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2016 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival Overview

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For the first time since 2010, Disney California Adventure is hosting the Food & Wine Festival once again. The festival started on April 1st and will run on weekends until May 1st.

There are eight different festival marketplaces, which are all serving California-inspired dishes. The festival marketplaces are spread out from Carthay Circle Restaurant to the entrance of Paradise Pier. The beautiful backdrop of Grizzly River Run’s waterfall makes this a great location for the festival. The festival marketplaces are busy, and for good reason, because the food is delicious. Almost every dish was beloved by everyone I talked to! In addition to the festival marketplaces, many of the quick service restaurants in Disney California Adventure offer their own unique dish for the festival, and these dishes will be served throughout the week.

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The festival marketplaces are: LAstyle, The Vineyard, Wine Country, ¡Viva Fresca!, Gold Rush, The Brewhouse, The Farm, and By the Bay. Personally I enjoyed the Triple Cheese Mac and Smoked Chicken at the Gold Rush marketplace. While that was my favorite item from the the day, I enjoyed everything I ate. The food at the festival was true California comfort food. As much as Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival expands my palate with its international offerings, the comfort food offered at Disney California Adventure was the deliciously prepared food I knew I loved. Dishes like Artichoke Chips with Spicy Aioli, Apple Bacon Whoopie Pie, and Fried Shrimp Soft Tacos are just a few of the tasty comfort food choices I am talking about.

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This festival was great for those who love to eat, but also for those who love to cook! In Hollywood Land there are culinary demonstrations throughout the day. The chefs give professional tips on how to cook and serve the dishes they are preparing. Also in Hollywood Land are lifestyle seminars that cover a variety of topics like art, gardening, health, entertainment, and more! On April 3rd we watched Jin Cheng from JinBaCha. Jin explained the health benefits to drinking kombucha. Her presentation was followed by many questions from the audience. I would assume it was an educational experience for almost everyone. Between the culinary demonstrations, the lifestyle seminars, and the merchandise, the entire Hollywood Land area reminded me of the Festival Center in Epcot’s old Wonders of Life pavilion.

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Speaking of merchandise, there are two festival merchandise locations, which are located at the Studio Store and Trolley Treats. Items include cookbooks, shirts, hats, specialty wine glasses, and more. Personally I liked the design of the logo for the festival, which was on most of, if not all of, the merchandise.

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If you are expecting the size and scope of the Food & Wine Festival held at Epcot in Walt Disney World, then change your expectations because this event is much smaller, and that might not be a bad thing. I actually believe that because it was a smaller event the food was much better than what we see in Walt Disney World. Each dish seemed expertly prepared, and was presented with care. Personally, I love Food & Wine Festival in Epcot, but I think the food was on another level.

For $45, annual passholders can buy a Festival Marketplace Tasting Passport, which includes six food items from the festival marketplaces. Additionally, annual passholders can pick up a specialty button for the festival.

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It was hard to be critical of this event. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was fantastic. If I have to nitpick I would say that there wasn’t much for families at the festival. It would be nice to see a small addition for kids to participate in the event. I enjoy the fact that Epcot has a small jungle gym set up for the festivals and I hope Disney California Adventure will add something like that in the future.

Stephen "Steve" Porter started going to the parks with his family in 1996. Since then he hasn't looked back! Steve was a cast member participating in the Disney College Program in 2013. Most recently he graduated from Penn State University!


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