It's time for another installment in the differences between Disney World, Dollywood, and Hershey Park. If you've been following along, and need a reminder of what's already been covered, or if you are just joining, here's the links to get caught up!
Part 1 An overview of each park.
Part 2 Entry methods, fast passes, staff and maps
Part 3 The Rides, games, and app
Part 4 The Food (you are here!)
Part 5 (Coming soon) A Comparison between the three for an overall opinion
Though these are theme parks and share some similarities, each is different.
For many, eating out while on vacation is an absolute highlight! For the budget minded, they try and cut a few corners on the things that don't matter to allow more towards those things that do. For a family with food allergies? Every meal is like a well planned tactical maneuver.
Theme parks seem to have these three things in common when it comes to food. Snacks, counter service, and casual (or deluxe) meals where you can sit and be waited on.
I'm sure you know we're pretty experienced Disney World eaters! I've even written a Disney book about how to navigate dietary needs among other things there. If you've been a reader of my blog for a while, I give a break down of these three types of eating establishments. I go more in depth within the book. I'm not as much of an expert at Dollywood and Hershey Park, which it was so interesting to discover the similarities and the differences between these theme parks.
Let's talk a bit about each way you get refuel your body at Disney World, Dollywood, or Hershey Park.
Yum! Who doesn't love a snack when you are just a little hungry but don't want too much?
Disney, and remember, we are ONLY using Magic Kingdom for comparison, by far has the most places to grab a snack. Between the savory, like pretzels, popcorns, onion rings, and fries to the sweet, like soft serve, dole whips, churros, cookies and candy apples, there's something for most everyone. Note I say MOST. For those of us who need to be careful of cross contamination, it's a bit harder to find a Disney themed snack. There are also tons of prepacked snacks, everything from chips and candies to fresh fruits and bars.
Dollywood had many similar snacks. Popcorn, soft serve, hand scooped ice cream, pretzels, and their cinnamon bread seemed to be the most popular. While there were specialty treats like fudge being sold, that's not really a great idea in the summer to tote around as the sun beats down!
At Hershey Park, I was a little surprised that so much of the food there was owned by chain restaurants. There are some local places, and the East Coast Mini Donuts were very popular. We tried those, and honestly, they were cute, but heavy and greasy. Tower Fries was another place which sold buckets of French fries! That was something we enjoyed. Overall, the snacks were similar, popcorn, pretzels, soft serve unless you went for a specialty dessert. Of course, at Hershey, you'll find chocolate everywhere. And it's used to create cakes, ice cream sundaes, and other treats. I'm not sure how much real food anyone actually eats at Harshey Park. Everyone we passed seemed to be eating chocolate something.
These three parks share similarities in the counter service food as well. Fries, burgers, pizza, sandwiches, along with salads, hot dogs, and nachos on occasion. Disney's Magic Kingdom has the most counter service spots, but not the widest variety, the menus do tend to repeat themselves.
At Dollywood, staffing continues to be a major concern, and because of that, a great number of their places are not open to eat at, reducing the choices further. Luckily, Dollywood is right in the heart of town, so if you were not able to get a good meal in the park, especially with such short park hours as they have been having, you'll find plenty of places outside the gates.
Hershey Park doesn't fare much better on the staffing situation, however, because they operate very few eating establishments and allow chains in, the food choices are more varied. You'll find a Moe's Southwest Grill near Chic f'ilet, not too far from a gyro house. Again, outside of Hershey Park you have tons of choices, in case you don't want to eat all of your meals on property.
In terms of variety, Hershey Park has the most. You'll find very little on the menus repeated, which can make it difficult if you have a chicken fingers and fries kinda need for most meals.
If you'd like to be waited on, you likely already know you have to plan ahead at Disney! Reservations for these meals start six months out for on property places. You'll find a wide variety of food, and some from multiple countries. As far as variety, Magic Kingdom might be the winner here.
Dollywood is more limited, they are a smaller park after all. What you will find though, is home cookin' and comfort food in each door you enter. Salads, fish, chicken, sandwiches, BBQ, chicken, and pleanty of kid food, like mac and chicken fingers. Dollywood's menus seem to be pretty all American, but also family friendly.
Hershey has less to choose from as well, though they do boast a restaurant that uses chocolate in well...almost everything! It's a very popular spot, and pretty unique!
The winner here is a toss up...it really depends on what you like! If southern style cooking is what you crave, Dollywood is the winner, with comfort mood and kid favorites. Something a bit more sophisticated or with a cultural flair? Disney is the choice for that. Unique, fun, and covered in chocolate? Hershey Park for dinner!
We've talked about pretty much everything between these three parks..so which one did we enjoy most? Which one do we want to go back to? And which one do we plan to skip next time? You'll find out soon!