Is Disneyland the Most Underrated Beer and Wine Destination in California?
The OG mouse house did its homework on sourcing local brews and bottles ahead of its reopening
Imagine a magical outdoor bar in L.A. where you can sample California’s best craft beers and wine from SoCal, NoCal and the Central Valley — all in one spot, and parking is only $10.
That place exists. It is called Disneyland.
In fact, the Anaheim resort is packed with California beers on draft and robust wine menus highlighting California Wine Country. Even if you’re not a theme park person, Disneyland is worth a visit just for happy hour.
A reopened Disneyland will maintain mask-wearing and social distancing rules, and many experiences and attractions have been modified or paused. For the moment, only CA residents are allowed through the gates — see here for details on what, like everything else at the moment, is a fluid situation. But one thing that will feel (mostly) the same is eating and drinking outside at the park’s numerous al fresco spots, both within the park and just outside the gates, at Downtown Disney. While most of Disneyland Park is still dry, across the esplanade at Disney California Adventure Park (Disneyland’s second theme park) it’s basically one neverending food and wine fest.
If you visit for the reopening, here are the top five bars to sample Cali brews and vino, plus a must-visit beer truck.
Carthay Circle is where I take anyone who thinks theme park food is just hotdogs and ice cream. The posh restaurant celebrates the Golden Age of Hollywood and usually features a fine-dining selection, with duck breast and filet mignon. All that’s been scaled down for the moment, with outdoor seating and a (still fancy!) small bites menu with options like duck confit empanadas and Vietnamese twice-cooked beef tacos. Happily, the beverage menu hasn’t been similarly downsized, and there are several classic cocktails made perfectly here. There’s also an impressive wine list and — with the exception of one pinot noir from Oregon — all of the reds are sourced from Napa, Sonoma, and the Santa Ynez Valley.
For something quick and casual, this beer truck is the epitome of adulting at Disney. It only sells the essentials: beer, Mickey pretzels, and cheese dip. The truck is currently outfitted with six drafts from San Diego’s Karl Strauss Brewing Company, and the Red Trolley Ale has quite the cult following.
The California wine world often breaks into two camps: Napa Valley vs. Sonoma Valley. If you’re in the latter, there’s a tiny pocket of Sonoma right in the heart of Disneyland at Sonoma Terrace. The outdoor lounge menu is a tour-by-the-glass through Sonoma County with reds, whites, and sparkling. (A few transplants from Monterey County show up as well.) And the beer selection is on theme, too, with more NoCal brands, like the North Coast PranQster Golden Ale from Fort Bragg. This terrace is my happy place for its sparkling rose and decent amount of shade.
Pixar fans will love the vibe at Lamplight Lounge — and everyone else will likely appreciate that this outdoor, waterfront terrace has one of the best, if not the best view on property. This is a great spot for both wine and beer lovers as well as the cocktail crowd because the drink menu here is thorough, right down to hyper-local drafts including a rotating selection from Anaheim’s own Bottle Logic. For wine, there’s a heavy sampling of reds and whites from Napa Valley. The real star here, though, is the hard liquor: The cocktail list is peppered with puns about film production and animation, and there’s a mocktail menu, too, with nods to the Pixar universe (like the 2319, with strawberry purée, cream of coconut, and pineapple juice, topped with Coke — it’s a whole Monsters Inc. thing). The drinks use artisan syrups from LA brand Liquid Alchemist, too. The gastropub-style menu is great, too — the lobster nachos are highly recommended.
In addition to sampling SoCal brews, you can actually visit a San Diego brewery on Disney property. Located in Downtown Disney, an outdoor shopping and dining center right outside the park gates, Ballast Point Brewing Co. features 50 styles of beer, more than 100 taps and seasonal specialty beers exclusive to Disneyland. The rooftop patio with a California Kolsch in hand is pure bliss, and the Baja-style menu has some of the best food at Disneyland. (Don’t sleep on the fish tacos!)
Naples is another great outside-the-parks spot in Downtown Disney. Sure, the prosecco is Italian, but most of the wine list is from the Central Coast, including an Inception Wine flight. You could also get a Peroni on draft, but I’d recommend pairing one of the SoCal beers with your pizza: There’s Angel City IPA, Lost Coast Great White, and Golden Road’s crisp Mango Cart all on draft.
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