First Disneyland trip - planning/dining questions

Time for a new planning thread!

This summer I will finally have a chance to take a long-overdue family trip to the US West Coast. It has been around 15 years since I last visited my siblings who live there, and neither my husband nor my two daughters have ever visited the US West Coast (we live abroad), so everyone is SUPER excited about this trip. Thankfully it was not too hard to convince everyone that our itinerary absolutely needs to include Disneyland.

Who: Me (45), DH (42), DD9 and DD7
When: we arrive in Anaheim around mid-day on Friday (28 July) and depart again on Monday (1 July) in the afternoon. We have 2 full park days (Sat/Sun) and a little over half a park-day (Mon), with park hoppers and G+ pre-purchased.
Hotel: probably the Courtyard by Marriott Anaheim Theme Park Entrance & Waterpark (mainly because I found a good price for a hotel & ticket package - booked the refundable rate, so will also keep scouring @JJT 's handy DVC rental tool in case a nice DLH/GCH deal pops up, mainly for the early entrance)

Having spent the last few weeks reading Liner’s DL trip reports and watching vlogs, I have a decent idea of what we want to do and am trying to convince myself not to overplan this trip, but just go with the flow (which is not easy for someone who gets as much joy out of planning as I do!) I am however allowing myself to start planning for ADRs, so am looking for advice to fit the following rough plan:

Friday arrival day: arrive at the Courtyard Anaheim around noon and check-in if possible, enjoy hotel waterpark (we’ll have spent the previous two weeks RV camping!) Any good suggestions for a casual lunch (near the hotel) and for dinner (onsite to start moving into the bubble - maybe Goofy’s Kitchen character meal or Trader Sam’s Tiki Bar?)

Saturday 1st park day: RD DL and focus on attractions until around 11/12 (with a mid-morning in-park snack). Lunch in park, then head back to resort for afternoon break, head back to park around 5pm. Open for suggestions for lunch and dinner: I’m considering Hungry Bear (for Fantasmic Dining Package) for lunch and Rancho del Zocalo for dinner because it looks so pretty and we love Mexican food.

Sunday, 2nd park day: same as day 1, except RD DCA, see how much we can get done. I’m considering Lucky Fortune Cookery/ Cucina Cocamonga for QS lunch (again, flavor profiles we love) and getting a Lamplight Lounge reservation to view WOC from there (if being shown during the last week of June?) Definitely want to eat at Lamplight even if we don’t do WOC timing cause it looks fantastic.

Monday, departure day: RD either park to re-ride favourite attractions, leave park around 3pm to head to next destination. I’m considering Bengal BBQ skewers of Plaza Inn fried chicken for lunch, but also wide open to other suggestions.

Also very keen on recommendations for sweet snacks for mid-morning/mid-afternoon each day! There will definitely be churros and Mickey beignets. What are your other favourites? Any recommendations for great cupcakes or cake pops?

We are adventurous eaters who love good food, and are particularly keen to try well-themed restaurants offering a unique experience.

I will likely update this thread closer to the time with some questions on touring plans (because I know I’ll be incapable of doing NO planning on that front :slight_smile: )

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Your plan looks great!

Churros, beignets at Mint Julep, and Dole Whips are the must do treats for me. There are also some chocolate chip cookies at Harbor Galley I want to try, and a new Wookie Cookie in SWGE that is unique to Disneyland. Make sure to give the corn dogs a try if those sound good to you — Red Wagon or Corn Dog Castle.

For ADRs, my favorites are Cafe Orleans and Wine Country Trattoria. Blue Bayou is great for ambiance. Carthay Circle and Lamplight Lounge get good marks at DCA. Plaza Inn has good fried chicken.

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Well there is a Mimi’s Cafe right there if you like that. But honestly the best food is at Downtown Disney. I like Black Tap for burgers and shakes. There’s also Naples for artisan pizzas. I can’t remember what else is open cause they are redoing like half of DD. The buffet at Storyteller’s Cafe is pretty good for dinner.

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Also this shopping center at Harbor and Katella has several options and is within walking distance of Courtyard:

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Thanks so much @Jeff_AZ for the great suggestions. I’ve loved reading your trip reports!

Ooh, you can never go wrong with chocolate cookies, that may sway us towards a Harbor Galley lunch on departure day, as I was also eyeing their lobster rolls and maybe bread rolls (do people eat those in the summer too?)

I saw that on Google Maps and thought the menu looked quite good (and remarkably comprehensive). Based on your reference to “a” Mimi’s Cafe I am now realizing this is a chain restaurant, which somehow makes it less charming but probably still a solid and convenient option if everyone’s itching to get into the water park?

Looking at those milkshakes, definitely adding them as an option if everyone is feeling up for a little walk and some Downtown Disney shopping. Are they super sweet or actually enjoyable? Favourite flavors?

Indeed, I was assuming the food there will be a step above Goofy, but at the same time I have never regretted a character meal. We just had a great character breakfast in Disneyland Paris in December, and since this is only six months later, I was thinking Trader Sam’s would also be a cool experience for something new? We have never tried it. Still torn.

Thanks for flagging the shopping center too, good to know!

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The “Crazy Shakes” are kind of like the Toothsome shakes. Honestly I don’t love that style of shake so I usually try to get one of the Classic flavors:

All of these that I’ve tried are good.

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I have never done this but I’ve heard good things! Maybe @lolabear_la will have more to say. I believe she is on a cruise right now so may need to pin this thread for later!

I have always gotten the impression that the Storyteller breakfast is better than Goofy’s Kitchen, but I’ve never done Goofy’s so can’t say for sure. I have done Storyteller’s breakfast and it is awesome.

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Yeah I would only go to Mimi’s for convenience, not for the food. It seemed really easy to get a reservation there and never looks crowded, so it could be a good fallback option.

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Great, think I’d also go for those! I’ll let the kids go crazy with the other ones.

That would have been my choice too if we were doing breakfast, but it would cut into our park time (already only 2.5 days). On our arrival/non-park, we can arrive in time for either lunch or dinner, but not breakfast - so Goofy’s seems like the only character option.

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Not quite on the cruise yet, but definitely busy in the preparations before we take off here in a couple weeks, so really good to tag me!

Your plan looks overall wonderful! Here are some of my notes and suggestions about the places you’ve listed.

The hotel is quite close to a Mimi’s which is convenient and close but their food is very so-so. There is a Panera Bread that’s also close and just as convenient. Panera is also a chain, but it’s one we don’t have at home (Mimi’s we do) and it’s really tasty delicious & fresh sandwiches and salads so it’s a good dose of greens to mix in with the heavier theme park fare. Another choice that I love & is my favorite place in Anaheim off of Disney property, is Pizza Press. It’s a little bit of of a walk, like 10-15 minutes (or a super duper short but somewhat aggravating drive due to having to do a lot of U-turns on the busy Harbor Blvd to make the trip). It’s located inside The Anaheim Hotel on the corner of Disney Way & Harbor. They make a good pizza and have an amazing selection of toppings. They are pricier now than when we started going but are always good and we almost always make one stop in Anaheim for a fix of their delicious pizza and cheese bread. The shopping area @Jeff_AZ highlighted is also great and in the vicinity of the Pizza Press. There’s a Brazilian steakhouse there that we keep meaning to try out there to see if it’s any good. Then if your crew just needs super close & convenient to the hotel & Panera or Mimi’s doesn’t fit the bill, there is also a McD’s right near your hotel (and the Panera). You could also venture to some of the closer to Harbor Blvd side eateries in Downtown Disney & not be too far away from the hotel. Anything in the Grand Californian will be closer & we quite enjoy a lot of the quick service and sit-down meals there. And Naples pizza is close & I’ve always heard good things about it too. I’m not sure what the status is of the Earl of Sandwich restaurant that was going in on that side of Downtown Disney, but if it’s done, that’s a fantastic option as well.

We love the character meals and Goofy’s would be the only one available for dinner and it’s always been amazing character interactions with decent food. Storyteller’s Cafe will far and away have the better food with the best buffer on property and still decent character interactions but is only character dining for breakfast or brunch (done on weekends or weekend adjacent days). We’ve never tried the Tiki Bar but it’s a very popular one and kids aren’t allowed in past 8pm, I think it is? They have a walk-up list that you have to be within proximity to join and can fill up in the first few seconds it opens as the space is so small. There is an adjacent quick service Tangaroa Terrace that we have tried and has decent food, but not the level of theming & immersion of the Tiki Bar. Also, any of the places I mentioned for lunch would be good options for dinner too.

We love this as a budget friendly option to see F! from a reserved dining section. The food isn’t anything memorable or amazing, but it’s not bad either & the section is nice because you can stay put for watching the fireworks just after the 9pm F! show and you get a very nice view of both the big bursts behind Toontown and the castle smaller fliers and they show the projections on the same water screens as the F! show uses. The one thing you won’t see are any characters that fly over the hub (if it’s a show that includes one).

It’s been a long minute since I’ve eaten there, but it is very pretty and we used to go there more frequently and it was always decent. We do love corn dogs and Bengal BBQ so much more (and enjoy turkey legs too) so we usually gravitate to those options when in the area of Rancho del Zocalo but do sometimes take our corn dogs or whatever to the seating area there as it’s fun to watch the Big Thunder trains come rolling in on the tables close to the ride. One thing we did like about Rancho (not sure if it’s still the same since it’s been awhile) is that the plates were generous portions so we could easily share 2 plates and one kids meal between our then family of 4, and the kids meal was only gotten separately because my DD is picky about her different foods touching & on the plates the food would all touch each other and a kids meal allowed us to better customize her food to be less mixed while the rest of us enjoyed the touching foods.

We love the choices in this area. Love love. Seating can be a pain so I recommend eating an off time for lunch (avoid 12-2) or take your food towards other seating areas nearby. Some of those could be: the terraces in front of the Sonoma lounge, Flo’s Cafe at Carsland especially the tables outside near the back where you can watch the Racers ride cars race, or even as far as the Paradise Gardens seating that starts under Goofy’s Sky School- bit of a hike but there’s always an open table around there.

My most favorite spot to dine at DLR! We’ve timed it to WOC dining a handful of times. It’s not the best way to see it for the first time, IMO. But it is a great way to kill two birds with one stone if you’ve seen WOC at its full scale/from a good angle and/or you don’t mind missing some of projections due to the angles of some of the screens from that vantage point. If do you want to time it to the show, you don’t want a reservation too early (I would aim for 7:40-7:50 and definitely nothing before 7:30pm) and you do want to make sure you let them know you prefer an outside table (they will tell you no guarantees, but they are usually generally able to honor it). Our most favorite dishes on property are here: Lobster Nachos, Al pastor porkchops, Brussels Caesar, Bao Buns, and the specialty doughnuts. The drinks are also really fun, both the cocktails and mocktails. If you time it for the show just know that they close up the kitchen to new orders at 8:30pm. Your server should come around to get a last call order just a few minutes before. Then they dim the lights and it’s hard to move around or see once the show starts at 9pm but the servers are still around and able to help you get boxes or settle up the bill if that didn’t get taken care of before the show started.

We usually have this as more of a snack since it’s not all that filling (and adds up quick once you start getting enough skewers to really make a meal), but we don’t mind having more room for the sweets and snacks, especially with the nearby Tropical Hideaway and the Beignets. Plaza Inn fried chicken is great but we like it a lot less now that they took away the ala carte option. We’re not huge on the mashed potatoes or veggies (rotates between carrots & green beans) that come with it & preferred to buy the chicken a la carte and get other sides or snacks to supplement. I would definitely l lean towards eating at DCA for your last quick service lunch as there is SO much there that we love: Chile Cone Queso & Bacon Mac & Cheese cones at Cozy Cone #3 in Carsland. Also Pym’s Kitchen and Award Weiners are some of our fave lunch or dinner spots resort wide and worth checking out their menus.

There’s so many! Churros of course like you mentioned and Mickey beignets too. We also like: the different flavors of Dole Whip at Tropical Hideaway, and just about any confectionary treat except the cupcakes (there’s 4 confectionaries throughout the parks and one in Downtown Disney and they all carry about the same stuff with some slightly different theming on the characters based on where they’re located). Some of our faves treats are: the churro toffee, caramel apples, (messy but so delicious) cake pops (a really good chocolate cake) and the giant strawberry or pineapple cookies. My kids all like the marshmallow wands in a variety of different characters (Tigger Tails, Cheshire Tails, etc.). The cupcakes everytime we get them are less good, and usually just a bit on the dry side, so we’ve stopped getting cupcakes. They changed the choc chip cookie that we LOVED a couple of years ago and the one that we last tried (about a year ago) was ok, not quite as good, but by Jeff’s description maybe they’ve changed it again and we’ll have to try it again. The cookie they had from 2014-2019 was our most favorite cookie and we’d bring home 3-4 of them to keep the taste of DL sweets at home & the one they replaced it with was just not the same.

And we also love ice cream at most any place it’s available in DLR. There’s hand-dipped chocolate ice cream bars that you can customize a topping at Clarabelle’s and if Schmoozies is open they have great themed shakes and also affogato which I love. But really anywhere you can get ice cream in DL has good ice cream, Gibson Girl and Ghirardelli’s are places we end up quite a bit, sometimes even for breakfast.

Also more non-ice cream treats I neglected to mention , Aunt Cass’s in DCA does seasonal bread pudding flavors and that’s always one of my favorite sweet treats. And Jolly Holiday Cafe in DL has some really great bakery treats. There’s a Mickey raspberry macaron that sells out earlier in the day so it’s always a good idea to pick a mobile order time for it early in the day. They also have another of my favorite treats at coconut Matterhorn Macaroon that is a macaroon coconut cookie shaped like Matterhorn Mountain & drizzled with some delicious icing to be the snow.

Any other food or planning questions you have, fire away! Happy to help plan (or “not” plan lol) any DL trips :slight_smile:

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Lots of amazing suggestions - I’ll just jump in to say I don’t particularly recommend Trader Sam’s for food, esp. with kids. We were underwhelmed after all the hype, and there are lots of better options.

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Ooh I meant to answer this in my response. We do sometimes if it’s not a particularly hot/muggier (for Anaheim) day. We do love the bread bowls with soup that are found here and used to be in what is now Aunt Cass’s but doesn’t seem to be anymore (although they still have mac n cheese in a bread bowl). If it works for your plans to be in that corner, then it’s a great option too.

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Also reading this through, if you’re arriving at all close to noon and it’s a weekend (which I see you’re arriving on a Friday), then there’s a good chance they are doing character brunches and those can go to noon or even a little later so you may just be able to kick off the arrival with a character brunch at Storytellers.

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Thanks so much @lolabear_la for these amazingly detailed tips. I’m hungry just reading this!!

Brilliant idea! Will definitely look out for this on ADR day. This would beat out the Mimi’s/Panera or even your recommended pizza option hands down.

Also really good to know (I am not yet automatically visualizing locations), many people seem to like the Craftsman Grill, so that could also be a more casual lunch or dinner option for arrival day?

Yay, great to hear this.

My kids would LOVE that - it’s my 7-year-old’s favourite ride, and my 9-year-old is also a fan. Large platters to share sound perfect for us, but good point about being able to bring food from other nearby restaurant’s too. I forgot to reply to @Jeff_AZ 's corn dog recommendation: there seems to be widespread agreement that these are great. To be honest, no one in my family has ever eaten a corn dog before (and only the 7-year-old actually likes hot dogs). But it seems like a quintessential American and Disneyland thing to try, so given everyone’s ringing endorsement I’m going to look for an opportunity to buy one or two as a savoury snack! Also love the idea to treat Bengal BBQ as a savoury snack rather than a full meal - gives us more opportunities to try other things!

Great!! And again such good advice to find tables in another area, especially a place where we can sit and watch Racers go by!

Thanks for the detailed instructions on Lamplight and WOC.

I hear you on this, though the idea of having a seat for an evening show is very tempting. Where would you recommend watching it for the first time?

So many good sweet snack suggestions in here! Am intrigued by the churro toffee, and will heed your advice on cupcakes (I love a good cupcake, but am also almost always disappointed by the ones I buy in WDW) and stick to the cake pop. And try as many other suggestions as we manage to eat!

Have a wonderful cruise and happy packing!!

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Get a Virtual Queue (or do they call it a LL?) on a day that you start at DCA (you can join as soon as you are in the park I believe) and then arrive early enough to pick a viewing location at the front of any of the sections (preferably one that is not in the “wet zone”).

I hate waiting that long though, so if your family will get restless, consider watching from the bridge by Lamplight Lounge (no VQ needed).

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Thanks for the honest feedback, that’s definitely a fear I had - overhyped experience and mediocre food. And @lolabear_la 's suggestion of Storyteller’s for brunch/lunch on that day would really tick the box for the big/fun meal of the day, if that works out we could probably do a more casual/QS dinner elsewhere.

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Great, thanks for that! In your experience (on a CL7 day in July), how long is

If we have dinner or a good snack with us, I think we could hang out/sit on the ground for up to maybe an hour? Am not sure I’m willing to dedicate more time than that.

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An hour is probably about right. I usually show up 30 minutes before and get a spot with at least one row of people in front of me. Sometimes I can get the kids squeezed up in front since they’re so short and people are usually nice about it since the kids won’t be blocking their view. If your party is tall, 30 minutes is enough.

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Not tall I’m afraid :slight_smile: But I think we could try for 45 - 60 min before and plan snack/rest there. Will keep thinking about both options (and figure out when else we would do Lamplight if not during WOC)!

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Storytellers would definitely hands down beat out Mimi’s/Panera (and yes even Pizza Press).

That is a great option at the Grand Californian. There’s the Craftsman Grill that is quick service and then there is a full service “restaurant” (it’s all poolside with some tables and some couches with coffee tables and an outdoor bar seating area too) called the Craftsman Bar & Grill. They have similar menus and I believe the items in common will all come from the same kitchen (I know for sure the flatbreads do). We love them both and will do the sit-down if there’s availability and we’re not in a hurry but the quick service grill if we want almost the same things but there’s not availability or we don’t have the time for a sit-down.

Get one to try it out for sure, but the corn dogs are absolutely the definition of American theme park food fare, so if you don’t love hot dogs they might not be your thing. They are fantastic and some of the best corn dogs in all the world though, so if you’re ever going to try a corn dog, this is where to get it from!

They do have a dessert party that offers a seat in the dining sections but it’s pricy, the dessert plate you get is mostly only so-so and it is another 60 minutes you’ll spend sitting in a seat waiting for the show while you get served your dessert plate. It does come with 2 alcoholic drinks (for 21+) and mostly unlimited non-alocholic options out of coffee, hot cocoa, a couple of sodas and maybe lemonade? We’ve done it twice before and the view is great especially with a seat, but if you only have 2.5 days and/or have budget constraints it’s not a must-do. Jeff’s advice to get the VQ/LL (I don’t know what they call it either, we just grab it on the app when it opens lol) & show up 45-60 minutes in advance is great & we always take a snack or late dinner into the viewing area to enjoy as we wait. It’s also a good time to look back on photos & talk about memories of the day and make any adjustments to plans for the next day. The bridge is also a great view for standby (especially if your kids aren’t too short, the rails for that bridge are much higher than the rails in the regular WOC viewing and so on the bridge they’ll be looking in between the railings unless their head clears the railing or you hold them up).

Thank you! (SO MUCH packing left to do, ok pretty much all of it since right now the packing is just a pile of all the things in the vicinity of suitcases and I add to it as I see that I want to make sure get remembered).

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