Although no alcohol is sold in Disneyland itself (except in Club 33), locations in Disney California Adventure, the Disney-owned hotels, and Downtown Disney serve alcohol. Here’s our guide to the best beer and mixed drinks available throughout Disneyland Resort.
While it’s not as popular as Drinking Around the World at Epcot in Walt Disney World, leisurely afternoon spent exploring the various Disneyland Resort bars is a lot of fun. Plus, all of these bars are within a short walk of one another given Disneyland’s condensed footprint, so it’s easy to hit them all in one day.
Some of the mixed drinks here might be off-menu at some locations, but they’re listed because the bartenders at the given location do a great job with these drinks. We try to give a couple suggestions for each location so that you don’t have to order a random drink off what I “lovingly” prefer to as the Generic DisneyParks® Drink Menu®. I loathe this menu of sugar-water and vibrantly color concoctions meant to appeal only to vacationers who don’t regularly drink. It is the epitome of what is wrong with the contemporary Disney theme parks: homogenization that has replaced unique experiences in the name of saving a few bucks because bean-counters either don’t understand the “Disney Difference,” or think most guests won’t notice, anyway. More importantly, if you’re someone who has the mental and physical fortitude to partake in a bar crawl, you will be largely unimpressed by these drinks. Plus, consuming more than a couple will make you sick to your stomach from an overdose of sugar.
Because of this, we make recommendations that are either unique to each specific stop on our tour, or are drinks most bartenders at the locations in question know how to make. Order these, or order something else you enjoy that the bartender knows how to make. You order drinks off the Generic DisneyParks® Drink Menu® at your own peril.
Obviously you should use your head when consuming alcohol. Eat a big early-lunch before you start, make sure to stay hydrated, and spread out your drinking. This is enough fun that it should be an all day event, so take your time. We recommend starting at around noon and concluding late in the evening.
Every good bar crawl needs a good name, and we’re fresh out. Epcot has “Drinking Around the World,” which is a very solid name, but nothing spectacular for Disneyland sticks out like that. In lieu of something better, I’m going to call this the Disneyland Drinking Debauchery. Sounds a little more risque than it actually is, but I like alliterations.
It’s scientifically proven that the best place to start the Disneyland Drinking Debauchery is in Disney California Adventure. Laugh if you want, but there is a very good reason for this: Disney California Adventure has some attractions that are enhanced with alcohol. Seriously, it’s like adding 3D to the Lion King. It started out great, but 3D really adds an element of “wow.”
These alcohol-enhanced attractions are California Screamin’, Silly Symphony Swings, Goofy’s Sky School, and the Golden Zephyr. In other words, the stuff on Paradise Pier. “Science” is needed here because you need to consume the perfect amount of alcohol to enhance these experiences. Drink too little, and they’re the same as they normally are. Drink too much, and it’s Upchuck-City. Population: everyone in your general vicinity. Not a pretty picture. However, if you hit that slightly-buzzed sweet spot, these attractions are a lot more fun.
Okay, let’s get started with the fun!
Carthay Circle Lounge – Part of the all-new Buena Vista Street, Carthay Circle contains a restaurant and two lounges. The first lounge, 1901, is available only to “upgraded” Club 33 members. The other lounge is where you’ll be stopping, and there’s no reason to be down about this if you’re not a Club 33 member (as is the case with 99.99999999999999999% of the population), because this lounge is spectacular. The decor is classy and elegant, and most importantly, the lounge has its own unique menu. There are several great options on this menu, with different types of custom ice (seriously) to boot! My personal favorite is the Carthay Manhattan. Sarah enjoys the Carthay Club Mojito. The Aviator Cocktail is a good, strong drink, too.
Al Fresco Lounge – This location can be difficult to find. It’s a secluded area upstairs from Wine Country Trattoria. If you can’t find the staircase leading here, ask a Cast Member. This is a tricky spot, and almost doesn’t make the list because of a so-so drink menu. However, the views from this terrace into Cars Land are phenomenal, so it gets the nod on ambiance alone. Here, we recommend one of the cheaper wine flights (Festival for $10 or Port paired with Bleu Cheeses for $16) or the Widmer Hefeweizen. This is a wine bar, so I’d caution against straying from wines and beers. We’ve never had a good mixed drink here. In fact, the Irish Coffee Sarah ordered here in November was about the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted, and was nothing like a traditional Irish Coffee. Our relationship with this place is love-hate. We love the amazing views and that it’s usually very quiet up here since it’s difficult to find, but we hate the menu and the service. The views and tranquility usually win out!
Bayside Brews – Bayside Brews is a relatively new addition to Disney California Adventure, completed in the summer of 2011. It’s located near the Golden Zephyr and Goofy’s Sky School and serves, unsurprisingly, beer. Although it’s just a little stand (if we stopped at every little beer kiosk in DCA, you’d end up in the hospital–fear not, this is one of only two that we hit), it is notable because it serves good beer as compared to other beer stands in Disneyland. We recommend grabbing a Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA or whatever the Karl Strauss seasonal beer happens to be. The Torpedo IPA is definitely your best bet, and possibly the best beer you can find at Disneyland Resort.
Cove Bar – Wander around the pier side of Paradise Pier with your Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA, and head to the Cove Bar once you’ve finished it. Where to sit here is a bit tricky: I like the far tables away from the bar that directly overlook Paradise Bay. Sitting here feeling the glow of the sun screams “Paradise Pier” to me. However, the bartenders are usually very entertaining and fun at the Cove Bar, so sitting at the bar can also be a good time. This should be your second food stop of the day (you should’ve eaten lunch before commencing the Disneyland Drinking Debauchery) and there is one thing you should absolutely order here: the Lobster Nachos. These are the most expensive thing on the bar menu, but they are so, so delicious. My drink of choice here is the Zombie, which can be made a few different ways. The bartenders here usually make it a dark green color, but don’t be surprised if it’s light. It does have some fruit juices in it, but it also is heavy on the rum (light, dark, and 151). The Cove Bar also has around 10 beers on tap, so pick one of those if you’re not down with the undead concoction.
During the intermission, enjoy the Golden Zephyr, Silly Symphony Swings, and, if your stomach can handle it, California Screamin’ and Goofy’s Sky School. Return to the Disneyland Drinking Debauchery after enjoying these attractions.
The Karl Strauss Beer Truck – This beer truck tucked away in Pacific Wharf at Disney California Adventure is our second of two kiosk style stops. As the name suggests, this truck serves Karl Strauss beer. As Disneyland Resort, for some reason, is very lacking on good craft beers, we recommend making a stop here. This should not be read as an endorsement of Karl Strauss beer, but comparatively speaking, it is fairly good. Tower 10 IPA and Red Trolley Ale are both good, or go for the seasonal option. This is one step we’d recommend skipping if you want to drink less and/or don’t care for beer. Alternatively, you can also stop at the nearby Rita’s Baja Blenders, Cocina Cucamonga, or Lucky Fortune Cookie for different options.
Flo’s V8 Cafe – The latest addition to our list is quite possibly the best stop of all. If you’ve paced things really slowly, you might be here around sunset. That’s the perfect time to drink at Flo’s! Grab a Racer 5 IPA and head back to the outdoor seating area at the back of the restaurant. Here, you have a perfect view of the Cadillac Mountain Range and Radiator Springs Racers. There’s nothing quite like an early evening enjoying a beer and watching the cars fly by one of Imagineering’s masterpieces. You might just find yourself ending your debauchery here, as you get “stuck” at this spot for a couple of hours. Make no mistake–even though you’re not missing the mission, this is a noble feat.
On your way to the next stops at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, pick up FastPasses for (hopefully) the late show of World of Color.
Hearthstone Lounge – Hearthstone Lounge has a pretty good selection of beers, with a lot of the standard choices available elsewhere from Karl Strauss and Sierra Nevada. You can also find some choices from Sam Adams and New Castle, among others, here. Here, we definitely recommend sitting at the bar or at least ordering from the bar. We’ve had inexperienced servers here in the general seating area who simply recommend “any of the good drinks on the menu” with the menu being the Generic DisneyParks® Drink Menu®. I typically opt for a Sierra Nevada here, whereas Sarah usually experiments with whatever “bartender’s choice.” These drinks have always tasted great, but beware, they can pack a punch!
Napa Rose – Napa Rose is the best non-club restaurant at Disneyland Resort. It also has a pretty nice bar. Luckily, you don’t have to drop $50 on some filet to grab a beer here (although if you see or smell one, you might find yourself doing just that). I recommend the Franziskaner Hefe-Weisses here. It’s creamy and moderately thick, with a nutty flavor and slight banana undertone to it. Napa Rose is more well known for its world class wine collection, so if you’re into wine, you might go that route. Rather than taking my advice on that, ask the bartender or a server. All of the servers here are sommeliers, meaning they know a heck of a lot more about wine than me!
Here, the plan offers some wild-card options. See the below “Other Stops” section if you have time in your crawl and want to make an additional stop.
Hollywood Land Dance Party [Insert Name] Club – There is a drink station set-up each night for Mad T Party (previously elecTRONica). It was previously End of Line Club, now it’s “Drink Me.” Who knows what it will be next. Regardless of the name, the idea remains the same: pricey light up drinks for clubin’. While the drinks are fairly expensive (over $10 for the light-up specialties) here to capitalize on the party-oriented audience, ours have always been surprisingly good. This is surprising because, given the location and target, we figured these would be watered-down sugar-drinks. The Glowjito Mojito and Digitini Martini are both good and offer light-up fun. To be fair, they are somewhat sugar-y, but the ones we’ve had (on several different nights) have always had some kick. I don’t know if this is just great luck or if it’s always this way. After grabbing a drink, join the other programs…or…tweedle dums(?) at elecTRONica or Mad T Party. Once the dance party concludes, use your FastPass for the late show of World of Color.
Trader Sam’s – Enchanted Tiki Bar – After World of Color, the perfect way to cap off the evening is at the best bar in all of Disneyland Resort, Trader Sam’s. If you want a thorough review of Trader Sam’s, read this review where I offer heaping amounts of praise to Trader Sam’s. The CliffNotes version: Trader Sam’s is the coolest bar in Disneyland, with an intimate (47 person capacity) location that is packed with an astonishing amount of detail, interactive elements, and some fantastic drinks. Some of these drinks include the Adventurers Club Kungaloosh (a Walt Disney World classic), the HippopotoMai-Tai, Shrunken Zombie Head, Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum, Shipwreck on the Rocks, and the Uh Oa! The Uh Oa! can be shared by 2-4 people, has a cool tableside presentation, and is our favorite drink at Trader Sam’s. Trader Sam’s does serve some good beers as well, but this is one location where you should stick to mixed drinks because they’re really that good. If you stay for only one drink, you can add items in from the “Other Stops” list below, but we recommend spending a couple hours here soaking up the ambiance and ending your night here. It’s the perfect conclusion to Disneyland Drinking Debauchery.
Other Stops – There are other places you can stop, but chances are, even with taking it slow and spreading out the festivities over the course of the entire day, eight stops will be the limit (or even too much) for most people. The stops above are our picks for the best drinking spots in Disneyland. However, since we heavily weigh ambiance, there might be some additional or alternative places that might appeal more to you personally, depending upon your preferences. Here’s our list of the best of the rest:
Of this list, if you have access to Club 33, which is not open to the general public, go there for sure (read our Club 33 review). Their Mint Julep is exceptional and the bartenders there know their stuff. The Downtown Disney locations can be fun, but many of these locations can be found in other cities throughout the country (we prefer sticking with “Disney-specific” experiences for Disneyland Drinking Debauchery). Steakhouse 55 is a restaurant comparable to Napa Rose. Surfside Lounge only makes the list so there’s a location on the list from all Disneyland Resort “areas.” It’s actually a terrible choice because it’s awkwardly located in the lobby.
By following the tips above, your Disneyland Drinking Debauchery will be high on fun and good libations, and low on upset stomachs and the nefarious type of debauchery. Remember to drink in moderation and be courteous to fellow guests, as Disneyland is a family vacation destination, not your local college dive bar!
What are your favorite Disneyland Resort drinks? If you have any tips or drink recommendations for Disneyland Drinking Debauchery, or any other thoughts, please post them in the comments!