Food is one of the best parts of Disneyland and they do it oh so well. But add up all those ice creams, lunches, drinks, and popcorns and it can take a toll on anybody’s wallet. Keeping costs down is tricky, but not impossible, on a day at a theme park.
Budget Eating at Disneyland: What to Know Before You Go
Anyone traveling to Disney on a budget should be aware of three things:
- You’re more than welcome to bring food into the parks with the exception of alcohol and glass (baby food jars are fine).
- Storage lockers are available to rent in different sizes, for $7-$15, so you don’t have to lug your lunch around all day.
- You can ask for tap water and ice for free at pretty much any restaurant. (I recommend this over filling up bottles at outside water spigots, which have a strong taste of minerals.)
You can find details on what you can and can’t bring to the parks here, just in case.
That being said, it’s Disneyland! It’s time to treat yourself. And while the price tag attached to Disneyland admission may be steep, there are foods for every budget available within the park.
There are plenty of blog posts and websites out there dedicated to the frugal Disney visitor, from young singles to large families. We’re here to strike a balance between a good time and a tight wallet.
(All of the prices estimated in this article are subject to change, but will give you a good idea of more inexpensive Disneyland restaurant prices.)
Disneyland Budget Restaurants
The quick service, also known as counter service, restaurants throughout Disneyland are all going to be better choices for inexpensive eating than table service spots, due to lower prices and the fact that you aren’t expected to leave that 20% tip.
There are many of them scattered all across the parks. Their prices range from about $10-$20 for adult entrees, but some of the more expensive counter service restaurants shouldn’t be overlooked by budget eaters.
Why? Generous portion sizes make great meals for sharing. Split two ways, a $15 meal becomes $7.50 a person, leaving some room in the budget for a treat later.
Of course, if you’d rather have a meal all to yourself (and after a long day of walking, you’ll probably scarf down a plate of pasta no problem), counter service restaurants still have you covered. Sandwiches and wraps might be pricier than they’d be back home, but you can be sure they’ll be more than enough to satisfy.
Up for sharing? Try the Plaza Inn. Styled like an opulent Victorian hotel, it’s located across from the castle near the Tomorrowland entrance. The price tag at the Plaza Inn looks high, with an array of plates including pot roast, fried chicken, pasta, and salmon, that cost between $15 and $20. The plates are huge, however.
Especially the fried chicken and pot roast dinners, which are piled high with meat, mashed potatoes, plenty of veggies, and a large biscuit to dip in the gravy. The fried chicken is crisp and flavorful; the pot roast is meltingly tender. Choose to sit in the ornate dining rooms or outside on the patio to try and glimpse a parade. The Plaza Inn is luxurious enough that it certainly doesn’t feel budget.
The Rancho del Zocalo also serves out ample portion sizes. This Mexicana-themed restaurant in the middle of Frontierland is fun in the day, but shines at night when the sun goes down and pretty glowing lanterns come out.
At $15, the citrus grilled ½ chicken is the stand-out deal and so easy to share, but the burritos, enchiladas, and nachos are good-sized too, coming loaded with different salsas, beans, and slaws. With the sounds of Big Thunder Mountain in the distance, here you can take advantage of free drink refills or cozy up with a hot chocolate on a cooler evening.
If you’re at Disneyland alone or not into sharing, don’t fear as there are plenty of options. Over on the other side of Frontierland, you’ll find The Golden Horseshoe and Stage Door Cafe, which are so close to each other, they might as well be the same restaurant.
Inspired by old Western saloons, both serve chicken tenders and fish and chips for reasonable prices (around ten bucks), but the Golden Horseshoe offers two meals under ten dollars that are really a steal.
Their Pepper Jack Chili Mac and the Loaded Potato Skins are inexpensive and plentiful, and people rave about the buffalo sauce. After your meal, you’ll want to head next door to the tiny counter at Stage Door, where a giant strawberry-topped funnel cake for eight dollars will feed your whole party.
Fantasyland also has a host of budget-friendly food. A chimichanga for under seven dollars? Head to Edelweiss Snacks (also home to the giant turkey leg, which is well-priced for its size). If you’re looking for a something a little larger, head around the corner to Troubadour Tavern where you can find loaded baked potatoes and brioche-wrapped bratwurst, all under ten bucks.
Together or separately, all of these items easily make a filling meal. They’re also more portable options than a pot roast dinner or a plate of beans and rice, meaning they might save you both time and money.
California Adventure Budget Restaurants
Award Wieners offers some of the best budget options to be found, and who doesn’t love a hot dog? Everything is under ten bucks, and the dogs are large, tasty, and absolutely loaded. It can get messy, since the toasted potato buns are served bursting with all the different toppings. Try the BBQ Crunch Dog or their gourmet bacon and chili flavors.
They don’t just serve all-beef hot dogs but cheddar or jalapeño sausages and vegetarians will be pleased by the “cheesesteak” made with portobellos and peppers. Their thin, wide Film Strip Fries are a good choice too, even if the beer selection is on the expensive side. Stroll down to Hollywoodland to find one of the best food deals at Disneyland, for sure.
At Cozy Cone Motel, skip the ice cream and churros at these fun traffic-cone-shaped huts and head to Cone 3. You can find more interesting frozen treats and less expensive churros elsewhere, but this is the only place that offers Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese Cones and the Chili Cone Queso.
You’ll get a cone of bread filled with either chili, cheese, and corn chips or creamy pasta topped with salty, crunchy bacon. Again, this is a yummy, filling, ten dollar deal. The theming at Cozy Cone is so cute. If a cute 60s motel is a budget version of a hotel, then these Cones are the budget version of their more grown up chili or mac’n’cheese cousins.
For cooler days or nights, head to Pacific Wharf Cafe where you can load up on a warm, hearty soup (seasonal specials alongside loaded baked potato, clam chowder or broccoli and cheese). This comes served in a bread bowl, or ask for the bread to be served alongside.
Rumor has it you can carb-load and ask them to put a portion of mac and cheese inside a bread bowl too. In this area, themed after Cannery Row in Monterey, you can get also get big sandwiches on fresh-baked baguettes. You can smell the bread baking everywhere. Portion sizes work for either lunch or dinner, which is handy. Food here is noted for being very fresh, tasty, and good value for money.
Five Under Five: Five Dollar Deals You’ll Love
Not looking for full meal but want a pick-me-up? These are snacks and mini meals that you can purchase for around five bucks. Popcorn and churros also fall under this category, but here are some choices that are a little more filling.
Bengal Barbecue is a favorite foodie destination to begin with, and their veggie or chicken skewers fall just around the $5 mark, as does the Tiger Tail breadstick which is delicious and filling. A great snack or light lunch in a convenient Adventureland location.
Tropical Imports and Fairfax Fruit Market. These fruit vendors, one in Disneyland and one in California Adventure, are just two of the places offering a wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies to snack on for under $5, although considerably higher than what you might pay in a supermarket.
Pack your own carrot sticks and hummus, but drop by for chocolate covered strawberries or a giant dill pickle. These pickles are huge, tasty, and a cult favorite.
Mint Julep Bar offers that Disneyland-meets-New Orleans classic, Mickey-shaped beignets. A pack of three beignets, which are large, fluffy, and coated in powdered sugar, is another $5 option and can easily feed several people. Great for sharing, or indulging on your own.
Jolly Holiday Bakery has lots of cookies and treats that won’t break the bank but the Matterhorn Macaroon at around $3 is one of the best deals going. Both it and the chocolate chip cookies are decadent and enormous. Find it on Main Street, USA.
Rancho del Zocalo, mentioned above, also has chips and salsa for a little over four dollars, which is a nice, light, healthy alternative on a hot day.
Tips and Tricks
Order kids’ meals! At quick service restaurants, no one cares if an adult doesn’t have a child with them. A neat little portion of pasta or sandwich usually comes with a side and a drink and might work well for light eaters. (There is a size difference between toddler meals and kids’ meals, however; stick to the kids’ meals.)
Eat breakfast before you enter the park. Not only do you start your Disneyland day charged up, you can skip airport prices at the multiple Disney Starbucks locations.
Sharing treats. A large sundae at Ghirardelli or Gibson Girl will satisfy multiple people and come out to less per head than ordering three single cones. Plus, if you share snacks like churros or Dole Whip, you get to taste more different treats throughout the day.
Skip the alcohol. California Adventure offers many fun cocktails, wines, and craft beers at its eateries but you’ll be paying for the pleasure. A single beer is likely to set you back at least ten bucks.
If you need a little liquid courage to face the Incredicoaster or the Guardians of the Galaxy, the vodka pomegranate cocktails at Cozy Cone Motel and Cocina Cucamonga’s micheladas aren’t a bad price for what they are.
Don’t forget about Downtown Disney. It’s really not that far from the park entrance and could save money. For instance, Earl of Sandwich offers much less expensive deli sandwiches than their parkside cousins. Taking the monorail is a fun way to get there.
Bring chips and sides. If you know you’ll want sides with your sandwich, bring your own chips and fruit. Potato chips weigh next to nothing, and this way you won’t have to shell out $3.50 for a small bag of Lays or Doritos at a snack cart.
Nearly all Disneyland and California Adventure restaurants, whether quick or table service, have their menus online (although menus and prices are always subject to change). With a little research and planning, finding yummy food that fits your budget and your tastebuds is a snap.
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