Reflecting on the Disney Parks of the past and reminiscing about experiences, attractions, and shows is a pastime for many Disney nerds. No doubt things have changed over the years in the Disney Parks. After all, always building and changing was part of Walt Disney’s original plan for the parks.
Dining in the Disney Parks has also changed over the years. We have seen restaurants come and go, surges in popularity around certain foods (looking at you Dole Whip), and the transition to social media that put iconic Disney snack foods on the map. After all, how many Disney Park snack Instagram vacation photos have you seen? Food is a pivotal part of any Disney vacation.
Disney snacks are so popular now they are even on Disney merchandise (we love Mickey Waffles so much, let’s put them on a spirit jersey). Let’s take a trip back to explore the origins of some super popular foods in the Disney Parks. I’m already getting hungry just thinking about Disney dining over the decades!
The Early Years
Disneyland was ahead of its time in almost every way imaginable. Food was no exception to this rule. Walt envisioned a Park that transported you away from reality. Whether this was into the world of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in Fantasyland or in the South Seas in Adventureland, no detail was left to chance on theming.
Guests were delighted to find that the fun continued into mealtime. Where amusement parks at the time were satisfied with pretzels, lemonade, or hot dogs. Walt Disney World served up delicious, and just as important – on-theme meals for the lands and restaurants in which they were being served.
The Tahitian Terrace served up sips like jasmine tea for $.15 a glass and served entrées like a Monte Crisco Sandwich with a side for just $1.50. Long before Starbucks graced Main Street, U.S.A., Hill Brothers Coffee House was located in Town Square in Disneyland. Walt Disney was an excellent entrepreneur and took an opportunity he saw to sponsor dining opportunities in the Park. Welch’s Grape Juice Bar in Fantasyland, Casa de Fritos in Frontierland, The Tahitian Terrace sponsored by Kikkoman Soy Sauce, and The Carnation Ice Cream Parlor are just a few of the eateries that Walt so smartly snagged sponsorships for.
While these restaurants have long since closed or changed names, they set the precedent for how food is fresh, fun, and perfectly themed in Disney Parks. Our favorite Disney Parks snacks today, stand on the shoulders of these early delectables.
Breakfast and Mickey Mouse fans are thanking their lucky stars that the 1980s saw the advent of this breakfast entrée! These breakfast staples are so famous they are now printed on merchandise in the parks. Raincoats, spirit jerseys magnets, and more have made the Mickey Waffle so much more than just breakfast food. We like to eat them as much as we like to wear them.
The perfect balance of crunchy on the outside paired with a pillowy center, we love the satisfying crunch of this breakfast pastry. The crevices of Mickey’s ears and face are perfectly designed to catch a pool of syrupy goodness. We are huge fans, can you tell?
We aren’t alone – this perfect breakfast is served on Disney Cruises, at Disneyland and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Hilton Head Resort, and even around the globe at other Disney Parks. Rumor has it The American Waffle Company in Tokyo Disneyland even serves up an array of seasonal flavors of Mickey Waffles.
Did you know that Disneyland’s Tiki Juice Bar outside The Enchanted Tiki Room did not originally sell Dole Whips? That’s right, even after Dole became the sponsor, The Tiki Juice Bar served only juice and fruit for several years. As you might imagine, The Tiki Juice Bar really hit its stride with the menu addition of the Dole Whip in 1986.
Guests were transfixed by the way it married soft-serve ice cream and fruit to make the perfect creamy and refreshing combination without being too heavy. It grew in popularity exponentially, however, Dole Whips were not licensed to Disney until 1997.
We don’t know about you, but a trip to Adventureland is just not complete without snacking on a Dole Whip. In fact, this snack is so loved Disney has made it available outside the Magic Kingdom. Pineapple Lanai at Polynesian Village Resort and Swirls on the Water in the Marketplace area of Disney Springs at Walt Disney World are alternate locations you can a Dole Whip.
Mickey Premium Bar
It might not be the most popular Park snack, (actually, that’s up for debate) but I would argue that it is the most recognized snack affiliated with Disney Parks. That’s right, I’m talking about the Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar. This classic vanilla ice cream topped with a chocolate shell in the shape of Mickey Mouse is synonymous with Disney Parks and is yet another snack that has become iconic enough to grace merchandise on racks across the Park.
The simplicity of this dessert and the ease with which you can snag one are the selling points. No need to head to a specific stand across the Park or set out in search of this dessert. There is always one nearby in a cart, on a menu, or in an ice cream case at Disney Parks. Available for purchase at Disneyland, Walt Disney World Parks, and Resorts, and at Disney Springs, it’s easy to get your hands on a Mickey Premium Bar.
Originally created in the 80s, these Nestlé ice cream bars were round at first, but got a Mickey makeover in the 90s. These days, we even have the blessing and convenience of being able to purchase Mickey Premium Bars from ice cream cases at supermarkets around the country.
Opening Day Snack
We’ve talked about the sweet, now let’s cover the savory. That’s right, you’ve likely encountered enticing buttery popcorn upon entering Disney Parks. Be it a trip to Disney Springs or any of the Disney Parks, you can pretty much always find (the delicious smell gives it away) a popcorn stand. Not only is this the most notable savory snack in the parks, but it’s also an opening day snack. From the time Disneyland opened its gates in 1955, Guests have been crunching on bags of popcorn at The Happiest Place on Earth.
Decades later, I struggle to pass up a popcorn stand and often purchase a popcorn bucket, so I can enjoy cheaper refills. In fact, Disney souvenir popcorn buckets have a culture and following all their own. Disney Park fans and collectors line up to purchase commemorative buckets sporting familiar characters, landmarks, and Park details. Whether it be Cinderella’s Pumpkin Carriage, a Mickey Balloon, or an adorable purple Figment, collectors are crazy for Disney popcorn buckets and the snack inside. But of course, we honestly do understand. Is there anything better than munching on popcorn on Main Street, U.S.A., while awaiting a Disney Parade? I think not.
Which of these classic Disney snacks is your favorite?