Home » The Best and Worst of Holiday Dining at the Disney Parks

The Best and Worst of Holiday Dining at the Disney Parks

Pumpkin beignets

If you’re a seasoned visitor to any of the Disney Parks, you know that holiday dining is worth the price of admission alone. From September to January, an array of scrumptious-looking treats fill the cases of the Candy Palace and the kitchens of most table-service restaurants, ranging from EPCOT’s chocolate peppermint cronuts to the infamous fresh-baked candy canes on Main Street, U.S.A.

Unless you have an iron stomach, however, it simply isn’t possible to sample every single dish during a week at the parks—let alone a single day—and, if we’re being honest, it’s not worth shelling out top-dollar for every highly-Instagrammable Jack Skellington cake pop and neon sugar-dusted churro. Before you break the bank at the annual Festival of Holidays booths (to say nothing of the never-ending holiday menu offered elsewhere in the parks), let’s break down some of this year’s can’t-miss treats… as well as a few you can avoid without experiencing any FOMO.

Indulge: Seasonal beignets

Pumpkin beignets

Image: Disney

Disney has gotten a little carried away with flavored beignets over the last couple of years, with variations ranging from the Pirates of the Caribbean “gold-dusted” beignets that tasted more like Froot Loops than lemon sugar to butterscotch, strawberry, and watermelon chili lime flavors. Still, you can’t really go wrong with piping-hot, powdered sugar doughnuts, no matter how they’re dressed up, and nothing rings in the holiday season quite like that first whiff of pumpkin beignets over at New Orleans Square’s Mint Julep Bar.

This is one of those rare treats that Disney does well during their Halloween celebration and the winter holidays, too, as they usually roll out gingerbread and peppermint flavors closer to Christmas and Hanukkah. If you’re in the mood for doughnuts that don’t also come with a pound of icing and sugary toppings, this is the way to go.

Avoid: Specialty cocktails and drinks

Candy corn milkshake

Image: Disney

Here’s a wise rule of thumb: If something looks too pretty to eat (or drink), it usually is. The Disney Parks have excelled in Instagram-worthy edible creations lately, including the jaw-dropping dry ice Infinity Fizz, pastel-colored Millennial Pink Celebration Toast, and a rum-based Uh-OA that comes in an intricate souvenir Tiki bowl. With no signs of slowing down for the holidays, you’ll find cherry popping pearl-decorated Green Apple Spell Lemonade at Smokejumpers Grill, rum-and-pear-flavored Autumn Smash at Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, and heart attack-inducing Caramel Apple Smoothie at Schmoozies. (Most seasonal items you’ll find right now will skew towards sour apple or pumpkin spice, with relatively few exceptions.)

Despite getting bonus points for superb theming and viral social media posts, these cocktails tend to skew towards the overpriced, overly-sweet, and oversaturated. And, if you opt for the nonalcoholic alternatives, you’re bound to be hit with even more sugar: just take a look at the cotton candy and marshmallow-topped Candy Corn Milkshake for sale at Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies. If you have an incurable sweet tooth, you may find these are worth the double-digit price tag! If not, you’ll find a far better bargain with some of the tamer holiday drinks around the parks, perhaps with an Anaheim Brewery Oktoberfest Beer at Award Wieners, ACE Hard Pumpkin Cider at Hyperion Cart, or some traditional Apple Cider from the Golden Oak Outpost at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

Indulge: Holiday food festivals

Festival of Holidays dish

Image: Disney

EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival still reigns supreme over the rest of the Disney Parks foodie-friendly events, but there’s definitely a case to be made for the Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure and EPCOT’s World Showcase. The two are nearly identical, with a unique focus on holiday dishes around the world, from fruit and nut rugelach to chocolate Yule logs to pineapple kesari. It’s not all about the sweets, either: You’ll find plenty of savory dishes, like chana masala, pork belly adobo, and butternut squash pakora fritters, to name just a few, as well as a variety of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.

This is arguably the best way to sample the majority of holiday foods at the parks. Since you’re not getting restaurant-sized portions with each dish, you should be able to make it through quite a few booths before you start to feel full. That said, this isn’t necessarily the cheapest method of eating your way through EPCOT (or Disney California Adventure), so if you’re planning on sampling something from each booth, it’s absolutely worth investing in a Sip and Savor pass to get the most bang for your buck.

Avoid: Seasonal churros


Image: Disney

Like Disneyland’s much-beloved beignets, churros are a classic must-have snack at just about every Disney park you can think of. The difference here, however, is that seasonal beignets have become a staple of holiday dining, while Disney’s flavored churro experiments have largely proved to be hit-or-miss over the last few months. We’ve seen everything from orange-vanilla churros to lemon churros, strawberry sugar churros, Mexican chocolate churros, and carrot cake churros. According to the Disney Parks Blog, another eight flavors are scheduled to hit stands and quick-service restaurants this fall (to say nothing of the winter holiday-themed churros that may be coming our way): orange sugar churros with candy corn dipping sauce, pumpkin spice churros with cream cheese frosting, chocolate crumble churros with marshmallow sauce, sour apple churros with caramel sauce, s’mores churros, purple sugar churros, and two different churro bites sundaes.

Given the array of cinnamon-y, non-churro options at your disposal—from cake pops to cupcakes to macarons and everything in between—don’t feel a moment of guilt if you decide to skip out on the latest trend with this snack. It’s also worth noting that plain cinnamon-sugar churros are still available during the holiday season, just in case you’re in the mood for a “normal” Disney Parks treat.

Indulge: Hand-pulled candy canes

Candy canes at Candy Palace

Image: Loren Javier, Flickr (license)

It’s the simplest holiday dessert, but something Disneyland manages to do better than anything else on their seasonal menu. Like every other bakery item on Main Street, U.S.A., these are made fresh at the parks and, unlike every other bakery item, they’re always guaranteed to sell out. If you’ve never gotten the opportunity to compare stale peppermint sticks with giant candy canes made from scratch, now’s your chance as Disneyland celebrates its 50th straight year of creating the iconic Christmas candy.

Just a heads up: There are only two places to grab these bad boys, and that’s at Disneyland’s Candy Palace and Disney California Adventure’s Trolley Treats. (That’s right: This is a Disneyland exclusive, though Walt Disney World often has more than their fair share of scrumptious peppermint-flavored desserts to choose from.) Lest you make the mistake of thinking you can stroll up at any time during the Christmas season to pocket a few of these for your own holiday festivities, think again. They’re in such high demand that the parks often organize a wristband-only line at park opening on pre-designated dates throughout the fall and winter. The $13, 18-inch candy canes are first-come, first-serve and limited to one per person, so if you want seconds, it’s best to bring a friend.


Of course, this only scratches the surface of the Disney Parks’ never-ending list of desserts, cocktails, and calorific holiday meals. What’s on your can’t-miss list this holiday season?