ALL the Places to Get a Drink in Disney California Adventure

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!

BONUS

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.

Have fun!

Favorite TREATS in Disneyland!

HERE IT IS. My Favorite treats and snacks in Disneyland! The Disney snack and sweet culture is strong, and I have multiple tees and buttons simply dedicated to my love of Disney food culture. In fact, there are multiple seasonal festivals and events throughout all the Disney parks specifically dedicated to food and drinks! But a perfect snack or treat in the parks just makes your day that more magical, and these are my FAVORITE!

5. Maurice’s Treats

This place is a hidden gem! They’ve got both sweet and savory little twists of bread and deliciousness. Specifically the menu has:

  • Strawberry Rose Twist
  • Grey Stuff Twist
  • Cheddar Garlic Bagel Twist

My fave is the Cheddar Garlic Bagel Twist, because it’s actually a fairly hearty little snack, and I treat it as breakfast sometimes. It is a tiny little cart right next to the Royal Theater!

4. Raspberry Rose Mickey Macaron – Jolly Holiday

While I love literally every single treat I have tried at this place, the Raspberry Rose Macaron tops my list because it is so unique and special. It is a Mickey Shaped, tart, gorgeous little piece of Disney heaven. Just try it! Jolly Holiday Bakery is on Main Street as you turn left towards Adventureland, and some other top treats there are the Matterhorn Macaroon, the Lemon Strawberry Tart, and everything I’ve tried there for lunch!

3. Mickey Ice Cream Bar

This is a classic! Probably is THE classic snack. You can technically get this sweet in every Disney park, but it just screams Main Street and Sleeping Beauty Castle to me, so it really screams Disneyland to me. It is just a must do on a summer trip to the castle! You can find it at any of the little treat and sweet carts that roll are all around the parks! (This is so classic I have a hat with a Mickey Bar! also don’t worry, the cookie in this picture is in DCA, and that park is getting its OWN treats blog. 😏)

2. Bengal Barbecue

These little skewers of barbecue are soooo tasty! I wouldn’t try to turn this spot into a meal because to get enough food for a full lunch or dinner it might get a bit pricey, but I love it around 3 or 4 when I’m hungry from all the park hopping but its too early for dinner. My favorite is the Bengal Beef Skewer in sweet Zulu sause, but the Safari Skewer (bacon-wrapped Asparagus <3) is also aaaamazing. Perfect bites of delish. Bengal Barbecue is in Adventureland right across from Indiana Jones.

1. Dole Whip

That’s right, the classic king of snacks Dole Whip is my number one! In Disneyland the Dole Whip stand is right outside the Tiki Room in Adventureland, and you can get either just some Dole Whip OR a Dole Whip Float with Pineapple Juice, and either choice makes for the perfect Disney treat on a hot day, or for breakfast, or for midnight, or any time. I also have a hat for this treat, in case you were wondering. πŸ˜‰

BONUS tip – you can also get Dole Whip at ‘The Coffee House’ at the Disneyland hotel, (which you don’t need a park ticket to access of course) AND at that location you can get it with rum!

I know that Disney treats come with a lot of passion and cult faves, so does my list match yours? What would you add?

Top 5 Disneyland Rides to FastPass

If you are visiting either Disneyland or Disney World, get familiar with the FastPass system. In Disneyland, you can’t get your FastPasses until you enter the park for the day, but you can still plan ahead! These are my top 5 I would always recommend in Disneyland.

1. Space Mountain

This one is a go to for me since it is my favorite ride, but it also is a great choice for a FastPass. Lines can be 90 mins plus on the weekend or in the summer, but if you grab this FastPass in the morning, you can snag a great time and be ready for your next FastPass in no time! Our favorite is to grab our Space Mountain FastPasses, stand in line for Star Tours while we finish our coffee, and by the time we are off our FastPasses are ready and we are right there!

2. Indiana Jones

This ride always has a pretty lengthy line and it has a tendency to break down fairly often, so FastPass is absolutely the best way to ride Indy. If a ride breaks down while you are during your FastPass time period, they will automatically update your FastPass to be eligible for many other rides in the park for the rest of the day. And of course this line is usually fairly long, so it’s an easy choice for me to recommend for you!

3. Big Thunder Mountain

This line is not always super long, so this may seem like a weird choice, but this is another ride that you can usually get “last minute” FastPasses for, so think like, in the next 30 mins to an hour. Since you can only get one FastPass every 2 hours OR when your current one is up, if you can swing a last minute FastPass, it increases the amount of FastPasses you can get in a day! Even if this line is only 30 mins, the FastPass may be for that exact same time period, but instead of waiting in line you could be getting on something else or grabbing your lunch or anything else! Pay attention to those times, always!

4. Splash Mountain (in the summer)

This has a caveat – Splash Mountain in the summer is always worth your FastPass! Lines can be looooong but of course this classic will cool you down and the FastPass line for this attraction is pretty great. In the winter, if you’re a wild person and you still like to ride Splash (no thank you!) the lines are much shorter without people like myself in them, and you can pretty easily stand-by this line while waiting for a longer FastPass to pass. πŸ™‚

5. Matterhorn

This is a fairly recent FastPass addition! Last summer they added the ability to FastPass the Matterhorn, and it can be a life saver! The Matterhorn line, in addition to being long, is one of the most boring and hot queues in the park. There is not much shade, and while lots of Disney lines wind through amazingly themed areas that really add to the story of the attraction, the Matterhorn line… does not. It simply wraps around the ride. You’re really not missing anything by FastPassing this one!

So what is your top Fast Pass must do? Did you use this list on a trip to the parks? Let me know what you think!

How to Make the Most of your Disneyland Day

Planning a trip to Disneyland can absolutely feel overwhelming! Here are all the things I recommend you do if you’re planning a trip for the first time in a while.

  • Buy your tickets online or the day before

I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t do this! The ticket booth lines are absolutely wild in the mornings, and are completely avoidable for almost every ticket buying situation. You can buy your ticket online and take your printed ticket directly to the front gates, or if you’re in town the night before, drop into Downtown Disney for a drink or some shopping, and pick up your ticket at the ticket booth then. You do not have to use your ticket the same day you buy it, and lines are often shorter at night. Also, if you’re staying in a hotel near Disney labeled as a “Disney Good Neighbor Hotel” you can buy your tickets through your hotel counter, and the same goes for any Disney hotel property. This is a big one. Don’t waste your time in a line before you even make it into the parks!

  • Arrive an hour before Disneyland opens

The parking lots will always open at least an hour before Disneyland opens, and getting to the parking lots when they open has a lot of benefits, not the least of these is that you don’t want to wait in line to park. Getting there right away will let you park before the masses arrive and keep you from extra traffic.

  • Park in the Mickey and Friends parking structure

It takes a surprising amount of time to get from any parking lot to the main gates, but we love Mickey and Friends because while there is a tram, you can also walk, and if there is a line for the tram it will be faster to walk. It’s about 10 minutes, plus you get to walk through downtown Disney. Parking in any other lot requires you to use the Disney parking shuttles because they are farther away. The time it takes to get to the gates is another reason to arrive early!

Keep in mind that you will have to go through bag check and a metal detector to get into the parks, and certain things like Selfie Sticks, wagons, and pepper spray are never allowed (ask my sister about the pepper spray thing, she’s gotten many taken from her when she forgot to take it off her keychains). Security lines are usually pretty mild because there are so many entrances, but keep in mind there may be a wait there.

  • Know what you want to do first

When you “rope drop” (get in the parks right as they open) it can get a little hectic as people rush to their first attraction. Have a plan! My favorite thing to do is grab a fast pass for Space Mountain immediately, and then ride Star Tours while the lines are still pretty short. Read my Fast Pass blog here to learn about how it works, and why I recommend purchasing the MaxPass add on to really make the most of your time.

Some other good attractions to do right out of the gate are Indiana Jones, Peter Pan (this line stays at around 45 minutes all the time with no Fast Pass available), Matterhorn, or Splash Mountain.

In my opinion, these first four are critical! If you arrive right when the park opens, you can accomplish as much in the first two hours of park opening while everyone else is still parking and waiting in security lines and trickling into the parks as you might for the whole rest of the afternoon! Mornings in Disneyland are epic and generally the park stays clear for a bit, and I love taking in the corners of Disneyland with literally no other people around. It is magical!Β 

is Monday too soon to dream of my next Disney day? πŸŒΏπŸ™‚πŸ’•

A post shared by Kaitlin Doss (@kaitlinatthecastle) on

  • Make sure you always have a Fast Pass

Depending on whether you use MaxPass or the free Fast Pass, you can either get a pass every 90 minutes or 2 hours. Don’t forget to always get a new one as soon as you possibly can! Fast Pass lines aren’t always zero minutes, but can often be only 5-10 minutes opposed to a 60-90 minute wait. The more Fast Passes you do in a day, the more attractions you can ride in a day! Read my list of my favorite rides to Fast Pass here, if you want some inspiration on how to prioritize your passes.

  • Don’t leave the park for food

This is my #1 tip for how to make the most of your day! Leaving the park takes a TON of time, and most of the food surrounding Disneyland is not that much cheaper than eating in the parks, truly. To leave the parks you have at least a 10-15 minute walk to your destination, a wait for your food even if you do fast food because the lines are always busy around Disneyland, the walk back, the line for bag check and security again because you left the security area to go to grab food, and then the lines to get back into the gates of the park. All things considered, I think you’d be hard pressed to grab even McDonalds or Panera across the street in less than an hour, and for what you’re paying per day for your park ticket to simply be in the park, it absolutely does not make financial sense to save $5 on your meal. I know that a $9 hot dog can have some sticker shock, but when you consider the alternatives I absolutely suggest going into the park knowing what you’ll spend on food, and sticking with it. Bringing snacks, making breakfast at home or hotel, and not buying sodas or alcohol can greatly lessen your food cost, so consider those short cuts instead!

  • Do what YOU want to do

Listen, I DO NOT like water rides. I ride Splash Mountain like literally once a year, usually on Justin’s birthday because it is a favorite of his and he gets to call the shots. But Splash Mountain is a major attraction and would be on a lot of people’s “must-dos” for their Disney day. I really just do not care what anyone says, I refuse. If you don’t like roller coasters, don’t ride them. If you don’t like Tea Cups, don’t ride Tea Cups. Be understanding of friends and family who don’t want to do what you want to do, and do your best to compromise. You will have a better day if you skip the ride that makes you sick or if you’re like me, makes you soggy for the rest of the day because that is the WORST feeling in the world. Alright rant over.

  • Don’t skip the shows and parades

For years I never saw a Disney parks show because my mind was all go-go-go to tick off the attractions, but this was a mistake! Not only are the shows top level talent and performance quality, the shows are the BEST way to get out of the heat, they’re a great excuse to sit down and get off your feet for 20-30 ish minutes at a time, which can really make a difference! Our very favorite is “Mickey and the Magical Map” which is in the Fantasyland Theater near Small World and the entrance to Toon Town, and there are generally multiple shows per day! Otherwise I’d recommend the Storytelling shows at the Royal Theatre or Frozen in the Hyperion Theater in DCA!

In terms of parades, our absolute favorite is Paint the Night, which is nightly in DCA! There are a lot of night time shows to choose from, but Paint the Night tops my list easily. If you’re in DCA at night, do not miss this one!

  • If you love a piece of merchandise, buy it when you see it!

Not all merchandise is in each store, not all merchandise is in the big Main Street shops or in World of Disney, so it is worth it to just buy it when you find it if you know you don’t want to go home without it! I have learned this lesson TOO many times and have had things either sell out on me or I’ve been trekking back to the one random place they had the item I wanted at the end of the day! BONUS TIP: try to avoid the shops after park closing if at all possible! The shops on Main Street and Buena Vista Street do stay open an extra hour after park closing each night, but… they are PACKED FULL of people who are over tired, kids who are over tired and can’t get the toy they want, etc etc. Just – do your shopping during the day if at all possible. You don’t want your last memory of the parks to be unhappy families all up in your business fighting about how expensive a t-shirt is!

  • Don’t panic if you don’t accomplish everything

Listen, sometimes the parks are busier than you expected, or you took some downtime to have a nice long lunch, or your favorite ride is closed for maintenance unexpectedly all day, and so you don’t do everything on your list. These things can leave you feeling angry or frustrated, so my advice is to go into the day with a plan, but without expectations. Your time in the park should be fun and relaxing, not stressful.

If I find myself frustrated or unhappy, I like to remind myself how lucky I am to be in the parks at all, and will generally take a break from the hustle and bustle by dipping into a show, riding the train around the parks with a coffee, or picking up an ice cream and finding a bench or a corner to eat it on. Your Disney Day, whether it is a once in a lifetime vacation or just a Saturday afternoon, is your magical time, and I want you to think about all the little things that got you there. Even if you don’t get to ride Space Mountain, you still just spent probably 12 or more uninterrupted hours hanging out with your family or friends, while taking in one of the most visited destinations in the world! That is truly some Disney Magic.

I hope this is helpful! Do you have any tips on how to make the most of your Disney Day? What is the attraction you absolutely have on your list each time? I love trading stories!

FastPass vs MaxPass – Disneyland

Disney is awesome because their FastPass system has always been free! Unlike other theme parks that charge you extra on your ticket to skip the line, Disney has a really effective FastPass system that can add so many attractions to your trip!

Keep in mind, this blog is for the FastPasses in Disneyland, as this system is pretty different from FastPass+ in Disney World, that I will also write about. πŸ™‚

FastPasses are a simple concept. You approach a FastPass distribution kiosk, enter your ticket into the machine, and out pops a little piece of paper informing you of your return window. It will be an hour long period of time when you can return and enter the FastPass line for a shorter waiting period. Keep in mind that this shorter FastPass line may not always be zero minutes! But waiting 10-20 minutes for a current 90 minute + line is still a great benefit, and well worth the FastPass! Think of it as a reservation for a restaurant; you have a time to show up, and there may be a few people still finishing up when you get there, but it is better than showing up without one!

FastPass was recently updated to be connected to your ticket, so when you return you actually will scan your main ticket (not the little slip of paper with the times on it) before entering the line. You can get a new FastPass just as soon as you use your current FastPass OR every 2 hours, whichever comes first.

Keep this in mind when you grab a FastPass! Sometimes an attraction may only have a 30 minute wait BUT may have a FastPass for that same exact time! I would always recommend grabbing the FastPass, going to ride another short line ride or grab a snack, get your *next* FastPass as soon as your FastPass is up (because remember once your FastPass is ready to use, you’re good to grab a new one, you don’t have to wait the full 2 hours) and then riding your ride! By strategically stacking your FastPasses like this you can really accomplish a lot.

On busy days FastPasses may give you times for much later in the day, because they only allocate so many passes per hour. These are days where I would recommend MaxPass.

MaxPass is Disney’s recent introduction which is a variation on the FastPass, and is an additional $10 per day on top of your ticket price. MaxPass not only allows you to grab FastPasses from the Disneyland App on your phone (which is SO NICE! Consider the size of the parks! If you’re in line for Splash Mountain you can get a FastPass for Space Mountain on the opposite side of the park without having to trek all the way over there.) This alone is a great perk BUT you can also get a MaxPass every 90 minutes instead of 2 hours. This, by simple math, allows you to get more FastPasses in a day.

Lastly, MaxPass comes with free downloads from all the PhotoPass locations you use that day, which I am obsessed with. PhotoPass photographers are at all the parks main photo locations, at most character meet and greets, and PhotoPass includes ride photos! You simply let the PhotoPass cast member scan your park ticket when you are meeting Mickey, or enter the code on the ride photo into your app, and voila! Within a few hours your photos pop up on your app. This alone is seriously worth $10 if you are going to do a castle photo or meet a character, because lets be honest, sometimes the well intending stranger who you ask to take your photo is not the *best* at the situation.

Bottom line for me is that learning how to FastPass is essential to maximizing your day in the parks, and for only $10 per person extra, it will often be worth it for the upgrade to MaxPass, especially if you are visiting at a peak time like summer or Christmas. Don’t forget when your FastPass period is up so you can always have one, and have a blast riding as many attractions as you can!

Welcome to Kaitlin at the Castle

I am Kaitlin and I am a San Diego based Disney girl with a love for local beer, exploring Southern California, and I’m always counting down to my next trip.

I am always on my way to Disneyland, and also have trips planned to Palm Springs, Disney World, and hopefully Paris! This blog is fully dedicated to all my adventures, my passion for Disney style, and my endless search for pink flowers and pretty walls. Is there something you want my opinion on, or think I should write about? Click my “Contact” page up top, and let me know!
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I was struck recently by a short Instagram conversation I had with someone I haven’t met before, who was inspired by my love for all things Disney and how in her circles it seems immature or odd to love Disney as an adult with no kids. I’m big on the phrase “let people enjoy things” and so my message is truly that if you love something like Disney or comics or video games or make-up tutorials or anything else as an adult, love them all the way! The things you love make you special! I’m always so inspired by the Disney community, and the creativity and love shared in this magical space. The stories and environments that Disney creates has really more deeply affected my life in my adult years, and I find so much joy, optimism, understanding, and inspiration in the Disney universe. I hope I can help share a little magic and love from my own corner of the castle, and can help you have your best day ever in the parks too. ❀