I’m not exactly sure how to describe how much I love the laid back crowds of DCA on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. We talk about it a lot when we are in Disney World that there truly is no atmosphere like that of DCA, and its true! In my mind, there is nothing better than a Saturday afternoon at DCA, in line for Guardians of the Galaxy, with an IPA in hand. It just is my. favorite. thing. to do.
Part of that casual Disney vibe absolutely has to do with the food and drink in the park. While I desperately wish they’d add some new food options, the drink selections cannot be beat, and so here is my list, from BEST to worst, places to drink in Disney California Adventure!
1. Lamplight Lounge
It is no secret that I have always ben a FAN of the Cove Bar, which has recently been upgraded to Lamplight Lounge. I have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and random Saturdays at this spot for as long as we have been APs. The location is truly iconic, with up and downstairs patios overlooking Pixar Pier. It is easily one of my DCA must do’s! Not to mention this place has an extensive cocktail and beer menu, Lobster Nachos (plus lots of other delicious eats), and a full bar. This place has the type of atmosphere that is amazing enough to go for a meal even if you don’t drink, but it is also absolutely the place to go if you are a cocktail person. The menu is extensive and creative, and of course themed to the Pixar films. Seriously it is one of my favorite places on the planet.
2. The Brewhouse (Hollywoodland)
I’m a little snobby when it comes to beer, and this place (and the next) do not disappoint. This little back corner counter always has several craft or craft-ish beers that are really fun. My favorite regular is the Titan IPA from Great Divide Brewing in Denver. They also have fun breads when they are available, which are Boudin Sourdough’s in the shape of Groot’s head (see below) or Mike Wazowski’s head! Lastly, there are some semi-boring cocktails here like vodka with flavored lemondae, but hey, I’m not here to judge what you drink in Disneyland.
3. Carthay Circle Lounge
Carthay Circle is one of the nicest full service restaurants in the parks, and I would absolutely recommend the restaurant if you want a nice meal while you’re in DCA. However, a little known benefit of Carthay Circle is that there is a lounge downstairs that has drinks and bites, and rarely has a line. Carthay Lounge also has one thing that Lamplight Lounge does not: AIR CONDITIONING. It is a great place to kill an hour on a hot Disney day with some AC, a comfy chair, and a nice cocktail or glass of wine.
3. Karl Strauss Beer Truck
As an adopted San Diegan, it has always made me beyond happy that Karl Strauss has such a great relationship with Disney. Karl Strauss is one of the original San Diego craft breweries and they have some really great beers. This truck is right in the middle of the park, and exclusively has Karl Strauss favorites. The line for this truck can be a bit long in the evening, but they’re generally pretty quick and there are only beer and pretzels in this line, so it moves pretty quick.
4. Bayside Brews (Paradise Park)
At this stop you pretty much get some more basic beers, with one exception. The ‘Trestles’ IPA by Left Coast Brewery is one of our favorites, and is a San Clemente brew, and that can always be found here. Other than that though, you’re kinda stuck with Pacifico, Sierra Nevada, or other more main stream beers AND for some reason this line is always insanely long. Its good to know that it exists since it is a little bit of an island on the far side of the park, but it almost is never a stop for us.
5. Sonoma Terrace/Alfresco Tasting Terrace
These stops are a part of the full service restaurants Mendocino Terrace and Wine Country Trattoria – there’s a lot going on at this stop. BUT this is THE place to go if you are more of a wine drinker but aren’t stopping in for a full meal. This stop has a walk up counter with lots of wine by the glass options, a few tap beers, and lots of interesting bottled options like sours, all with very little line because its a little confusing. There is also open seating almost always, that is separate from the restaurants and is a little bit more peaceful from the rest of the parks. This seating is outside so none of that Carthay AC is available, but it is good to know about especially when the park is busy.
6. Rita’s Baja Blenders
This little stand is smack in the middle of the park and only serves frozen margaritas, but it’s a DCA staple regardless. These tasty frozen treats are the perfect pick me up on a hot day!
7. Paradise Garden Grill, Award Wieners, Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill, Lucky Fortune Cookery, Flo’s V8 Cafe, Pacific Wharf Cafe, Smokejumpers Grill.
ALL of these places are food spots first, but serve alcohol. If you’re popping in for a meal, this is a place you can also grab a drink! Top pick for me here are the burgers at Smokejumpers Grill with a Red Trolley from Karl Strauss.
THERE YOU HAVE IT. As you can see, you can clearly have whatever your heart desires in DCA. But PLEASE don’t be a jerk when you drink in the parks. The parks are magical and while I love imbibing while I’m there, not only are security very quick to kick you out if you over drink, it makes the experience less magical for everyone else. Consider everyone around you when you order that next drink, and space your beers out between rides and meals. It’s more fun that way!
Slightly outside of DCA is the Hearthstone Lounge in Grand Californian. This lounge is a part of the lobby of the Grand Californian hotel, and it is another amazing place to escape crowds and to get some good AC. There is a full bar, and some decent beers, but the comfy chairs and the AC are where its at. You can access Hearthstone Lounge super quickly by exiting the park through the hotel only exit across from Grizzly River Run, and it is barely a 2-3 minute walk from inside the park. Also, you can visit Hearthstone Lounge without a park ticket, since it is not inside the gates! Win-win for whatever your situation.