If anyone has been to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, you know that it is a sans alcohol park. This means up to 16 hours in the hot sun at the most magical place on earth surrounded by screaming children, overenthusiastic characters and lines, lines and more lines!
I’m not saying I don’t love Disneyland. I absolutely love it. My kids love it too, and we usually spend the whole weekend there about 2-3 times a year. BUTTTT it can be a very long and tough day without a cool beverage. And if I need one, you can rest assured that my Polish husband needs at least three.
After many trips with two kids, here are the best hacks for enjoying yourself and embracing the chaos.
California Adventure is NOT a Dry Park
Disneyland Anaheim is made up of three different areas. Two theme parks which require admission – Disneyland and California Adventure and Downtown Disney, which is free to visit and includes several restaurants and store (more on this gem later).
At California Adventure, the adult beverages are primarily available in the Pacific Wharf Area near Pixar Pier and Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. There you will find a Karl Strauss Beer Truck, Wine Country Trattoria, Rita’s Baja Blenders, Cocina Cucamonga and my personal fave, Lamplight Lounge.
While California Adventure debatably doesn’t have as much to do for toddlers as Disneyland it’s a solid park to spend a day at, especially if you are visiting the parks for more than one day.
Karl Strauss carries a variety of beers ranging from low ABV to high. All the beers at this stand are made by Karl Strauss and they carry a range of IPAs and Lagers. This stand is right next to our usual California Adventure lunch spot, Cocina Cucamonga.
This little Mexican spot is awesome for lunch. It’s casual and has lots of tables in the shade and it never seems to get too busy. There are great options for kids, like quesadilla’s and rice, and also a semi-healthy salad that can be made gluten-free. They also serve a variety of Michelads and Margarita’s on the rocks.
Rita’s Baja Blenders
If you prefer your Margarita’s blended, you can pop next door to Rita’s where they have several options for frozen margars.
Wine Country Trattoria
Wine Country Trattoria is a formal sit down, reservation recommended restaurant/ However, on either side of the main dining area, they have walk-up bars where us wine-o’s can get a nice Sauv Blanc or glass of Chardonnay.
Lamplight Lounge is CA Adventure’s best hidden secret in my book. The former Ariel’s Grotto underwent a massive renovation and now serves a range of delicious food and also has a full-service bar. It’s typically a short wait, and if you eat here at night, the lights on Pixar Pier are beautiful. The seating is comfy and it’s a great place for the kids to rest and regroup before one last ride or fireworks.
Downtown Disney Will Save your Sanity – Best Restaurants
Once you’ve done your lovely California Adventure Day it’s time to face Disney Day. The key and secret to surviving Disneyland is to pop out to Downtown Disney for lunch or an early dinner. You can access downtown Disney by either walking or taking the monorail from Tomorrowland. We typically do whichever is closer, but keep in mind that strollers have to be broken down on the monorail, so walking is much better if someone is napping in the stroller.
We haven’t eaten at all the restaurants, but there are several. Our two favorites are Tortilla Joes and Naples Ristorante
This place is just very solid. It is not the best Mexican food in the world, but it works just fine. The service is wonderful and fast. They bring chips and salsa and cold water right away and there are tons of options for kids and adults. (Also, they never judge us for drinking several beverages during a 40-minute meal!!)
This place is a bit pricier, but also amazing. The pizza and pasta dishes are solid, and they have a decent wine and cocktail list. It’s completely outside, which gives kids lots to look around at.
Pro Tip: There is a Disney store on the way to Naples and Tortilla Joe’s if you are walking from the park. I usually grab my kids a small toy or something to play with on the way to the restaurant so they are occupied so we can all relax!
Other restaurants in Downtown Disney include:
Splitsville Luxury Lanes – An overpriced bowling restaurant with a weird vibe, but always empty so can be good in a pinch of for a quick drink.
Ballast Point Brewing – We have this in our hometown, so never worth the super long wait for us.
Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen – A bit fancier and more formal than what we are typically in the market for when traveling with kids.
Black Tap Craft Burgers – Which we have not tried because it always has a super long line. Simply put, my kids are not good at waiting for food and my husband is not good at waiting for beer.
Oga’s Cantina in Star Wars Star Galaxy Edge
Technically speaking, Disneyland is not completely dry since they opened the new Oga’s Cantina in Star Wars Galaxy Edge. This place looks extremely cool and I really want to go one day, but I probably never will, or at least not until they work out the kinks.
First off, you can’t just waltz in and grab a much needed icy cold beverage, you need a reservation and those typically book up immediately. Once you have a reservation you still have to wait in line for up to an hour to get in. According to one Mom I spoke with on our most recent trip, even if you have a reservation, wait in line and get a table, you may never get waited on and need to leave, which is what happened to her with her husband and toddler.
Grand Californian Hotel – Rosé in the Sun
Picture this. It’s 3:00npm. You’ve been at Disneyland since 8:00 am. Your kids are hot and cranky. You are thirsty and everyone is overstimulated. Now picture lounging on the grass overlooking a nice pool whilst sipping a glass of French Rosé. Sounds good? You’re in luck!
You can always visit one of the Disney Hotels for drinks or dinner they all have restaurants and bars to chose from. Disney’s Grand Californian has a great little grassy area near the pool that is perfect for stopping by for a quick 30-minute break. A glass of Rosé in the sun and kids playing in the grass makes for the perfect reset and recharge. You do have to go through security if you exit to a hotel, but the lines are typically much shorter than coming through the main park entrances.
Leaving the Park For Lunch or Dinner
You can always leave the parks for dinner and come back for a late parade or another round of rides. The downside to existing the park completely v. heading to Downtown Disney is that you will need to go through the security checkpoint again. Also, most of the restaurants are a bit of a walk, but if you are up for a stroll, the Convention Center Area has a Cheesecake Factory, Morton’s, McCormick and Schmick’s Joes Crab Shack, PF Chang’s, etc. etc.
So there you have it! Plenty of ways to have a fabulous experience at Disneyland. Any other spots you love that I should add to my list? Feel free to reach out. Cheers!