Vote of the Week: Do you eat more or less than usual when you visit a theme park?
The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival kicks off today at the Walt Disney World Resort. So let's take this as an excuse to talk about eating in theme parks.
How much do you eat when you visit a theme park? Obviously, something like the Food & Wine Festival is a special occasion, when the whole point of the event is to eat and drink. But what about on a "normal" theme park visit?
Blueberry-peach pie at Flo's V-8 Cafe in Disney California Adventure
Even on those days, parks try to tempt you to indulge. Whether it's old favorites such as funnel cakes, churros, turkey legs, and hand-dipped corn dogs, or more unique theme park treats such as Dole Whip floats, Mickey bars, school bread, and Butterbeer, theme parks are trying to make eating as much a part of the experience of visiting as going on rides and seeing characters.
Dole Whips from Adventureland in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
If you ever get the chance to walk the show floor at the annual IAAPA Expo in Orlando (which we will be doing again this November), you find dozens of vendors offering samples of their new concoctions, trying to persuade buyers to sell these new twists on ice cream, fried potatoes, popcorn, pizzas, and sweets in their parks next season. On the other side of the market, many parks now offer one-price dining plans to consumers, which lock visitors into paying at least a certain amount for food during their visit. (Which, of course, leads those visitors to try to eat even more food, to get their money's worth.)
Vector's Grilled Cheese with Pulled Pork at Gru's Lab Cafe in Universal Studios Hollywood
Not every visitor goes for this. At some regional parks, the selection of food looks no more appetizing than an overpriced mall food court. If you're visiting such a park, you might be tempted to just power through the day with little or nothing to eat, before feasting at an off-site restaurant or back at home. Time waiting for and eating food is time not waiting for or riding rides, after all.
Fish and chips with a Butterbeer at The Leaky Cauldron in Universal Studios Florida
At the world's most popular theme parks however, food becomes part of the theme experience. On a multi-day theme park vacation, eating meals in the park is inevitable, and all the multi-park resorts around the world cater to that, offering mid-range to high-end table-service restaurants that can make a theme park meal an even more unique experience than dining at the finest restaurants back home.
Baked Lobster Tail and Sauteed Scallops with Butter Sauce at the S.S. Columbia Dining Room in Tokyo DisneySea
So which is it for you, when you visit a theme park? Do you splurge and chow down on everything you can? Or do you make trade-offs? Perhaps you go light on the meals to load up on the special snacks. Or you resist the in-between-meal temptations to indulge at themed or character meals. Maybe you just power through on less food to enjoy more time riding. Or, finally, you're one of those unshakable souls who keeps to your normal eating habits even when on vacation. If you're not consistent with any of these options, go with the one you end up doing most often on theme park trips.
What's the best thing you've ever eaten in a theme park? And what is the worst thing you've ever had the misfortune of trying to consume in a park? Tell us your answers in the comments!
"Time waiting for and eating food is time not waiting for or riding rides, after all."
I think Disney has gone out of the way to make their food part of the experience and not just an afterthought like other parks. For Disney, part of the experience is eating, people watching, and taking in the atmosphere. This extends to Universal's atmosphere for Hogwarts. I can't say the same for their food though, as I've never had a great experience at USH or USF when it comes to food. Universal and Disney are so much more than just rides/ attractions/shows.
As I've gotten older, I cherish finding a place to sit down in the air conditioning for a little while and relax and enjoy my lunch/dinner at a theme park rather than devouring my food and running to the next attraction. My favorite spot for this is probably Columbia Harbour House in Liberty Square. I love to sit upstairs next to a window and relax for a half hour or so while people watching and enjoying the atmosphere.
It depends on the park but most of the time it's less or as much as normally.
Best: Mahi Mahi at Epcot's Coral Reef Restaurant.
Best: That baked lobster tail from Tokyo DisneySea, pictured above.
As someone who enjoys being at the parks when they open and usually around when they close, have to eat a lot there. Usually, a quick snack at my hotel to start with to push me on in the morning, then an early lunch. During the day, I'll indulge in a Mickey Ear ice cream bar, those are great, maybe a hot pretzel with water (much easier than soft drinks on stomach/walking) and then a good dinner. If with family, probably a big restaurant but if on my own, somewhere fast, do enjoy time with rides.
As for the best/worst stuff?
I always have to get a Dole-Whip float when I'm at the Magic Kingdom, but the Orange Freeze is just as tempting. I still have not figured out why the parks usually sell one generic popcorn. In Japan they have a bunch of flavors and it would seem like a cheap way to bring more flavors and entice people to part with a little more money.
With all the walking at theme parks, I tend to be hungry more often as I'm burning more calories. I have fewer traditional meals, but often enjoy a nice sit down at one point during the day. Otherwise, I like to snack and share. There are so many treats--savory and sweet--to enjoy.
I no longer rush around with fastpass. Why agonize over a ride when I already have a set schedule and I made reservations at an excellent table service restaurant. I do try to finish as much on my plate since carry out is useless while on vacation.
I've never shied away from eating, but we usually kept it reasonable, because we didn't want to get sick or becasuse we wanted to focus on rides. However, I have tended to go for fewer rides and a few more snacks in the past few years. . . and I agree with the sentiment that I tend to actually lose weight (I lost 7 lbs. at Disney last time) because of the amount of walking that I do.
Merry Cherry lemonade at Jolly Holiday in Disneyland is the best!
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