[Originally published on April 30, 2014]
It finally happened. I broke down and purchased an annual pass to the happiest place on Earth, Disneyland. This was long overdue as I usually wind up at the park at least once every few months, whether I plan on it or not. The frequency of which I’m at Disneyland has led to friends and family relying upon me as some sort of park guru, and I’m always happy to talk one’s ear off about my favorite food and attractions. That said, I decided to put together my personal list of Disneyland favorites. It’s possible for one to do all these things in one day, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The best days at Disneyland are the ones spent leisurely, enjoying all the sights and sounds at a comfortable pace. Also, don’t try and eat corn dogs, fried pickles and beignets all on the same day.
My Five Favorite Places to Eat/Drink
5. Mint Julep Bar (Disneyland, New Orleans Square)
Without a doubt, my favorite refreshment inside Walt’s park is the signature mint julep served at the French Market Restaurant, but who has time to head inside just for a drink? This is the miracle that is the Mint Julep Bar, a walk-up window attached to the restaurant itself. It’s a breeze to hop in line, snag a few mint juleps, a bag of Mickey beignets and then head on down to the docks and catch a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat. It’s also not nearly as daunting as trying to get a Dole Whip during peak hours.
4. Carnation Cafe (Disneyland, Main Street USA)
Two words: fried pickles. The absolute best fried pickles you will ever have and trust me, I’ve had my fair share of fried pickles. Aside from that, the seasonal menu means there’s usually something new for you to check out while you’re there, including the occasional oddity such as peanut butter and jelly soda floats. I love Carnation Cafe because the food is always great, outdoor seating is plentiful and you get a buzzer while waiting on your table, meaning you can sneak in some shopping before you stuff yourself with fried pickles. Seriously. Get the fried pickles.
3. Corn Dog Castle (DCA, Paradise Pier)
Disneyland is known for having some of the best corn dogs on the planet, and while everyone has their favorite spot it typically comes down to two choices: Little Red Wagon or Corn Dog Castle. While the Wagon may be the original park corn dog, I’ll always side with the Corn Dog Castle for one very important reason: hot link! You can only get the hot link corn dog from my personal place of worship, Corn Dog Castle located at Paradise Pier inside California Adventure. It’s the same corn meal and process, only spicier! Get it with a side of sliced apples and you’re good to go.
2. Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar (Disneyland Hotel)
Typically my first and last stop on any trip to Disneyland, Trader Sam’s combines two of my favorite things: booze and Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. If you’re like me and you love the trio of the Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise and Indiana Jones in Adventureland, then you’ll quickly fall in love with Trader Sam’s. The food isn’t particularly mind-blowing, but you’re really there for the drinks and the atmosphere. Get a seat along the front of the bar and order a Shipwreck. Trust me on this.
1. Carthay Circle (DCA, Buena Vista Street)
I feel I’ve dined at just about all of the best restaurants at the Disneyland Resort. Club 33. Blue Bayou. Steakhouse 55. And yes, Corn Dog Castle. Despite all of this, nothing prepared me for just how amazing both the food and experience is at Carthay Circle in California Adventure. There I enjoyed, hands down, the best pork chop I’ve ever had in my life, incredible service and some equally amazing drinks that were as tasty as they were stiff. It’s really in a league all its own and if you have a chance, make a reservation for the World of Color dining package, give yourself about 2 hours of time and just soak it in. It’s not something I’ll do every trip, but when I can make the time I will never pass it up.
Next up, my five favorite attractions followed by my top five favorite rides. And yes! There is a difference!