Festival of Holidays at DCA – Disney Foodie Spotlight

UPDATED: December 2019

Bring an empty belly and a full wallet.

Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure is back!  If you’re coming to the park, you’ll definitely want to set aside time and money to experience it, but beware – it’s expensive.  This is the fourth year Disney is hosting this event and each year sees some changes and some classics return.  It celebrates winter holidays from around the world – Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas.  You can experience different food traditions from around the world and across the USA.  And the Festival includes entertainment, crafts, and merchandise, on top of all the FOOD!

One of the many food stands scattered throughout Disney California Adventure
One of the many food stands scattered throughout Disney California Adventure – from 2016

Location: Disney California Adventure main thoroughfare toward Paradise Pier
Type: Quick Service
Specialty: High-end gnoshing
Cost: Still about $8 each per dish, about $5 for dessert
Craig’s and Emma’s Favorites: Adobo Pork Bao from 2016 (Craig), Chicken and Potato Curry from 2016 (both), and Navidad Punch from 2019 (both).  This year’s other favs – Braised Pork Belly Adobo with Garlic Fried Rice (Craig) and the Hot Chocolate Macaron (Emma)

You can take pictures with Santa at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, listen to the Holiday Toy Drummers, dance with Mickey and Friends, join the street party with The Three Caballeros, watch the Blue13 Dance Company perform traditional Indian dances, and a whole host of other types of entertainment.  An assortment of vendors are scattered throughout selling different holiday gifts.  One of my favorites was the Arribas Bros. who have beautiful stained glass creations including the rose from Beauty and the Beast in various sizes – all with touches of real gold.  There is plenty of Disney related merchandise also including shirts, caps, sweatshirts, and pins with a more diverse selection than I can remember.  They even had Mickey dreidels back in 2016 (didn’t seem them this year)!

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But you really come for the food.  Similar to the Food and Wine Festival in the Spring, there are various stations set up all along the main walkway. Each one serves tapas style food, dessert, and drinks (usually both alcoholic and non-alcoholic).  And new for 2019, the celebration extended beyond the stands along the walkway and the Paradise Garden Grill area!  This time you could go to various quick service restaurants all over the park to indulge in some tasty treats including the Holly Cherry Holiday Punch at Sonoma Terrace, the Pork Tamale at Cocina Cucamonga, and Willie’s Churro Cart near the Starbucks.  They had a great variety of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks so that everyone in the family can participate.  But sadly this year they were lacking in gluten-free options.  Mostly, I think that’s because the food is primarily made beforehand and then carted over.  They don’t use dedicated fryers or prep stations to make the massive amounts of food and they can only customize each dish so much.  Still it was REALLY disappointing for my daughter who has had to go gluten-free.  It made her feel lonely and a bit left out.  There seemed to be better options for other allergies like egg, dairy, and nuts, but gluten-free people?  You’ll feel left out, too. Thankfully, there are other options for food in the park but with this being such a central aspect of the fun at DCA, you’d think they would do a better job.

In the dessert round-up there seemed to be far fewer things this year, although there are PLENTY of desserts scattered all over the park.  They still have the cookie decorating kits (always fun), a churros yule log (looks prettier than it tastes), a caramel apple cake, and a pecan pie churro.  But the highlight is the Hot Chocolate Macaron with a chocolate mousse like center surrounded by a chocolate macaron with toasted marshmallows on top and sprinkles of peppermint.  SO GOOD!  And of course they have an amazing drink selection.  I don’t typically drink alcoholic beverages, but there were plenty that looked like fun – full beer flights, hard lemonade, and lots of wine selections.  But we really enjoyed the Merry Berry Punch from 2016 (basically a raspberry sherbet float), Iced Moroccan Mint Tea, and Emma loved the White Hot Chocolate with House-Made Peppermint Marshmallows (which looked cool by the way but too white chocolate for me).  Our new fav was the Navidad Punch which was a great blend of juices that was simply delicious.

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