A trip to Disneyland could easily be as much about the restaurants and food as it is about the rides and attractions! Some of my favorite snacks and meals were never captured on film because, well I ate them as soon as they were in front of me!
I used to take my stepson to Disneyland at least once a month when we had season passes a few years ago. There were always strict instructions from his health conscious grandfather, “Don’t let him eat too much fair food“. It got to be kind of our joke because as much as I enjoy a corn dog or popcorn occasionally, anyone would know I’m not letting the kids gorge themselves on sour balls, cotton candy or churros!
For the most part, whenever we’ve gone to the Parks, for main meals we’ve always gotten one platter to share between me & the kids, maybe a side of fruit and taken in our own drinks and healthy snacks (like granola bars, fruit cups, nuts, etc). We might splurge on one treat during the entire trip.
My husband is very health conscious so he loads up his backpack with bottled water, powdered Gatorade to mix in, individual zip-bags of dried plums, apples, trail mix, clementines, peanuts & granola bars, along with some 100% juice boxes for the kids. That is the nice thing about Disneyland; they allow you to bring in your own food as long as you follow their guidelines. And of course, use common sense. Since you can’t bring in a hard-sided cooler, mayonnaise-based meals or things that need to be kept cold wouldn’t be the best choice. And I’ve lived and learned in 100 degree heat, neither do granola bars with chocolate!
Here are some of my favorite places to eat inside Disneyland and California Adventure-
Counter service varies from location to location. For instance, at the French Market and at Rancho del Zocalo, though you self-serve your food (cafeteria style), you are served on a real dish with real flatware and someone will bus your table when you are done. However, at other places like the Bengal Barbeque or the Golden Horseshoe, your food is going to come in either paper or plastic with plastic flatwear and you’ll be responsible for clearing your own table when you’re done eating.
The French Quarter citrus chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed veggies and the cornbread! I regret not taking a picture of this beautiful dish but well, I was hungry and the food was soooo good! I’ve ordered the Cajun Meatloaf and yes, equally delicious. These platters are large enough to share. My husband and son are sold on the chowders served in a sourdough bread bowl. Added bonus: Entertainment from the jazz band during your meal! You are instructed to leave your plates and silverware on the table, the employees quickly bus the tables and clean them off for the next guests.
Just next to the French Market is the Mint Julep bar where you can pick up Mickey-shaped beignets and mint juleps, naturally. I recall one very hot day when my dad bought us each a julep and they were so refreshing that he said, “Let’s have another one!”. Can’t argue with that!
Tiki Juice Bar – Disneyland
Dole Whips, if you don’t mind waiting in the line that takes FOREVER!!!
The Golden Horseshoe -Disneyland
Meals are typical but the sundaes are wonderful! A perfect place for a cooling off on a hot day. Enjoy the air conditioning, watch a show and share a sundae!
Pacific Wharf Cafe – California Adventure
Nicely sized fresh sandwiches and soups, served with the Boudin Bakery’s sourdough bread (baked right on site!). Nearby you can pick up a margarita or a cold beer, too.
Little Red Corn Dog Wagon – Disneyland
Yes, these are the best ever! Perfectly crispy and greasy.
Rancho del Zocalo – Disneyland
Nicely sized for sharing, this may not be the place to eat if you are used to authentic Mexican food, but it’s pretty tasty all the same (though light on the spice). You can’t beat the beautiful dining area at night though. Gorgeous colored lanterns are lit overhead and it’s a magical area!
Plaza Inn – Disneyland
Around dinner time the Plaza Inn emits a smell of fried chicken that you won’t be able to resist! Perfectly crispy and delicious and served with mashed potatoes, a biscuit and veggies, this is another platter large enough for sharing. We buy two and share between the five of us.
In the morning the Plaza Inn hosts the Minnie & Friends Breakfast, which is a large buffet where various characters visit each table. Donald visited us and helped himself to our strawberries!
Carnation Cafe -Disneyland
I have no idea why I’d never eaten here up until our most recent trip. Perhaps because it’s on Main Street and I don’t always make my way there at dinnertime. We had a perfect meal here and I’m sure this is going to be a new favorite restaurant for future trips too. My son had Walt’s Chili, which he said was delicious. My husband ordered the Angus beef cheeseburger and I ordered the turkey sandwich on a multigrain roll and we shared. For my toddler we got a fruit plate with yogurt and a mini muffin and I think he licked the plate!
Big Thunder Ranch Barbeque -Disneyland
I have a review posted. Delicious food served in buckets alongside good-old fashioned entertainment.My son asks every time we go to Disneyland if we can eat here again.
Wine Country Trattoria – California Adventure
We stopped in for lunch and it was a quiet respite that felt equally upscale and relaxed. I ordered the lasagna, which had a nice layering of bolognese, pasta and cheese. My husband had the fresh fish, which he said was perfect. He’s hard to please, so that’s a major compliment. They also serve wine, beer and specialty drinks…lovely!
Always a treat for the ambiance of eating inside “Pirates of the Caribbean”, but really quite pricey. The menu has been revamped since I last ate here to include some beef and chicken dishes which is good because it was earlier quite a bit of gumbo and jambalaya!
Of course there are always lots of fun snacks and treats, especially in the shops on Main Street. Each land will have some of their own specialty treats. We walked out with some heavenly toffee last time!
I recommend looking online for menus in advance to loosely plan your meals. I’ve found this to be extremely helpful when budgeting for a trip or when figuring out who-wants-to-eat-what ahead of time.
Handy links to Disneyland dining:
All Ears – Disneyland menus