REVIEW: California Grill’s “Celebration at the Top” Debuts, But Does It Sip, Savor, and Sparkle $123 Worth?
Announced just over a week ago, the Celebration at the Top event offered at the California Grill on top floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort debuted last night. Here is Disney’s description of the event…
Join us for an intimate event that celebrates fine food and fireworks.
Experience the flavors of the Pacific Coast—and enjoy a dazzling fireworks display—during Celebration at the Top, a special event held in the private Sonoma Room and Napa Room of California Grill.
Here, you can relax, unwind and savor light bites and refreshments for one hour prior to the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Culinary offerings include:
Canapés, sushi and small plates inspired by the California Grill menu Libations from the complimentary bar offering California wines, beers, and cordials. As showtime approaches, step out onto the intimate and private observation deck reserved just for Celebration at the Top Guests. Here, you can enjoy an incredible view of the Wishes nighttime spectacular—the biggest and brightest fireworks in Magic Kingdom history. The lights will dim as music is piped into California Grill—so you’ll be immersed in the magic of the night.
After fireworks, head back inside to enjoy a sweet spread of petit four desserts, cordials and coffee.
Celebration at the Top is held in the Sonoma Room and the Napa Room at California Grill, an award-winning restaurant located on the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. These private rooms are ideal for intimate events, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and connecting to an exclusive observation deck—where you can enjoy sweeping views of Bay Lake and Magic Kingdom park.
For your convenience, complimentary valet parking is included with this event.
Pricing and Reservations
Start planning for an unforgettable evening. Explore pricing and reservation details for Celebration at the Top:
Pricing: $99 plus gratuity and tax per person
Dates: Held on select Sundays through April
Reservations: Book online or by calling (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463
Please note that the Wishes nighttime spectacular may be changed or canceled without prior notice.
So, Sunday, February 26th, 2017 was the first event, and we went to see just how good it would be. Mind you, the actual price of the event after tax and gratuity was roughly $123.00. Can you get your value out of an even that high in price? Let’s find out.
Check in took place starting at 6:30pm near the California Grill check-in desk, with the rooms upstairs opening for the event at 6:45PM sharp. I thought this was nice as it gave us 15 minutes to go and enjoy the view from the balcony before beginning our experience.
I honestly haven’t dined at California Grill since the week it reopened a few years back. Then again, I’ve never been a big fan. The views are unparalleled, but the food has typically disappointed me.
Regardless, it could not have been a prettier evening with nicer weather.
Once 6:45pm rolled around, we were invited into a private room with seating. The observation deck for the event was open if you wanted to go out there, but we wanted to start making the most of our time here with food and drink.
There were assigned seats last night, but we were told this would change moving forward. The views from here were nice and I thought it was a pleasant atmosphere. The tables were spaced out nicely and the event did not feel too overcrowded (maybe at the start of food service, but otherwise comfortable).
Once you are seated, you have a card with your name on it, and a strange light-up necklace thing. I don’t even know how to describe them…
At the open bar, this menu greeted guests. While this may seem like a short list, also available was Tanqueray, Captain Morgan, Ketel One, Seagrams, Bacardi, Dewers Scotch, and Jack Daniels. Basically, you could order just about anything that the bartenders could make with any of those ingredients. This is the best selection at any dessert party event at Walt Disney World, far and away.
I have to say I enjoyed a majority of the wines listed (and yes, I did try all five of them), with the Bordeaux Blend being my favorite, but the MacMurray Estate Vineyards Pinot Gris being a close second though.
A variety of beers are available as well. The bars opened with the event at 6:45PM and remained open un till 8:45PM, when the bartenders made the rounds to see if anyone was interested in a final drink before departing.
The small appetizers include two flatbreads, tandoori style chicken satay, and a pork belly bao. The flatbreads are the Duck Confit and Roasted Tomato variety.
The flatbreads were just OK. The chicken satay with Vietnamese peanut sauce was solid, but my favorite had to be the Pork Belly Bao. Overall, this round felt a little lacking and could probably benefit from 1-2 more items.
Sushi makes up the second food station. A Shrimp Tempura Roll, Vegetable Roll, and California Roll were available .A lobster roll is also available at this station (and it was quite good).
I liked the sushi well enough, but it’s not really my favorite that I have had.
Just moments before fireworks begin, you may step outside on to a private balcony and enjoy the Magic Kingdom fireworks, which is still Wishes! until May 11th and will then be replaced by Happily Ever After on May 12th. While it has not been decided as of yet, it seems likely that these Celebration at the Top events will be extended past April and continue into the new show.
On your way out, you are handed a light-up glass with champagne. This is a nice touch, and you can take the cup home.
The viewing area is behind the usual viewing area, but it is far enough behind that the guests in front of you will in no way obstruct your view. There is also more than enough room out here with the limited number of guests at Celebration at the Top. All in all, the view is as good as a regular view from California Grill (which you can get if you go dine at the lounge or the regular restaurant).
Below is video of the fireworks from this private balcony, which is quite the nice view:
Here its the dessert station, which opens once the fireworks conclude and guests are welcomed back inside. On a side note, you could stay inside and watch fireworks through the windows if you wish, assuming you want to continue to enjoy food and drink from a climate controlled environment.
Desserts include fruit tarts, cream puffs, a creme brûlée tart, chocolate ganache cupcakes, and a hazelnut crunch cake. The dessert service began at 8:15PM and ran until the end of the event around 9PM.
The Creme Brûlée tart was amazing, as was the Hazelnut Crunch Cake. Overall, all of the desserts were really great, and in a lot of ways saved the event from the somewhat disappointing appetizer servings.
Value wise, I don’t feel like Celebration at the Top is a waste, but you may find just as good of a time (and value) at California Grill through several other methods.
Brunch at California Grill offers unlimited mimosas and quite a bit more food, all without time constraints of Celebration at the Top. As well, by showing your receipt from earlier in the day, you will be welcomed back upstairs during the fireworks that evening and be given access to the balcony. $123 can also buy you quite a bit of food at California Grill during normal meal services, which also provides access to the balcony. And lastly, the lounge at California Grill, which does not require a reservation (but may be hard to get into later in the evening), also provides, you guessed it, balcony access.
So, where is the value in Celebration at the Top? Alcohol and service. If you feel like you can put back several drinks in 2 hours, then you can find your value here. Unlike other dessert parties, the bartenders were actively making rounds to top off and replenish drinks in the dining room. This is a nice change, but still doesn’t quite do the trick.
Honestly, I had a great time at Celebration at the Top, but it still falls under “overpriced”. This isn’t so much a feeling I had when we experienced the Star Wars or Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam dessert parties at Hollywood Studios, but those are priced at just about half of this. Even though there was less time to consume alcohol, those offered a wider selection and a better value per hour than Celebration at the Top. As far as Magic Kingdom offerings go, you may be better off with Ferrytale Wishes if you prefer alcohol, and for sure you will want to just book the in-park dessert party if you have young children.
Celebration at the Top is a savory, sparkly good time if you want an open bar and an event likely free of small children. Otherwise, there are plenty of other options you should explore.