The Festival of Holidays has returned to Disney California Adventure for its second year. Like last year, the Festival celebrates holiday traditions from around the world: Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Navidad, and Diwali. There’s entertainment, character greetings, crafts, and of course FOOD!
This year there are twelve different Festive Food Marketplaces as well as special menus at the Paradise Garden Grill and the Sonoma Terrace. The Marketplaces are located along the parade route from Carthay Circle to the Golden Zephyr in Paradise Pier.
There are a few returning marketplaces (Making Spirits Bright, Brews & Bites, Winter Sliderland) and some returning food and beverage items, but most of the 60+ selections are new. Food prices range from $3.75-$5.00 for dessert items to $5.00-$7.75 for savory items. I was pleasantly surprised that some of the prices were lower this year, as much as a dollar, though most were $0.25-$.50 decreases. Wine and beer flights also had a modest price decrease. While prices for individual glasses of wine were generally unchanged or slightly up, the price for individual servings of beers was down $0.75 (though I think $9.00 is still high for a less-than-full-size serving of beer).
Annual Passholders can purchase a Sip and Savor Pass for $45. The pass has 8 tabs that can be redeemed for food and most non-alcoholic beverages at the Marketplaces. If used for items priced at $6.00 and higher it can provide a significant savings. Passholders must present their AP to purchase the passport, and most cast members at the order kiosks require you to show your AP when using one of the tabs.
When using a tab at the Marketplaces, AP holders receive a small AP button. There are 11 different colors available (no button for Making Spirits Bright, since there are no eligible items there).
All guests can pick up a Festival of Holidays Tasting Passport. They should be available at the ordering station of any of the Marketplaces. The passport lists the menus of each Marketplace along with some photos, and there’s also a spot for a different sticker that is available at each Marketplace. No purchase necessary for the sticker, and it’s helpful if you open it to the correct page before giving it to the cast member at the ordering station. After getting all of the stickers a Stamp of Completion is available at several locations.
I tried several food and beverage items on my visit earlier this week. When I first read the list of menu items, the one that most intrigued me was the Frosty Frosé – frozen rosé, blue Curacao & white cranberry juice from the A Twist on Tradition kiosk. $At $13.00 it’s expensive, but it was very refreshing.
From the same place I also tried the Butternut Squash & Almond Pakora Fritters. $6.00 for these, and the best bite that I had all day. The fritters were soft and warm inside with a good flavor.
At Blissfully Braised I tried the Braised Pork Belly Adobo with garlic fried rice and sliced green onions. Wow…so tender! The pork belly was a bit too fatty, though. I think the crunchy bits on top were fried pork rinds, but I’m not sure. I thought it was a reasonable portion size for $7.50 – especially since I used one of my tabs and it cost me less than $6. 🙂
Grilled Chicken Sausage with Red Beans and Rice was my selection from Grandma’s Recipes. Whew, that’s one spicy grandma, and this dish was too hot for me, especially the beans. I couldn’t eat them. Too much chili powder for me. $7.25 for this one.
From Winter Sliderland I had one of the returning items from last year: Roasted Turkey Slider with Cranberry Sauce ($7.50). It’s like Thanksgiving dinner on a bun: dressing on the bottom, then lots of sliced turkey, covered in gravy with a drizzle of cranberry sauce. Yummy, though it’s very similar to the Holiday Turkey at Earl of Sandwich, and that one is bigger and cheaper.
Last was the Baked Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes from Festive Holiday Extras. $6.50. Good-sized serving, and very cheesy and filling.
There are special holiday drinks available at the Hollywood Backlot area. I tried the Fireside Cider for $12.00. It’s hot apple cider with a shot of cinnamon whiskey. It tasted good on a cool evening.
There’s also a special menu at Paradise Garden Grill. It’s basically the same as last year: burritos, street tacos, chicken mole. I haven’t tried any of it yet. The Sonoma Terrace has a new menu for the Festival, offering chicken caesar and portobello mushroom and zucchini grilled “piadina” wraps.
In addition to all of the food and beverage offerings there’s a variety of entertainment available during the Festival. I spent much of my time at the Festival just wandering between the entertainment venues – and I still didn’t see everything.
The Sound is new to the Festival this year, performing on a stage next to the Pacific Wharf Cafe. They are an a capella group, performing holiday favorites as well as a song about Kwanzaa. I really enjoyed their performance.
The Mariachi Divas also perform at the Pacific Wharf stage, but I didn’t see them that day.
Mostly Kosher and Blue13 Dance Co. are returning groups, both appearing on the stage at Paradise Pier Park. Mostly Kosher is a klezmer band, though they also perform in several musical styles such as Latin, R&B, jazz, and rock. “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone” was one of their numbers – quite unexpected, but very well done.
Blue13 Dance Co. celebrates Diwali with traditional folk dances, in addition to a Bollywood-inspired disco party.
This video contains short clips from performances by The Sound, Mostly Kosher, and Blue13 Dance Co.
The Holiday Toy Drummers, my favorite from last year, have also returned, but to a new location. They are performing at the Paradise Pier Obelisk (I’d never seen that term before – it’s the entrance to Paradise Pier next to Ariel’s Undersea Adventure). I don’t like the new location because the sun is behind them which makes them hard to see/photograph unless you’re off to the side. The drummers always look like they are having as much fun as the audience. I’ve seen them a number of times now, and they still make me smile every time.
New this year is the Holiday Sunset Concert. Each evening at either 6:00 or 6:30 there’s a 40+minute show. Phat Cat Swinger performs Friday-Monday, and the Mariachi Divas perform Tuesday-Thursday. I saw Phat Cat Swinger, and they really put on a great show. They are a “Little Big Band” and performed a lot of swinging music in the style of the “Brat Pack” – Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin. Mostly holiday music, but there were a few other songs like “Bella Notte” and “Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which was my favorite of the evening. I thoroughly enjoyed the concert, and hope to see them again this holiday season.
Also returning this year to the Paradise Gardens area are !Viva Navidad! street party and Princess Elena’s Musical Grand Arrival. Holiday foods and character meet and greets with Princess Elena and other Disney characters are also available there.
Other Festival offerings…there’s several tables set up in front of Ariel’s Undersea Adventure where guests can do some holiday-themed crafts like coloring a Diwali lantern.
Festival merchandise is available at several kiosks along the parade route. A Festival of Holidays souvenir hot/cold mug is available at many of the Marketplaces.
For Annual Passholders, the AP Corner is located in the Sonoma Terrace this year. Passholders can get a Festival button (only one design this year, rather than a new one every couple of weeks) and purchase AP-exclusive merchandise. There’s also a special AP photo op.
OK. I think that covers all of the Festival of Holidays activities! There’s a lot more holiday fun going on at Disney California Adventure – but that’ll be for another blog post.