Published: August 28, 2009 at 11:20 AMI just recently returned from a trip to Cedar Point and the food choices were extremely disappointing. I agree that the last thing I want to see is a chain operation that I drive by on the way to work each day. Closed my eyes and looked away when I saw the Chic-fila at Cedar Point !!
Published: August 28, 2009 at 11:35 AMI really like the idea of lunchtime specials, and lighter fare for snack would just be brilliant... like a trail mix for theme parks.
Published: August 28, 2009 at 12:15 PMHoliday World is simply a great park. I live 2 hours away and visit them two times every year and we stay for two days each trip. They are a great value for family's, offer free drinks, and their pizza is absolutely amazing (not to mention pretty reasonable).
Published: August 28, 2009 at 12:17 PMI love your ideas. We rarely eat in parks unless we're really hungry. We do have our "usuals" at places we frequent, like the chocolate chip muffins and brisket in New France from BGE. Of course, the muffins are also at Sea World. That was nice to see when we were there. I love those muffins!
I have to agree with you on the deserts in France at Epcot. There were four of us late for our bus because of the line there back when I was in HS, which was I think the second year Epcot was open. I'm sure it's still just as drool worthy.
Published: August 28, 2009 at 12:25 PMI like your ideas, but it seems that most of the major theme parks already follow most of your suggestions (you pretty much said all of them except Six Flags and I think Universal).
You can also get that Thanksgiving dinner (or you used to) at Liberty Tree Tavern. How much better or worse it is than Holiday World I do not know.
But I really agree with your idea of the kinetics of making the food or certain foods that have a reputation. I miss the beaver tails at Canada for example.
The one I do not really agree with is changing the menu up between Lunch and Dinner. Case in point: the Blue Bayou which only carries its very famous Monte Cristo Sandwich at Lunch and Bruno's Porkchop at Cinderella's Royal Table which is only at Dinner (and the best thing on a pretty iffy menu). I get your point, but some places are just known for their stuff.
Here is my list of things I think of at the parks (some don't exsist anymore):
Magic Kingdom: Dole Whip and Turkey Legs
EPCOT: Cheddar Cheese Soup, Beaver Tails, Red Bean Ice Cream
DHS: Mom's Meatloaf
SFGA: Funnel Cakes
Busch Parks: DA Brats! (Gotta go with the midwestern thing!)
AK: Peanut Crusted Chicken
Published: August 28, 2009 at 1:18 PMI completely agree. I have sat and watched our caramel apples being hand dipped by our beautiful Holiday World server several dozen times...and it's just fabulous.
They will even cut up the apple for you and then pour caramel and nuts ontop! Then they wrap it up for our trip home.
I have never had a caramel apple so fresh and so delish!:P
It's under 2$ for that and it's very worth it!
Published: August 28, 2009 at 1:32 PMI never will forget Opryland having a roasting pig on the fire all day long, then serving it up for suppertime later that day. Used to watch the show across the walkway just to take in the smell.
Published: August 28, 2009 at 1:48 PMTo be clear, when I say that park should change their menus at dinner, I meant that they should *add* options, not take any away.
And while Disney, Universal and Busch do many of the things I've suggested, even they could do them more consistently.
Published: August 28, 2009 at 3:02 PMI agree with not having chain restaurants in the parks. Most of the time the food offered is just a subset of what they offer on the outside at twice the price. I was a Kings Island last week and Subway had their 6 inch subs for over $6 - much higher than the $5 foot longs offered at the stores outside the park. Same thing with Skyline Chili. Their coneys are almost $4, when they cost about $1.75 outside.
I understand there may be a higher cost to operate a store within a park (or airport), and I don't mind paying a small premium for food I know, but doubling the price keeps me from purchasing the food. I'll leave early and stop at the Skyline Chili restaurant about a mile from the park on the way home.
Drinks are even more outrageously priced than food at $3-4 for a soft drink or $7-8 for a beer. I'll bring a water bottle and fill it up all day. If prices were more in line with what I can purchase outside the park, I would be spending a lot more at the park.
Published: August 28, 2009 at 3:40 PMI love Cedar Point, and there is some good food to be found if you know where to look (and don't set your standards too high). I also agree that there is no outstanding restaurant in the park, and that to find really good food at Cedar Point you need to leave the park proper and go either to Famous Dave's (a chain, but still great food) or to the Bay Harbor Inn, both in the marina. The Breakers Hotel also has some good restaurants, but they're also chains. The ironic thing is that from the early 1900's until the 30's Cedar Point was known for its outstanding food, especially the dining room in the Grand Pavilion. And no, I don't remember that.
Published: August 28, 2009 at 6:24 PMI could not agree with you more, Mr. Niles! The food options at most amusement parks are mediocre at best and abysmal at worst. And the prices! Ugh! Honestly, I wouldn't mind the high prices of theme park restaurants if they were offering something unique and delicious. So few parks even make the attempt, and instead their food options are just an afterthought used to price-gouge a captive audience. Pathetic.
Published: August 28, 2009 at 8:06 PMAlthough the food at Six Flags is mediocre at best, I have been able to eat essentially FREE this year! If you have a Six Flags Mastercard, you can save up points with your purchases which can be redeemed for in-park spending certificates. Since I have a season pass, I use my certificates almost exclusively for food and beverage. In an ironic twist several years back, I found myself visiting SFoG just to use up some of those certificates near the end of the season as they expire at the end of the year. That was a rare example of food and souvenirs taking center stage in a theme park visit!
On another note, I avoid like the plague purchasing the all-you-can-drink souvenir cups at Six Flags. The reason being is that some rides will not allow storage of personal items (except shoes) on the loading dock, but rather require that all such items be stowed away in a rental locker, which are located at the entrance to the queue house. While purchasing the cup seems like a good deal on a hot summer day, the deal becomes not-so-good when you have to spend $2 on a locker for storage of your cup every time you get on certain rides. This is nickel-and-diming at its worst and no doubt hurts the sales (and value) of purchasing a souvenir cup.
Published: August 29, 2009 at 8:03 AMHaving recently visited Disneyland, I was extremely disappointed with their food service offerings. Waiting an 1/2 to 1 hour in line (and this was at 8:30pm, I'd hate to see what it was like at 6:00pm) to get food is absolutely ridiculous. I work in a concessions environment where we are required to serve 19,000 people during a hockey game. If we had line-ups like this, people would kill us.
These places need to focus not just on the people who pick a dining plan, but on those who want a quick meal. Offer more places to go and more variety. People will spend money if they perceive that they will get value for their dollar and not have to wait in line to get food.
Published: September 1, 2009 at 3:38 PMAlthough not a theme park, the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC does this VERY well. Their food court features about 10 dining station, each one representing a tribal region to be found in the museum, serving modern takes on dishes of that area. It's like an edible exhibit, and as a museum professional, I'll tell you that that's the best kind :)