Guide to Festival of Holidays at California Adventure

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Festival of Holidays is Disney California Adventure’s Christmas-themed Food & Wine Festival, with multi-cultural entertainment. It runs from November 8, 2019 until January 6, 2020. This guide has tips for what food to order, good value menu items, and other recommendations Festival of the Holidays.

For starters, some background info. After the smash success of the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, it’s no surprise that Festival of Holidays actually expands upon that event, with food booths for this event that are open daily from 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. nightly during the Holiday Time at Disneyland (Resort) season.

Prices range from ~$4.50 for desserts to ~$8-9 for savory foods. (That’s no typo.) There are also a number of wines, craft beers, and seasonal mixed drinks, all of which are sold around the normal price points you’d expect at Disney California Adventure. Despite pricing, Festival of the Holidays is a fun event…

This is in large part due to the Festival of Holidays entertainment. There are stages set up throughout Disney California Adventure for musical acts that are inspired by the diverse holidays Californians celebrate this time of year, including Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas/Navidad, and Three Kings Day. In this guide, we will cover both the food and the entertainment.

We’ll start with marketplace menus, then reviews of specific things we tried, followed by our overall impressions of the event.

Let’s get started…

2019 Marketplace Booth Menus

Throughout Disney California Adventure there are food marketplaces at Festival of Holidays. Here are the menus for each booth:

Holiday Duets Marketplace

  • Braised Pork Belly Adobo – With garlic fried rice
  • Shrimp & Grits – With Andouille sausage
  • Mickey & Minnie Cookies
  • Cranberry Sangria
  • Churro Toffee Cold Brew (Non-Alcoholic)

Winter Sliderland Marketplace

  • Fried Turkey Slider – With cranberry sauce
  • Beef Pot Roast – Served on a potato roll with horseradish cream
  • Bourbon Cranberry Cocktail
  • Warm Peppermint Chocolate Float (Non-Alcoholic)

Grandma’s Recipes Marketplace

  • Shepherd’s Upside-down Pie (Plant-Based)
  • Curried Cauliflower & Chicken – With lemon tahini sauce and black garlic drizzle
  • Crimson Pear Cocktail
  • Modelo Negro, Dark Lager
  • Navidad Punch (Non-Alcoholic)

A Twist on Tradition Marketplace

  • Reimagined Beef Wellington
  • Reuben Potato Tots with Russian Dressing and Rye Toast
  • Vanilla Pear Mule
  • Skyside, Cabernet Sauvignon

 Brews & Bites Marketplace

  • Chorizo Fundido
  • Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, American Light Lager 
  • Cerveza Rrëy, Kölsch 
  • SLO Brew, Cali-Squeeze, Blood Orange Hefeweizen 
  • Two Pitcher’s Brewing, Nordic Jam, Berry Lager 
  • The Bruery Or Xata, Horchata Blonde 
  • Einstök Beer Company, Arctic Pale Ale 
  • Lost Winds Brewing Company, Reddy or Not, Amber Ale 
  • Alaskan Brewing, Winter, English Olde Ale 
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Celebration, IPA 
  • Saint Archer Brewing Company, Mosaic, Double IPA 
  • Karl Strauss® Brewing Company, 10 Beers for Breakfast, Maple Stout 
  • Festive Progressive Beer Flight
  • Flavors of the Season Beer Flight

Making Spirits Bright Marketplace

  • Caramelized Apple Cake – With Crème Anglaise and Salted Caramel Sauce
  • Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Macaron (Gluten-Friendly)
  • Grgich Hill Estate, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
  • William Hill Estate, Chardonnay, Napa Valley
  • Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses, Rosé, France
  • Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi
  • Louis Latour, Pinot Noir, Bourgogne
  • Austin Hope, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles
  • Apple Mimosa
  • Pomegranate Mimosa
  • Cran-Blackberry Mimosa
  • Chandon, Sparkling Wine
  • White Wine Flight
  • Red Wine Flight
  • Mimosa Flight

Favorite Things Marketplace

  • Glazed Ham Shanks – With Honey Crumble
  • Holiday Stuffing Mac & Cheese
  • Gingerbread Mickey Cookie
  • Warm Bourbon Cider
  • Bell’s Brewery, Lager of the Lakes, Czech-style Pilsner
  • Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc, Witbier
  • Modern Times Beer, Space Ways, Hazy IPA
  • Legends Brewery, Cookies Galore Beer, Chocolate Cookie Milk Stout
  • Stone Brewing, 2014 Imperial Russian Stout
  • Beer Flight

Merry Mashups Marketplace

  • Turkey & Stuffing Tamale – With Cranberry Relish
  • Pork al Pastor Naan Taco – With Pineapple Pico de Gallo and Cilantro-Lime Crema
  • Churros Yule Log
  • House-made Horchata
  • Habanero Hibiscus Margarita
  • Non-Alcoholic House-made Horchata

Viva Navidad at Paradise Garden Grill

  • Burrito – Flour tortilla filled with black beans, Spanish rice, molcajete salsa, crema, and choice of beef, carnitas, or chicken served with tortilla chips and molcajete salsa
  • Plant-Based Chile Relleno – Roasted poblano stuffed with vegetable stew, topped with roasted tomato sauce and tofu sour cream, and served with Spanish rice and black beans
  • Torta al Pastor – Pork al pastor, chorizo beans, cabbage, guacamole, and crema on a soft terela roll, served with tortilla chips and molcajete salsa
  • Street-Style Tacos – Three corn tortillas filled with carne asada, carnitas, and chicken with white onion and fresh cilantro and served with Spanish rice and black beans topped with queso blanco
  • House-Made Pozole – Mild red chile and pork stew with hominy topped with shredded cabbage, chopped onions, radishes, lime, and oregano served with tortilla chips
  • Kid’s Cheese Quesadilla – Whole wheat tortilla with melted cheese served with apple slices
  • Kid’s Street-Style Tacos – Corn tortilla filled with choice of carne asada, carnitas, or chicken served with Spanish rice and black beans topped with queso blanco

Food Reviews & Tips

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There is no sugar-coating it: the menus for Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure gave us sticker shock. There are a lot of items that are priced at or above $8, which is quite expensive for snack-sized portions.

There are a couple of ways to mitigate this. The first is by focusing exclusively on desserts, which are significantly cheaper than savory items at Festival of the Holidays. If you opt to go this route, we recommend first dining at Paradise Garden Grill or Pacific Wharf Cafe, both of which have seasonal menus that are more reasonably priced.

Alternatively, purchase the Sip and Savor Pass. For this, you pay once and can choose among any 8 dishes or non-alcoholic beverages from DCA Festival Foods Marketplace locations.

We’ve done this a couple of times, and strategically order the most expensive savory items on each menu (and pay out of pocket for desserts), which ends up saving us a decent amount of money. This cuts costs a bit and makes some of the more expensive items a bit more in line with reality.

Some of our must-try items include the Turkey & Stuffing Tamale, which is literally like Thanksgiving in a perfectly-prepared tamale.

Another must-try item is the Yule Log. This differs from the famous Plaza Inn Yule Log, which everyone knows is an international treasure.

Although the Yule Log is good, the Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Macaron is the best dessert.

Literally tastes like a cup of hot chocolate in macaron form, and has great presentation.

The Beef Pot Roast served on a potato roll with horseradish cream is shockingly delicious, albeit expensive.

Ditto the Braised Pork Belly Adobo with garlic fried rice. (Use the Sip & Savor Pass on both of these!)

In our view, almost all of these desserts served at Festival of the Holidays are worth the money relative to other desserts at Disneyland Resort. The quality of ingredients and general flavor of everything really impressed us.

Entertainment

No matter what your thoughts or interest in the marketplace food booths, every Disney California Adventure guest is a winner during Festival of Holidays for one simple reason: live entertainment. Disneyland Resort has added a number of musical acts throughout the park, which provide great supporting acts to fan-favorite, Viva Navidad.

While none of the other acts are as elaborate as Viva Navidad, which is its own little festival with multiple entertainment options and cultural components, the other acts do provide compelling diversions and really enhance the park’s energy. These groups offer a festive, high energy setting this Christmas in Disney California Adventure. Disneyland Resort management deserves praise for this ambitious slate of live entertainment.

Let’s take a brief look at each act…

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Mickey’s Happy Holidays – New for the 2019 holiday season, this is a character celebration with Mickey Mouse and friends. Guests will dance and sing along to high-energy music with favorite Disney and Pixar characters, as they march to the merry rhythms of the Holiday Toy Drummers.

Mickey, Minnie, Chip n’ Dale, Goofy and Clarabelle all don new Festival of Holidays attire, specifically for the “Mickey’s Happy Holidays” celebration. The Country Bears and the Pixar characters also sport fun seasonal overlays for this show. “Mickey’s Happy Holidays” runs twice daily, with show moments at Paradise Gardens Park and Carthay Circle.

The Sound – This uplifting a cappella vocal group brings a powerful, harmonious R&B spin to holiday songs and Disney tunes. This group performed on a stage in Pacific Wharf, and had by far the largest group of onlookers. (Although part of that is probably a built-in audience of people eating in the area.)

We both love a cappella music, and there’s something that is just mesmerizing about it. This is doubly true when it’s Christmas and Disney music. This is yet another new act at DCA for the holidays that does not disappoint.

Disney ¡Viva Navidad! – By now, regular readers probably know that we really, really love Viva Navidad. It’s no surprise that this remains the highlight of Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure. It’s one of our sleeper picks for the best overall Christmas entertainment at Disneyland Resort.

Holiday Sunset Concerts – These afternoon and evening acts perform at the Palisades Stage at Paradise Gardens Park, which is also in the area of Viva Navidad. New for 2019, the Holiday Sunset Concerts feature The Suffragettes, an exciting festival band that rocks the holidays with chart-topping hits.

Additional acts include Phat Cat Swinger, the West Coast’s “Little-Big Band,” presenting a fresh new twist on their swinging selection of holiday tunes. The Suffragettes perform on Sunday through Tuesday, while Phat Cat Swinger takes the stage Wednesday through Saturday nights.

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Blue13 Dance Company – Traditional Indian dances with beautiful choreography, lavish costumes, and entrancing music. The performances build to a Bollywood-style ending, which is fairly high energy.

Mariachi Divas – Long favorites with Disneyland fans, the GRAMMY Award-winning Mariachi Divas are sure to put on a great holiday show.

Mostly Kosher – This Klezmer band perform a variety of musical styles, basically coming across as a Top 40 group with strong Jewish influence. Between songs, the lead singer shares cultural traditions.

While none of the other entertainment act approaches the quality of Viva Navidad, that’s fine. It’s all in that same spirit, and the other musical acts are great to enjoy while strolling through the park, with or without food & spirits. Those diverse cultural acts are exactly what you’d expect of World Showcase at Epcot.

In that sense, DCA is beating Epcot at its own game. If Disney California Adventure keeps this up, it will solidify itself as the “ambiance park” at Disneyland Resort, and a nice change of pace when crowds across the Esplanade at Disneyland get too heavy. Thanks in large part to Festival of the Holidays, we now have a far greater desire to hang out in DCA during the Christmas season!

That’s the good news. The bad news is that if you’re on a tight budget, the food at Disney California Adventure’s Festival of Holidays is not for you. The portions are relatively small, and the prices relatively high. It’s the same idea as any Disney food & wine festival.

There are two exceptions to this. First, the desserts, most of which are served up at price points that aren’t too outlandish. It’s fun to graze from the booths, trying the different ~$5 desserts. Second, if you purchase the Sip & Savor Pass, and maximize your value with that. This can shave a couple of dollars off your average per-item cost, making them easier to justify. We usually purchase one of these to share, and enjoy dining around DCA over the course of a couple days with it!

If you’re visiting Disneyland during Christmas-time, make sure to read our Ultimate Christmas at Disneyland Guide to get the most out of the special Christmas offerings! If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, especially our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!

Your Thoughts

Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts on Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure? Any additional thoughts on specific samples? What about entertainment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!


4 Responses to “Guide to Festival of Holidays at California Adventure”
  1. julie November 8, 2019
    • David November 10, 2019
  2. Kevin November 8, 2019

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