There’s nothing quite like a day at a theme park. Whether you’re spending your summers riding roller coasters, wandering through haunted houses and trick or treating through the parks in the fall, or taking in the splendor of Christmas lights during the holiday season, theme parks are an absolute must-do at least once in your life. Even if you’re not into all the latest and craziest rollercoasters or log flumes, you can always eat your way through a theme park.
But some common amusement park fare is better than others. So we made it our business to rank them.
How did we decide our rankings? We considered a few factors. First of all, to make this list of 15 at all, these foods had to be iconic and common theme park foods. Sure, you can get a creamsicle-flavored doughnut at Universal Studios or a pretzel-wrapped turkey leg at SeaWorld, but you’re not going to find those treats everywhere. After we determined what foods made the cut, we rated them on portability, icon status, Instagram-worthiness, and objective deliciousness. Because why are you going to buy a food at a theme park if you’re not going to eat it? You have to fuel your dash from attraction to attraction somehow. (Just take some time between eating a funnel cake and going on a tilt-a-whirl.)
But what is the best theme park food of all time? Well, you’re going to have to check out our definitive ranking in order to find out.
Candy apples and their close cousins caramel apples sure sound like a good idea. They’re fruity, coated in even more sugar, and oftentimes covered with toppings like M&M’s, sprinkles, and colored frosting. They’re perfectly Instagrammable! But have you ever tried to actually eat one? You’re bound to break your teeth. To actually consume this, you need to cut it up, instantly ruining the visual appeal.
Turkey legs sure seem like a great theme park snack. They’re relatively inexpensive yet filling and they’re something you’re really only going to find among rollercoasters and tilt-a-whirls. However, they’re actually kind of disgusting. Disney parks’ iconic turkey leg, for instance, has 720 calories and 36 grams of fat. And they’re greasy. So, so greasy.
Who doesn’t love an ice cream bar? Well, we don’t. Like the other items at the bottom of this list, an ice cream bar sounds good in theory. They’re cheap, refreshing, portable, and photographable. However, take a bite of that ice cream bar. And now you have ice cream running down your arm and dripping on your shoes, and that Insta-worthy treat is now in crumbles. Oh, and the ice cream within that chocolate shell? So cheap and gross.
What’s more American than a theme park? Well, how about an entire pepperoni pizza you eat yourself? Despite the patriotic and portable nature of this amusement park food, you’ll be hard pressed to find a truly great single-serving pizza. For the most part, this quick service meal will be doughy and cheap. You can certainly find better pizzas in the U.S., that’s for sure.
Did you know cotton candy was invented by a dentist? It’s true! And it must have been to drum up more business, because this towering spun sugar confection is sweet, sweet, sweet! And oh-so-sticky. When you’re spending a day in the sun, the last thing you want to be is hopped up on pure sugar and sticky from head to toe. Pass!
Like the pizza, hamburgers are a classic American dish. And it’s a surprisingly solid option when you’re at a theme park. While some theme park burgers are flimsy and tasteless, other parks have innovative toppings, bacon that is crispy beyond belief, and burgers that rival the best in the country! It’s a good standby and a great option for picky eaters and children.
The most important thing about a theme park food? That it’s served hot, fresh, is delicious, portable, and is at least somewhat unique. Chicken fingers aren’t unique — heck, any fast food restaurant has them — but they sure do check off all those other boxes. Like burgers, chicken fingers are a classic child-friendly food that people of all ages can enjoy. And when done right and served with a great ranch or barbecue sauce, these are scrumptious.
There are a lot of incredible hot dogs in America, and the best hot dog in your state just might be at your local theme park! Some may think this sandwich that isn’t really a sandwich isn’t particularly special, but when cooked right, this summer classic is the perfect quick and easy theme park bite.
While ice cream bars are messy and overrated, nothing beats a scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone on a hot summer day. You don’t need a crazy ice cream flavor to satisfy your cold craving, any plain ol’ strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, or even Superman ice cream will do. When you think of summer fun, ice cream is an absolute must-have. Just be sure to eat it quickly!
We love a good French fry, we don’t care where it is. But nothing beats a fresh-made batch of French fries at a theme park. Bonus points if they’re served in a cone and eaten as you rush from one attraction to another. Even if the theme park you’re at is serving frozen French fries, there’s no reason to turn your nose up at that (so long as they’re crispy).
You may think of popcorn as a movie theater snack, but it’s pretty prevalent at theme parks too. Get your popcorn plain and buttered, with a cheddar cheese topping, or covered in chocolate or caramel. If you know where to look, you can find theme parks with crazy popcorn flavors like pickle, nacho cheese, or bacon.
If you want something savory, doughy, and salty, look no further than a fresh, piping-hot soft pretzel. It’s the perfect portable and affordable theme park snack. And the best part about soft pretzels? The dipping sauces, of course. We’re not above a little tub of fake cheese. In fact, we think it’s pretty great.
Fried dough dusted in cinnamon and sugar? Umm, yes please! Churros are a practically perfect theme park snack. They scream summer, they’re portable, and they’re endlessly customizable. Disneyland in particular has gone in on the churro craze. They have rose gold churros, red hot cinnamon churros, chocolate churros, and pretty much any other flavor you could dream of.
While we think churros are pretty darn fantastic, not every theme park has them. But any park worth the price of its admission has a funnel cake. It’s a classic fair food, and the irresistible combination of fried dough and powdered sugar is the definition of summertime and happiness. Is it the healthiest summer food out there? Well, no. But hey! You’re at a theme park; you’re walking a lot, and you deserve to treat yourself.
The theme park corn dog is our top dog. Think about it; it has everything you need for a day of fun. It’s portable, it’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s easily customizable, and it’s something that you can’t find anywhere or at any time. It’s pretty much a theme park and fair exclusive! Whether you take your corn dogs on a stick or you choose to consume them in nugget form, there’s no denying that they’re a true piece of theme park iconography. And if you aren’t making it to a theme park anytime soon but still want to indulge in these delicious foods, you can always try making theme park fare at home!
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