Everything You Need to Know About Dining at the Disneyland Resort

Updated March 30, 2017

I’ve written many posts on food at Disneyland, ranging from my favorite snacks in the park to fine dining. Today, I’m putting all of those posts in the same place for an easy reference.

I’m also going to share with you my estimated average budget for three levels of park guests:

  • Budget Friendly
  • Mid-Range Diners
  • Foodies

Finally, I’ll share with you some Off the Menu items that are fun to order, additional dining tips, and recipes.

Here we go!

Basic Info about Dining at the Disneyland Resort

  • Reservations are highly recommended and can be made up to 60 days in advance for most dining experiences. All reservations can be made online or you can call (714) 781-DINE (3463) between 7:00 AM and 9:00 PM daily (Pacific Time).
  • Disneyland does not use a Dining Plan like Walt Disney World. Occasionally, you can find character meal vouchers are part of packages for sale at Costco and similar sellers. But, overall, you won’t see meal vouchers in many places.
  • When making reservations or ordering food, keep in mind that Disney considers children age 3-9 and adults are any age above that. Children age 2 and younger will not be included in your bill. However, do account for them when making your reservation so that the restaurant can prepare seating according to your party count.
  • Strollers cannot be taken in table service and many counter service restaurants in and outside of the Disneyland Resort. Stroller parking is available nearby.
  • There are two basic dining options: Quick Service – No waiter or waitress; Walk to the counter to order and retrieve food. Table Service – Waiter or waitress service; Some reservations needed or recommended.
  • Reservations must be cancelled within 24 hours of your dining time or the credit card placed on file when your reservation was made will be charged $10 per person on the reservation.
  • A reservation does not guarantee you entry into the park on capacity days – when the park closes due to it being at capacity. However, you will not be charged the $10 per person penalty on capacity days if your dining reservation falls within the time the park was temporarily closed.
  • If your reservation falls before official park opening and during Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning, you do not have to use your Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning privilege in order to enter for that meal. Bring your reservation confirmation (paper print out or your mobile device will work) to the gate marked for such and once confirmed, cast members will allow you in to go to your dining location.
  • Review Disneyland’s Dining FAQ for lots of info.
  • Passports are the only acceptable form of ID now for out-of-country visitors wanting to purchase an alcoholic beverage. Know those details before visiting if this is of interest to you.
  • Disney makes every effort to accommodate special diets and allergy sensitivities. Review the Disney website for more information on this and be sure to leave details of your needs when making reservations. In every counter service and table service restaurant I have visited, a chef has been available to speak to regarding special requests. Don’t hesitate to ask for allergy-related menus and/or to the chef to ensure your needs are met.
  • Official Disney policy states that outside food and beverage is not allowed into the park unless it’s designated for guests with specific dietary restrictions. Because this is such a gray area, security guards will allow most food and drinks into the park. Please be respectful if you choose to bring in outside food or beverage and only dine in locations not specifically serving guests who paid for meals in that area. Meaning, find a bench or table area that is not connected to a counter service or table service restaurant. Glass containers and alcohol are not permitted.
  • If you plan to pack a picnic to enjoy during your visit, please use the picnic area designed for such in the esplanade between the two parks. You can find a map with this location and other information in my Logistics of Disneyland post.

Dining in and Around Disneyland and California Adventure

Let’s start with posts that I have written in great detail about the main points of dining in and around Disneyland parks.

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Character Dining

Everything you need to know about the 5 options for dining with characters in the parks and at the three DLR Hotels can be found in my character dining post. I’ve shared pricing and details on each, which characters you’re most likely to see when you dine, how a character meal can save you time in the park, how to make reservations and more.

My personal favorite is Minnie’s in the Park at The Plaza Inn at Disneyland. The character interaction is best here and you will likely see the most characters out of all of your options. I recommend a 10:30am reservation so that you can enjoy the less crowded hours in the morning and then break when everyone else finally rolls into the park.

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Special Dining Events with Reserved Viewing for Shows

Special Dining Events allow you to dine in the parks at one of the participating restaurants and then enjoy reserved viewing for one of the premiere shows – Paint the Night at Disneyland or World of Color at California Adventure. Review my special dining events post for many details and photos of each option.

My favorite for Paint the Night is Aladdin’s Oasis (so great for families with young children) and my favorite for World of Color is Carthay Circle. Most of these options are not a huge increase, price wise, over a regular meal at these locations. I encourage you to reserve the dining package to take the stress out of your showtime experience.

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Disneyland Restaurants

My Disneyland dining post shares every restaurant inside the park, including counter service and table service. I’ve included location, menus, price range, what to expect at each location and what people love to order.

My favorite counter service options are Jolly Holiday Bakery (for the Jolly Holiday combo, which is tomato basil soup and grilled cheese), French Market (for the New Orleans salad and seafood dishes), and Rancho del Zocalo for Mexican food. My favorite table service options are Cafe Orleans (for the monte cristo, pomme frites and beignets), Carnation Cafe (for Oscar’s breakfast and fried pickles), and Blue Bayou for special occasions.

Restaurants in Disneyland that allow free refills (during one dining experience) are Pizza Port, Rancho del Zocalo and The Plaza Inn.

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California Adventure Restaurants

My California Adventure Dining post shares every restaurant inside the park, including counter service and table service. I’ve included location, menus, price range, what to expect at each location and what people love to order.

My favorite counter service options include Flo’s V8 Cafe (for the turkey dip sandwich and veggie tater bake) and Smoke Jumper’s Grill (for the grilled chicken and jack sandwich). My favorite table service options include Carthay Circle and Wine Country Trattoria.

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DLR Hotel Restaurants

The Disneyland Resort Hotels have a nice variety of dining options and they have a nice range in prices, so it’s easy to find something for everyone. Anyone is welcome to dine at the hotel restaurants. You do not need to be a guest of the hotel. I’ve detailed all of your options in my DLR Hotel Restaurants post.

My favorites include Napa Rose at The Grand Californian Hotel and Steakhouse 55 at The Disneyland Hotel. The Hearthstone Lounge at The Grand Californian Hotel is a nice place to enjoy a break from the parks, have a glass of wine or a meal and unwind a bit. The ambiance is lovely.

 

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Downtown Disney

As listed in my Downtown Disney post, there is a huge variety of what you can find to eat. A few examples include ice cream, pretzels, pizza-by-the-slice, table service restaurants, themed restaurants, snack kiosks and more.

My favorites include Catal for Happy Hour with Small Plates (a $7 glass of wine is nearly impossible to find elsewhere!), Earl of Sandwich (delicious sandwiches), Ralph Brennans (yummy Cajun food), and La Brea (sandwiches and salads).

I note my breakfast picks in that post mentioned above, so check that out if you plan to dine in DTD before going into the parks.

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Cocktails

Cocktails can be found in all parts of the Disneyland Resort, except for Disneyland Park. Don’t fret. There are plenty more opportunities within California Adventure, the Disneyland Resort Hotels, and Downtown Disney. Find 7 of the best places to get drinks in my post on Cocktails at the Disneyland Resort.

My favorites include Ralph Brennans (for the ambiance on the balcony upstairs), Hearthstone Lounge (for a beautiful setting and relatively quiet place to escape the parks, but stay close by), and Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar (for the fun bartenders, strong drinks and die-hard Disneyland fans who hang out there).

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Snacks

Snacks at the parks are relatively easy to find, as most are sold from carts and kiosks throughout the park. In my post on Disneyland snacks, I share my top 5 favorites with some honorable mentions.

I could expand on that over and over again, but I have to stop somewhere, or all I would write about is food. All the time.

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Your Dining Budget

Because everyone enters Disneyland with a different budget in mind, it’s often hard for me to answer this question that I receive quite often: “How much should I budget per day for food?”

This all depends on what you want to spend, what your preference of dining style is and if you’re interested in attending any of the special dining events.

To simplify my budget estimates, I created 3 categories:

Budget Friendly: Really wants to watch expenses; elaborate dining isn’t a priority.

Mid-Range: Interested in some table service, maybe a character meal; nothing totally extravagant.

Foodies: Definitely wants the best dining options; expense isn’t an issue.

 

With those categories in mind, I’ve estimated the following for what each category could expect to spend on food. Note: None of these include alcohol or sodas, however most kids’ meals include a drink.

 

Budget Friendly:

Adults $12-$15 a meal

Kids $8-$10 a meal

Adults and Kids $5 for a snack x 2 per person = $10 a person

***If you eat breakfast at the hotel, (whether it’s provided by the hotel for free or if you bring muffins or oatmeal from home), you can expect a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) to spend $130 a day on lunch, dinner and 2 snacks per person. Add in money for alcohol/soda if desired. 

Formula used: I came to $130 by including the lowest range for lunch and the highest for dinner for both adults and kids. For example: Adult $12 lunch + $15 dinner + $10 snacks = $37 for an adult for the day.

 

Mid-Range:

Adults $20-$35 a meal

Kids $10-$15 a meal

Adults and Kids $5 for a snack x 2 snacks per person = $10 a person

***If you eat breakfast at the hotel (whether it’s provided by the hotel for free or if you bring muffins or oatmeal from home), you can expect a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) to spend $200 a day on lunch, dinner and 2 snacks per person. Add in money for alcohol/soda if desired.

Formula used: I came to the $200 by including the lowest range for lunch and the highest for dinner for both adults and kids. For example: Adult $20 lunch + $35 dinner + $10 snacks = $65 for an adult for the day. *You can estimate about $35 for a character meal, so substitute that for the dinner I included and have a $20 lunch to stay within this budget.

 

Foodies:

Adults $40-$60

Kids $16-$22

Adults and Kids $5 for a snack x 2 snacks per person = $10 a person

***If you eat three meals on site, you can expect a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) to spend $428 on breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2 snacks per person. Add in money for alcohol if desired.

Formula used: I came to the $428 by including the lowest range for breakfast and lunch and the highest for dinner for both adults and kids. For example: Adult $40 breakfast + $40 lunch + $60 dinner + $ 10 snacks = $150 for an adult for the day.

That One Time I went to Club 33

It was everything you’re thinking of and more.

Check that out here.

And, then to 1901 at DCA.

Check that out here.

Off The Menu Items

Off the Menu items are things you can order in the parks that are not on the printed or published menu. As I find “off the menu” options in the parks, I’ll share them here.

Check this post for some off-the-menu goodies, too.

Currently:

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*Golden Horseshoe Saloon, Disneyland: Ice Cream Nachos – 3 scoops of ice cream on top of a bed of broken waffle cone pieces topped with whipped cream, chocolate chips and a cherry. A steal at $5.99! Plenty to share.

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*Stage Door Cafe, Disneyland: Mozzarella Sticks – Served with apples or French Fries. $8.99.

*Not pictured and not technically “off the menu” – At the Pacific Wharf Cafe in California Adventure, you can ask to have your Sourdough Bread Bowl filled with mac-n-cheese instead of soup for $10.49. At Hungry Bear Restaurant in Disneyland, you can ask for Chili Cheese Fries for $3.25.

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White Water Snacks, The Grand Californian Hotel: Carnitas Nachos – The Carnitas is so, so delicious. You can have it served on a burger, too. $8.99.

*Also, at Steakhouse 55, you can put in special requests for the following sides:

  • Crispy Spinach
  • Sautéed Mushrooms
  • Tempura Green Beans

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Other Dining Tips

*There are three restaurants in Disneyland and one in California adventure that most guests believe allow free refills, simply because you fill your cup yourself. Technically, Disneyland Resort Restaurants do not allow refills due to county-controlled restrictions. Guests refilling their own cups brings in germs and can cause illness. Cast members may stop you from refilling. Those restaurants include (at DLR): Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port, The Plaza Inn, and Rancho del Zocalo; (at DCA): Boardwalk Pizza.

*My favorite family snack to feed many people all at once can be found at the Pacific Wharf Cafe in California Adventure. For around $8, you can purchase a Mickey shaped sourdough bread bigger than a Frisbee. The restaurant will give you all the butter you want. We often sit down on the patio near the cafe to enjoy some of the bread and then pack it up to share later. It’s easy to break off pieces for little ones in strollers, too. It’s sold to you already wrapped in a bag for easy storage. Here is what it looks like:

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*I consider a few meals in the parks to be easily shared between two people. They include:

  • French Market in New Orleans Square, Disneyland: French Market Chicken – Oven roasted half chicken, mashed potatoes, veggies and bread. $14.49.
  • Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square, Disneyland: Monte Cristo Sandwich – Turkey, Ham and Swiss (or the cheese only variation) Sandwich fried in a light batter and dusted with powdered sugar. Served with a berry puree for dipping. Order this sandwich with the Pommes Frites. Monte Cristo is $19.00. Pommes Frites are $7.00.

Recipes

From Big Thunder Mountain BBQ (RIP):

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Goofy’s Kitchen favorites:

From Annual Passholder hand outs:


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Tickets I recommend (read why)
Enter code DLRPS at checkout to save an additional $2 on each ticket.

5 COMMENTS

  1. This will be our first time to Dl and we are bringing my daughter who will be 2 1/2 at the time and I am a bit confused how it will worknat restaurants for her. I understand she can eat off my plate at buffet and family style restaurants, but howndoes it work at character dinjng such as Ariel’s grotto? Do I make the reservation for 3 and not order her a meal? Does the same apply for World of Color and Paint the Night dining packages? Thank you so much for your amazing posts and info

    • Yes. Make the reservation to include your child so that the restaurant can account for seating. But you won’t have to pay for a child under 3. She can attend all the dining events and eat off your plate. She will not get a plate at any meal you don’t pay for her at, but she can attend the meal and then join you in the reserved seating sections.

  2. Great post! Has Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta replaced their open-area soda fountains (free refills)? We have always filled our water bottles with ice and water there from the drink machines. I think that’s the only place in DCA with free-access soda machines, etc. Thanks! 🙂

    • I’m going to confirm this week. I had a cast member call and check on my visit Friday and she said they didn’t allow refills. I’ll up day with what I find. Thank you!

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