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BUTTERBEER at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando
Photograph: Shutterstock

The best theme park food in the US

Peckish in the park? The best theme parks food in the US will sort you out. Just don't puke on the rides.

Megan duBois
Written by
Megan duBois
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Is it really summer if you don't spend at least one day at an amusement parkWhile it's the thrilling rides and fun attractions that might bring you to the gates, it's the theme park food that will have you fueled up and ready to go all day long. Luckily, gone are the days when amusement parks only served chicken strips, hot dogs, and burgers. Now some parks are hiring executive chefs that can bring a new spin to old favorites (looking at you, pizza tots at Universal’s Islands of Adventure)! While you may think the hot shot parks like Disneyland and Dollywood are the only destination-worthy parks for food, don’t think about discounting regional parks like Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm in your foodie road trip. These spots have some of the best snacks and treats in the game.

 

Best amusement park food

As you walk along Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure, you’ll see big attractions like The Incredicoaster and the Pixar Pal-A-Round. But it’s what you’ll smell that will draw you in. The sweet scent of a warm chocolate chip cookie will bring you to Jack-Jack Cookie Num Nums to get a namesake treat. These oversized gooey chocolate chip cookies pay homage to the Pixar movie The Incredibles and can easily be shared between two people because they are so sweet.

One of the most iconic dishes at Disneyland Park is the Monte Cristo Sandwich from Cafe Orleans. The decadent sandwich is made with sliced turkey, ham, and swiss cheese and is deep-fried to golden brown perfection. The meal is served with seasonal preserves and fries. If you’re lucky enough to get a reservation at Cafe Orleans, request to sit outside so you can enjoy the atmosphere while you dine. 

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There’s no drink more iconic in the Harry Potter franchise than Butterbeer. At the Three Broomsticks at Universal Studios Hollywood, Potter fanatics can try three different versions; hot, frozen, or cold but not frozen. Each drink has the same base flavor of butterscotch and shortbread cookies, but the vibe of each is completely different. On cool nights the hot Butterbeer is the way to go, and on warm California days, the non-frozen cold version is our go-to.

At Knott’s Berry Farm, you’ll find a plethora of boysenberry desserts and snacks. After all, it’s what made the Knott family famous! One of the best and most unique treats is the boysenberry soft serve from the ice cream Shop. The pale purple soft serve is super creamy and tastes like you just bit into a juicy berry. You can get your ice cream as a cone, or, for an even more indulgent treat, try it as a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.

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Spring rolls | Magic Kingdom Park
Photograph: Walt Disney World

5. Spring rolls | Magic Kingdom Park

A day at Magic Kingdom Park is filled with nostalgia for many people. After reliving your childhood by walking down Main Street USA, stop by the Adventureland Spring Roll Cart, which is located just off the main hub near the entrance to Adventureland. Here, you’ll find a seasonal rotation of spring rolls. In past seasons there has been everything from cheeseburger and pepperoni pizza to the current option, which is pastrami and pepper jack cheese!

Deep inside Pandora - The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, you’ll find Satu’li Canteen. While we love the custom bowls, a truly unique item is the cheeseburger steam pods. These are essentially cheeseburger-flavored bao buns and are served with veggie chips. What we love most about these is that the recipe was inspired by a family recipe from former Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde, who helped with the overall design of the land and theme park.

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If you’re looking for a snack that’s got people around Disney’s Hollywood Studios buzzing, you’re going to want to get to Ronto Roasters inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The quick-service spot is slinging out what’s known as a ronto wrap. The part sandwich and part wrap is stuffed with sliced pork, a sausage,  slaw, and a tangy peppercorn sauce for one out of this galaxy bite. The line here can get long quickly, so it’s best to mobile order if you don’t want to wait.

Part of the joy of going around EPCOT’s World Showcase is all the international treats that one can sample. One of the absolute best is the school bread from Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe. The snack is a soft sweet roll that’s been stuffed full of custard and then dipped in coconut. This dish could easily pass as dessert, but we love munching on it as we make our way to see Anna and Elsa at the character meet and greet area just across the pavilion.

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In the Springfield, U.S.A.: Home of The Simpsons section of Universal Studios Florida, you’ll find Lard Lad Donuts. Don’t be deceived by the name because these treats are anything but ordinary. Our pick for something sweet is The Big Pink, every bit as saccharine as the name suggests. It’s a dinner-plate-sized donut smothered in bright pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles. You’ll definitely want to share this one or grab it at the end of the night to take back to your hotel room with you.

Waturi Fusion ice cream | Universal’s Volcano Bay
Photograph: Universal Orlando Resort

10. Waturi Fusion ice cream | Universal’s Volcano Bay

While we wouldn’t consider Universal’s Volcano Bay a theme park, they sure do, so we’re going with it to tell everyone we know about the delectable Waturi Fusion ice cream. The swirled soft serve comes out of the machine in a rainbow of colors, all of which have a corresponding flavor: orange, blue raspberry, strawberry, and banana. We highly suggest getting this and then taking it down to the edge of the wave pool to munch on for the perfect summer vibe.

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Loaded tater tots are one of our favorite dishes, and at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, you can find them at Green Eggs and Ham Cafe. While there are a few different loaded variations, our top choice is the pizza tots, which start with a bed of golden tater tots. Then the tots are covered in pizza sauce, melty mozzarella cheese, and pepperoni for the perfect pizza-flavored bite. If you’re not into pizza, there are also buffalo chicken and pork carnitas loaded tots.

If you’re looking for a sweet and savory treat that will be turning heads as you walk by, you’re going to want to get the bacon chocolate apple from Coaster Candy at Six Flags Magic Mountain. The massive candy apple is dipped in sweet chocolate and then completely covered in crispy salty bacon for a bite that’s a rollercoaster of flavors. It can be a bit messy to eat, but completely worth it. We won’t tell if you decide to eat the entire dish on your own.

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Chicken wings are a staple at many restaurants, and at Hershey Park, you can count on chicken wings with a twist. At The Chocolatier restaurant, a chocolate spin is put on everything. Yes, that includes the chicken wings. After the wings are fried, they are tossed in a signature chocolate barbecue sauce. While it may sound weird, the sauce doesn’t have a runny chocolate sauce consistency. It’s more akin to traditional barbecue sauce with a hint of sweetness, thanks to the addition of chocolate. Adventurous eaters are going to want to try this.

While we all know that Dolly Parton is a national treasure, the cinnamon bread at her namesake theme park, Dollywood, is an icon in itself. Guests can get the sweet loaves served warm from the Grist Mill. While waiting in line for the bread, you can watch it being made by the team behind the counter. Be ready when at the front of the line to make another important decision: do you want your cinnamon bread with cream cheese icing or Dollywood’s famous apple butter?

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