Where to find the best fast food near Southern California's theme parks

March 3, 2009, 1:32 PM · Tuesday Park Visit: Sometimes, whether to save a buck or to break up the day, visitors want to leave the park for a fast-food lunch. Disneyland visitors, for example, might decide to walk across Harbor Boulevard and eat at the nearby McDonald's.

I'm hear today to beg: Please. For the love of God and your taste buds. Don't.

Visitors to Southern California might not know this, but there is a much, much better place around here to get a fast-food hamburger. Its food is fresher, tastes better, is better for you... and just feels better in your stomach, not giving you that "food hangover" that fast food often delivers after the meal.

C'mon, Californians, you know where I'm talking about.

Picture of Magic Mountain In-N-Out. Image courtesy In-N-Out.


Here's the deal: This is a hamburger joint. They only do hamburgers. No chicken nuggets, fish sandwiches, tacos or breakfasts. All they have are one size of patty, one size of bun, fries, lettuce, American cheese, tomatoes, onions (grilled or raw), Thousand Island-style spread, ketchup, mustard, pickles. (I've heard that they have peppers, too, but I've not ordered them.) The meat in the patties is fresh, the buns toasted and the fries are cut from whole potatoes and fried in vegetable oil on the spot.

The menu includes hamburgers, cheeseburgers, the "Double Double" (two patties and two slices of cheese on one bun), fries and drinks. The burgers come with lettuce, tomato and the Thousand Island spread. But they will make you *anything* for which they have the ingredients.

Cheese fries? Sure. Grilled cheese? (Just cheese on the bun.) No problem. A "protein-style" three-patty burger, wrapped in lettuce and without a bun? Okay. You can substitute ketchup and mustard for the spread, if you want. Or add pickles. The king of the secret orders is to get a Double-Double "animal style," cooked in mustard with added pickles. Some folks swear by "animal style" cheese fries, too. For about a year, all my daughter would eat at In-N-Out was a tomato sandwich - tomatoes on a bun. They made 'em for us.

Here is the restaurant's official 'secret' menu, as well as a more extensive unofficial secret menu with photos.

So, in an effort to improve your fast-food lunch experience, here are detailed driving directions to the nearest In-N-Out from each of Southern California's theme parks. You need never eat a lousy McDonald's hamburger again.

(In each case, if you will be coming back to the park, make sure you hold onto your parking pass, so that you can re-enter the park's parking lot without having to pay again.)

  • Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure: From the Mickey and Friends parking structure, head north on Disneyland Drive then turn left on Ball Road (which is the first stoplight after exiting the garage).

    Drive two miles west on Ball Road, then turn right (north) on Brookhurst St. The In-N-Out is at 600 S Brookhurst St., in Anaheim.

    Return by the same route.

  • Knott's Berry Farm: If you exit the parking lot on Grand Ave., head right (south) on Grand to Crescent Ave., where you will turn right (west). If you exit on Crescent, keep driving west. On Crescent, you drive to the end of the Knott's parking lot and make a right (heading north) on Western Ave. Drive on Western past the back of the park until you come to La Palma Ave. (If you're parked in the overflow lots on La Palma, start from here.)

    Turn left (right if you are in the La Palma lot) and drive west on La Palma 1.5 miles to Valley View St., where you will turn right (north). The In-N-Out is a few feet ahead on your right, at 7926 Valley View St., in Buena Park.

    Return on La Palma, staying on La Palma past Western and turning right on Beach Blvd., then bearing to the right on Grand Ave. to re-enter Knott's.

  • Six Flags Magic Mountain: From the parking lot, continue east on Magic Mountain Parkway, under the Interstate. You'll turn left (north) at McBean Parkway, drive a little less than a mile, then make a right (east) at Newhall Ranch Road. Drive a little more than one mile, then turn right (south) at Bouquet Canyon Rd. The In-N-Out will be on your right, just a few yards after the intersection.

    To return to Magic Mountain, turn right (south) out of the lot back onto Bouquet Canyon. Then turn right (west) on Magic Mountain Parkway and follow it all the way back to the park.

  • Universal Studios Hollywood: When you exit the CityWalk parking structure, continue straight (south) on Universal Studios Blvd., driving over the 101 freeway. Once over the freeway, Universal Studios Boulevard will dead-end at Cahuenga Blvd, where you will turn right (west). The In-N-Out will be about half a mile ahead, on your right, at 3640 Cahuenga Blvd. in Studio City.

    To return to USH, make a right (west) back on to Cahuenga and drive to Lankershim Blvd. Turn right (the only way you can go) on Lankershim and pass under the 101. The main entrance into Universal City will be a right turn at the first light.

  • Legoland California: Exit the parking lot on Legoland Drive, heading north. When you get to the very first intersection, a roundabout circle, bear to the left, which will put you heading back south on Armada Dr. Head south on Armada to Palomar Airport Road. (FWIW, there's a huge shortcut here if you take the employee exit out of the parking lot onto Hidden Valley Road, where you can turn right onto Palomar.)

    From Armada, turn right (west) onto Palomar Airport Road and drive back toward Interstate 5. Go over I-5, making the first right after the highway, onto Avenida Encinas. The In-N-Out is about a quarter mile ahead, on the right, at 5950 Avenida Encinas, in Carlsbad.

    To return to Legoland, go left on Avenida Encinas, heading back toward Palomar Airport Road. Turn left on Palomar, then stay in the left lane to enter the I-5. Head north on I-5, taking the very next exit, Cannon Rd. Drive north on Cannon back to Legoland Drive.

  • SeaWorld San Diego: Exit the parking lot, turning left (east) on SeaWorld Blvd., returning to Interstate 5. Take I-5 south, taking the very next exit, toward Rosecrans St/CA-209 South. Stay right, merging onto Camino del Rio, heading south. When you come to the Del Taco, turn right into the shopping center parking lot. The In-N-Out is behind the Del Taco, at the corner of Camino del Rio and Sports Arena Blvd., at 3102 Sports Arena Blvd., in San Diego.

    To return to SeaWorld, turn right out of the parking lot onto Sports Arena Blvd., heading west. Stay in the right lane, and when the road forks, bear right to continue north on Sports Arena Blvd. Continue north, under Interstate-8, as Sports Arena Blvd. becomes W Mission Bay Drive. Stay on Mission Bay north, over the canal and past SeaWorld Drive. Move to the left and follow the signs onto Ingraham Drive. At the first intersection, you'll turn right onto Perez Cove Way. Follow Perez Cove, past the employee entrances, around back to the SeaWorld entrance.

    Your favorite?
    In the comments, talk about In-N-Out, or share tips about other favorite places to eat around SoCal theme parks.

    Replies (15)

    March 3, 2009 at 2:13 PM · This is the most useful thing ever!


    March 3, 2009 at 3:04 PM · Don't know about Fast Food restaurants but we used to go to a sit-down restaurant called Po' Folks. Reminds you of a Cracker Barrel or something like that, except they were REALLY cheap for an entire meal. Certain days of the week, kids 11 and under eat free or something ridiculous. For two adults and two kids, including tip we spent maybe about $25-$30. Haven't been there since 2007 though, so it could be different now.

    FYI, it's next door to the old Movieland Wax Museum, across the street from Medieval Times and on the same road as Knotts Berry Farm.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:21 PM · PO FOLKS! WOW! I haven't heard that name in a long time. We had them growing up around Cincy but haven't seen one in probably 15-20 years.
    March 3, 2009 at 4:48 PM · I always wondered why they call it In-N-Out Burger. Is it because of the fast service, or something else.....You said that people don't get that fast food hangover from In-N-Out. Is that because the food doesn't hang around that often? I've never eaten at In-N-Out, but I hear things. On the other hand, I hear things about all the fast food chains. I'll be sure to try it out when the time comes.

    Question...do you know a suit at In-N-Out or something? I mean, recommending the restaurant is one thing, but giving detailed directions to the closest In-N-Out stop at every SoCal park? hmmm..

    March 3, 2009 at 5:47 PM · My original idea was to do a restaurant review on CityWalk, but with Wolfgang Puck closed, the nearest place I felt like recommending was... In-N-Out. The one at USH is close, which got me thinking about the nearest ones to the other parks, and then... Boom - column idea.
    March 3, 2009 at 5:57 PM · Every time we've gone to Southern California, I've always promised myself to grab a bite at an In-And-Out Burger just because of the movie FLETCH. I remember the first time going to California after having watched FLETCH a million times and seeing an In-And-Out Burger. There's always so much traffic that I never stopped.

    We were going to stop this past August but I ended up being a witness to a horrible car accident leaving Sea World San Diego and the man died. Lost my appetite after that and never got the chance to go :(

    March 3, 2009 at 6:48 PM · I never understood how McDonald's and Burger King can stay in business in southern California when In-n-Out is so much better. Even Carl's Jr. is better than McD's and BK. If you're in the area you should at least try In-n-Out though they're closed on major holidays so just take note. They also have Biblical passages on the bottom of their cups if that's a turn-on or turn-off in your case.
    March 3, 2009 at 7:48 PM · Oh, the name is a reference to the fact that the original restaurants all were drive-throughs: You're in, and you're out.
    March 4, 2009 at 12:26 AM · Double double with grilled and chocolate shake!

    As for restaurants up at CityWalk Robert, I've been a fan of Camacho's and The Daily Grill.

    March 4, 2009 at 8:36 AM · Thanks for the tips. I'll have to give those a try.
    March 5, 2009 at 2:02 AM · whenever I go to USH In & Out burgers are a must there fries are great to and great prices in this day and age that's a must
    March 5, 2009 at 7:56 PM · In-N-Out is delicious! Best Fast Food if you ask me. Fresh everything!

    But I have to admit, I'm not a fan of fast food anymore. I've become more interested in sit down places (not necessarily full service).

    So in the interest of best food near So Cal Theme Parks, I'll concentrate on San Diego and its neighboring communities.

    If you're by Sea World, and are craving Ribs, both pork and beef, check out Phil's BBQ @ 3750 Sports Arena Blvd., San Diego, CA 92110. Delicious no matter what you get, along with great service. Order from the counter, find a seat, and pick up your food when you get called by the hand held buzzer. Not necessarily cheap as food ranges anywhere from $8 to $16 for a full meal with drink, the place also sells beer. The BBQ Sauce is the best, and tv's are always showing some sort of sport. Again, service is the best!

    One warning though, the place gets BUSY. So avoid all lunch and dinner rushes. Treat it like an attraction (either go at open, or near close) and you'll be fine.

    Again, if you're by Sea World San Diego, there is a wonderful burger place called Tioli's Crazee Burger in North Park, San Diego. 4201 30th St. It's a little hole in the wall featured on Food Network's Diners Drive-ins, & Dives that features the best burgers in San Diego, all made fresh... and ground fresh even! NO FREEZERS. Wine, beer, and soda are served here, along with a variety of burgers ranging from plain ground beef, to a mix of lamb and beef, to Buffalo burgers, to Ostrich, and Veggie Burgers. I highly recommend the Lamb & Beef burger, called the Santorini!

    This place gets super busy too, and it's a small place.

    Near Legoland, you can find a pretty good fast food restaurant called Angelo's (pronounced Anne-hello's) Burgers in Encinitas or Oceanside all on Highway 101. They're a mix of burgers and mexican food. The color scheme and logos are laughably similar to In-N-Out's scheme, but it's a good place to eat if you're willing to give it a chance. A little rough on the edges, the food is good, but the atmosphere is lacking.

    And also near Legoland is Pizza Port, almost a Chuck E Cheeze's for adults, but with actually delicious pizza. Ok, so that's probably a bad analogy, but it's a pizza place that serves a wide variety of Pizza, as well as their own brewed beers. Carlsbad Chronic is one of their best, an amber ale. Find this place at 571 Carlsbad Village Drive. There are actually three different Pizza Ports, one in Solana Beach, one in San Clemente, and the Carlsbad branch... each one with their own specialty brews. The different pizzas are always delicious! Pizza Carlsbad is one of the most unique and tastiest!

    March 6, 2009 at 12:22 PM · They also pay their people the best wages in the industry (by far) and successfully handle all those order types with high accuracy and great quality. As long as you don't look at the nutritional content, it's a pleasure to eat there.
    March 9, 2009 at 8:34 AM · In-N-Out is definitely good food but I would caution potential customers who leave the park and intend to get back in a hurry. The name In-N-Out is a lie. Longest wait of any burger joint I've ever known. It doesn't matter which one you go to, you will wait and wait, even if you're the only customer there. Excellent quality burgers but if they want to compete with BK, McD and the likes they need to speed it up a bit. Not sure that I'd leave the park and put up with that wait. There's only so many hours in a day to be had in each park and by the time you step out the park gates and step back in again, it's been 90+ minutes. My 2-cents is to head there after the park closes since many In-N-Out are open past midnight.
    March 9, 2009 at 3:00 PM · Niles, you forgot Tommys in LA man!!!! ;) Best Chili Burgers in SoCal. In-N-Out is ok (Animal Style Fries and an Arnold Palmer), but I prefer tommys hands down for the quality of food...

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