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Vote of the week: Do you bring your own food to theme parks?

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Published: November 14, 2008 at 12:10 PM

The Thanksgiving holiday is fast approaching in the U.S., so I'm thinking about food. Should I make a big turkey again this year... or just reservations? ;-)

Of course, food is a big part of a theme park visit, for many TPI readers. They've picked Universal Orlando's Mythos as their favorite restaurant several years in a row. And Disney favorites such as Le Cellier and The Hollywood Brown Derby have many fans on the site.

But not everyone queues up for full-service dining at theme parks. Many visitors don't bother buying food in the parks at all, choosing instead to bring their own - no matter parks' policies forbidding outside food and drink.

What do you do? How widely violated are park rules about outside food and drink? Do you break those rules to bring your own lunch, or just bend' em a little, and bring in your own bottled water or baby meals?

For the vote below, think of your typical theme park visits and pick the choice that best describes what you most often do.

Let's talk about theme park food in the comments.

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on November 14, 2008 at 12:17 PM
Pretty much we just bring our water bottles to the park. There are a few places in Disney and Universal where you can get some good food for cheap.

In regard to Six Flags, you can actually buy some kind of mini meal plan online, making it cheaper.

From James Rao on November 14, 2008 at 12:56 PM
When traveling to Disney/Universal/Busch, eating in the parks is pretty much a part of the overall experience. The food is usually pretty good, and the quality top notch. Especially at Epcot & Disney's deluxe resorts, Das Festhaus, both Universal Parks, DTD, and Citywalk.

However, at most other amusement parks where the food is mostly an afterthought, I leave for the afternoon and eat somewhere else before returning.

From Bo Pedersen on November 14, 2008 at 12:59 PM
Strangely enough, we are more likely to take food to uk parks (if we have someone to stay with the bags), in the US you can actually eat well (as said) quite cheaply, and we're all too busy on the rides to look after bags! :)
From Andy Guinigundo on November 14, 2008 at 1:04 PM
We do bring food for the children - just snacks really. We have a child with allergies and it's nice to know that something for sure will be safe. Although, as a whole, the Orlando area is very good at dealing with food allergies.

When we went to Disney last month, we carried a water bottle to fill up in the parks. That saved us some money and dining credits.

At home (Kings Island), we would usually show up after work. We have a picnic with the kids in the parking lot and go then go in.

From Mark Hollamon on November 14, 2008 at 1:03 PM
Seriously, the food is a big part of the overall experience. Nothing speaks louder than the best food competition recently held on TPI.

I could say it takes money away from the parks when you bring food in and that's what helps keep the parks operating and yadda yadda, but honestly if the parks (speaking of Disney and USF) really were concerned they would stop people at the gate. I see people eating huge bags of Doritos and there's no way they coudl have smuggled that in with the bag searches going on now.

I myself prefer to enjoy the food as part of my day at the parks.

From Eric Malone on November 14, 2008 at 1:43 PM
Generally, I like to bring a pack that clips to your waist. Sure, it looks dumb, but if I'm hankering for a snack or a drink in the middle of the park, I can just unzip and grab what I need. I do this most often when I have friends and family. I just bring snacks and drinks for 'em.
From Deidre Dennis on November 14, 2008 at 2:42 PM
We always take water, chex mix, granola bars, chips and other snacks at the parks that allow you to bring in a bag. Holds us over when we're waiting in line. We usually eat bigger meals outside the park, unless we've scheduled a table or character-type dinner.

If our snacks can't tide us over for some reason, we always grab something to eat at one of the restaurants right on site.

From Lynn Wilfong on November 14, 2008 at 2:51 PM
Part of the WDW experience for our family is the food. From Casey's hot dogs, to the Coral Reef and everthing in between. We do take in bottled water and refill them at the fountains. With the money we saved on water we can feel a little less guilty for what we spent on Boma.
From Tim W on November 14, 2008 at 3:08 PM
I love the food at WDW, but i always bring snacks like gronola bars or mini packaged snacks. something like that. and most definately i will bring at least 1 bottle of water always! I will usually hit lunch and dinner at a few of my favorite places, but snacks are much easier and healthier than buying popcorn everyday...
From Melissa Faulkner on November 14, 2008 at 4:11 PM
We always eat the food in the parks but we do bring in either water or powerade to drink and refill the bottles from water fountains.
From rick stevens on November 14, 2008 at 6:35 PM
Part of the Theme Park experience is spending way too much on meals. We do bring water in, but refill in the fountains. As for sit down vs fast food, it depends on how long we plan on staying and who we are with. When we are in a strictly ride mode it is fast food, the faster the better. Same thing if we have youth with us (they tend to not want to sit long enough for a meal anyway).

There seems to be at least one "must buy" food at every park. What is your favorite at each park? And which park has the best Thanksgiving menu?

From Amanda Jenkins on November 14, 2008 at 9:52 PM
We have to bring snacks in always. I am hypoglycemic and my mother has type 1 diabetes. The last time my mom and I decided to take an all girl trip and leave our husbands at home to WDW, my mom took too much insulin too early for our dinner reservations and we had to wait in long lines just to purchase candy. After that we made sure to always have snacks on us to take care of any situation.
From David Sutter on November 15, 2008 at 4:50 AM
We never bring in food or snacks..I always pan at lest $75.00 to $100.00 for food and snacks. We tend to arrive around 9:30 or so...And always stop for a danish and coffee...beofre heaing off to the attractions, Lunch is at a sit down. Sodas water and such are form verious stands thru out the park...
From Anthony Murphy on November 15, 2008 at 8:59 AM
Well it looks pretty much that people just bring food mostly for health concerns, which make sense. I wonder if this is true for the population of theme park goers, not just us! But I agree with everybody's else's comments.
From Coaster Enthusiast on November 15, 2008 at 11:57 PM
Most parks that serve alcohol must also provide free water.

It can be obtained at any venue which serves alcohol.
It may be tap water (and as little as 8oz served over ice), but it's free; you can have as much as you need.

I usually eat in the park.

Unless it's a planned picnic lunch, with coolers and proper care, lunch/dinner in any amusement park is part of the experience.

Why risk personal liability over convenience?

From Tony Duda on November 16, 2008 at 12:32 PM
I usually eat a good size meal before showing up at a park. I usually bring a water bottle to refill as needed and maybe some powdered drink mix if I have it. To snack, it's usually just small candies or energy bars and maybe jerky to get me to meal time at a park eatery. I think one mid-visit meal at the park is all I need before getting another meal after leaving the park at closing. I'd rather spend my time at attractions and really don't care about the park restaurants.
From Joshua Counsil on November 16, 2008 at 1:13 PM
If I'm traveling with my family, they bring at least one full meal to the parks (usually lunch), and then we'll try to eat somewhere cool/nice for dinner. We love fine dining at places like Jiko or The Flying Fish Cafe, but they're quite costly.

If I go with my buddies, we buy awful food from Wal-Mart that will last the duration of the trip and also eat out once daily. We usually just eat something in the morning and don't eat again until dinner.

From Rob P on November 17, 2008 at 4:13 AM
I actually think that eating in the Parks, whether it's counter service or not, is part of the experience. I love grabbing a bite over at , say, the Flame Tree BBQ or Pecos Bill's.

There's some good fare at not unreasonable prices to be found as we've discussed before here on TPI.

That doesn't mean that suits everyone's budget of course but it works for us.

From TH Creative on November 17, 2008 at 12:08 PM
I see everyone is focusing on the theme parks, but one of the BEST things about Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach is that they allow people to bring in coolers (no glass or booze, please). Although Aquatica has a picnic area out near the parking lot. But BB and TPL yet you drag your refrigerator into the park. TPL especially has some fantastic picnic spots overlooking the wave pool.

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