Every family needs to experience the magic of Disney at least once. And, out of all of the Disney franchise locations around the world, there is just something special about visiting the birthplace of Walt's dream.
So, if you have this landmark California destination on your radar, we have some great tips for Disneyland, Disney California Adventure (DCA) & Downtown Disney dining below.
The good news? Disney does an excellent job of catering to those with allergies. You might even find yourself in the rare scenario of being overwhelmed with allergen safe dining choices. Read more about our #nimatested Disneyland Sit Down Dining experience here.
But, even with a multitude of allergen-safe dining options available, we still recommend booking your dining reservations right at 60 days before your trip. The Happiest Place on Earth is also one of the most overpopulated, so keep in mind that winging it just isn't practical considering the crowds.
Book Character Dining
If you have children, spending quality time with the Disney characters is an important part of the experience. But, if you are looking for a way to savor precious in-park time, Character Dining is the way to go.
We recommend you book Breakfast over any other meal time for four reasons:
1) Various perks allow you to get ahead of the crowds if you get an early enough reservation.
2) It is less pricey.
3) Food quality is better.
4) Gluten free pancakes!
This dining establishment is located inside the Disneyland Park. If you can snag one of the first reservations you will find yourself entering Disneyland before the rest of the masses. A whole host of characters appear here and encourage your kids to get up and dance in the wide open spaces throughout the dining room. The buffet is pretty decent too and can accommodate allergy diners as needed with the option to skip the buffet altogether and go with made to order allergen safe specialties.
Located instead Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, snag an early spot here and you can enter Disney California Adventure through the special entrance. It is more crowded than the Plaza Inn, but we actually thought the food was better. No real space for dancing here, but if your kids are shy and wouldn't bust a move in front of strangers anyway, no real loss by choosing this location over another.
Dine Inside a Ride
When visiting Disneyland Park, this restaurant immerses you and your family inside the world of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Although you are really here for the ambiance, the great news is that the food won't disappoint even if it does comes with a bit of a hefty price tag.
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Grab Dinner Outside of Disneyland
Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen
For those who would like to enjoy an adult beverage after a long day of powering through Disneyland Park, right now your only option is to leave. Unless you are a member of the exclusive Club 33 or plan on visiting after 2019 when the Star Wars bar opens, there is currently no alcohol served to the general public. This is in keeping with Walt’s original wishes to preserve the "family experience." But, dragging the kiddos out of the park won't be easy, especially if you want them to leave to just sit at some "boring" restaurant. They will want to continue the fun and this place located in Downtown Disney is a great compromise. They serve up strong adult drinks, plate mouthwatering authentic NOLA cuisine, and manage to do so in a festive environment. The child-friendly live music show starting around 6pm is anything but boring and checks all the boxes for parents and kids alike.
Eat Along the Pier at DCA
We love that Disney California Adventure (DCA) has a more relaxed feel. It isn't really about ticking off the boxes to cram in as many rides as possible. Here you can hang out by the pier and take in the sites and sounds of your Disney family experience.
This is a great option if you are looking for something quick. The chef will still come out to your patio table to discuss any food allergies. Plus, the Mexican cuisine is pretty tasty for such a reasonable price.
If you would rather linger over a long meal, this is the new restaurant taking over the the old Ariel's Grotto Princess Character Dining space. With a full bar and two levels, there is plenty of room to spread out and savor your time here. Plus, for all you Pixar fans, you will be torn between sitting near the stunning outside views or the excellent Pixar memorabilia adorning the inside walls.
Eat Italian at DCA
Wine Country Trattoria
There are three reasons why this sit down Mediterranean restaurant always lands a spot on our dining itinerary when visiting Disney California Adventure:
1) Gluten Free Pasta.
2) Great wine flights with a choice of Californian or Italian varietals.
3) They offer a World of Color Dining Package that comes with a 3 course pre-fixed dinner menu and a spot in the preferred viewing area for the show.
In-Room Dining Has Perks
If you have kids on the younger side, don't overlook the option to just eat dinner at your hotel. With so many firework viewing room options available throughout the Anaheim area, ordering in and watching from the comfort of your room patio can be an effective strategy to make sure the kids are in bed at a decent hour. If the room service menu doesn't have anything that caters or appeals to the gluten free eaters in your group, don't be afraid to go the order in route. Uber Eats will satisfy whatever the craving or Domino's gluten free pizza works just fine if you are looking for something to appease the kids. We have spent many an evening meal watching both the fireworks and World of Color from the Sheraton Park Hotel balcony. Their Fireworks View Room on the Concierge Floor is worth every penny so that the kiddos are bright eyed and bushy tailed come the next morning.