There is a debate between Disney park enthusiasts. Which resort is best? Disney World is sprawling. It has its own mini highway system linking the parks. The castle is bigger and more impressive. But Disneyland is intimate. It sits right in the middle of Anaheim with little freeway fanfare. Disneyland is the only park where Walt walked.
At Disney World you would have to hit three separate parks to ride the best rides on offer, but at Disneyland you can get most of them in one go. (It’s been a few years since I’ve visited California Adventure, and I hear it has gotten better over the years. However, based on my experience, only Soarin’ Over California is worthy of a major mention.)
I wrote my Guide to Eating Vegan at Disney World last year about this time, and this year I was able to visit my personal favorite bunch, Disneyland. The last time I wrote about going to Disneyland was in 2009. I mentioned my top picks for dining at Disney while I’m there, and it seems like the options have only improved over the years. If people go to Disneyland or California Adventure looking for vegan food in the parks, they won’t have a problem finding it.
That said, it’s still theme park food. It’s produced to be made and eaten quickly for masses of people. Of course, some things are better than others. (The oft-mentioned Vegetarian Gumbo in a bread bowl in New Orleans Square and a cheeseless veggie pizza at Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port are my personal favorites.) However, this year we decided to avoid the amusement park food almost entirely, saving our time there for Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Native Foods in Costa Mesa:
When I was looking into hotels, I noticed that I could get a nicer hotel for the same amount of money or less by staying a little farther away from the park. I booked a hotel in Santa Ana instead of Anaheim, which is 17-20 minutes away from Disneyland.
It worked out really well for our needs, because our hotel room had a refrigerator in the room and several vegan restaurants (including two raw restaurants, two locations of Native Foods, and a Whole Foods) within a five mile radius. It was easy to grab snacks to keep in the room, have dinner the evening we drove into Santa Ana, get a quick bite before our day at the park, and have a leisurely brunch on the morning following our Disney excursion.
We started the morning of our Disneyland day at the Costa Mesa location of Native Foods as soon as they opened at 11 am. We sat outside to drink some sun into our skin.
David had a refreshing lavender lemonade, along with his top-pick at Native Foods, the Chicken Run Ranch Burger. I feasted on the Bistro Steak Sandwich with potato salad. (To read more in-depth reviews of Native Foods, check out these posts about meals at Costa Mesa, Santa Monica, and Chicago.)
With bellies full, we drove the twenty minutes to Disneyland. We walked onto Main Street, while The Music Man soundtrack played overhead. Balloons hung in the sky, along with the scent of vanilla. As always, the light in the room above the fire station was on. It’s the apartment where Walt used to stay when he was at the park, and it’s always lit in his remembrance.
We stopped to take pictures in front of the castle, and then darted off to get a Fastpass for Space Mountain, my favorite ride of the park. After trips to Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Adventureland, we were ready for an afternoon snack.
I was pleasantly surprised by the healthy options available in Adventureland next to The Jungle Cruise. Instead of humble apples and bananas, there was hummus, coconut water, pineapple spears, watermelon, berries, and oversized pickles.
We picked up a package of mango slices that come with a slice of lime and packet of Tajin. We enjoyed the combination of spicy, tart, and sweet flavors.
The park wasn’t the busiest that I’d ever seen it, but there was still some leftover congestion from the holidays. By the time we were ready for dinner, we decided to venture to Downtown Disney for a more relaxed atmosphere, away from the crowds. The Christmas lights were still up, and with live music playing, there was a festive atmosphere.
Vegan Downtown Disney:
When you walk inside, you can see the pizzas being made and a large brick oven. The restaurant is larger than it appears from the outside with two levels for seating. We were seated in a quiet corner upstairs. (Although, as our dinner continued, more tables of families filled in around us.)
We started with bruschetta to share, which came with two large pieces of bread toasted with olive oil and a generous layer of tomatoes and basil. The bruschetta usually comes with parmesan on top, and so we requested that it be omitted.
The pizza sauce and crust are vegan at Naples. So we ordered a Funghi pizza. Since we ordered it cheeseless, the server said that we could have two additional toppings for no charge. (I love it when businesses do that since vegans are omitting the most expensive ingredients but getting charged the same price.) We added fresh basil and garlic to the pizza topped with mixed roasted mushrooms.
The sauce itself was on the bland side, and I prefer a brick oven pizza to have more of that fire-licked flavor. However, for a touristy area, it’s a solid option if you like Neapolitan-style pizzas.
Revitalized, we walked back to the park for a few more hours of fun before heading to the hotel for the night.