Sensory Experiences

This ain’t your mama’s Disneyland, folks…

AG cupcake

Disneyland has changed, my friends, over the past five years or so, and is attempting a food revival. Gone are the days when the only sustenance available was churros and turkey legs! Okay, maybe there were never days when that was all you could get; I’m sure hot dogs and hamburgers were always available, too. I remember as a child eating at the Village Haus in Fantasy Land, and getting expensive hamburgers that weren’t all that impressive. Okay, you’re right, I don’t actually know that they were expensive, because I was 5.

Still. My positive memories of eating at Disneyland mainly revolve around smelling the churros. Not eating them, mind, but smelling them.

Now that I’ve returned as an adult not intent on spending zero money on food inside the park, now that I’ve embraced the fact that not everything in the park is a horrible rip-off (though, truthfully, rip-offs do abound…), I was able to appreciate the food in the park on a different level. It also helps that I’ve done some serious academic thinking about food, too. And what I realized last week, while we were there with our completely adorable Sous Chef, was that Disneyland is a sensory experience and if anything, you do yourself a disservice to reject all the food in Disneyland. We were there with our good friends, who have four children, and I understand that it costs a lot more to feed a family of six than a family of three, but they didn’t eat a single meal in the park. They took extra food from their continental breakfast to supplement snacks they brought from home, and ate dinner at a restaurant across the street from Disneyland each night after they left the park. First, I’m unconvinced that eating dinner across the street is cheaper, though the pizza restaurant they visited sounded really good. And second, they missed a lot of the experience. I’m not trying to rail on them–they did what they thought was best, and last time we were there with them, without their children, they were the ones pushing for lunch at the Blue Bayou, which is a sensory experience in itself. They aren’t entirely against eating in the park, but they do have to figure out how to stretch their vacation dollar with the size of their family.

We took snacks into the park as well. We had our string cheese, clementines, and a bagful of biscotti. We tried to make our food choices based on value, but we did eat in the park, most definitely. As I prepared for our trip, one of the things I read about a lot was the food. I read about bloggers’ favorites treats, and made a mental list of things that sounded good to me. The more I read, the more I got really excited about eating. And, we made reservations for character dining experiences. The cupcake above is from our princess lunch, and I have to admit, I was impressed with the plating. The food tasted pretty good, though Sous Chef didn’t like her chicken. The character meals were a huge highlight of our trip, even though the buffet breakfast with Mickey and Stitch wasn’t nearly as good.

We also got some fun treats, one of which I’m dying to try my hand at. We picked up a graham peanut butter sandwich at Pooh’s Corner, which was covered in chocolate. We ate it while we waited for the parade and it was a nice treat. It was simple, and truthfully, a bit overpriced at nearly $4. But it was delicious. We also had a delicious sundae from Ghiradelli while we waited for the parade in California Adventure on our last evening, and it was a perfect parting gift. This time, we left Anaheim with smiles on our faces instead of a tear-stained-faced toddler like last time.

Between those delicious treats, among others, I feel like our “dining” really rounded out the intense sensory experience we had at Disneyland. It reaffirmed to me how important taste is as a sense. So many of my memories from vacations center around what I eat, and I’m glad that I’ve extended that into Disneyland, despite the preconceived notion that food is exorbitantly priced. Certainly, some of it is. But we had some really reasonably priced things as well, including a particularly good soup bowl in California Adventure for around $9. I’ll definitely eat inside the parks again next time, though I might step out for a thin-crust pizza as well.

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