There was a time when I had a lot of difficulty recommending dining experiences at Disneyland. Aside from the always delicious pastries, churros, corn dogs, and assorted snack items, I found the food in the park to be overpriced and underwhelmed. It’s true. I’m sorry, Disneyland — you know I love you.
In fact, it was very common for my family to make dining plans elsewhere, even if it required a short drive. Basically, the food tasted of mass-produced blandness and leaned heavily on the flavor spectrum one associates with such culinary delights as the school cafeteria and anyplace your grandparents ate dinner at four in the afternoon.
Don’t worry, things have changed, and they have done it for the better — amazingly better. These days, especially with the addition of a second park (Disney’s California Adventure), the Downtown Disney area, and two additional hotels (Disney’s Paradise Pier and Grand Californian, respectively), there are a number of very enjoyable dining options ranging from quick snacks to the highly sophisticated — and yes, that includes food prepared in the original Disneyland park.
Now, when someone asks my opinion on Disneyland dining I don’t have to uncomfortably avoid eye contact and change the subject. Rather, I can look them in the face and list a number of options. As a lifelong Disney fan it feels good to have that weight off my chest (or stomach as the case may be).
There is no way that I could possibly list all of the Honea tested (tasted?), Honea approved Disneyland Resort restaurants and eateries in one post, so I’m going to provide some of our personal favorites in hopes that they will appeal to you and yours. Bon appétit!
Breakfast: I’m a fan of eating breakfast in Disneyland at the Carnation Café. It just feels right to watch the kids enjoy their Mickey Mouse waffles on Main Street U.S.A. I also recommend the beignets (also Mickey-shaped) found at Café Orleans located in New Orleans Square. Mmm, beignets.
If you are staying on property and looking for something quick consider White Water Snacks located in the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Fun fact: If you sit on the patio you just might meet some of Disney’s secret residents — cats. Yes, there are wild cats living on property, which is why the Disneyland Resort is nearly rodent free. Don’t tell Mickey!
There are also Character Dining options available, usually as part of a breakfast buffet. There is one in each hotel (Surfs Up! Breakfast with Mickey & Friends at Disney’s PCH Grill in the Paradise Pier Hotel is pictured above) and park — all with different themes and characters. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get some quality time with the stars of Disney while loading up on all-you-can-eat goodness.
Lunch and Dinner: Those corn dogs I mentioned earlier are still around, and they are fantastic. The turkey legs are popular, too, and both can be found in either of the theme parks.
You can find varying levels of dining throughout the hotels, Downtown Disney, and the theme parks — some of it, like the Carthay Circle Restaurant on Buena Vista St. (Disney California Adventure) and Napa Rose (Grand Californian Hotel & Spa) is quite upscale.
There are also family favorites like the ESPN Zone and Rainforest Cafe, both of which can be found in Downtown Disney, Ariel’s Grotto in Disney California Adventure (a great place to meet the Disney princesses — reservations required), or the new Flo’s V8 Cafe in Disney California’s Cars Land.
However, the one Disneyland dining experience that can’t be matched is a meal at the Blue Bayou Restaurant (pictured above) which is literally located inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It is a bit more expensive, but the experience is worth it.
- Almost every restaurant and snack location offers vegetarian options as well as gluten-free and allergy-sensitive items. Talk to a Cast Member for more information.
- If you book a vacation through Disney they offer a dining plan which allows you to purchase meals with vouchers rather than cash.
- The Disneyland Park does not serve alcohol, but the rest of the resort, including Disney California Adventure Park, does. I’m partial to Trader Sam’s — Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel.
- If you need help navigating your way from one meal to the next consider the Mobile Magic app. You can even use it for making reservations, which are strongly suggested.
Remember, this is the just the tip of the iceberg. There are tons of other tasty places to eat at the Disneyland Resort. You have no idea how happy it makes me to say that.
Photos courtesy of Disneyland
Read more from Whit Honea at his site Honea Express and the popular group blog DadCentric. You can follow Whit on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).
Also from Whit: