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A Touch of Disney Review and Guide for Families

A Touch of Disney Review and Guide for Families

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With the year-long closure of the Disneyland Resort, guests are looking for any bit of Disney they can get! A Touch of Disney is just that, a special limited time, ticketed experience that offers some of it’s most famous and popular food and beverage items from around the resort, held at Disney California Adventure park. Find out what’s open, what’s not, whether it’s worth it to bring kids and how to maximize your time and money.

A Touch of Disney banner with Mickey's face and logo

Opening Day of A Touch of Disney

When I first found out about A Touch of Disney, I just knew that I wanted to go. As a Southern California native, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the reopening of the theme parks. And yes, while just a “touch” of Disney is what we’ll get during this event, we’re all excited to hear about the grand reopening date of both parks on April 30th, 2021. I plan to be there for that, too!

A Touch of Disney begins March 18th and is offered Thursdays – Mondays from noon to 8 p.m. The parking garage doesn’t open until 11:30 am, and it took me about an hour to get to the front gates. There are no trams and the walk is lengthy. Then you’ll be standing in socially distanced switch back lines to get to the entrance.

A Touch of Disney guidebooks at entrance

If possible, book a hotel on the Harbor Blvd side rather than parking. You’ll be able to walk over quickly and be through the gates much faster than those parking at Mickey & Friends. My friends at Get Away Today are currently booking reservations for Anaheim area hotels, including for the reopening of the parks. Get your Disneyland area hotel booked now and Get Away Today can add your theme park tickets later once sales open! Mention MOM REWRITTEN for special pricing on package bookings.

https://www.getawaytoday.com/?referrerid=7529

How to Go to A Touch of Disney – Tickets

This specially ticketed event has a low capacity and has currently sold out all tickets. Tickets were offered online only in a virtual queue. This process was not without it’s hiccups as the site crashed and many sat (like me, personally) on a broken screen, wishing upon a star that it would correct itself.

Shockingly, it did! I refreshed consistently and within the hour the site accurately transferred me to a page where I was able to purchase up to 8 event tickets. I was able to make my payment and received an email with ticket and bar code, which I added to my Disneyland app. It’s important to note that additional dates & tickets may be released for this experience and that no tickets are being sold at the gates.

A Touch of Disney signage with guidebooks

What’s Included at A Touch of Disney?

Tickets (currently sold out), run $75 per person, ages 3+. No child’s ticket pricing is available for this experience. These are the highlighted experiences to expect during the event:

A Touch of Disney dining card
  • Entry to Disney California Adventure park for the event
  • $25 A Touch of Disney Dining Card, redeemable for food and nonalcoholic beverages at select dining locations within the Disneyland Resort.
  • Unlimited digital downloads of Disney PhotoPass photos taken that day.
  • Parking inside the Mickey & Friends parking lot for one vehicle, beginning at 11:30 am on the day of your ticket
  • Popular food and beverages available for purchase throughout the park.
  • Special event-only features (keep reading & I’ll share what I found during the visit!)
Lightning McQueen photo op in Cars Land

What’s NOT included during A Touch of Disney? Remember that under current state guidelines, all rides are non operational. Also important to know is that lockers are not available. So if you make lots of shopping purchases, you’ll be carrying these items with you throughout the day. I packed a backpack to hold essentials including a sweatshirt for the chilly evening. I detail more of what you need to pack later on in the article.

Bringing Kids to A Touch of Disney

Upon first hearing about A Touch of Disney (and finding out the price tag), I quickly realized that this was not being touted as a “family type” event. Sure, kids are welcome to attend. And there are things that children will enjoy at the event. But A Touch of Disney isn’t really geared for the younger ages. That’s made quite obvious from the home page of the event, which shows laughing, child-less couples shopping and dining in the park!

The cost of entry at $75 includes vehicle parking and Photopass, both items that an adult receives with their ticket. The value is lacking for children, who can only benefit from the $25 dining card. Younger children, in particular, may meltdown when they see the attractions but aren’t permitted to ride!

Jessie's Critter Carousel

For kid-friendly fun without A Touch of Disney ticket, families can participate in the Eggstravaganza, held in Downtown Disney. This springtime egg-themed hunt takes place March 15th – April 18th 2021.

A Touch of Disney with Kids

That being said, there’s a big need for family-friendly outdoor activities right now and A Touch of Disney might be worth attending, even with children. During the day of my visit, there were few children. This event is heavily angled for adults and grown-up day trips (myself, I attended with a group of friends who were also fully vaccinated). If you’re set on taking the kids, here are a few highlights during A Touch of Disney (some of which I’ll go into further detail in this article):

Disney trivia at A Touch of Disney event
  • A cast member near Soarin’ Around the World was playing trivia with guests via a white board with questions. These were more challenging than expected!
  • Photo ops galore! Take advantage of all the PhotoPass photographers and short lines while you can. There are lots of locations all over the park during this event and the lines moved quickly.
Sadness from Inside Out holding a blue core memory ball
  • Character spottings, including this location near Inside Out: Emotional Whirlwind where I saw Joy & Sadness. There are several where you can pose at a distance for a good shot with the kids.
  • The carnival games of Pixar Pier were free to play during A Touch of Disney! YES, really, no charge to play as much as you wish! As you might expect, the lines were long but we waited only about 10 minutes to play Heimlich’s Candy Corn Toss, and I was a winner.
Carnival Games of Pixar Pier

With kids, I’d recommend arriving to this area early. Just keep in mind, no lockers are open during this event, so whatever prizes you win, you’ll be toting them around with you all day long!

What’s Available for Legacy Passholders

For any person that was holding a valid Disneyland Annual Pass, the program has been currently “sunsetted” and we’ve been given the moniker, Legacy Passholder. Until the new AP program is announced Legacy Passholders will continue to receive certain benefits if they can make it to the parks (most beneficial for locals).

Legacy Passholder corner during A Touch of Disney

Merchandise discounts apply – in addition to the Annual Pass and valid ID, you’ll also be required to prove your status with a code via the Disneyland app. If you had your pass linked through the app, simply open and navigate to “Tickets & Passes”. There will be scan code that must be given to the cast member at checkout to receive your particular merchandise discount. This discount is currently available through April 30th, 2021.

Legacy Passholders photo op during A Touch of Disney

Legacy Passholder corner – Located next to Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta building, those holding a Legacy Passholder card & code may enter. The line for entry was extremely long and decided to skip it. But if it’s important to you, be sure to note the available times are from noon to 6 pm only. There’s a special photo op (shown here) and you’ll receive a Legacy Passholder magnet.

A Touch of Disney Dining Experiences

While several full-service dining locations are open during A Touch of Disney (I’ll discuss that in another section), this event functions similarly to what occurs during Disney California Food & Wine Festival. 6 kiosks are stationed in the Paradise Gardens area. 10 quick service restaurants offered familiar and new dishes for the experience. Specialty carts sell churros, popcorn, beer and coffee. The map given at the gate outlines locations as well as where to find particular dishes.

Brisket Mac 'n cheese
Brisket Mac ‘n Cheese from Smokejumpers Grill

Disneyland fans know exactly where to find the Monte Cristo and Dole Whip inside the parks. But for A Touch of Disney, chefs will be bringing these famous dishes to you, in the heart of the Disney California Adventure. According to The Touch of Disney Foodie Guide, you’ll find Bengal Barbecue Skewers at Cocina Cucamonga and Walt’s Chili at the D-Lish Marketplace kiosk.

Smokejumpers grill food
Blue Angeleno Cocktail and Impossible Chili Waffle Fries from Smokejumpers Grill

Mobile Ordering During A Touch of Disney

Mobile ordering is the way to go. Plan ahead and place your order through the Disneyland app. A newly added feature is the ability to add a gift card payment (previously only credit card was accepted). This means you can also use the A Touch of Disney dining card that given for the event when you enter the park. If you’re a Legacy Passholder, the discount is automatically applied to your food order!

S'more milkshake from Smokejumpers Grill
S’mores Milkshake from Smokejumpers Grill

Note that you cannot use the dining card with alcohol and will need an alternative method of payment. A mobile pop-up screen will recommend placing two separate orders (one for alcohol and one for food) if you want to use the gift card for your purchase.

Outdoor Dining

All dining is open-air and fortunately Disney has provided lots of locations for sitting and standing to eat. There were plenty of tables with chairs and stand up tables throughout the park. One particularly quiet area was in Grizzly Peak, near the Grizzly River Rapids attraction. As to be expected, cast members were frequently cleaning off tables between guests.

Margarita and taco at Disney California Adventure
Pineapple margarita and Asian-Style Beef Barbacoa Street Tacos from Cocina Cucamonga

Restaurant Dining During A Touch of Disney

Carthay Circle Lounge and Lamplight Lounge required Advance Dining Reservations, which filled up as quickly as they were released. You might be able to try for walk-up, though there’s no guarantee. We had a reservation for Lamplight Lounge, which ran about an hour late. The cast member told us that many guests were lingering longer than expected at their tables. While there isn’t currently a time restriction, be aware that this might become a possibility in the future.

Barbacoa Nachos at Lamplight Lounge

Both full-service dining restaurants offer outdoor seating only. The usual menus are abbreviated for A Touch of Disney experience but you’ll surely spot favorites. The famous Lobster Nachos were on the Lamplight Lounge menu. However we opted for the Barbacoa Nachos instead, a special offering during this event. Fortunately we weren’t let down – all the food we ordered was exceptional!

Angus beef sliders at Lamplight Lounge
One of three Angus Beef Sliders from Lamplight Lounge

If you’re a Legacy Passholder, be sure to mention to your server before the check is given so that the appropriate discount can be applied. A Touch of Disney dining cards can be used at both the full service restaurants, however as before, only towards food and not on alcohol.

Open Ocean with a Twist cocktail at Lamplight Lounge

Shopping Experiences

Not all shops are open during A Touch of Disney but you should still be able to find what you’re looking for (either here or at Downtown Disney). The only shop I went in was Trolley Treats, where a cast member was closely monitoring the number of guests allowed inside. To maintain a flow of guests, the shops have entry only doors and exit only doors. Other doors are closed off completely.

Location closed signage

There are also line markers on the ground to maintain social distancing. It can be a little tricky to figure out these markers (because the end of the line might not be where you’d expect it). But there were always cast members there to guide guests to the correct locations.

A Touch of Disney Character Interactions

What would a Disneyland event be without our favorite characters?! Thankfully A Touch of Disney gives us some great moments. Characters are positioned at a not-too-far-away distance where you can still take photos with them, selfie-style. These kind of socially distanced character appearances are a hint of what we can likely expect at Disneyland reopening 2021.

Max waving from balcony near Pacific Wharf

During the day of our visit, we spotted Goofy and his son Max fishing off a balcony. Lightning McQueen and Mater were in Cars Land, posed in unique positions you wouldn’t normally spot them (check out this view of Radiator Springs Racers behind Mater!) Joy and Sadness took turns waving hi to guests from atop Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind.

Mater photo op overlooking Radiator Springs Racers

Miguel was found in the Paradise Gardens area, a rare character that generally only appears briefly during the fall season. I didn’t spot Mickey Mouse during this visit, though he’s touted to appear.

Miguel from Coco at California Adventure

Disney PhotoPass and Other Photo Spots

Check out the guide map you receive upon entry. The green Mickey circle shows where to find a Disney PhotoPass photographer. Other photo locations have an orange camera symbol and you’ll have to take your own picture (unfortunately cast members cannot do this for you anymore).

Little Mermaid photo op

Here are a few photo area highlights not to miss and I’ve indicated below which are locations and which are PhotoPass. And of course, with the lower crowds, it’s an ideal time to take photos wherever you want through the open areas of the park!

Roz from Monsters Inc parade float at California Adventure
  • Ariel’s seashells in front of the Little Mermaid attraction (photo location)
  • Cars Land entrance and Route 66 street (PhotoPass)
  • Parade floats including Roz from Monsters Inc. (photo location)
  • Near fountain in front of Carthay Circle (PhotoPass)
  • Overlooking Pixar Pal-A-Round (PhotoPass)
  • Trolley (photo location)
  • Wings (PhotoPass, though this wasn’t indicated on the map)
Wings photo op inside Disney California Adventure Park
Disney PhotoPass

Safe Travel Protocols and Compliance

Personally I’ve rarely left my house in the last year, choosing to stay home and distance from families outside of my own household. My husband and I were able to receive the vaccination (as caregivers of a special needs child) and only with the inoculation do I feel more relaxed about being in public again. I was able to meet up with friends at A Touch of Disney who had also been able to get the shot and were vaccinated.

Buzz Lightyear photo op during A Touch of Disney
Disney PhotoPass

However, even as a fully vaccinated traveler, it’s essential to continue to follow all of the safety protocols and guidelines for each location, until the restrictions are lifted. That means full compliance with all area rules, including facial protection. Disney parks offer tight enforcement of these rules that anyone visiting should know and follow. Everyone should expect these same protocols to remain in place when the theme parks reopen. Please read about what to expect when Disneyland reopens, including their guidelines on what’s allowed and not allowed at this time.

Health and safety reminder signage at Disney California Adventure

In addition, here’s what I saw during my visit during A Touch of Disney:

  • There are hand sanitizer stations all over, frequently spotted between trash and recycling cans.
  • Also, there are physical hand washing stations with water, soap and paper towels.
  • Constant surface cleaning was taking place. In between guests who played the Games at Pixar Pier, anything that the guest touched was cleaned off between play.
  • Markers that designated where guests should stand or not to sit.
Not available seating signage
  • Facial masks must be worn throughout the park, only to be removed when stopping to dine. This means no walking and eating or drinking. Cast members were gently reminding guests to lift masks over their nose (I only heard this twice the entire day, otherwise compliance was perfect).
Safety reminders to maintain physical distance

What to Bring for the Day

  • Bring a backpack. Lockers are closed and if you’re shopping, you’ll need a place to put things.
  • A powerful phone charger and cord. Just like any other Disneyland day, you’ll be using your phone a lot for PhotoPass and mobile ordering.
  • Sunscreen, especially needed when standing in the sun to pick up food orders.
  • Check the weather ahead of your visit. While it was warm during the day, we definitely needed our jackets once the sun started going down.
  • Pack plenty of facial coverings. It felt good to swap out my face mask throughout the day, especially during the warm afternoon.
Pixar Pier at night

How Does A Touch of Disney Compare to Other Events?

Many SoCal theme parks flexed during the closure and made use of the park in compliant ways. This includes these four nearby amusement parks, which also create family-friendly food events. Naturally each location has their own guidelines and rules about social distancing and facial mask compliance.

  • Knott’s Taste of Boysenberry, which is similar to their annual Knott’s Boysenberry Festival.
  • LEGOLAND California, while not holding a food festival, has reopened sections of their park for hotel guests and those holding a ticket for Park Preview days, starting April 1st. But you can still indulge in their most popular dining locations which are open for those who attend, including Granny’s Apple Fries.
  • Taste of Universal is happening at Universal Studios Hollywood. This foodie event includes access to outdoor dining in Springfield U.S.A., Harry Potter and more, including distanced character greetings.
  • SeaWorld San Diego Seven Seas Food Festival, their annual event. SeaWorld is able to operate their park as a zoo, which includes shows and animal encounters while rides remain closed. The food festival is running almost identical to years’ past, with high quality dining in kiosk locations, local beer and Polynesian dance entertainment.

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