I should probably begin this post by stating that while I definitely have a favorite Disney Princess (Jasmine, all the way) and I have been to the amusement park multiple times and I can quote Toy Story 1-3 by memory, Disneyland is not my favorite place on earth. It is probably because I have some baseline anxiety, like most of us, and there you will find a lot to stimulate your brain and make you go crazy. I also am more interested in large roller coasters- the kind that should probably require a signed waiver before buckling in- and Disneyland offers a different array of rides. This being said, my siblings love Disneyland and I love my siblings, so as we planned a trip together to Disneyland/California Adventure I thought, “time to explore some food!”.
I should also probably begin this post by stating that I am not a fan of the Dole Whip, and I could go the remainder of my years never eating a churro ever again, so these Disneyland classics are not on the list…but we can all acknowledge that they are always there and always available and move along! I also find it smartest to pack some nutrient-dense snacks in your backpack (both parks allow outside food and water bottles beyond security checkpoints), so I brought along some lentil chips, clementines, olive tortilla crackers, carrot sticks and filled my Hydroflask with ice water in the morning. It keeps your appetite at bay while you walk around and personally helps me enjoy the treats I do buy with no guilt! With this disclaimer out of the way, let’s take a magic carpet ride through my favorite things to eat and do in Disneyland and California Adventure.
- How about we start first at Disneyland. And how about we begin with my most favorite thing there: the Mint Julep. It’s available inside the French Market Restaurant in New Orleans Square, but you can also get it on-the-go if you walk to the back of the restaurant to the Mint Julep Bar. The mint is refreshing and the citrus is bright enough to help you happily combat the long lines and overwhelm of children upset they were denied a 5th churro before lunch. I could really go for one right about now.
- While you are also at the French Market Restaurant, I like to get the French Market Chicken. It’s southern-style roasted and comes with mashed potatoes, mixed seasonal vegetables, and artisan bread- I usually sub out the bread and get extra vegetables.
- My new favorite spot at the Disney park is the Jolly Holiday Bakery. I previously mentioned I have visited Disneyland several times, but this recent trip with my siblings was my first time inside the bakery! I’m fairly certain they also sell sandwiches, coffee and other cafe-related fare, but I was there on a mission for two things I had read about: the Matterhorn Macaroon (pictured first in this post next to the park’s Matterhorn Mountain) and the Raspberry Rose Mickey Macaron (pictured below). In my honest opinion, the Mickey Macaron is one of the best treats you will find there or anywhere. There must have been 6-8 whole raspberries lining the middle area between the fluffy cookies, glued together by the rose filling. It’s to die for. It’s a pretty big macaron and you could probably share it, but why? Eat a whole one yourself, you’re on vacation and you also packed lentil chips like I recommended! I unfortunately did not love the Matterhorn Macaroon, but if you are a coconut lover, this is the treat for you.
- I have always walked by Red Rockett’s Pizza Port without second thought on my way to wait in line for Space Mountain, but this time around my sisters suggested we grab a quick dinner there. Located it Tomorrow Land, it was surprising good, and probably the most affordable place we ate during the trip. They have pizza, pasta, and salad options- I decided on their “Venus Vegetarian” pizza (and they did NOT skimp on the vegetables!) and a side salad. Tip: if you get the side salad it is less than half the cost of their large entree salads, and you can get any of the fancy entree dressings on the side (I really liked what I got, the hoisin-soy vinaigrette they usually use on their Asian chicken entree salad).
- Now that we have covered my favorites at Disneyland, let’s walk across the street with our severely overpriced Park Hopper Pass in hand to California Adventure. The first thing I ate there was ice cream at Clarabelle’s– nothing special, but mint chip always makes life a little better. Tip: both Disneyland and California Adventure use the same ice cream basically wherever ice cream is sold, and the lines are usually much shorter at California Adventure!
- Also at Clarabelle’s, you can make a hand dipped ice cream bar. You get to pick the ice cream flavor, the chocolate coating, and a topping. I got chocolate ice cream, a milk chocolate coating (though I debated dark chocolate), and then asked them to load it with POP ROCK CANDY, OHHHH EMMMM GEEE!
- Flo’s V8 Cafe is in the heart of Car’s Land and it is a super cute diner. I don’t love the food there, but it is a fun spot if you prefer to sit down and eat in that part of the park (most of the food available in the Car’s-themed area is grab-and-go). I got the BBQ pork ribs with a double portion of the roasted vegetables.
- The Lucky Fortune Cookery is a great place in the park to grab a late lunch. Tip: this particular Asian restaurant is counter-service only and once you are given your order, seating is located in a large area next to other fast-casual style eateries. My siblings and I went a couple hours after the lunch rush (again, here’s my plug for packing good snacks to tide you over!) and we got great seating (umbrella-shaded tables!) right away. I went with an Asian rice bowl (ask for brown rice, it’s available!!!) with chicken and the Spicy Korean sauce. It comes with seared vegetables, all packed in a Kari Out box. There is a tofu option as well for you vegetarians out there, and while I didn’t ask I’m sure you could sub out the protein altogether for extra vegetables if you wanted!
- Let’s hop back over to Disneyland for a second and talk my favorite rides. I’ll quickly list first the ones you should always get a Fast Pass for (if the wait is outrageous): Space Mountain and Star Tours (even if you are not a Star Wars fan). Those are basically the two rides I come to Disneyland for. Other favorites include, but usually do not require a Fast Pass: Buzzlight Year Astro Blasters, The Matterhorn, The Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
- In the past The Golden Horseshoe hosted a funny hillbilly comedy and music show that my dad loved so much we would sometimes see it twice in one day per his request, but I am unsure what goes on there now- might be worth checking out!
- Annnnnnnd back over we go to California Adventure. Best rides: California Screamin’ (the closest I can get to a roller coaster at either park), Toy Story Midway Mania (the most addictive ride EVER), Tower of Terror, and Soarin’ over California (a ride that virtually flies you over California and in the past would spray the smell of whatever you were riding over into the air. I would watch my mom get high off the smell of citrus as we flew over orange orchards. For some reason on this trip it appeared the scents had been removed, but I found an Etsy shop that makes candles with the scents of the ride! I may have to buy the citrus one for my mom’s birthday…mom, pretend you didn’t read this).
- I love laying on the couches in the Animation Academy studio watching big screens of archived Disney drawings dance around. Lots of people nap there, ha!
- Also don’t forget to look around in A Bug’s Land, where everything is made to scale to make you feel as small as a bug.
- This trip for the first time I realized there was a bakery tour available in California Adventure, where you can learn how the world-famous San Francisco Boudin sourdough bread is made. You can try the bread for free and watch bread bowls and loaves being made through big glass windows. I find it fascinating that the same sour dough starter made over 150 years ago is still being used for this bread today! Buy bread to take home at the Pacific Wharf Cafe after the tour.
Wishlist for next time
- Obviously it’s hard to get to everything on your list in one trip, so next time I definitely want to get the cotton candy lemonade from The Cove Bar (CA Adventure) among many other specialty drinks and slushies there and other areas of the parks, and I would love to eat at The Blue Bayou (Disneyland). I have eaten there before and it is so cool (it’s the restaurant located inside the Pirates ride, and once you get inside you feel like you are sitting on a large outdoor patio under the night sky regardless of the time of day!). Oh, and you know, I’d love to make a rich friend with a membership to Club 33, a private restaurant located inside Disneyland. I remember as a kid my dad would walk us by the private entrance and tell us about the secret restaurant behind. I have only ever met one person who has dined there as a guest of a card-carrying member. He said he ate lobster and there was a dress code.
Is there anything you like eating at the parks that I missed? Do you also feel overwhelmed there and have to go hide in a quiet corner with a Mint Julep until you feel up to human interaction again? Tell me all about it! Happy eating and adventuring!
If you’re itching for more food and play suggestions, check out my recent travel guide for Seattle, WA.