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Dining in Disneyland: A Look Back at 1957 Park Eats

Fire up the flux capacitor and hop in the Delorean because we’re going back in time.  I know, that’s Universal Studios talk, but Doc Brown is the only guy I know that can make this happen…

1957 Guide to Disneyland

1957 Guide to Disneyland

It’s 1957 at Disneyland. The park has only been open for two years, but Walt’s got lots of places for us to eat! Let’s take a little tour of our options starting with good ‘ol Main Street USA.

The Carnation Ice Cream Parlor (currently known as Gibson Girl) was the perfect spot for a cool treat.  Further down the road you could stop at the Carnation Plaza Gardens for some quick service food. Does anyone remember the frozen malts they sold with the wooden spoons? I DO!

There was also the Refreshment Corner sponsored by Coca Cola, The Maxwell Coffee House Shop, The Puffin Bake Shop, and the Red Wagon Inn, which is said to have been Walt’s favorite park eatery and later became the Plaza Inn.

Another option was a cafeteria style restaurant called the Pavilion.  Check out the photos below, I’m absolutely loving the popcorn cart and its cute little cowpoke customers!

Vintage Main Street USA

Main Street USA

Take a right off of Main Street USA and you’ll stumble into Tomorrowland.  Here, you can hit the Space Bar, an automat type restaurant as well as the Yacht Club (self service) and the Dairy Bar, which was an exhibit sponsored by the American Dairy Association.

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland

After Tomorrowland, we’ll head over to Fantasyland.  Here you can eat at the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship (YES PLEASE!) or get some fresh grape juice from the Welch’s Stand.

Vintage FantasylandIn 1957, Frontierland was the place to really get your grub on; it had the most dining options of all the lands in the park.  The Chicken Plantation Restaurant served up a fried chicken dinner for just $1.70.  Meals could be enjoyed on the patio of a plantation style home along the Rivers of America.  The Plantation House closed in 1962 to make room for New Orleans Square.

Not in the mood for fried chicken? Head over to the Golden Horseshoe for dinner and a show.  Or visit the birth place of the Dorito chip and dine on some Mexican Food at Casa de Fritos.  Looking for breakfast? Grab some pancakes at Aunt Jemima’s Pancake house.  And if none of those sounded tempting, you could pop in at the New Orleans Barbecue.  There was also the Oaks Tavern, a malt shop & an orange juice refreshment stand.

Frontierland

Frontierland

After viewing the backside of water, you could roam Adventureland and hit the Cantina for some light refreshments.  It also shared an entrance to the Pavillion (cafeteria style) restaurant that was located off of Main Street USA.  Another orange juice stand was located in Adventureland as well.

Adventureland

Adventureland

The Disneyland Hotel restaurants were also a happening spot.  All hotel restaurants were run by the Gourmet Restaurant Company.

There was a Coffee Shop, a few cocktail lounges, and a dining area that seated over 1,000 guests.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks were available from the Gourmet eateries and they were open 7 days a week.  I’m digging the groovy purple leather chairs in the main dining room!

Disneyland Hotel

Disneyland Hotel

AND before we head back to the future, I just had to include this fun 1957 “Disneyland Data” fact sheet.

Can you believe that in 1957 the average cost of a trip to Disneyland was $2.29 a person??? This price included admission to the park, rides, amusements, souvenirs AND parking!  Today $2.29 won’t even get you a churro, but Disneyland, I love you anyways…

Disneyland Data

Disneyland Data

Do you remember any of these original park dining spots?  I used to love the frozen malts at the Carnation Plaza Gardens as a little girl! If you could travel back in time where would you eat?  My top spots are Casa de Fritos, The Pirate Ship and The Plantation House.  Do you have any vintage Disneyland ephemera? I’m basically obsessed with vintage park maps, menus and guide books. This one came from a local flea market.  I find it fascinating to flip through the pages of yesteryear and think about what it must have been like to be at Disneyland way back when.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Heather Sievers is the Disney Food Blog’s Dining in Disneyland columnist. See more of her columns here!

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22 Comments

  1. Phyllis Hatfield says:

    I was 5 in 1964 and I remember having a tuna sandwich at the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship. We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel across the street and I lost a tooth. I recall hoping that the tooth fairy would be able to find me.

  2. Jackie K says:

    I love looking at the old guide books, too. I have our Disneyland Guide book from Summer of 1976. Mostly I remember running around with my cousins having fun. Food was not on the radar!! Parking was 50 cents, Admission for the Big 11 ticket book was $6 for Juniors (12-17). (And I still have a D ticket left in our ticket book!)

  3. Alan says:

    Heather, this is such an interesting post on so many levels. Sorry to say, I don’t have any memories of DL in the 50′s as I was a just a kid and the idea of going from NYC, across the country to an amusement park was not high on my family’s vacation agenda. So, this is great fun to read and learn of. I think the prices and the dining venues are both worth detailed discussions on their own. What I find most interesting is the fact that so many of the eateries are familiar brand names. This flies in the face of the criticism that Walt would have been angry that there was a Starbucks or McDonald’s in the parks instead of a Disney created and themed restaurant. He used this technique to share corporate expenses as they do today.

  4. Annie says:

    Loved the Carnation ice cream as a kid- Fantasia was the best flavor ever! Still think about it (and miss it) every time I go to Disneyland.

  5. Joyce Patton says:

    Heather; LOVED this article! I was born in 1957 and probably went to Disneyland for the first time at 4 years old. Considering the minimum wage was about $1/hour back then, a family of four would have to work a full day (or more) to go there and buy food! (I’m sure most guests made more than minimum wage, but I’m just sayin’) I remember my dad buying the Carnation frozen malts and eating them with a little wooden spoon… I loved getting a bite!

    I just ran $2.29 through an inflation calculator. A trip to D-Land should now cost just under $20 per person based on a 743% inflation rate!

  6. Heather Sievers says:

    @Phyllis – Such a great story! I hope the tooth fairy found you!

    @Jackie K – I LOVE the old guide & ticket books. The artwork is so gorgeous. I especially
    love all of the old fonts that were used. Wish I had them all on my computer for use!

    @Alan – Thanks so much for the awesome compliment! I agree with you on the big brands in the park. People always say that Walt would hate having Starbucks, etc. But I think Walt would like the extra $$$ it brought it! ; )

    @Annie – Did you know that you can order a version of the old Fantasia ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery??? Ask for a base of sweet cream ice cream with pistachio syrup (and chopped pistachios if they have them—chopped walnuts if they don’t) mixed with cherry pie filling and banana.

    @Joyce – THANKS for reading! Those malts were the best. I remember getting them as a kid too! And the inflation calculator? OUCH! Thanks for sharing. So interesting.

  7. Maggie says:

    It’s funny, we think of corporate sponsorship as a recent development, but a lot of those eateries were sponsored. The idea that inflation has been so bad since then that $1.70 got you a fried chicken dinner & now can’t get you a soda makes my head spin.

  8. Livc1981 says:

    This is cool! I also like to sit back and daydream about how things were in different time periods. A friend of mine was telling me that when she had her first job in the early 70′s and that minimum wage was $1.70. I’m sure that in the 50′s it was around $1 an hour. So $2.29 would’ve probably been a little bit if you were single, but if you had a family (average family size then was 7, I think) it would’ve probably been a little over $15. Most people in those days would go only once in their lifetime. But I remember my Uncle telling me about going once when he was little, and he told all the ways it was different. After the real estate boom in the 80′s, he’d take me like twice a yr. :-)

  9. Livc1981 says:

    Oh! To answer the question I would have to try the Plantation House! I like the Country Bear Jamboree restaurant that they used to have in the 80′s. I can’t remember what the actual name of it was. It’s still there across from Haunted Mansion. I think they reopened it, but with a different menu. But they used to have the best fried chicken! Wish it was still available. I miss that restaurant the most. And I love to get ice cream from the Carnation Cafe (Gibson Girl) it was so good!

  10. Frank says:

    I miss the original New Orleans fritters that I remember from visits in the 70s. I’m not sure when they replaced them with the current mickey shaped “donuts”…but they are nothing like the original balls of light egg batter dough that just melted in your mouth. Please bring them back Disneyland!!

  11. craigInPA says:

    $2.29 in 1957 money, adjusted for inflation today is $19.32.

    The cost for admission, 1/4 of the parking fee, the cheapest souvenir I can think of (a $5 pin), and a typical walk-up meal at WDW today is $123.

    Before you all go crazy over the difference between $19 and $123, that difference is only 3% over the rate of inflation. In other words, where inflation was 3%, Disney raised prices 6%. It’s only the fact that they’ve been doing it for 57 straight years that causes the huge disparity.

  12. Wendy says:

    Every time I exit the Jungle Cruise, I remember the Tahitian Terrace. My first ever King’s Hawaiian roll was at this restaurant. I wish they would reopen the Tahitian Terrace restaurant with Ohana’s menu!

    Since Disneyland gave WDW their corn dog, I think WDW should give Disneyland some of Ohana’s menu (I’d settle with the bread pudding) and the carrot cake cookie!

  13. ralphie says:

    Lewis Robinson could take you back. Just ask Goob (after taking a look at “Meet the Robinson’s”).

  14. Essie says:

    I’ve never been out West, but would love to visit DLR someday. I really enjoyed this article, Heather; it was so much fun to read and see the old photos and prices. I sure would love to try a frozen chocolate malt right now!

  15. Randy says:

    Yes, to all the nay Sayers of corporate sponsorship, I recall not only eating establishments being sponsored but rides and attractions as well at both DLR and WDW. Delta, Monsanto, GE, Ford, Frito Lay and on and on. That was Walt’s plan from beginning, it was only later when Burbank and other massive corporations didn’t see eye to eye on profit margins did we see a decline of sponsorships. Looks like it might be returning.

  16. Heather Sievers says:

    @Maggie – Yep!!!

    @Livc1981 – Love that story! Your uncle sounds like an awesome guy! I remember the restaurant you are talking about. It’s now called the Hungry Bear. Totally different menu, but still a pretty good counter service spot!

    @craigInPA – I’d pay no matter what the cost. But I have Disney problems…

    @Essie – I sure hope you get to make it out here one day!

    @Randy – I, too, remember attractions sponsored by companies.

  17. Tim says:

    Thanks for another delightful post Heather!

    I have fond memories of dining in the 60′s at the what was then the Hills Brothers Coffee House, ordering an eight year old boy’s ideal breakfast: pancakes and a cup of hot cocoa(!).

  18. Heather Sievers says:

    @Wendy – I remember it being there, but I don’t think I ever got to eat there. Wish I did though! Would LOVE to have that back.

    @Ralphie – I totally forgot about that movie. I only saw it once!

    @Frank – Have you tried the fritters at Royal Street Veranda? They are pretty good! http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2013/08/14/review-apple-fritters-and-clam-chowder-at-royal-street-veranda-at-disneyland/

    @Tim – Glad you enjoyed! AND even as an adult that sounds like an ideal breakfast!

  19. Mark says:

    Heather – great article. The great comfort food is one reason why we go :)

  20. Ashley says:

    My only trip to Disneyland was in May 1983 when I was 7 1/2 and I honestly don’t remember any of the food. What really sticks out from that trip is the number of closed rides (lots of refurbishment the year before the Olympics) and the endless rain (and boy howdee did it rain!).

  21. Frank says:

    @Heather….I did try the fritters at the Royal Street Veranda but they were nothing like what was in the picture on your link…maybe they had a off day? I’ll have to try them again…thanks

  22. Heather Sievers says:

    @Mark – Thank you! There’s definitely lots of comfort food at Disneyland!

    @Ashley – Wow! Sounds like a bad luck trip & too bad about the rain. It barley ever rains here!

    @Frank – Hmmm, I’d say give them one more chance! ; )

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