FROG EDITORS NOTE - While this post is about the Disneyland Resort, we do have a post that covers the Best Bars and Lounges at Disney World.
Every Disneyland Resort visit deserves some downtime. After a day of lines, waiting and walking, our frog flippers need an hour or so to cool off. Even on the days we spend our time relaxing and splashing by the hotel pool, we make it a point to unwind in the evenings. When those relaxing times call for adult libations, Disneyland has plenty of options. This post is your guide to the best bars and lounges a Disneyland. And yes, we take our research VERY seriously.
For the longest time, the words "alcoholic drinks" had somewhat of a mythical status at Disneyland. Before the resort's 2001 expansion, the only options for choice beverages were at the Disneyland Hotel. That is, unless, you could get into Club 33.
Club 33 is a private, members-only club located in New Orleans Square inside Disneyland. It is the only place in Disneyland where you may purchase alcohol. Even as other Disney castle parks have eased up on alcohol sales, Disneyland remains dry. At the same time, those who enjoy a glass of wine with their dinner have delicious options across the resort.
It's fitting that the majority of our picks for the best bars and lounges at Disneyland have a touch of the elegance found inside Club 33, along with one that certainly maintains the Disney "magic."
Best Bars and Lounges at Disneyland
The Lounge at Steakhouse 55
Even before the resort's expansion, alcoholic beverage choices at the Disneyland Hotel were prime spots for pleasurable times—HI NEON CACTUS, WE MISS YOU. The hotel received a renovation that ushered in Steakhouse 55. Next to this upscale dining spot is a place for prime drinks and casual conversations—The Lounge at Steakhouse 55.
This is a lounge that truly encourages lounging. High-back leather chairs hover over small tables, while plush couches can swallow you up if you're not careful. A small bar with seating is located in the back, while the main area focuses on comfy chairs with tables. There is an old-world elegance here, with the dark wood and purple accents giving the lounge a rather dark setting.
The Lounge at Steakhouse 55 offers various signature drinks. We "landed" on The Aviation—Beefeater Gin, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, fresh Lemon Juice, Crème de Violettes. With its gray coloring and equally smokey flavor, we were flying high after this delicious choice.
The Lounge at Steakhouse 55 is perfect as a before-or-after visit from the accompanying restaurant. At the same time, it works just as well as an evening's lone destination. With old-school drinks, small bites and a relaxing atmosphere, The Lounge at Steakhouse 55 is a classic spot that feels welcoming.
Stepping into the lobby of Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa transports you to a place inspired by the state's wonderful wilderness. With comfy couches, a roaring fireplace and spectacular view, the grand lobby is a destination itself.
Steps away from the hotel's lobby, Hearthstone Lounge resembles a lodge found in the grand hotels of the Yosemite area of California. Set with deep-brown wood and stained-glass accents, Hearthstone Lounge is a somewhat out-of-the-way spot from the busy traffic of the hotel.
In the morning, it's a breakfast stop with coffee, latte, espresso and small pastries that are perfect for those rushing to use the hotel's exclusive entrance to Disney California Adventure. For afternoons and evenings, Hearthstone Lounge serves up a hearty menu. BBQ Pulled Pork Pizzetta, Trio of Mini Sliders and Abacore Poke Tuna are some of the dishes available.
As for the drinks, Hearthstone presents a large selection of wines by the glass or bottle. Traditional and craft beers are also available, including a few from local breweries. As for the cocktail menu, this is where we discuss the resort's "Standard Cocktail Menu." Many of the Disneyland bars share the same cocktail menu, offering the exact same drinks at various locations. Flip through the menu at Hearthstone Lounge, and it looks remarkably similar to the one at Steakhouse 55 Lounge. That's because—besides a few special drinks and menu items—it is. Hearthstone won't win accolades for spectacular cocktails, but it doesn't need to. For those of you who enjoy large gatherings, Hearthstone can accommodate big groups. It can be intimate or personal, depending on your mood.
Our Hearthstone Lounge favorite is the Raspberry-Ginger "Vojito"—Finlandia Raspberry Vodka, Ginger, Mint, Raspberry Puree and Fresh Lime Juice topped with Coconut Water.
Grab a place at the bar and have one of the bartenders serve up your favorite beverage of choice. The best bar experience is the one where you're enjoying yourself. In those moments, Hearthstone Lounge feels like home.
Napa Rose Lounge
California's signature glass is the cornerstone of Napa Rose—Disneyland Resort's signature restaurant. Located inside Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, this award-winning dining spot focuses on creative California cuisine perfectly paired with signature wines. Headed by Chef Andrew Sutton, his delicious dining has earned the restaurant accolades and awards from notable organizations such as Zagat and Wine Spectator.
With those accolades comes the struggle to land a reservation. With high demand and limited seating, landing a table can present some challenges. However, the Napa Rose Lounge—located next door to the restaurant—provides walk-up seating and access to a delicious menu.
Napa Rose Lounge mirrors its namesake restaurant with the same warm wood style and intimate lighting. Take a peek at the on-stage wine closet, located to your left as you pass the entrance podium. It features over 1,000 bottles of wine, the majority from California's Napa Valley.
Seating at the Lounge is set in three different spots. The main area features tables surrounded by red-cushioned wood chairs with backs featuring rose-inspired designs. Deep red couches line the wood and glass walls that glow with accent lighting. The circular bar is in the back. The centerpiece of the bar features vertical lighted glass panels that echo the top of a glass—most likely intentionally.
On our trip, we were put in the Lounge's third seating area—outside. Warmed by a circular fireplace, this outdoor area is the coziest of spaces. It sits right against Disney California Adventure's Grizzly Peak area. The screams of riders on the nearby Grizzly River Run provide a themed soundtrack to your evening.
The key draw of Napa Rose Lounge is the extensive wine list. This 39-page masterpiece is organized by wine style—Chardonnay, Merlot and such. While the majority of wines hail from Napa Valley, you'll find international selections from places such as Italy, France and Argentina. If you have questions, you're in good hands. Your server is a sommelier. In fact, all servers and chefs at Napa Rose have passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Level 1 or Certification Exams.
On this particular visit, we found ourselves guided toward the cocktail menu. I KNOW. DON'T JUDGE. This luscious list contains 21 signature cocktails. We sipped on The Napa Passion—X Fusion, Parrot Bay Rum, Pineapple Juice and Strawberry. The fruity concoction was the perfect partner as we kicked our frog feet up on the fire pit.
Elegant and casual, Napa Rose Lounge is a wine lover's lounge that celebrates California's culinary artistry, and dedication to the vine.
Carthay Circle Lounge
In-park dining elegance sits at the center of Disney California Adventure. Carthay Circle Restaurant is the "premiere" dining spot in the Disneyland Resort. "Premiere" as in the top experience, but as a play on the restaurant's theme. The Carthay Circle Theater was where "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" premiered. Photos of that historic night are featured all around the restaurant.
While dining at Carthay Circle Restaurant is a star-studded experience—with the food being the stars—the Carthay Circle Lounge is an equally fine choice. The Lounge serves as the lobby area of the two-story Carthay Circle building, with the restaurant on the second floor. Part of the lounge is set off from the lobby. Here in this high-ceiling area, you'll find the sit-down bar along with tall tables and accompanying leather seats. Black and white photos from the Golden Age of Disney are featured along the walls.
The lobby section of the Lounge features lush carpeting and lighting fixtures. Plush wood chairs surround granite-topped tables. The restaurant's wine collection sits on display here. The wine menu offers a selection of Disney Family Wines, those from vineyards with connections to Disney. Fess Parker, Kurt Russel, Fred McMurray and John Lasseter to name a few.
With a setting inspired by Hollywood's Golden Age, the cocktail menu at Carthay Circle Lounge is decidedly old-school. Classic Gin and Tonic, Double Pear Martini and the Ginger Rogers are a few of the creative concoctions.
We took the time to indulge in two of the restaurant's signature concoctions. The Carthay Diamond Manhattan features Bulleit Rye Small Batch American Whiskey, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, Angostura Bitters and Luxardo Gourmet Maraschino cherries served with an ice sphere made from locally sourced purified water. A delicious drink onto itself, but the ice sphere lends itself to creating a cocktail we won't soon forget.
In a setting surrounded by photos of Walt Disney, we couldn't help but sip on his favorite drink. The menu lists the Scotch Mist as "Walt's Drink of Choice." Black and White Scotch Whisky with a Lemon Peel served over Crushed Ice. While we don't normally reach for whiskey, we enjoyed slipping into the spirit of Walt with his favorite "spirit."
As an escape that is very similar to that of Club 33, Carthay Circle Lounge does not disappoint. Sit back in your chair, soak in the background music—classic Disney songs played in a jazz lounge style—and enjoy a few moments of Hollywood-style elegance.
What was once the best-kept secret in Disney Califonia Adventure is now, arguably, the most popular bar on property.
The Cove Bar sits next to Ariel's Grotto Restaurant near the entrance to Paradise Pier. This prime location provides one of the most scenic views in the entire resort. Overlooking Paradise Pier attractions, you get a leisurely view of Mickey's Fun Wheel as California Screamin' cars zoom past you. Decorated in the same old beachfront boardwalk-style as the rest of the land, Cove Bar echoes the pleasure of the era as well as the land's emphasis on fun. As you might imagine, it provides an amazing view of World of Color in the evening.
Because of the prime location, there is usually a long wait for seating at Cove Bar. On our visit, we arrived 15-20 minutes ahead of the bar's 11:00 a.m. opening time. There were a good 35 people in front of us. You're already in a place where people want to spend the least amount of time as possible. Why were there so many people in line this early?
The answer is found in the bar's menu. Well, that's to say, it's in the bar's "secret" menu.
The Cove Bar is home to the Disneyland Resort's best-known secret drink menu. LEAP'S NOTE—If everyone knows about it, is it still a secret menu? Talk amongst yourselves. The Cove Bar drink menu features many familiar drinks from the "Standard Cocktail Menu" we discussed. We'll admit we were disappointed to see that standard list and wondered if we were doomed. At the same time, what good is a secret menu if what's on it isn't impressive. SPOILER—it's a great menu.
The secret menu's prime ticket attraction is the Fun Wheel. It's the perfect drink to post on Instagram—#funwheel—with its namesake in the background, thanks to the three colorful layers of alcohol. It's a mixture of Pineapple Juice, X-Rated Passion Fruit Vodka, vodka, rum, gin and topped with Blue Curaçao and Lime Whipped Cream. We also sampled the Black Pearl— vodka, gin, rum, sweet and sour, Chambord (French raspberry flavored liqueur), and Sprite. The Secret Menu offers other delights such as the Zombie, Neverland Tea, Earthquake and Sea Witch.
Atmosphere and alcohol are the key ingredients to any successful Disney bar experience. The Cove Bar delivers on both. It fulfills the theme of Paradise Pier—a FUN location with the THRILL of ordering from a secret menu. Hurry, hurry, hurry and step right up.
Theming and storytelling are what draw us to a Disney park. That special blend of Disney magic can also be found outside of the parks. One location that best represents Disney storytelling outside of its theme parks is found at the Disneyland Hotel.
As the story goes, Trader Sam—he of Jungle Cruise fame—set up a bar to serve creative concoctions to Skippers and tourists. Decorated with treasures and relics from his days of adventure, Sam also spreads a special blend of enchantment around his establishment. The result is the most immersive Disney bar anywhere.
Trader Sam's is a throwback to the tiki bars of the past, mixed with creative Disney storytelling, special effects and—of course—delicious drinks. The bar takes its creative nods from attractions such as The Enchanted Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones Adventure and others. The walls are stuffed with jokes and references to well known and obscure Disney films, personalities and other realms of Disney history. You'll find photos of Ned Land (Kirk Douglas) from "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea", Dick Van Dyke from "Ltd. Robinson Caruso U.S.N" and Walt Disney—each one with a note from Sam on their "encounter". Hmm ... that jar full of coins that's labeled Paradise Falls.... where have we seen that?
The bar kicks into gear when patrons order one of the specialty drinks. For example, ordering the Krakatoa Punch causes a fiery volcanic eruption. Ordering the Uh Oa! sends the bar into darkness as the drink sparkles with fire and the bar is encouraged to chant the drink's name.
As we discussed in our Disneyland Secret Menu post, our favorite Trader Sam's drink is Kungaloosh! This throwback drink is our go-to choice, especially in this setting that references the location where it was first concoted—The Adventurer's Club.
While Carthay Circle excels at ambiance and Cove Bar delights with its boardwalk atmosphere, our pick for the best bar at the Disneyland Resort is Trader Sam's. We visit Disney parks for their creative storytelling, and we get that—along with great drinks—at Trader Sam's. The hidden secrets, the special effects and the cast members who "pour" everything into their roles make every visit enchanting. Yet while Trader Sam's is our top pick, you really can't go wrong at any of these delightful spots.
Have you visited any of these bars? Which ones are your favorite? Are there some on our list of best bars and lounges at Disney World that we've overlooked? Let us know in the comments below. We'll be delighted to check them out. Dee. Lighted.