I’ve been averaging five or six Walt Disney World visits each year for the past five years. And mostly what I do when I’m at Walt Disney World is eat, no joke.
I am intimately familiar with the ins and out of Disney World dining and can recite the menus of some of my favorite restaurants by heart. Hey, it’s a skill that may come in handy some day.
But I recently found myself in unfamiliar Disney dining territory while on a brief visit to Disneyland in California. I had been there only once before, many (many, many, many) years ago. With just two days on my own, I decided to experience the parks like the newbie that I am, without a plan or preparation. Well, I did ask Disney Food Blog fearless leader AJ for a wee bit of advice, but I’ll get to that later.
So, without further ado, here, in no particular order, are my Walt Disney World foodie veteran observations about the dining situation at Disneyland.
Churros are everywhere.
While of course you can find churros at Walt Disney World, there are usually only a few locations at each park that sell them.
At Disneyland, everywhere I turned there was a churro sales stand or someone walking along nibbling on a churro.
I want an umbrella too!
I am all about the Dole Whip Float at Walt Disney World. But guess what, at Disneyland, they serve this nectar with maraschino cherries and a little paper umbrella.
I feel robbed. I think Disney owes me at least three or four bottles of cherries that I’ve missed out on over the years.
3-D ice cream menus rock.
Instead of printed menu signage at the ice cream carts, Disneyland has 3-D plastic models of the ice cream at their carts. For some reason this made me want a Mickey bar even more than I normally do.
Yes, the corn dogs really are that good.
Everyone oooohs an aaaaaahs about the Disneyland corn dogs. I’ll admit it, I didn’t believe that the accolades could be true. I stand corrected.
Yes, the Disneyland corn dogs are spectacular. I’ll never look at a Casey’s corn dog nugget in the same way again.
The culinary invention du jour at Disney California Adventure was an awesomely weird selection of gourmet marshmallows in flavors like lemon, watermelon, chocolate, and banana split. I need these to migrate on over to Walt Disney World.
It’s all about the basket.
At most Walt Disney World counter service restaurants, your food is presented to you on a paper or cardboard plate or basket. Many of the counter service restaurants at Disneyland use a non-disposable green plastic serving container or actual real live ceramic plates. I’m assuming this is an environment measure. We’re starting to see it a bit at Disney World, too, but it’s not standard practice.
Character meals? What character meals?
My kids weren’t with me during my Disneyland trip, so I wasn’t really looking to dine with characters.
But had I not known about Disney World character meals, I certainly would not have learned about them from walking around Disneyland. There are just a few of them, and most are in the resorts.
Annual pass discounts for quick service dining.
I had waffled about upgrading my Disney World annual pass to a Disney World / Disneyland combo Premier Pass. Boy am I glad I did. Nearly every counter service restaurant has a 15% discount for annual pass holders. Score!
Big portion sizes. Really, I mean it this time.
The one thing Disney Food Blog maestro AJ told me that I must eat at Disneyland was the fried chicken dinner from The Plaza Inn. I was astonished by the amount of food that was presented to me as a single serving.
Normally when people say that the portion sizes at WDW are large, I nod and chuckle, ’cause I’d have no problem polishing it off in a speedy fashion. But this chicken thing really threw me for a loop. There was no way I could even come close to finishing it. I’m not even sure my husband and I would finish it together.
They’re not shy about letting you know when something is not Disney.
I’m aware that not all foods sold at Disney World are prepared/presented by Disney, but that’s not so obvious to the untrained eye. At Disneyland, the names/locations of the real food vendors are prominently displayed (especially in Downtown Disney). This is likely due to some California regulation, but for me it takes away some of the magic.
Fruit, fruit, and more fruit.
While Walt Disney World is making admirable strides in offering fresh fruit as a snacking option for guests, in my opinion, Disneyland is doing a much better job of this.
The choices were more varied (mango slices, beautiful strawberries) and the fruit just looked fresher. Some of this is making its way to Disney World, but Disneyland had it first.
Soda is expensive!
Think bottled Coke is expensive at Walt Disney World? It’s at least 20 cents more at Disneyland.
The yellow cup is a code.
I wanted my Cars Land vodka/pomegranate/limeade concoction in a cone cup at Cozy Cone Motel, but the cast members at California Adventure told me that this was a no-go.
Apparently all alcohol must be served in a fluorescent plastic cup. I guess this makes sense from a control standpoint, but it cost me an extra three bucks because I had to buy a Diet Coke that I didn’t want just to get the cone cup that I did want.
The cupcake is not king.
A highlight of the Walt Disney World snack scene is the omnipresent designer cupcake. My Disney World trips always include a decadent treat like the butterfinger cupcake or the many seasonal cupcake variations.
At Disneyland, I only saw two types of cupcakes on display: plain vanilla cake with blue, pink, or white frosting, or the same thing with a piece of white chocolate on top imprinted with the Red Trolley logo. While I know they do some fun cupcakes at counter-service locations (like the honey lemon cupcake at Hungry Bear), you really don’t see the focus on them in Disneyland that you see in Disney World.
Caramel apples are big news.
While cupcakes are no big deal at Disneyland, the caramel apple situation there is awesome. So many gorgeous designs. Such friendly cast members making the apples.
And when I brought home the new-at-the-time sour-covered apple to my husband, he proclaimed it to be the best Disney apple he had ever had.
Fries, what are those?
I did not see a single standard french fry during my entire trip. There were lots of Disney branded potato chips and other, more interesting sides, but fries were not as prevalent as they are in Disney World.
The Hungry Bear restaurant and a few other counter-service locations serve pie for dessert, and it was really pretty good. I want pie more often at Walt Disney World too!
Mickey food should not have a fruit face.
I bought a Mickey pancake for breakfast. They put some sad old fruit on it to give it a face. Um, nope, that’s not the way you do it. My fruity pancake looked like a creepy clown, not the implied Mickey that I know and love.
There are barely any krispy treats for sale.
At Walt Disney World, there are Mickey-shaped Rice Krispy treats sold everywhere. All I saw at Disneyland were some sad prepackaged treats, not any of the fresh-made giant Mickey heads like they have at the Main Street Confectionery.
And that’s just some of what I saw on my much-too-brief detour to Disneyland. Fellow cross country travelers, what did you expect to see in Disneyland or Disney World that you didn’t? What did you miss when you were at your non-home park?
For more information about Disneyland Dining, and for great reviews and photos from Disneyland restaurants, check out our Disneyland Food section!
What have been your impressions of Disney World vs. Disneyland food? Let us know in the comments below.