Saving money while eating at the Disneyland Resort: A 2017 Disney Resolutionby Lisa Stiglic, contributing writer
It's a brand new year with a clean slate to start resolutions like visiting the Disneyland Resort as much as possible. However, if you find yourself a bit lacking in funds due to the holiday season, no need to worry—you can still embrace the Happiest Place on Earth at a minimal cost while enjoying many of the culinary creations offered throughout the resort.
Outside options inside?
No doubt, bringing your own eats is one of the easiest cost-cutting ways to visit the Disneyland Resort. It seems every stroller that goes through the gates has enough food on it to feed every guest on Main Street. However, there is an actual policy listed on the Disneyland Resort website that states, "...with the exception of food items for guests with specific dietary restrictions, outside food and beverage items are not permitted in either of the Disneyland Resort theme parks." Instead, the invitation is extended to guests to visit the complimentary picnic area found just outside Disneyland's main entrance gates.
The Disneyland Resort's guest picnic area is ideal for families with ample room for relaxing. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.
At this time, I wouldn't say this particular policy is strictly enforced. I was behind a stroller family in the security line a few weeks ago and the check-in cast member could plainly see water bottles and snack bags yet didn't say anything to the family. I'm not advocating bringing in one's own food, but definitely use your own discretion. I've noticed an increased amount of snack trash inside the parks so wouldn't be surprised if Disney decides to revisit this policy in the future.
Mammoth meals and sampling small
One trick I like to implement is to eat a large meal early during my visit then just nosh on a few things for the remainder of my stay. There are several breakfast options that offer a fill-your-belly breakfast such as the brioche French toast at Flo's V8 Cafe in Disney California Adventure, or classic eggs benedict at Carnation Cafe on Main Street in Disneyland—affordable at $8 and $12 respectively.
If breakfast isn't your thing, a quick snack can tide you over until you opt for a larger lunch or dinner later. For a larger meal, I would highly suggest the burger bar at Smokejumpers Grill near DCA's Grizzly Peak. Grilled chicken, veggie, and beef burgers are all on the menu around $12 each—well worth the money.
Guests can pile on as many fixings as they want from the condiment bar at Smokejumpers Grill. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.
In Disneyland, French Market Restaurant offers a selection of popular New Orleans' entrees each costing between $10 and $15. Choose from po' boy sandwiches, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and several entree-sized specialty salads.
On the other end of the serving size spectrum are the kids' menu options. I'm not a big fan of the kids' menus for adults because many are geared toward younger palates with macaroni and cheese, or a small sandwich with a slice of lunch meat. A few places—like Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta in Disney California Adventure or Redd Rockett's Pizza Port in Disneyland—serve pastas in a smaller dish for a lesser price, and are definitely a good deal.
Sharing… or maybe not
If the large single meal is too much, splitting it with another person in your party is a great alternative while on a tighter budget. Being a huge sandwich fan (a fanwich?), I tend to gravitate toward Pacific Wharf Cafe in DCA for the turkey pesto sandwich on fresh sourdough bread. With an accompanying bag of chips, this is a perfect meal to share.
If Mexican food is more to your liking, Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante in Frontierland offers enough food with each entree for at least two guests. Entree prices run under $15, so splitting the cost with the meal can save you some money.
Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante's menu offers a bounty of burritos, tacos, and enchilada platters, complete with beans and rice—perfect for sharing. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.
Economical eats, or fair fare
If you are park-hopping solo or don't feel in the sharing mood, there are plenty of delicious displays at affordable prices scattered throughout both theme parks. These can keep you going throughout the day and not bust your bank account. A quick slice of pizza from Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta or from Redd Rockett's Pizza Port start at about $6.
Another great trick is to look for offerings that include a side or multiple items. Most of the hot dog and corn dog locations include fries or chips, so you get more bang for your buck. In Disney California Adventure, Award Wieners adds fries or fresh fruit to your gourmet dog order, while nearby Corn Dog Castle supplies a bag of chips. Over in Disneyland, Refreshment Corner and Toontown's Pluto's Dog House both compliment your order with chips. Prices for dogs in the theme parks run $10 or less.
Little Red Wagon on Disneyland's Main Street also offers chips with your freshly-dipped corn dog. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.
If you want to expand your food foray outside of the typical theme park fare, trek over to Bengal Barbecue in Disneyland for some savory skewers of chicken, vegetables, and more. Each stick is under $5 with special selections, like the current Moana-inspired pineapple, shrimp and sausage skewer, a bit more at $5.49.
Take-home treats and treasures
Everyone has a go-to dessert at the Disneyland Resort, and most will fit within your budget. Bakeries in both theme parks offer a scrumptious selection of cookies, krispie treats, candy, and cake pops—just stay away from the candy apples as they can run up over $10 each. My best find is the Matterhorn macaroon at Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe. This mini-mountain morsel is tasty and fun to eat, and is affordable at $3 each. If something cold and creamy beckons you, Clarabelle's Hand-Scooped Ice Cream in Disney California Adventure offers you made-to-order, hand-dipped ice cream bars complete with candy toppings, each for about $6.
A colorful bundle of Mickey Mouse lollipops will cost you about $6 for five. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.
If you want to take home a sweet memory of your Disneyland Resort trip to share with friends (or not), the lollipop bundles are an inexpensive way to savor your Disney experience. You can easily find them in Trolley Treats in DCA and The Candy Palace in Disneyland along with bags of character chocolate coins which are perfect for sharing.
Character-covered chocolate candies cost just under $3 for ten. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.
As always, annual passport discounts apply to most locations. Just be sure to ask the attending cast member.
Whether or not more Disneyland Resort visits are on your 2017 agenda, saving money is always on the list. Feel free to implement some of these cost-saving tips or share some of your own. In the meantime, Happy New Year and I'll see you at the resort.
Great Article Lisa! I can vouch for the SMOKEJUMPERS burgers with that burger bar. I think that is one of the best tips. If you actually sit down for a big meal it feels like you are spending more at first but with a full belly you don't get tempted to snack as much. 3 Snacks at DLR are the same price as a sit down with tip meal. Love this article. Thanks.
Thanks Todd! Smokejumpers is a great find! You can actually make your own little side salad with all the condiments. I may do a follow-up article to this regarding food options for specialized diets- gluten free, vegan, etc. That seems to be the norm anymore. Cheers!
Probably just a typo, but Rancho del Zocalo is in Frontierland, not Adventureland.
Thanks for the correction
Even though it's not in either park, I would highly recommend White Water Snacks in the Grand Californian Hotel. They have good food at not expensive prices. Their nachos are particularly good and are a good serving size to satisfy as a meal. You get free refills on soda as well. It's also not very difficult to get there from DCA, and it's usually not very crowded while providing a quieter atmosphere than some park locations, and there's indoor and outdoor seating as well.