator Springs in full costume and their homes decorated for Haul-O-Ween. Additionally, expect more ghoulish puns throughout Cars Land (e.g. Fillmore’s Jack-Oil Lanterns, Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree, and Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween).

The festivities begin as soon as guests approach the main entrance to DCA as Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas casts a shadow over the park. As guests travel down Buena Vista Street, they’ll even encounter a swarm of bats surrounding Carthay Circle Theatre. With all of the decorations and witchy spirit, guests are sure to have a spooky good time!

Festival of the Holidays

Sample of Entertainment Offerings

Photo credit: Disneyland Resort

On November 10, 2017, the Festival of the Holidays returns to DCA as part of the Holidays at Disneyland Resort. The festival celebrates the holiday season through special music, entertainment, and food. Disney recently announced that the Festive Foods Marketplace would return for its second year! What types of food can guests expect? Small bites from around the world, comfort food, and traditional holiday treats. Yum!

Future Sneak Peek

Pixar Pier Concept Art

Photo credit: Disney

In summer of 2018, guests of DCA will notice a permanent enhancement to the park inspired by Toy Story, The Incredibles, Inside Out, and other Pixar favorites. The enhancement? Paradise Pier will become Pixar Pier. Check out the video below where chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Bob Chapek, and John Lasseter made the announcement at the D23 Expo during July 2017.

What do you think of the expected change coming to DCA next year?

Ashley Hunt is an Independent Agent of Fairytale Adventures Travel. She is a Former Cast Member; Annual Passholder at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida; and a frequent guest of the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. She specializes in couple’s vacations and family travel at all Disney parks worldwide, Adventures by Disney, and Disney Cruise Line. Ashley can be reached at or

Enjoy what you read? Be sure to visit Ashley’s blog at for more.

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