The Cove Bar at Disney California Adventure
For a short time a hidden gem at Disney California Adventure, Cove Bar is one of the most popular restaurants at the Disneyland Resort for its excellent food and deliciously fun drinks. For perhaps that reason alone, the Cove Bar encapsulates why you’re never too old for Disney.
As with any Disney Parks subject you can think of, much has already been written about Cove Bar. But as a blogger, it’s my sworn duty to beat a dead horse (do I need to use “sarcasm” or “tongue in cheek” tags?). Plus, I like to think of this blog as a way of having you experience the park with me; and if you’re going to the park with me, the Cove Bar is a definite must-do.
So think of this not as a review, but as my love letter to the best eatery to grace any Disney Park. Anywhere. Ever. (Hyperbole is also a required characteristic of blogs, right?)
LOGISTICS – The Waiting Game
The Cove Bar is an outdoor bar located right behind Ariel’s Grotto. They’re connected and share the restroom located on Ariel’s Grotto lower floor.
Opening hours begin at 11 am and wait times usually increase throughout the day, though sometimes it comes and goes in waves. Like anything else, general park crowds will affect the wait time, and a wait of over an hour is not unusual. Cast Members err on the side of caution and will often estimate a wait time of an hour and a half or more. Also worth noting is approximately 90 minutes before Cove Bar closes, Cast Members will warn people who choose to wait in line that they may not make it in before the cut off and thus some might end up waiting for nothing.
The times I’ve been in line, my waits have been well below Cast Member’s estimates. I’m not sure if it’s just their under-promising and over-delivering, or dumb luck.
The area is shaded which makes for a fairly comfortable wait, even on hot days. Plus, there are caricaturists stationed beside the line, which can be fun to watch especially if something special happens (like the proposal I watched unfold in May). Also, if there are a few people in your party, it’s easy for one or two people to make a quick stop at California Screamin’ or The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure if they’re just too antsy and bored.
Lots of reviews like to start with the ambiance, and Cove Bar has it in spades, especially to those of us who are partial to the old-timey charm of Victorian architecture. After the “re-Imagineering” of California Adventure which brought the Victorian-era seaside amusement park theme to Paradise Pier, there’s a flavoring of the same inspiration of the Grand Floridian that was originally taken from Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.
While there is a roof in the original Cove Bar seating area, and the expanded section is under a tent, Cove Bar is an outdoor experience and it can be somewhat difficult to sit in certain areas during mid-late afternoon when the sun shines directly on you. It’s the luck of the draw, so I recommend sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat in case you find yourself at a sunny table.
Otherwise, I’d say at least half the reason why Cove Bar is so enjoyable and is preferable over other restaurants in the resort is being able to enjoy the beautiful, albeit often hot, Southern California weather in a nicely shaded area with that gorgeous view of Paradise Bay and Mickey’s Fun Wheel.
DRINKS – THE “SECRET” MENU
And now we come to my personal favorite reason for visiting Cove Bar, the drinks! But before I get started, even though I feel like I shouldn’t have to say it, I will anyway: please drink responsibly.
Cove Bar offers the standard drink menu available in other Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World drinking establishments, and you can see it online here on the official website.
The one standard Disney drink that I really enjoy is the Raspberry Piña CoLAVA. I’m a sucker for anything raspberry, so when it’s added to a piña colada, that’s a must-have for me. While most of these alcoholic drinks are quite sweet, this one is also very rich and filling, which makes it a favorite to cap a visit off as dessert.
The real fun is, of course, the (not so) secret menu. While the menu drinks aren’t particularly special and frankly can taste rather light on the booze, I’ve found the bartenders to be quite generous in their pours of the alcohol with these “secret” drinks.
The pricing on these drinks varies with their ingredients. To round out the numbers, you can expect these to cost anywhere between $10-$14. While a splurge especially after having paid for everything else involved in a Disneyland trip, I find these prices comparable to most Los Angeles bars so they’re not marked up exorbitantly.
1 | The Fun Wheel (left). This might be the most popular of the off-menu drinks, as it’s the one that I see bartenders mixing most often and the one I see pop up most on Instagram. It’s a variation on the AMF with a couple more ingredients added which makes it one of the most photogenic drinks, and is very sweet. This is my #1 recommendation for first-timers and is generally a fan favorite.
2 | Neverland Tea (right). Another easy-to-drink favorite, one of these won’t quite send you flying off with Peter Pan, and it’s sweeter than the Fun Wheel. It’s a variation of the Tokyo Tea with delicious pineapple added. This is my #2 recommendation!
3 | Sea Witch. Themed to The Little Mermaid, the gorgeous, moody coloring does remind one of the fabulous, if villainous, Ursula. It’s another one I enjoy a lot, but I’ve heard others compare it to Dimetapp, so it might not be for everyone.
4 | The Black Pearl. A variation of the Long Island, this one adds in Chambord raspberry liqueur and is another one of my personal favorites. Drink up me hearties, yo ho!
5 | Cotton Candy Lemonade (left). Technically not a secret menu item, the Cotton Candy Lemonade is listed under the non-alcoholic selection and is a fun choice for teetotalers, designated drivers, and anyone under 21 who want to experience the other joys of Cove Bar. However, you can get this spiked with vodka, which is why I’ve added it to the list.
6 | Zombie (right). You might have had Zombies anywhere else, but I find Cove Bar’s sweeter and as a result much more drinkable because you don’t realize how strong it really is. While I enjoy drinks as much as the next person, this is the one of the two drinks I recommend the least because I don’t think Disney is the place to get wasted, and some people might not hold this drink well.
7 | Earthquake (right). The earthquake has a pretty color with the blue curaçao, but it’s one of the least “fun” drinks on the menu, in my opinion, because the alcohol taste is the strongest. But if you’re not a fan of sweet drinks, this could be a good option for a fun, mixed drink.
8 | Melrose Place A beautiful ruby red drink, the Melrose Place stands out because of the strawberry puree. If you love strawberries, this is a deliciously summery drink. If you’re looking to indulge and have two drinks, I suggest ordering the Melrose Place first, then following up with the richer Piña CoLAVA with its delicious raspberry puree.
As much as I love eating at Disneyland, this is the one area with which I have the least to recommend. Cove Bar tends to be a mid-day break so I’m not looking for a meal, but rather an (indulgent) appetizer to a later meal. But here are a few things I’ve tried and what I recommend.
Lobster Nachos. The lobster nachos are king, one of the most recommended foods in all of Disneyland Resort and often one of the first reasons people recommend Cove Bar even to those who don’t drink. For anyone who loves lobster and nachos, this coming together of shellfish and cheesy tortilla chips cannot fail to send you spiraling to the heavens of gastronomic nirvana.
Tri-Tip Nachos. If, like me, you’re not a fan of shellfish (there are dozens of us!), you can ask your server to sub in tri-tip. While the lobster nachos don’t do much for me, tri-tip nachos are as close as I can think of to coming to foodie enlightenment.
As for other foods, spinach and artichoke dip and artisan pizza are usually no fail options anywhere, and Cove Bar makes them just as good as you would expect.
To give credit where credit is due, I have to mention this post on the Disney Food Blog for being my springboard and giving me an idea of what to look for when I went for the first time. There is also a great review on the Disney Tourist Blog with his signature beautiful photos and reviews of the other great foods offered.
With everything I’ve already said about Cove Bar, how about that view of Mickey’s Fun Wheel as you savor your Fun Wheel?
Agree or disagree with this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you a frequent Cove Bar patron as well? Please share some of your favorites!
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