“It’s a great day when you wake up at Disneyland.”
Last summer I told myself, Katie Rose, you can’t possibly go to Disneyland twice in a twelve-month period. Then I thought, what is the point of working fourteen hour days if I can’t bounce around the happiest place on earth with my girlfriends on my birthday? So I invited some of my foodie friends for a three-night trip to Disneyland: Kat (who you may remember from my fajita night), Katie (my favorite Italian), and Sarah (yes, the same Sarah from Turks and Caicos). A few more SoCal friends (Danielle, Keiki, and Yasmine) also came throughout the trip to hang out with us in the park.
The Disneyland Hotel
We decided to stay at the slightly less expensive Disneyland Hotel, which is still onsite but not inside the park like The Grand Californian. My favorite thing about the Disneyland Hotel hands-down is the magical headboard. If it was appropriate for grown women to have such a headboard, we all agreed we would want one. With the touch of a button, the fireworks light up, the stars twinkle, and it sings you a lullaby. Can you say magical?
The layout of the room was superb for a group of women too. There was actually a well-lit vanity area in the hallway, a large desk with mirror next to the TV, and the toilet separate from the shower/vanity area in the bathroom. The layout made it quite easy for us to all get ready in the morning. The bathroom is also stocked with H20 products, which I absolutely adore.
The onsite coffee shop serves pretty good coffee and had a way shorter line than Starbucks. They had a few pastries available, including a tasty chocolate croissant.
Steakhouse 55 is a real treasure. I had never eaten there before despite numerous Disney Dining folks telling me it’s their favorite restaurant on the property. I have a hard time going to any steakhouse outside of Texas. We decided to try Steakhouse 55 for brunch. The restaurant was barely a few steps from our room (okay, it’s one tower over, but still, it’s close) and feels like you’re walking back in time to say…1955!
Named after the year Disneyland opened its magical doors, Steakhouse 55 takes you back to old Hollywood glamour. Everything about the interior screams classy. The tables are far apart and photos of Walt with old Hollywood celebrities hang on the walls. There’s something still very Disney about the classy joint, particularly that the sugar used for one’s latte comes in rock candy form. You’re meant to swirl rock candy around in your coffee cup, which I did with gusto.
The food was outstanding. Most of the table ordered eggs benedict. The poached eggs were expertly executed and you know how picky I am about poached eggs! The dish was also served in a subtle Mickey form. In fact, our waiter told us that every single dish has a hidden Mickey in it. This is really something I really appreciate, considering I’m working on putting a hidden Mickey in every room of my house.
Disney Family of Wines Wine Tasting at Alfresco Tasting Terrace (try saying that three times fast!)
The standout, must do of this trip was the wine tasting at the Alfresco Tasting Terrace in Disney’s California Adventure. There’s a bit of a backstory here so bear with me. You may remember in my Disneyland 60 article how disappointed I was that I couldn’t try Pixar founder John Lasseter’s wine at Wine Country Trattoria. (Which, by the way, is a phenomenal restaurant.) I was told they only served his wine by the glass upstairs at the Alfresco Tasting Terrace. When I asked my friend Katie to come on this trip, she said, “Okay, but we better drink John Lasseter’s wine!”
Now this is how I know I invited the right friends on this trip: I assumed we would take a break to enjoy a glass of wine and watch the sunset over Disney’s California Adventure. Imagine my delight when my girlfriends suggested we partake in a flight of Disney wines each. That meant we could try TWELVE wines total. We ordered:
Red, White, and Rose Flight: Kurt Russell’s GoGi Goldie Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County; Lasseter Family Winery Enjoué Rosé, Sonoma Valley; Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Tour of Napa Valley Flight: Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Napa Valley; Silverado Vineyards Mt. George Vineyard Merlot, Napa Valley; Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Big Red Wines Flight: Lasseter Family Winery Amoureux Malbec Red Blend, Sonoma Valley; Chappellet Zinfandel, Napa Valley; Fess Parker Rodney’s Vineyard Syrah, Santa Barbara County
Red Blends Wine Flight: Lasseter Family Winery Paysage, Sonoma Valley; Cervantes Mountain Cuvée by Chappellet, Napa Valley; Silverado Vineyards Fantasia, Napa Valley
And, to soak up the wine, a charcuterie board with Prosciutto di Parma, Spanish-style Chorizo, Gorgonzola Blue Cheese, Chèvre, Fontina, Green Olives, Marinated Mushrooms, Walnuts, and Dry-cured Black Beldi Olives.
Do I have great friends or what? The Disney Family of Wines tasting menu is fairly new; the menu was just launched in 2014. All of the wineries have some tie to the Disney brand. We took the wine tasting very seriously, starting with the the lightest (GoGi Chardonnay) and ending with the richest, Silverado Fantasia. I’ve marked our collective favorite of each flight in bold up above. The Lasseter Family Winery Enjoué Rosé is refreshing with strong notes of grapefruit. The Chappalette Signature Cabernet Sauvignon is rich and luscious and would be wonderful after dinner. The Chappallet Zinfandel is so a manly wine, something Jon Snow might drink. This was my favorite of all the wines we tasted. The Cervantes Mountain Cuvée by Chappellet is a little pepper-y and was divine paired with our charcuterie board.
See my Disneyland 60 article for a full review on Catal, but I had to take a minute to give a shoutout to our phenomenal waiter Greg. Also, Catal gave us a complimentary postcard with a few pictures taken by a professional photographer. How nice was that? They also brought a complimentary chocolate chip bread pudding to the table for my birthday. And because we had only eaten three other desserts that day (kidding), we went ahead and also ordered truffle mousse cake.
I ordered the seafood paella once again but was blown away by a bite of Katie’s oxtail. My gosh. The Chappellet Zinfandel would have been perfect with that oxtail!
Cafe Orleans is one of my favorite lunch spots in all of Disneyland. If you sit outside, you get a wonderful view of Tom Sawyer’s island and the Mark Twain river boat. And those pommes frites! Served with parmesan, garlic, and parsley with a Cajun Spice Rémoulade, the basket looks large but five of us killed it before our lunch came. The Monte Cristo is the famous dish at Cafe Orleans but it’s pretty large and, while delicious, really slows you down. My table opted for gumbo, vegetable ragout, and the chicken gumbo crepe. We had to pace ourselves since Napa Rose was later that night.
The most exciting thing about Cafe Orleans is the Mickey Mouse beignets. Everything tastes better when it’s shaped like Mickey Mouse, don’t you think? Our waitress brought out a single Mickey beignet with a candle since she saw my birthday pin. We also ordered a plate for the table. There’s five to an order and they come stacked high with fruit coulis and vanilla bean creme anglaise.
Pro tip: You can find Mickey beignets around the corner at a food stand in New Orleans Square but the line is always terrible. Instead have lunch at Cafe Orleans and skip the wait for beignets!
This whole birthday trip came about because I wanted to have my birthday dinner at one of my favorite restaurants on the planet, Napa Rose. It even has Rose in the name! How could I not love it? Characterized by fresh, sustainable California cuisine, Napa Rose never disappoints. Even the parmesan cracker in the bread basket had us swooning. Katie said Napa Rose served her the best Manhattan she’s ever had.
I opted for Brut champagne, because it seemed so birthday special. I couldn’t help but notice that the table even had bleeding roses on it – my favorite! I ordered the heirloom beet salad to start with golden and red beets, yogurt sauce, greens, and a cheesy pastry. I wish my mom had been there to enjoy it with me! No one loves beets more than she does. I’ll dream of that salad. We ordered the yellowtail and octopus for the table. The flavors were so bright and fresh and the octopus had an amazing texture.
I ordered one of the night’s specials, the monkfish. I was a little nervous about it because I had never eaten monkfish before. The shrimp fritters that came with it were incredible. I knew I had to order it when our waiter said it was one of his favorite dishes on the menu. It did not disappoint. I also loved Katie’s winter veggies. We ordered the truffle mac’n’cheese for the table. It looks small but it was plenty for our table of five.
They brought out a complimentary birthday dessert for me: a chocolate mousse cake with peppermint sauce and orange ice cream. It sounds weird but it totally works! You can’t go wrong at Napa Rose. It’s a special place that’s worth getting on a plane for.
I can’t think of the last time I stopped to watch a show at Disneyland. On my birthday, Sarah’s friend was able to get us on the priority seating list for Frozen. What a treat! The condensed version of the movie was one-hour long with impressive special effects. Ice blasts straight out to the audience, the auditorium snows, and Elsa has an enviable costume change right on stage. Hyperion Theater is enormous and we had incredible seats, thanks to the actress who put us on the list. There are three showtimes each day. Tickets are done through fastpass distribution.
We also saw Mickey and the Magical Map in Fantasyland, which is basically a celebration of Disney music. No complaints here! Performances include King Louie from The Jungle Book, Pocahontas from Pocahontas, Mulan from Mulan, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from Tangled, and Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. Of course Mickey Mouse plays a big role, as does the Sorcerer from Fantasia. There are five showtimes each day. Just keep an eye on the time and show up a few minutes before the show.
Dole Whip and the Enchanted Tiki Room
We really wanted somewhere to sit while we enjoyed our dole whip, a treat not to be missed. Sarah suggested we wait for the Enchanted Tiki Room. In all of my years of Disneyland trips, I’ve never (to my recollection) done the Tiki Room. It was really cute! And a nice break from walking. We got fast passes for Indiana Jones, grabbed a dole whip, and swayed to the music in the Tiki Room until it was time to jump on Indy.
Pro tip: the line for a dole whip is often pretty lengthy. Instead, walk around the line and into the waiting area for the Enchanted Tiki Room. You can order a dole whip on that side with virtually no wait.
Putting the Park in Theme Park
Can we talk for a minute about how beautiful Disneyland is? I took some photos of the park-like setting to show you that this is not your average theme park.
Quite possibly my favorite part about Disneyland is that you can eat your heart’s desire and still come home skinnier than you left since you walk about 20,000 steps each day.
When we weren’t stuffing our faces with every Mickey Mouse-shaped treat in the park, we packed in a ton of rides. January is the time to go if you want to ride more than a dozen rides each day! A few of my favorites: Soarin’ over California (which has been updated to be Soarin’ Around the World), Indiana Jones, Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan’s Flight, California Screamin’, and Radiator Springs Racers.
Pro tip: use your magic hour (early admission for hotel guests) to ride Radiator Springs Racers and Hyperspace Mountain, both of which can get up to 120 minute wait later in the day. You can also do single rider on Radiator Springs, meaning your party will split up. This is actually a really fun way to ride because we were able to race each other! And we only waited for about fifteen minutes whereas the normal wait was 50 minutes.
Disneyland isn’t just for kids. It’s a foodie destination in an idyllic park-like setting with awesome rides and fabulous live shows. Reliving the magic has me thinking one thing: how soon can I go back?
Enjoy some personal photos here: