The best restaurants at Disneyland in 2020
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Dining experiences have grown increasingly important for many travelers on their Disney vacations. When you’re spending as much as a trip to Disney costs, you naturally want to be sure you’re enjoying the best of what the theme parks have to offer. While Disney World’s restaurants are the most talked about, dining in Disneyland has undergone a transformation as well.
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When guests are looking to dine at Disney, what makes a restaurant great is not necessarily just offering the very best foodie experience. This is especially true for budget travelers and families. When you’re feeding three, four, five or more people or just vacationing on a budget, value factors in. When you’re traveling with young kids who might be tired or be particularly picky eaters, restaurants that also include their favorite foods or make logistics easier on parents can be the perfect choice.
Finally, Disney is all about the magic, so a sprinkle of magic is at least as important as a dash of truffles.
I’ve dined at dozens of Disneyland restaurants over the years, both with my family as well as on adults-only vacations, from the smallest of snack carts to the fanciest white-tablecloth restaurants. Here’s what travelers need to know about dining at Disneyland, along with my picks for the best restaurants at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure.
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Tips for Restaurants & dining at Disneyland
As with all things at Disneyland, guests who are prepared will have a much less stressful and more enjoyable experience. Here are a few tips you need to know before you make your dining plans and restaurant reservations.
Make use of mobile ordering
Over the past couple of years, Disneyland rolled out mobile ordering to the vast majority of counter service restaurants in both parks. There is no longer a need to wait in a food line. Make sure you have the Disneyland app downloaded and place your order in advance of the mealtime rush. As you approach the restaurant with your crew, click in the app again to indicate your arrival. Your food is then usually ready in minutes at a separate window.
Remember the 60-day reservation window
If you plan to visit a table service restaurant or popular character meal buffet during your Disneyland vacation, reservations are often a must. While visitors headed to Disney World need to plan dining 180 days in advance of their trip, Disneyland thankfully has a much more humane 60-day reservation window, and the competition is also nowhere near as fierce. If you want the best times at some of the most popular restaurants, however, I’d recommend making at least a reservation or two 60 days in advance of your trip.
Don’t forget about dining packages
Disneyland has a number of popular shows and parades that many visitors want to see. Finding a good seat for them may require camping out an hour or more in advance. One solution is to secure reserved seating areas for these shows by booking an associated dining package. These packages do come at a premium price, but they save substantial time in addition to providing a meal that guests would be paying for anyway. Check the Disneyland website or app for availability, as there are often changes to the offerings.
Related: How to use points for Disney tickets
Think beyond the parks
While there are so many amazing restaurants within Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure covered by this guide, don’t forget to look beyond park borders for other excellent restaurants. The Downtown Disney district has undergone a major transformation and has a lot of quality restaurants and dining experiences. There’s even a brewery!
The three Disneyland on-property hotels also are home to several restaurants, including quite a few character meals and a few of the fanciest table service meals on Disneyland property. Scheduling a meal on your arrival or departure day at one of these restaurants can give you a Disney experience without the cost of a park ticket on that day.
Best Restaurants in Disneyland Park
Here are some of the best Disneyland Park restaurants to enjoy:
Plaza Inn (Main Street USA)
As the home to the only Disneyland character meal located within either of the two parks, Plaza Inn is a favorite for families or anyone else who wants some character face time. During morning hours, Plaza Inn hosts “Breakfast in the Park With Minnie & Friends.” Breakfast is buffet style, with kid-friendly favorites like Mickey waffles available alongside eggs, biscuits and gravy and other morning comfort foods. While visitors are always guaranteed a photo opportunity with Minnie Mouse, other regular characters include Winnie the Pooh, Captain Hook, Chip ‘n Dale, Max, Fairy Godmother and Tigger.
Reservations go quickly for this meal, so make your plans as soon as the 60-day advance reservation window opens. Remember, though, that early morning hours are the best time for short ride lines. Don’t waste these hours sitting down for breakfast. Pick a time at the Plaza Inn a few hours after park opening (10:30 a.m. is ideal on days with an 8 a.m. park opening).
Bengal Barbecue (Adventureland)
For a very quick bite, Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland has always been one of my family’s favorites. The menu choices offer a lot of lean meats and a few veggies — a welcome change from all the churros and Mickey ice cream bars that otherwise make up a Disneyland diet. Many of the food items are on skewers, so you can take them to go as you race off to your next FastPass reservation time. If you have more time, sit and take a break at the new adjacent shaded and themed seating area.
Red Rose Taverne (Fantasyland)
If you have little ones, chances are good that you’ll spend a lot of time in Fantasyland. The quick-service restaurant there (rebranded a few years ago as Red Rose Taverne but known to many guests as Village Haus) works well for families with babies, toddlers and younger children.
You can count on Red Rose Taverne for the staples many picky children will eat, including macaroni and cheese, hamburgers and cheese pizza. There’s ample indoor and outdoor seating and even enough room to maneuver a stroller up to many of the tables. The food for adults is nothing particularly memorable, but park-weary parents be grateful for the easy logistics.
French Market (New Orleans Square)
French Market is one of the higher-end counter service restaurants in Disneyland, so it’s a smart choice for guests who want a nicer dining experience without quite as much expense. Menu choices are Creole- and Cajun-inspired, with choices like a shrimp po’boy and a French dip sandwich. There are less adventurous options on the kids’ menu if you have picky eaters in the family.
Dining is outside on a mostly shaded veranda where a jazz band, the Royal Street Bachelors, performs throughout the day. Kids are often invited to participate in the musical entertainment and may even be rewarded with Mardi Gras beads. Be sure to stop by the Mint Julep Bar adjacent to French Market where you can grab a (nonalcoholic) mint julep to accompany your meal or a Mickey beignet for dessert.
Blue Bayou (New Orleans Square)
For the quintessential Disneyland date night, head straight for New Orleans Square. My husband and I have made dinner at Blue Bayou our date-night tradition, starting when we first visited the park together nearly 20 years ago.
The restaurant is entirely indoors but is lit to give the illusion of alfresco nighttime dining overlooking the bayou. Boats from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride float by on the water while fireflies dance overhead. Lunch is less expensive than dinner, and is the only time that you can order the famous Monte Cristo sandwich as well as my personal favorite, the jambalaya. Reservations are an absolute must.
While this is a fancier restaurant and is priced accordingly, families shouldn’t necessarily rule it out. Blue Bayou can be a very special higher-end Disney dining experience with older children or teens for dinner, and it’s usually filled with quite a few families at lunch.
Docking Bay 7
The opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland in May of last year brought several new restaurants into Disneyland Park. To be sure, the food options on Batuu were not without some controversy and received mixed reviews.
Disneyland has tweaked a few menus to respond to customer feedback, and Docking Bay 7 has emerged as one of the better counter service restaurants in the park. With ample air-conditioned indoor seating, it’s also an easy place to take a break and (usually) find a table. There’s a small partially shaded outdoor terrace that offers quality views for Star Wars people-watching too.
Lunch and dinner menu items include a chicken (“tip yip”) and mashed potatoes, smoked pork ribs, pot roast and several vegetarian options. The pickiest of eaters may not find a lot of choices here, so check the menu carefully if you have young kids.
Best Restaurants in Disney California Adventure
Here are the best Disney California Adventure restaurants for families:
Flo’s V8 Cafe (Cars Land)
Flo’s is Disney’s take on the classic American diner, just like you might find along Route 66. The theming and setting in Cars Land is immersive and just so much fun, and for a quick-service restaurant, the food is downright delicious. Flo’s is often where my family stops midmorning for breakfast to grab eggs or Mickey waffles. Lunch and dinner include items like a blue plate special, fried chicken and a turkey club. Kids can find plenty of variety, from turkey sliders to chicken strips.
Lamplight Lounge (Pixar Pier)
Lamplight Lounge is currently the hottest dining ticket in the Disneyland Resort, so it’s a must to make a reservation well in advance if you want to dine here. The weekend brunch offering is especially in demand.
Instagrammable food and cocktails abound. The decor is Pixar-themed, with tons of memorabilia and details to explore. Like Blue Bayou in Disneyland Park, Lamplight Lounge is probably better suited to families with older children and teens due to atmosphere and price, but younger kids who love their Pixar movies will feel right at home here, too.
The sentimental favorite menu item is the lobster nachos that were available at the predecessor restaurant in this space, Cove Bar. The menu choices are definitely more varied and interesting for foodie parents than at many Disneyland restaurants, and the drink menu (both alcoholic and nonalcoholic) is full of whimsical selections.
For a special signature dining experience in California Adventure, Carthay Circle is the top choice. It’s also priced accordingly, so save this for a special adults’ night out (even more so than Blue Bayou). Located within a replica of the Carthay Circle Theater, where Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs debuted in 1937, this restaurant is teeming with Disney and Old Hollywood history and lore.
Menu items include duck breast, filet mignon, salmon and red snapper. If you don’t have the budget or the time for a fancier meal, the Carthay Circle Lounge downstairs in the same building has lighter bites and delicious cocktails.
Food Festival Marketplaces (various locations)
Disney California Adventure is home to multiple food festivals throughout the year. When these food festivals take place, food “marketplaces” pop up along the pathways of the park, usually at least from Grizzly Peak to the end of Paradise Gardens. The food options at these festivals are fun and unique, and a great place for visitors to try a lot of new flavors.
The largest of these is the Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival in the spring. Look also for the Festival of Holidays during the November and December holiday season as well as the Lunar New Year marketplaces during the annual Lunar New Year Celebration. Families can get a lot of value out of sharing a Sip ‘n’ Savor pass when available, which gives you tickets to redeem for a number of dishes for a single set price.
No matter who is in your traveling party or what your budget is, Disneyland has a wide variety of restaurants to experience on your next vacation. Remember, if you are paying by credit card for these meals, to use a card that rewards you with extra miles for dining, like the Citi Prestige® Card (5x), American Express® Gold Card (4x at restaurants), Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express (7x on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants) or Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x). (Learn more about the best credit cards for dining.)
(The information for the Citi Prestige Card and Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.)
Alternatively, you can also pick up some discounted Disney gift cards before your trip to save on meals at the best restaurants in Disneyland.
If you’re planning a family vacation to Disneyland, be sure to check out these other articles as you craft the perfect trip:
- 9 things families should know before visiting Disneyland
- Where to stay at Disneyland: On vs. off-property hotel comparisons
- Skip the lines at Disneyland: 10 line-busting tips for less waiting and more playing
- 10 tips for visiting Disneyland with toddlers and preschoolers
Featured photo by Disneyland Resort.
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