When I originally finished this story in March 2020, I couldn't imagine the year that was to come. Who could? But we all know what happened next.
For so many fans, Disneyland's reopening on April 30 offered some light amid the COVID-19 darkness. I know it did for me. Although the annual pass program has been suspended and I can't visit many places in the parks the way I used to, the experience is so much more than the rides. It's about the characters and the history and reclaiming a sense of normalcy. And it's about the drinks. If there's one thing I love as much as a theme park, it's a well-made cocktail.
Five years ago, after I discovered I'm allergic to corn syrup (one of the top ingredients in most premade drinks), I set out on a quest to find the best drinks throughout the Disneyland resort. Forget beer carts and frozen margarita stands. They'll do in a pinch but I wanted handcrafted cocktails, high-end liquors and fresh ingredients, preferably blended with Disney's imagineering wizardry. Not long ago, the notion fo drinking inside Disneyland was a pipe dream, more improbable than firing Idina Menzel for a third installment in the Frozen franchise.
Until May of 2019, you could only buy booze in one place inside Disneyland — at the ultra exclusive Club 33. Times have changed. Between California Adventure, Downtown Disney and Disneyland itself, the house that Mickey built is now home to more than 30 bars, lounges and kiosks that serve alcohol. The best part? You can visit many of these places without a buying a ticket to the theme park.
Don't want to drop tens of thousands of dollars and spend more than a decade waiting for a drink at Club 33? You finally have other options inside Disneyland. When Galaxy's Edge opened in May 2019, we not only got a life-size Millenium Falcon, we got Disneyland's first bar, Oga's Cantina. Every time the door slides open, high-energy tunes spill out. Once inside, you're transported to a bustling watering hole on the planet Batuu.
Strange creatures stare down at you while you sip drinks such as the Outer Rim, a combo of Patron silver tequila, acai liqueur, lime juice and fruit puree that's rimmed with black salt, or the Fuzzy Tauntaun, a peachy libation topped with a mild numbing foam. Refuel your speeder with a Jet Juice, which packs a big punch thanks to bourbon, chili liqueur, acai liqueur, grape juice and lemon juice.
Oga's is fun for adults and kids. Non-alcoholic drinks include the Blue Bantha, which comes with a sugar cookie. The menu features a few small snacks such as the Happabore Sampler charcuterie plate.
Thanks to DJ R3x, you might hear a Modal Nodes tune from another infamous Star Wars cantina, and the bartenders encourage the crowd to sing along. Keep your eye out for a Mandolorian easter egg, located above the bar.
Since Oga's Cantina is located inside Disneyland, it has more rules than the other bars on property. You have a 45-minute time limit and can only order two drinks during your visit, so choose wisely. Also, the cocktails are premixed so you can't customize your drinks or request anything not on the menu. Reservations are strongly recommended. You don't need a park ticket to make one in advance and you can book them up to 60 days in advance, either online or in the Disneyland app.
Blue Bayou Restaurant
In May 2021, when Disneyland reopened its iconic Blue Bayou restaurant next to Pirates of the Carribean, it had a new addition to the menu — alcohol. The New Orleans-inspired spot offers wine and beer but if you're going for strength, the Hurricane is your best bet. Bacardi Reserve Ocho and Myers's Original dark rum are mixed with orange juice, passion fruit puree, grenadine and lime juice. It's a pirate's life for anyone who drinks one. Like Oga's Cantina, Blue Bayou enforces a two-drink maximum.
DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE
Lounges at Disney's California Adventure
At Lamplight Lounge, the alfresco dining area of the Carthay Circle Lounge and Alfresco Tasting Terrace (all of which are located in California Adventure), you can enjoy gin and tonics, margaritas and mojitos along with Vietnamese beef tacos, lobster nachos and sliders. The downside? It can be hard to find a seat at any of these spots during peak times.
In 2018, when Paradise Pier was rethemed as Pixar Pier, Ariel's Grotto and the Cove Bar were combined into a new venue, the two-level Lamplight Lounge. Dining on the ground floor usually requires a reservation but the top half, Lamplight Lounge - Boardwalk Dining, is perfect for walk-ins. I prefer it upstairs because it feels like you're sitting on a pier and you can soak in the sights. I like the Final With A Fix, made with tequila, mezcal, raspberry liqueur, Cointreau, lime juice and agave. But my favorite drink, the Zombie, isn't on the menu (maybe because it's so strong). You have to ask for it. When you do, you'll get spiced rum, coconut rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and a floater of Bacardi 151. At $15, it's the best bang for your buck in California Adventure.
The drinks at Lamplight cost $1 or $2 more than the mixed drinks found at Disney's quick service eateries but they're worth it. Plus, when you're done at Lamplight, you can get a cocktail (or any drink) to go. The bartenders take requests and the venue has a substantial beer and wine menu.
With the exception of brunch, you'll find the same drink menu upstairs and downstairs. Larger entrees aren't available upstairs but you can order the same appetizers in both spaces. I recommend the lobster nachos, which you can also get with barbacoa.
For those who want to dine downstairs, your best bet is brunch, which is served Friday to Sunday from opening until noon. The mimosa flight is delicious, surprisingly strong and only available during brunch.
Carthay Circle Lounge - Alfresco Dining
The exterior of this restaurant and lounge is modeled after the Carthay Circle Theatre, which opened in mid-city Los Angeles in 1926 and hosted the premieres of Gone With the Wind and Snow White. It closed in 1969 but lives on at California Adventure, where its namesake restaurant oozes Jazz Age glamor.
Although the full restaurant at Carthay Circle remains closed and its current iteration has fewer food options, it boasts the same robust drink menu. Reservations are strongly recommended but a walk-up waitlist is available at certain times during the day. Check with the hostess or the Disneyland app for waitlist openings.
Once you're in, the Tequila Daisy is one of my favorite drinks anywhere on property. Smooth and perfectly balanced, it's like the margarita's older, more sophisticated cousin, adding violet liqueur and egg whites to the standard recipe. The throwback vibe extends to drinks like Side Cars, Negronis and Manhattans. There's also a full wine and beer menu.
Alfresco Tasting Terrace - Legacy Passholder Dining
Located above Wine Country Trattoria, Alfresco Tasting Terrace is only open to Legacy Annual Passholders. The bar menu and theme recall the history of California Adventure, referencing the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (now a Guardians of the Galaxy ride) and the California Screamin' roller coaster. The menu consists of small appetizers, seven themed drinks and a beer and wine list. The Stinger, a reference to the now removed Orange Stinger ride, is a spicy blend of Dulce Via pineapple-jalapeno tequila, Cointreau and orange-habanero simple syrup. For food, the Slider Invasion with beef tenderloin and chimichurri sauce are delicious.
The bar only has terrace seating and it's closed during rainy weather but on a sunny day, it offers a terrific view of Cars Land, Pixar Pier and the Pixar Pal-Around. Reservations are recommended and one member of your party must show their Legacy Annual Pass to enter.
Quick-Service Spots at Disney's California Adventure
"Quick service" is Disney's way of saying, "Don't expect a waiter. Grab your food and go." Some quick service eateries serve only alcohol while others also offer food. Most have mobile ordering, which means you can order ahead via the Disneyland app then pick up your food and drink. Mobile ordering has become a staple for Disneyland since reopening. I suggest placing orders as far in advance as possible. Be prepared to furnish your ID upon pickup, if you've pre-ordered alcohol.
Pym Tasting Lab
Opened in June 2021, the Avengers Campus brought us a new watering hole! Pym Tasting Lab, with bartenders decked out in lab coats who serve drinks in keepsake beakers, is a fun addition to California Adventure's quick-service lineup. The X-Periment has Patron Silver tequila, mango and habanero syrups along with mango-filled boba. The Honey Buzz contains Plymouth Gin, lemon juice and honey syrup, and it comes with a delicious honey straw. It also offers nine beers. I love the ambiance with the Avenger's Theme playing and the Quinjet in the distance. You might also spy one of your favorite Marvel superheroes walk by. If you can't snag a mobile order, have no fear. There's a standby line. Pym Test KitchenFood is the star of the show here but you can order two different types of beer — a Tio Rodrigo Blood Orange Michelada with chamoy or a beer mimosa. If you love Snickers, try the outstanding Choco-Smash candy bar.
Tucked away at the end of Buena Vista street in Hollywood Land is a walk-up bar that offers beer (Modelo and Golden Road), micheladas, hard seltzer, cider and a few seasonal cocktails. Most drinks are premixed but the servers hand-pour the liquor so Hollywood Lounge is my go-to mobile-order spot when I want a quick cocktail and don't feel like sitting in a lounge. Sometimes, the mobile-order line is nearly as long as the regular one. Roll the dice and take your pick.
This quick-service burger place near Soarin' in the Grizzly Peak area features standard theme park fare and a small selection of beer and wine. It also boasts a hidden gem, the Frozen Coca-Cola. Although the slushy Jack and Coke concoction (heavy on the Jack) is premixed, it surpasses its frozen margarita brethren. On a warm day, it's perfection. The Blue Angeleno Cocktail is a twist on a classic Blue Hawiian. With white rum, blue curacao, orgeat, coconut cream, pineapple juice and orange juice, it exudes Trader Sam's vibes.
Sonoma Terrace Beer Garden
The area near Wine Country Trattoria is a nexus of booze. The restaurant is surrounded by bars including Sonoma Terrace, which has a robust selection of beer, wine and hard cider. It also makes a few premixed cocktails. The best part? There's plenty of seating and you can mobile-order so you have a cold one waiting for you.
Situated below Alfresco Tasting Terrace, this walk-up bar serves more than 35 wines and a few beers and ciders.
Head to Bayside Brews in Pixar Pier to get your fill of beer. Perhaps you'd like to try Ballast Point's Grapefruit Sculpin IPA or sip a Karl Strauss Aurora Hoppalis IPA. Bayside will make you a michelada with any of their four beers or they can whip up a seasonal margarita.
Rita's Baja Blenders
If you're craving an icy margarita and you're short on time, this is your best bet. Choose between strawberry or lemon-lime and, if you want a little more booze, upgrade to a Grand. These margaritas are fine when you're running against the clock but for a few dollars more, you can get a fresh, hand-mixed cocktail at one of the lounges.
Pacific Wharf Distribution Co
Commonly known as the Karl Strauss beer cart, it's located in the Pacific Wharf area and delivers six kinds of Karl Strauss beer as well as Mickey-shaped pretzels.
Paradise Garden Grill
This quick service food location has ample seating and a sleeper hit of a drink. The Honey Bourbon Lemonade is whisky, amber honey and fresh lemon juice. Grab that and a Pork Belly Banh Mi for a delicious snack.
Seasonal Festival Marketplaces
Disney's California Adventure normally hosts three annual festivals, each with a unique selection of seasonal food and drink, but the park has put its festival lineup on hold.
Other various Restaurants and Quick-Service places that serve alcohol in DCA
- Wine Country Trattoria Restaurant
- Lucky Fortune Cookery
- Flo's V8 Cafe
- Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill
- Garden Grill - Honorable mention,
- Award Wieners
With nine different eateries, each with its own bar, you should be able to find something to quench your thirst in Downtown Disney. The venues are often packed during lunch (around 12 p.m.) and dinner (6 to 8 p.m.), so I've highlighted a few of my favorite spots.
Splitsville Luxury Lanes
My go-to watering hole in Downtown Disney is Splitsville. You don't need a reservation and it's easy to find a spot at the bar. The playlist melds top hits from ABBA to Ariana and they have tons of TVs so you can catch the game. Plus, power outlets line the bar, so it's a good spot to charge your phone while you revive. It is also fairly easy to find a seat here at peak times
Splitsville has an ace up its sleeve — two premixed cocktails that are far better than your typical park offerings. They're strong and made with quality ingredients. You can purchase a 16-ounce glass of either of them for $16 or buy a 22-ounce tumbler for $22 and get refills for the same price as the 16-ounce. No other place on Disney property offers that deal. I always bring my tumbler, just in case I need a Pink Paloma or a margarita pick-me-up. Their loaded fries, which are reminiscent of Shake Shack and feature queso blanco, bacon and ranch, can feed three adults and are worth $18.
This Mexican restaurant has the best margaritas on property. I love the refreshing Pineapple-Cilantro Margarita. I also recommend the Mezcal-Rita, made with Kimo Sabe Mezcal Joven. Every margarita I've tried here is good, although they'll set you back $15 to $16. Since you're already shelling out that much, make any of them a Cadillac margarita by adding a Grand Marnier topper for $2. You'll get a much stronger drink and, in the words of Homer Simpson, "You can't go this far and then not go further." The street tacos and enchiladas are tasty companions to the drinks. There's a tiny, five-seat bar in the back but it's easy to get a reservation here so I suggest waiting for a regular table.
Ballast Point Brewing
Specializing in a wide variety of IPAs as well as lagers, kolsches and porters, this beer drinker's haven has more than 30 brews. It also has more than 20 wines. Alas, no mixed drinks. Ballast Point serves Bavarian pretzels, burgers and fries. During dinner hours, you could face a two to three-hour wait so it's best to visit earlier in the day. There's first-come, first-served seating on the second-level patio but finding an open table is a challenge.
Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen
If you're looking for a strong drink, the Cat-5 Hurricane lives up to its name thanks to two kinds of rum and a floater of Don Q 151. You'll probably want to eat something with that. Try the Dippin' Tots, which are parmesan-herb tossed tater tots with sriracha and mayo, the Pasta Jambalaya or the Blackened Chicken "Mac and Cheese."
Location, location, location. UVA has one major draw, it's in the center of Downtown Disney. Their margarita and Long Island Ice Tea are standard. Their carne asada fries are tasty but come in a fairly small portion for $16. They do have a happy hour Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. with $9 to $10 cocktails and $2 off any pint of draft beer.
Naples Ristorante e Bar
Naples had renovated shortly before theme parks shut down due to the pandemic. The airy outside bar is a relaxing place to escape the crowds. Standout drinks include the Naples Sangria and the Gin + Honey, made with Monkey 47 gin, grapefruit juice, prosecco and honey. Their calamari is a tasty starter and their pizzas are delicious.
Other restaurants with bars in Downtown Disney
I don't frequent these Downtown Disney spots because I tend to stick to my favorite haunts but these are the other options available in Downtown Disney.
- Black Tap Craft Burgers
- Catal Restaurant
- La Brea Bakery
GRAND CALIFORNIAN HOTEL
GCH Craftsman Bar
You don't have to be a hotel guest to enjoy the Grand Californian's pool bar, which was remodeled then reopened in July 2019. It's one of my two favorite places to eat and drink on Disneyland Resort property. The drinks are top notch, just like at Carthay Circle but without those prices. Their Grand Mai Tai is the best iteration of this cocktail I have ever tasted. I also love the Pineapple Ginger Margarita, the Yuzu Daiquiri and the mezcal-based Craftsman Garden. To fortify yourself, I recommend the beef or chicken nachos, which are large enough to feed three hungry drinkers. The Craftsman has an impressive beer and wine selection for a pool bar and drinks are available to-go, although you can't take them off hotel property. You can make a reservation to sit on the patio and a walkup list is sometimes available. I prefer the bar because I love watching the expert bartenders make drinks.
To the left of Napa Rose Restaurant, just past the Grand Californian's lobby, you'll find Hearthstone Lounge, a large room with high ceilings and subtle, Mickey-themed lighting. With a casual atmosphere and protection from the elements (unlike the Craftsman), this is my go-to spot on rainy days or bustling sunny ones. The menu features amazing garlic soy-glazed chicken wings, pizza and the kind of drinks Cove Bar used to serve. My personal favorite is the Paloma, a delicious fusion of tequila, grapefruit juice, lime and soda water. It's the same price ($13) as the frozen grand margarita at Rita's Baja Blenders but without all the corn syrup. Hearthstone also offers more than 30 beer and wine options. There are TVs above the bar and for big sporting events, they bring in larger screens. Yes, you can get your drinks to-go as long as you remain on the hotel's property.
Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
This cozy spot is one of my two favorite bars on property. A tropical hideaway where the fictional Trader Sam has crammed mementos from his many voyages, it has a swell outdoor patio but inside is where the action happens. If you're a first-timer, the Krakatoa punch causes a volcano to erupt, the Uh Oa, a flaming, rum-based drink meant for two people, inspires the wrath of the Tiki Gods, and the Shipwreck leads to… take a guess.
For those who care less about spectacle, the Angolada is a heavyweight thanks to Navy-strength rum, cream of coconut, angostura bitters and fruit juices. Trader Sam's is also where you'll find the rummy version of the famous Dole Whip as well as semi-secret, off-menu drinks such as the Ka-blu-ee (Sam's version of a Blue Hawaiian) and the Child (aka the Baby Yoda cocktail). Trader Sam's also offers noshes including Tonkotsu ramen and sweet-and-spicy chicken wings. If you're looking for a smaller bite, the Panko-crusted Long beans are delicious.
The venue now opens for indoor seating at 4 p.m. You'll need to check in next door, with the hostess at Tangaroa Terrace, to sit either outside or inside at Trader Sam's. You should definitely arrive before 4 p.m. (If you want to grab a drink earlier, head next door to the outside bar at Tangaroa Terrace.) Kids are welcome at Trader Sam's until the pool closes, usually at 8 p.m., then the interior becomes 21+ although you can still sit with your family on the patio. There's currently a 90-minute time limit when visiting Sam's.
Tangaroa Terrace Tropical Bar and Grill
Tangaroa Terrace is a quick-service food spot where you can order most of the drinks from Trader Sam's. The exterior window opens at 11 a.m. It's a great option if you've already experienced the tiki bar and just want one of its drinks or if you're at the Disneyland Hotel before Trader Sam's has opened.