It so happened that our family vacation this summer with Justin’s parents, siblings, and our niece and nephew fell over our one year wedding anniversary. I was so excited to do something really special and we quickly settled on California Grill in the Contemporary Resort. This place is classy, with an absolutely epic view of Magic Kingdom from the dining room, and amazing reviews of watching the fireworks from the balcony. I researched the menu because I am notorious for always choosing the wrong thing, and we ended up having one of my all time favorite dates we have ever been on! It was truly magical.
We took a Minnie Van (which are Disney’s on property Lyft vehicles, powered by the Lyft app but driven by Disney Cast Members) and had the most wonderful driver! He suggested menu items to try, pointed out hidden Mickey’s on our drive, and took a photo of us when we got there. Driving in a Minnie Van was the perfect way to start the evening because it felt like our own magical carriage, instead of taking a random Lyft/Uber or dealing with the parks transportation.
Once there, you check-in downstairs before you’re escorted to the top floor where the restaurant is. At check-in I let them know that it was our anniversary, and asked if we could wait for a table with a good view if possible. The Cast Members are pretty good about meeting requests when possible, and so it never hurts to ask! We only waited around 5 minutes before being taken upstairs, and less than 5 minutes from being taken upstairs our table was ready. We got a table with an almost perfect view, and a wonderful server!
They also left us adorable little Mickey confetti on our table since they knew it was a celebration, and congratulated us on our anniversary. 🙂
We started with drinks and while we are almost always beer people, I got this amazing spicy Margarita that perfectly hit the spot for cocktail hour after a hot day, and because cocktails feel more fancy for the occasion. Justin and I both tried a few different beers too while we were there and while there was an alright selection, California Grill is decisively a wine spot, and so if you are into wines they have a massive selection of wines from the reasonably priced to thousands per bottle.
We ordered the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli as an appetizer because *literally* every single person we talked to about California Grill told us to. We also ordered the Strawberry and Golden Kiss Melon Salad which had a wonderful portion of burrata and these pistachio crumbles…. so good. One of my highlights of the night! The Goat Cheese Ravioli was one massive ravioli in this super rich and delicious broth – so good!
I ordered the Oak-fired Beef Filet which had these amazing truffle mashed potatoes which were too magical to even finish, asparagus with some sort of miso glaze, and a tamarind barbecue sauce. While I was SUPER happy with my meal, Justin (per usual) ordered even better than me and had an amazing Seared Yellowfin Tuna with rice noodles, a crispy tuna roll, and pickled vegetables. His flavors were distinctly Asian and delicious. It was such a wide variety of food and flavors on the menu and we finished our meal too stuffed to order dessert!
We had been told by our server that we could go outside to the balcony to watch the fireworks, even if we were done with our meal, and we took the opportunity to step outside. This part can be a little tricky. You see, California Grill also has a lounge area with a dinner menu and a bar, and lounges require no reservations. So people storm the lounge at 9pm just as they open the outdoor balcony, and all the sudden the balcony was quite crowded even though the restaurant was a full but calm and classy escape from the crowds. I can’t say I blame people for tricking the system this way, but it was a little jarring and all the sudden we felt like we had to rush outside to snag a spot.
We were pleasantly surprised when we got outside, however, and although the balcony was kind of an odd shape, there was plenty of space, and the view of the fireworks was surely spectacular. I didn’t get a photo of the actual fireworks, but you can see where they were from the remaining smoke in this photo. (PSA: don’t take photos during fireworks shows. The person behind you gets to only see your screen and your iPhone just picks up crappy pixels of lights that you’ll never post online anyway. Don’t do it!)
You were able to take your drinks out to the patio and the BEST PART was that the actual fireworks show music was played through the speakers on the balcony! Since the audio is such an important part of the fireworks shows, it really did help you enjoy the show.
Watching the fireworks with a beer in hand after a romantic and delicious dinner from the rooftop of the Contemporary Hotel was seriously the perfect end to a wonderful anniversary! I would recommend the California Grill to anyone celebrating a special occasion, and we will definitely be back to the lounge area for drinks and views on future trips.
Another little piece of magic from our night was that after the fireworks the elevator lines were VERY long from all the people who rushed the balcony just for the fireworks, and so we stopped in at the bar for a night cap, and met another wonderful cast member who has worked the bar in the California Grill since it opened in 1995. He talked to us about growing up in New Jersey, what surfing is like on the East Coast, beaches in Florida, and working at the California Grill bar, all while he prepped to close down his bar for the night. He was so friendly and fun, and it was just a reminder of what a special place Disney parks are.
Although our California Grill experience ended there, I still had not been on Space Mountain on this trip, so we walked across the path to Magic Kingdom, took some castle photos and rode Space Mountain before heading back to the hotel. It felt extra magical to ride my favorite roller coaster all dressed up from dinner, and was the perfect *us* way to end the very special day.
If you’re celebrating a special occasion at any Disney park, I would definitely recommend checking out the restaurants in the park or area you are in, and make a special reservation! There are some really amazing and specialty places with very classy and high end meals, with no characters in sight. It can be a great escape from park food and a great date night on a trip otherwise spent with the whole family. It wasn’t cheap, so we can’t do it every time, but I surely wish we could! ❤