On Eating at Amusement Parks

Image from here
After the high diving show was over, we grabbed lunch at the Chinese restaurant very close to the falls (Manchu Wok, very similar to Panda Express). Amusement park food is extremely expensive, so you can be strategic here.

You can't bring food into the park, but you can always leave a cooler in your car full of sandwiches, or totally leave the park and go to a restaurant off site (just make sure to get a hand-stamp for re-entry; when you go to the exit gate there should be someone sitting there with a stamp pad). See more of Eric's amusement park tips here.

If we are eating in the park, like we did in Canada, Eric and I almost always try to figure out what the best value for the money is in the park and share that meal. Chinese food makes this easy, because usually there are 1, 2, or 3 entree options and a side for the meal. We get the 3 entree option (some chicken and beef that we'll both like, and if they let us we get half fried rice/half lo mein as the side), two cups of water (they have to give you a cup for water), and take our time eating it so we feel full. In Canada, this meal option was close to $14, so $7 each seems like a more reasonable cost for lunch.

If you have a season or Platinum pass, make sure to present it at the cash register for 10% off.

You can also be strategic about timing when you eat. We always eat breakfast before doing a park (we always eat breakfast in general), and depending when that was relative to when we get to the entrance, we try to eat a snack (or even early lunch) of some kind before leaving the car (Clif Bars, trail mix, or other protein-packed snacks are great so you won't get hungry right away and you won't upset your stomach). Wait as long as you possibly can before eating lunch. For us, this usually turns into about 2 or 2:30pm. The longer you wait, the less likely it is that you'll need to eat again while in the park. (You can wait to have dinner until late in the evening.) You will probably be hungry for an hour or more and that's okay; know yourselves and if you'll get too cranky to enjoy anything. Try to do some coasters you think might upset your stomach before eating, and for at least 30 minutes afterward don't ride anything while you digest.

Here is a breakdown of how we handled food at all of the parks we went to on the trip:

  • Michigan's Adventure: We had a big breakfast of pancakes that Eric's professor made before going into the park. We left the park at 2:30 and immediately headed to lunch at a sit-down bar/grill-type restaurant 10 minutes away. I don't recommend pancakes for breakfast because they won't keep you full for the long run, but this was a visit and Tim wanted to make us pancakes, and it worked out.
  • Canada's Wonderland: We ate breakfast at our hotel (which wound up being a little cereal, eggs, bacon, and fruit) around 10am. We ate lunch in the park around 2:30pm as described above with Chinese food. We left the park around 8pm and headed toward Niagara Falls; Eric found us a nice restaurant about an hour away. We were definitely hungry but it was worth it to wait for some nice food than eat again in the park.
  • Hersheypark: We did Hershey in the evening with a special ticket that gets you a snack (more on that ticket coming). We had a big brunch at a restaurant with a friend in the late morning (10:30am-noon) in Buffalo, NY, then grabbed fast food about 5pm before heading into the park. We almost never eat fast food (I can probably count on one hand how many times we've had McDonald's in the 7 years we've been dating) but we needed something fast and easy to eat. We then had a snack (ice cream!) at 9:45pm at the park, which was included with our ticket.
  • Dorney Park: We had breakfast at the hotel (yogurt and muffins that were stale/expired, so we didn't eat much), and it was still an hour+ to the park from where we stayed, so we had Chick-fil-a for an early lunch (11:30) before going in. We did the water park here in the evening, so we grabbed Clif Bars from the car when we came out to get our bathing suits as a snack around 5pm. We ate a nice dinner at Cracker Barrel on our way west toward Ohio in the evening around 8pm.
  • Wildwater Kingdom (Ohio): We had breakfast at our hotel in State College (still several hours from the park), stopped at an Applebee's about an hour away from the park for a late lunch around 1pm, and ate a very later dinner (10pm) at the Winking Lizard in Cleveland.
  • Cedar Point: We had a big breakfast with friends (pancakes again), then we did the Chinese food route with them for a late lunch around 2pm. We had dinner at Famous Dave's in the park (well, it's technically outside but you can almost only get to it from Cedar Point) with Eric's mom at 6:30pm.
On road trips we always have a variety of non-meltable snacks in the car, like energy bars, chips or crackers, and trail mix so we can have a snack while driving. We always have a Nalgene of water and we fill it up with fresh water and ice when given the chance.

Let me know if you have questions about how we handle meals (obviously, neither of us have food allergies or restrictions, or this would be more complicated) or anything else strategic we do at parks!
On Eating at Amusement Parks On Eating at Amusement Parks Reviewed by Maria on 10:00:00 AM Rating: 5

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