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Some Questions About Our Disneyland Dining and Entertainment (including Fantasmic!)

Weather_Lady

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Hello, all! I know it's a little premature, but I'm sketching out the itinerary and thinking about dining for my family's upcoming first (and very likely only) visit to Disneyland, at the end of August 2019. For those who are familiar with Disneyland's dining venues, please help me with the following:

Fantasmic!: Although my family has been to WDW several times, we've never seen Fantasmic!. (We've planned to a couple of times, but we could never fill a whole day at HS, and returning to the park for it always seemed like too much of a hassle.) Since we know we'll be spending a couple of evenings in Disneyland, we thought this would be a perfect time to finally see it.

Can you tell me:
(1) is the DL version equal to, or better than, the one at WDW, or do you otherwise consider it a "must do"?
(2) Is it necessary to purchase a dining package to get a good seat, or can we just utilize a Fastpass for it? I've seen diagrams of the various seating areas, so I know Fantasmic! seating is more toward the side, so I guess what I'm asking is, does that significantly diminish the expereince?
(3) If a dining package is recommended, which one? I'm equally galled by spending $30/pp for a takeout box at Hungry Bear, by the idea of spending $45/pp at River Belle Terrace (well over $200 for my family to eat fancy sandwiches), or $72/pp at Blue Bayou ($350 for my family of four by the time tax and gratuity are added!!!), so the dining package pricing seems nuts to me - but then again, I don't know how much one's seating for Fantasmic matters, so maybe I'm just not understanding the value of what is offered. What would you do?

Table Service Restaurants: What table service restaurants do you recommend for Disneyland/California Adventure/Downtown Disney/offsite-walking-distance guests? Specifically, I'm looking for restaurants that are well-reviewed for their food, have a diverse or interesting menu, and offer something unique - either in terms of cuisine type, or theming. I'm also avoiding character meals, truly upscale restaurants that are likely to bore the kids (11 and 13) like Carthay Circle, Napa Rose and Steakhouse 55, as well as chains we have at home, like The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang's.

We'll have four evenings where we'll be looking for a TS dinner, and so far I'm looking at: (1) Carnation Cafe, which seems to garner really terrific reviews and happens to have a couple of menu items I know my family loves (fried pickles, baked potato soup, malts), although this could easily become a lunch meal instead; (2) Blue Bayou, which has a beautiful and unique atmosphere -- however, due to its prices, this would likely be a late-evening reservation for desserts, coffee and appetizer munchies only, and not for a full dinner; and (3) House of Blues, which is off property but in easy walking distance, seems to get great reviews both for the food and the entertainment, and will have live music if we time it right. Do these sound like decent choices? Any other places you recommend? We're also intrigued by Catal (DTD), Ralph Brennan's (DTD), and FiRE+iCE (offsite, Anaheim Garden Walk). I'd also love to add a great Japanese or Indian restaurant (or just something with some Asian fusion or inspiration, like Yak & Yeti over at WDW) but I haven't seen anything well-recommended in the area. We're also planning on going over to Trader Joe's before opening time one morning so we can have some small plates and fun drinks for lunch.

Please share your thoughts, and thank you in advance! I know this probably seems like too much ado about dining, but for my family, food is a huge part of our vacation experience, and offers a chance to dine out far more often, and far more generously (for example, ordering appetizers and desserts, which is not our usual m.o.), than we ever do at home.
 

GiveMeTheMusic

Well-Known Member
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Hello, all! I know it's a little premature, but I'm sketching out the itinerary and thinking about dining for my family's upcoming first (and very likely only) visit to Disneyland, at the end of August 2019. For those who are familiar with Disneyland's dining venues, please help me with the following:

Fantasmic!: Although my family has been to WDW several times, we've never seen Fantasmic!. (We've planned to a couple of times, but we could never fill a whole day at HS, and returning to the park for it always seemed like too much of a hassle.) Since we know we'll be spending a couple of evenings in Disneyland, we thought this would be a perfect time to finally see it.

Can you tell me:
(1) is the DL version equal to, or better than, the one at WDW, or do you otherwise consider it a "must do"?
(2) Is it necessary to purchase a dining package to get a good seat, or can we just utilize a Fastpass for it? I've seen diagrams of the various seating areas, so I know Fantasmic! seating is more toward the side, so I guess what I'm asking is, does that significantly diminish the expereince?
(3) If a dining package is recommended, which one? I'm equally galled by spending $30/pp for a takeout box at Hungry Bear, by the idea of spending $45/pp at River Belle Terrace (well over $200 for my family to eat fancy sandwiches), or $72/pp at Blue Bayou ($350 for my family of four by the time tax and gratuity are added!!!), so the dining package pricing seems nuts to me - but then again, I don't know how much one's seating for Fantasmic matters, so maybe I'm just not understanding the value of what is offered. What would you do?

Table Service Restaurants: What table service restaurants do you recommend for Disneyland/California Adventure/Downtown Disney/offsite-walking-distance guests? Specifically, I'm looking for restaurants that are well-reviewed for their food, have a diverse or interesting menu, and offer something unique - either in terms of cuisine type, or theming. I'm also avoiding character meals, truly upscale restaurants that are likely to bore the kids (11 and 13) like Carthay Circle, Napa Rose and Steakhouse 55, as well as chains we have at home, like The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang's.

We'll have four evenings where we'll be looking for a TS dinner, and so far I'm looking at: (1) Carnation Cafe, which seems to garner really terrific reviews and happens to have a couple of menu items I know my family loves (fried pickles, baked potato soup, malts), although this could easily become a lunch meal instead; (2) Blue Bayou, which has a beautiful and unique atmosphere -- however, due to its prices, this would likely be a late-evening reservation for desserts, coffee and appetizer munchies only, and not for a full dinner; and (3) House of Blues, which is off property but in easy walking distance, seems to get great reviews both for the food and the entertainment, and will have live music if we time it right. Do these sound like decent choices? Any other places you recommend? We're also intrigued by Catal (DTD), Ralph Brennan's (DTD), and FiRE+iCE (offsite, Anaheim Garden Walk). I'd also love to add a great Japanese or Indian restaurant (or just something with some Asian fusion or inspiration, like Yak & Yeti over at WDW) but I haven't seen anything well-recommended in the area. We're also planning on going over to Trader Joe's before opening time one morning so we can have some small plates and fun drinks for lunch.

Please share your thoughts, and thank you in advance! I know this probably seems like too much ado about dining, but for my family, food is a huge part of our vacation experience, and offers a chance to dine out far more often, and far more generously (for example, ordering appetizers and desserts, which is not our usual m.o.), than we ever do at home.
Fantasmic is better at DL. A dining package isn't required, especially if you're planning to see the second show of the night, but if you want front/center perfect viewing, the Blue Bayou package is the only way to fly. It saves you money on the actual cost of a three course Blue Bayou meal and you get the show viewing.

I would try to divorce yourself from the table-service-every-night mindset that WDW fosters. It's just not necessary, especially based on what you've written here, and your time is better spent enjoying the parks and eating in one of the many quick service options - French Market, Plaza Inn, Paradise Garden Grill, Flo's, etc. There just aren't that many amazing table service options at DLR and you've ruled out the truly remarkable ones (Napa Grill) already. Ralph Brennan's is good, but pricey, same for Catal. Ballast Point might be worth looking into, and BlackTap if it's open when you arrive.
 

flynnibus

Well-Known Member
Disneyland F! is a must see. You will probably find yourself seeing it more than once.

There is so much space, unless you are going at peak peak times... I'd just treat it like fireworks where you know where you want to view from and plan ahead to be there early. It's been awhile so the crowd control is probably different, but I would watch fireworks in the hub, and then b-line it over to the river and wait for them to open up a new area on the right and get right up to the rail.

Dunno what the current crowd control releases are like tho.
 

oo_nrb

Active Member
You absolutely need to see Disneyland's Fantasmic!, and then you can skip on the decidedly lesser Hollywood Studios version.

For Fantasmic!, your choices will become a lot easier once you decide two factors: do you want to see the first or second performance, and then do you want front/center viewing or is off to the side okay. Here's how that all breaks down:

First show (9:00 pm)
  • By far the busier of the two shows. Fastpass is recommended for a side-view, dining package is recommended for a front/center view. Stand-by viewing is not recommended for this show.
  • Fastpasses for the first show usually book out early, between 45 mins - 90 mins after park opening. Fastpasses are available near the Petrified Tree in Frontierland, next to Frontier Landing. You can return to Frontier Landing starting at 8:00pm, and they will open the viewing areas shortly thereafter. Fastpass viewing areas are standing room only, so if you want a better/closer spot, arrive earlier to Frontier Landing to be at the front of the pack.
  • Dining packages for the first show usually sell out, and sometimes over-sell. If you want to be on the riverfront and in the center, the Blue Bayou package gets you up there (as well as a cushion to sit on). River Belle packages get you the section just to the left of Blue Bayou, also a seated area. River Belle also offers the option to sit on their patio to watch the show, if you'd rather have an elevated (if slightly further) view. Hungry Bear packages get you a spot near the Raft dock, which is a standing section. All dining packages check in near the Harbor Galley around 8:30pm.
  • Stand-by viewing for the area usually opens at 7:30, and if you are planning on seeing the first show stand-by you need to get there right around then, as most of the good spots are taken right away. The stand-by viewing area encompasses the entire upper walkway, from behind the central light tower down to the French Market, as well as the lower walkway between the Raft dock and the Harbor Galley.
  • A benefit to seeing the first show is that if there are fireworks scheduled that evening, you can stay in the viewing area and watch that show. There are typically special effects and projections that will occur on the River as well.
Second show (10:30 pm)
  • The second show is recommended regardless. For this show, the viewing areas all stay the same, but are significantly less crowded.
  • Fastpasses for the second show usually do not book out until early afternoon. You can return to Frontier Landing starting after the fireworks show, and the viewing area will open around 10:00pm. Fastpass viewing is again standing-room only, but there are typically fewer people jockeying for spots.
  • Dining packages for the second show usually do not sell out. All of the dining sections remain the same, though to my knowledge River Belle does not offer a patio view for the second performance.
  • Stand-by viewing opens after the fireworks show concludes, and is the same area. There are many ideal spots that you can grab as the first show empties out: immediately behind the central light tower, along the elevated sections by the French Market, and near the Raft dock, immediately adjacent to the dining sections. While these prime locations will usually fill up once they open, most of the other stand-by sections will have plenty of space up until show time.
Personally, if it's my first time seeing Disneyland's Fantasmic! and I have the money, I'd go for the 9:00 pm Blue Bayou package. It's somewhat cheaper than their normal menu for excellent food in a great atmosphere, you get a cushion for the show, and you get a guaranteed, front-center section for the show, plus fireworks viewing if you're so inclined. If you're looking to save money, swiping a stand-by railing spot for the 10:30 pm show behind the central light tower, or on the bridge over the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance, gets you a fantastic spot without the cost.
 

Phrubruh

Well-Known Member
Hello, all! I know it's a little premature, but I'm sketching out the itinerary and thinking about dining for my family's upcoming first (and very likely only) visit to Disneyland, at the end of August 2019. For those who are familiar with Disneyland's dining venues, please help me with the following:

Fantasmic!: Although my family has been to WDW several times, we've never seen Fantasmic!. (We've planned to a couple of times, but we could never fill a whole day at HS, and returning to the park for it always seemed like too much of a hassle.) Since we know we'll be spending a couple of evenings in Disneyland, we thought this would be a perfect time to finally see it.

Can you tell me:
(1) is the DL version equal to, or better than, the one at WDW, or do you otherwise consider it a "must do"?
(2) Is it necessary to purchase a dining package to get a good seat, or can we just utilize a Fastpass for it? I've seen diagrams of the various seating areas, so I know Fantasmic! seating is more toward the side, so I guess what I'm asking is, does that significantly diminish the expereince?
(3) If a dining package is recommended, which one? I'm equally galled by spending $30/pp for a takeout box at Hungry Bear, by the idea of spending $45/pp at River Belle Terrace (well over $200 for my family to eat fancy sandwiches), or $72/pp at Blue Bayou ($350 for my family of four by the time tax and gratuity are added!!!), so the dining package pricing seems nuts to me - but then again, I don't know how much one's seating for Fantasmic matters, so maybe I'm just not understanding the value of what is offered. What would you do?

Table Service Restaurants: What table service restaurants do you recommend for Disneyland/California Adventure/Downtown Disney/offsite-walking-distance guests? Specifically, I'm looking for restaurants that are well-reviewed for their food, have a diverse or interesting menu, and offer something unique - either in terms of cuisine type, or theming. I'm also avoiding character meals, truly upscale restaurants that are likely to bore the kids (11 and 13) like Carthay Circle, Napa Rose and Steakhouse 55, as well as chains we have at home, like The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang's.

We'll have four evenings where we'll be looking for a TS dinner, and so far I'm looking at: (1) Carnation Cafe, which seems to garner really terrific reviews and happens to have a couple of menu items I know my family loves (fried pickles, baked potato soup, malts), although this could easily become a lunch meal instead; (2) Blue Bayou, which has a beautiful and unique atmosphere -- however, due to its prices, this would likely be a late-evening reservation for desserts, coffee and appetizer munchies only, and not for a full dinner; and (3) House of Blues, which is off property but in easy walking distance, seems to get great reviews both for the food and the entertainment, and will have live music if we time it right. Do these sound like decent choices? Any other places you recommend? We're also intrigued by Catal (DTD), Ralph Brennan's (DTD), and FiRE+iCE (offsite, Anaheim Garden Walk). I'd also love to add a great Japanese or Indian restaurant (or just something with some Asian fusion or inspiration, like Yak & Yeti over at WDW) but I haven't seen anything well-recommended in the area. We're also planning on going over to Trader Joe's before opening time one morning so we can have some small plates and fun drinks for lunch.

Please share your thoughts, and thank you in advance! I know this probably seems like too much ado about dining, but for my family, food is a huge part of our vacation experience, and offers a chance to dine out far more often, and far more generously (for example, ordering appetizers and desserts, which is not our usual m.o.), than we ever do at home.
Just as a side note. When your are visiting make sure to make Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln a priority sometime during your day.
 

Weather_Lady

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Wow - thank you all for the great insights and information!

After putting it all together, I just may take a hard gulp and do the Blue Bayou dinner package ("Kids, you're ordering the surf and turf!!"), and convert some of our TS meal slots to CS, as @GiveMeTheMusic suggested, or even just light meals in a lounge, as the options will likely be more varied and interesting.
 

Jedi Stitch

Well-Known Member
We did the Blue Bayou last August 9PM dinner package. You do get keep sake seat cushions, for the ground. I have to admit the dedicated Fantasmic with dedicated seating makes DHS is great due to the seating. The DLR show is better, but lacks any dedicated seating. My daughter is a picky eater, so it was pretty much wasted food, but the BB seating area is the best to catch the show. 9PM lets you watch the fireworks from there. We also did the Carnation Cafe meal deal for parade viewing. three $40 KFC level meals was not worth the crappy spot they give you to see the parade. The best deal was Wine Tractonia and the paint the night parade. The location for the parade as usual was hohum but the special menu was awesome, and you still pay full price, but you can ask for the kids menu for the picky eaters.
 

flynnibus

Well-Known Member
I've never been disappointed with my hub or F! viewing without dining packages.

Just remember.. dining in DLR is a completely different style than WDW. You rarely anchor your trip around your daily TS plan for the evening. Instead dining is more like it is everywhere else in the world... you plan for one or two 'special occasion' meals.. and everything else you pretty much take on the fly day to day from quick service.

You do plan ahead to make sure you don't get excluded where you do want those special meals.. but your cadence and pattern will be very different.
 
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