Recently in my list of things to do when visiting a theme park, I mentioned you should plan where you eat your meals. Now, while some may think I mean plan a specific restaurant you want to eat at ahead of time, that’s not necessarily what I mean. When I say plan where you eat your meals, I’m referring to whether you want to eat in the park, at a restaurant outside the park, to pack a bag lunch to go out and eat at the car.
The deciding factors for this decision really come down to three things: price, convenience, and time.
Theme park food can get pricey at times, depending on what you order. Most theme parks I’ve visited typically charge about $7-10 for an entree and side, with exceptions for larger items such as a nacho bowl or BBQ. However, most times that does not include a drink, so you have to purchase one. Now, I haven’t been in a situation where I’ve had to buy my own food very often as of late, as most parks I’ve visited in the past few years were either chain parks I had a season dining pass for, or we purchased a meal deal online before visiting. In contrast, eating outside the park can provide possibly a better quality meal, but can sometimes cost just as much. In terms of price, packing a bag lunch or dinner for the car would be the cheapest.
When visiting a park, you want food options to be quick and convenient. One problem lingering over most parks today is the lines for their food stands. Pending on the crowds, lines can get nearly as long (time-wise) as many big name attractions in the park. Other days, lines can be non-existent. In terms of outside restaurants, not all parks have a variety of restaurants right outside their entrance, proving a disadvantage if you choose to leave the property to eat. And while packing your own lunch or dinner is perhaps the most convenient option in many cases, you have to exit the park and reenter after you eat. In the end, this is more of a personal preference item, as people have different definitions of convenience.
Lastly, time should play a factor in choosing where to eat. I’ve been there; I want to eat quickly and get back to riding rides. While this isn’t always a problem on slower days, this pertains more to busier days. My advice: look at how long lines are. If food lines in the park are relatively short, go with that route. If the line at the front gate is short, feel free to leave to eat somewhere else and come back. Andif the line for the parking lot is long (at most parks you can tell from the parking lot), walk over to a nearby restaurant if it’s within walking distance. This line idea doesn’t necessarily work well for those planning to pack a lunch, but ultimately that option comes down to timing. Perhaps go eat your bag meal at a time when lines at the front gate are beginning to die down, such as around 11:30 for lunch and 5:30 for dinner.
Like I’ve said before, I typically eat meals within the park, but I have used both other options before. All in all, similar to most of my posts, it’s all about preference and what you determine is the best option. So ultimately, pick the option that is best for you and your party.