No matter where you decide to eat, avoid standing in line by eating at mid-morning or mid-afternoon. As a bonus, you'll also find shorter lines at the rides during traditional meal times, especially mid-day.
Here's a roundup of your Disneyland food options:
Low-Cost Dining in DisneylandIf you look around, you can find places at Disneyland to eat for less. Prices and menus change so often that giving you a list would likely frustrate you more than no list at all, but these tips will help you find something within your budget:
- The best place for a cup of coffee is The Market House on Main Street USA, on the right side if you're going in and near the fruit cart. It's a little-known fact that the entrance gates open half an hour before the park does, allowing visitors to enter Main Street, so you can get inside early and grab that cup of caffeinated beverage while you wait. Keep the receipt and refills are free all day.
- Walk-up, counter-service spots like Bengal Barbecue (across from the Indiana Jones ride), Royal Street Veranda (New Orleans Square), Stage Door Cafe (near the riverboat boarding area) or Tomorrowland Terrace have the lowest prices. And the fewest frills.
- Use the Disneyland map you got at the entrance to find dining options in each park area. It can help you find something nearby when you need it - and it also gives a rough idea of what items each place serves.
- Smoked turkey legs are not only tasty, but there's also something fun about gnawing on a big chunk of meat. We found them at a sidewalk cart near the Walt and Mickey statue on Main Street USA. According to some sources, one leg can have more than 1,000 calories, but if you split it with someone, it brings the cost (and calorie consumption) down.
- If you bring your own water bottles and fill them at the nearest fountain, you can save money on your meal because you won't have to buy drinks.
- The cheapest option of all is to bring your own food, but except for small snack items, you'll have to consume it at the picnic area outside the gate.
Sit-Down Service and Reservations in DisneylandThe Blue Bayou, Cafe Orleans, Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue and Carnation Cafe are full-service restaurants where you can sit down, relax and get a break from it all. You can make reservations for some restaurants - Disney calls it "priority seating" - you'll need them to avoid disappointment during busy times (or for Blue Bayou any time). Call 714-781-3463 at least a couple of weeks in advance.
The Blue Bayou (the restaurant you see as you board the Pirates of the Caribbean ride) is the "fine dining" spot according to Disneyland, but many reviewers disagree and so do we. Many who like it say it's because of the atmosphere and location, but if you're a foodie, it's not for you. Keep reading to find out where the real fine dining is at the Disneyland Resort.
If you have a Park Hopper Pass, consider a meal at the Wine Country Trattoria in California Adventure, which has some of the best food in the parks. Get their World of Color dining package and you'll not only get an entrance pass to the best viewing location, but you won't have to stand in line to pick it up.
You can't buy alcoholic beverages at Disneyland, but they're available at several locations in California Adventure, including the Carthay Circle bar, Cove Bar near Ariel's Grotto and a wine bar next to the Wine Country Trattoria. There's a limit of 2 drinks per adult more than age 21 (with ID).
Other Dining Options in DisneylandIn between the sit-down restaurants and the walk-up food stands are cafeteria-style spots like the Plaza Inn, French Market and Redd Rocket's Pizza Port.
Disneyland Character BreakfastsAll three hotels and Disneyland's Plaza Inn offer breakfast buffets with a side helping (or possibly a main course) of Disney characters. Find out about them and how to meet the characters even when you aren't eating.
Dining Outside DisneylandOutside the park, you'll find several places to eat in Downtown Disney and a short walk away at Anaheim Garden Walk. Denny's and other low-cost places to eat line the street just outside the entrance, all of them packed to over-capacity at meal time.
All of the Disney hotels offer dining options, but the Napa Rose at the Grand Californian Hotel is the true fine dining venue at Disneyland Resort, gathering great ratings from almost everyone who tries it. Dress code is ultra-casual, the menu is interesting and the servers go beyond the level of service we've all learned to expect from Disney: all of them are first-level sommeliers or on their way to becoming one. If you haven't guessed, it's also expensive, but most people think it's worth it.
Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel also offers a fine dining experience.
Small Bites and SnacksYou'll find plenty of places to get ice cream bars, popcorn, sodas and the standard snacks at Disneyland, but one treat is worth looking for. The Tiki Juice Bar, outside the Tiki Room and just inside the Adventureland entrance serves the Dole Whip, a frozen pineapple concoction that you can eat with a spoon or sip as a float served with pineapple juice.
Disneyland churros are so popular that the deep-fried, sugar-and-cinnamon coated snacks have their own Facebook page.
Last but not least, there's "the mouse." On a recent visit, we found and photographed 20 different food items, all shaped like Mickey Mouse. Take a look.