This past weekend was Father’s Day. For the second year in a row, we celebrated the occasion at the Disney Vacation Club’s Father’s Day Lunch. This year was Pixar-themed and was held at the Disneyland Hotel. I’m just going to warn you right now, I love Disney so this is a deep dive into every magical detail about the event!
We are Disneyland Annual Passholders, but sometimes it’s fun to experience the magic of Disney outside of the parks. And this event certainly did not disappoint. It had all the charm and kid-friendly appeal of Disneyland park, without the lines, crowds, or walking. Dad got to enjoy a couple hours of yummy food and music, while the kids had a blast playing games and dancing. And because they were all happy, mom was happy. It was a total win-win for the whole family!
Last year, the event was held at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. And it was originally slated to be there again this year. However, the location was ultimately changed to the Disneyland Hotel. I was ever so slightly bummed about this because I do love the theming of the Grand Californian. But once we walked into the “Magic Kingdom Ballroom,” the switch made total sense given the Pixar theme. This space has a brighter, less grown-up feel than the Grand Californian’s Convention Center.
The ballroom was set up like the most festive and light-hearted wedding you’ve ever been to. In the center of the giant space, there were at least 50 numbered tables that we were pre-assigned to. Each one was pre-set with proper place settings like you’d expect at a nice event. Glasses of pre-poured iced tea and a cloth napkin marked each seat. Most of the tables had cute little flower arrangements, but a few even had balloons. Much to my children’s delight, we were seated at a balloon table. (My husband suspects this was because he told them it also happened to be my birthday. Thanks for the birthday treat Disney!)
Two food buffet areas flanked the room. The outer edges held the character photo opp areas and the games/activities for kids. There was also a large dance floor against the far center wall of the room. This is the same basic layout they had at last year’s lunch at the Grand Californian. And I think it works well for crowd flow. Every table feels like a good one because you’re never too far from either food, fun, or entertainment!
But the #1 reason why I thought the Disneyland Hotel was the better location for this year’s Pixar-themed lunch was…because of the carpet! Blue, red, yellow…those are the official colors of Pixar Fest! I’m not sure it was planned that way since they’re also the colors of the Disneyland Hotel. But it fit the Pixar theme perfectly and made the room feel…dare I say it…Incredible-y festive!
The first thing we did after we sat down and gave our drink orders to our wonderfully attentive server, was hit the buffet line. It was just after noon by this point, so everyone was ready to eat! Like I mentioned above, there were two buffet tables on either side of the room. On top of that, you could use both sides of each table. So, even though it seemed like everyone had the same idea as us and went to the food first, we did not have to wait long to start filling up our plates.
The staff was also totally on the ball in terms of refilling the chafing dishes. The high quality of service actually reminded me of what we experienced on our Disney Cruise last year. Our server kept coming by to check on our drinks and clear our plates. And staffers were replacing buffet items before the pans were empty even though the kitchen was quite a walk away. That’s some Disney magic!
You can see the full menu on the event homepage. It had a BBQ cook-out theme, perfect for dad, and from what I recall was very similar to the menu for last year’s event. Not that anyone minded. It was all delish! I did notice that there were a couple differences between the published menu and what was actually on the table. Instead of corn on the cobb it was a southwestern corn salad. And the bean stew didn’t seem to have any cranberries as advertised. Again, not a huge deal since there were plenty of offerings to choose from.
Each dish in the buffet had a helpful placard explaining what it was. The placards also noted any dietary restrictions such as vegan, gluten-free etc. And I loved that they each had the official Disneyland Hotel logo at the top. It was a nice reminder that we were dining at THE original hotel of the Disneyland Resort.
Of course, my son’s eyes nearly rolled out of his head when he saw this Pixar-themed dessert bar! Can you blame him? It took a lot of will power not to skip the food and head straight to the sweets.
Character Photo Opps
Although we’re Annual Passholders, we rarely seek out characters in the parks. It just doesn’t seem worth it to us to wait 30-45 minutes (usually in the sun and heat) for a photo, no matter who the character is. But, because this event was limited to how many people could fit in the ballroom and otherwise closed to the general public, that meant we were easily able to meet some highly coveted characters.
Once we were done stuffing ourselves silly, it was time to burn off all those calories! There were four Disney-themed carnival-type game spots setup around the perimeter of the room. They didn’t cost any extra to play, and kids were able to pick a prize after playing each game.
I just want to point out that the prizes for these games were pretty spectacular as far as carnival games go. And far better than what they had here last year, which was generic plastic junky stuff you’d get at any school carnival for maybe a medium level prize. (E.g. plastic fish finger puppets, hockey-stick shaped pens etc.).
This year, all the prizes were Disney themed (though not Pixar-specific) and official Disney merchandise, which was awesome. In the baskets for the kids to pick from was a nice assortment of Star Wars Tsum Tsums and Marvel trading pins, like the big metal ones people pay at least $10 for in the parks. There wasn’t a huge variety of the pins, mostly Black Panther, Captain America, and one other I can’t recall. Maybe Spiderman? But still these were lightyears above what they handed out last year at this event. There were also some plastic eggs with random Disney characters on them like Minnie and Mike Wazowski that my toddler was eager to collect. My son is super into Tsum Tsums right now. So he was thrilled, THRILLED I tells ya, to get these two!
In addition to these four carnival games, there was a whole corner of the room set up with two large drawing tables as well as two professional face painters. Last year at this Father’s Day Lunch, they had specific crafts for the kids to do like make a “father of the year” certificate and decorating a foam superhero eye mask.
As you may know from reading my bio, I have a personal blog called Eco Friendly Mama, where I write about our green family lifestyle. And so I was very happy to see they had replaced last year’s un-recyclable foam visor activity with a more eco-friendly assortment of paper masks and coloring pages.
There were also pages of stickers and a vast assortment of those little stampers with different Pixar characters on them.
By the way, These tables were right next to the face painters, and so the kids could color to their heart’s content while parents waited in line for their turn.
There were two artists who each painted one of our children. They were both very friendly, patient, and talented. My son had some very specific demands about what he wanted painted on his arm, and his artist happily complied. He was so proud of it afterwards and even thanked her again when we saw them in the parking lot!
My daughter just said she wanted a cat, and her artist created this adorable Marie (from THE ARISTOCATS) right in front of our delighted eyes. This was the longest wait we had for anything at the party, and it was totally worth it. You can bet there were tears when it came time to wash Marie off in the bath that evening.
The DJ and Music
Though he looks lonely in this picture, once the party got going there were people on the dance floor at all times. He spun a fun mix of kid-friendly tunes and popular songs from Disney movies (including some we recognized from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2!). He also played the Electric Slide and other classic group dance songs.
During the first hour, the DJ ran a Pixar-themed trivia contest for the kids. It also included prizes for the winners, and there were several. I didn’t see the prizes this year because my kids were more interested in eating when this was going on. But last year my son won a prize, which was a funny little award that said “Top Banana” and had a plastic banana on a pedestal. It’s still displayed in his room in fact. So I’m assuming they were something similar if not better. If you were there and saw what the prizes looked like this year, please let me know in the comments!
How to attend next year
In case you’re not familiar with the Disney Vacation Club, it is a timeshare style company owned and operated by Disney. If you take Disney vacations as much as we do, we find that being a DVC member is well worth the investment for our family.
You have to be a Disney Vacation Club member to RSVP to this and other official DVC events. DVC holds special events throughout the year. Some of them are free. However, there is an additional cost to attend this particular one (on top of your annual dues).
This year’s cost was $53.95 per adult (ages 10 and up) and $29.95 per child (ages 3-9). Plus tax and gratuity. Children 2 and under were free. Considering that you could easily spend about that much on a Father’s Day buffet at a nice restaurant, this was a low-stress (for mom), high-fun (for everyone) way to celebrate dad.
Obviously since Father’s Day was this past Sunday, the Disney Vacation Club won’t be holding another Father’s Day Lunch until next year. But hopefully this gives you a sense of what to expect at the next one. This lunch was sold out and a lot of fun. So I hope to make this an annual tradition!