Fairs, Amusement Parks & The Food: A Few Solutions

June 1, 2012   22 Comments

Snack Girl has already been to Six Flags New England with her children and dealt with the expensive fried food problem.

Amusement Park Food

What did I do? Did I eat at the park? Well, yes I did. I had 1/2 chicken strips meal and my tummy felt a bit like I had eaten concrete.

I received this plea from Clare:

Help! I'm headed to Wild Waves in a few days, and I'll be there during lunchtime and snack time. I've never been and I don't know what to expect as far as food goes.

I'm gluten free and dairy free, and trying to lose weight. Plus you're not allowed to bring food in to the park. Please help!

I feel ya, Kenaia. It isn't easy to enjoy the rides when you can't eat at the park. My first suggestion is that you could ride on the ones that spin you really fast and then you won't be hungry! I did that when I visited Six Flags and I felt pukey for 2 hours.

I'm just kidding. Here are a few ideas that I have come up with after hours of research.=:

1. Call the park and tell them that you are gluten-free and dairy-free and ask them if you can bring in your own food. I did this with Six Flags to see what they would say. The representative told me to tell the security guards at the front gates about your "special diet" (AKA healthy diet) AND as long as you aren't bringing in what they already sell there - you are good!

How about that? So, the next time I go to Six Flags I will inform the security guard that I can't eat ANYTHING they serve at the park as I am allergic to $12 chicken strips, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. and I will bring in my sandwich on gluten free bread (they don't sell it at the park), orange, apples, and bananas.

2. Find the salads. Surprisingly, Six Flags sells salads. Call your local amusement park to find out if they have healthy options and if so - where? These parks are huge so you need to identify where in the park you can purchase the salad. Then plan to be close to that spot at lunch time.

3. Smuggle in your own food. I KNOW I am going to get flamed for suggesting this - but I managed to bring in an apple, orange, and PB&J to an amusement park because I have this stealth back pack (see below). It has a large pocket and then a smaller one next to it. No security guard has ever opened the smaller pocket to check to see what I have in there. They do inspect the outside pockets.

4. Take a day off from your diet. When faced with ice cream, fried dough, sizzling sausages, deep-fried Twinkies, and gallons of soda - how can you keep to a healthy diet? It just is too hard to deny yourself these treats when you are surrounded by them. It's like walking by a candy jar to the water cooler. How many times does it take before you grab the mini-Snickers bar? I know that after about three passes - my will power melts and I stop and eat one.

5. Go to your car at lunch time. Many fairs and amusement parks will stamp your hand and allow you reenter for the day. Pack a cooler with your favorites, find a cool spot, and have a picnic. This can be a relaxing way to break up the hard day of riding on roller coasters.

Finally, don't be too hard on yourself. Our county fairs, amusement parks, and water parks are trying to make the food be FUN and appeal to every one. Unfortunately, they have left out the people who are trying to be healthier. I'm sure one day "Kale Chips" will be served :)

How do you deal with the summer fairs and amusement parks? Please share.

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 22 )

I've never heard that tip about calling ahead to proclaim the "special diet" -- I have a sister who keeps very strict Kosher dietary restrictions. This will be useful for her diet, as well as my healthy one!

We were at Six Flags New England last year for a school trip. 2 of the other chaperones and I walked the entire park twice before we finally found a food area that sold healthier options. They are there, you just really need to be prepared to search for them. Although one advantage is you ended up walking a lot - good exercise for when you do splurge!

Some parks have transportation links to nearby hotels. Years ago at San Diego Sea World (?) we had our hands stamped and took the sky buckets to a hotel outside the park to eat in a restaurant, then bucketed back. Still pricey, but many more food options.

You are to funny! My daughter got kicked out of Six Flags for smuggling food! lol

We live close to Orlando and have the luxury of visiting "the mouse" a few times a year. I can say that over the past few years, they have noticed the trend and are TRING to be more healthy. I have seen fresh fruit stands and some healthier options on the menu (especially for the kids!), but you might just have to ask or look around for them. However... you are allowed to bring your own food into Disney... so bring your own banana so you don't have to pay top dollar for it!

I haven't been to an amusement park in years, but I do remember packing sandwiches and such in a cooler to keep in the car to go back to for a bite to eat midday!

I've actually brought a note from my doctor before. Legally, they can't do anything if they won't let you leave the premises, but most places will be okay with it if you're nice about it. I escort youth to a lot of different functions here in Denver and when we go to the convention center, you're not allowed to go to your cars, you have to stay with the kids. The first year we went, I didn't try ahead of time, but they still let me through and the next year, I brought a note from my doctor and they didn't even ask for it. It just depends on who you talk to that day and whether or not they're having a good day.

I live in Columbus and I'm lucky to live between Sandusky and Cincinnati, the two roller coaster capitals of the world. I have been to both Kings Island and Cedar Point a number of times and they have always let us pack snacks. Also, I've never had my bag searched at one of them. I didn't know other places did that. Weird!

Anyway, vegetarian options at these places always kind of suck, so we usually pack a cooler for the car to nibble on or find a restaurant ahead of time. We do nibble on fair food though. I love, love, love grease covered, vinegary fries and funnel cakes. :)

We hide food in our sons diapers. Since he wears cloth they are bulkier and we can fit alot of goodies in, we hide the food, put the wipes on top so that when they check the bags they just see wipes and diapers and never search past.

Hershey Park in Hershey, PA has many healthy food items. My favorite is the BBQ shack with smoked turkey drumsticks and corn on the cob but there are nice salads and places that sell fresh fruit too.

Wow, I'm not feeling good about people sneaking food in. It gives kids the message they don't have to follow rules. Some kids get in big trouble in school for emulating their parents behaviors. (Telling kids to lie about their ages so they can get into movies cheaper, etc. has consequences for the children when they carry that attitude to school.)

Go to Cedar Point all the time! I sneak in food through my daughter's diaper bag and stroller, if we sneak it in at all. We live really close and have a season pass, so I usually get my hand stamped and leave to eat at home and go back when we are done, or we eat before we go and spend the time going to see the attractions. Once in a while, I splurge on something good, but most of the time I like to use the day at CP for walking and getting in some fun exercise! :D

We went to Holiday World last weekend and I was able to get a black bean burger that tasted pretty darn good. We were able to substitute applesauce instead of fries too. They sell Uncrustables PB &J, which was nice for my little guy who won't eat hamburgers or hotdogs. They have free soda throughout the park and some of the soda fountains also have water. I let my kids have 1 cup of soda and the rest of the day we had water.

I understand the impulse to sneak food in, but I also don't love the message it sends the kids. It's another thing altogether if you have a medical reason + note. I also think there is a lesson to be learned here for those trying to eat healthy + the kids they're with - situations frequently arise where you have to be scrappy and resourceful to eat the way you want - as others have said, almost every park has healthier options. They may be tucked away somewhere, but they're almost always there. A turkey sandwich (maybe lose one slice of the bread or ditch the roll completely), a salad w/o cheese and croutons on top (dip in the dressing), a fruit cup, etc. - might not be very good, but I do find I can stick to eating healthy almost everywhere I am if I really put in the effort.

That said, I should add that I LOVE sausages and ice cream and a lot of that other junk they serve - so I appreciate the tip that maybe you should just relax for a day and enjoy the total experience!

I agree with the suggestion to call the park. I just looked up Wild Waves and their website says that they do have places that sell salads and grilled chicken. But it depends on how sensitive you are to gluten and casein whether or not you're willing to risk the food. So you could call and see what they suggest.

I too don't like the idea of sneaking food into places that don't allow it. But there's a difference between just not wanting to eat the junky sort of food that's common to the parks (for whatever reason) and being unable to eat them due to health issues. Those of us who don't have the health issues, I think we do have to just suck it up and figure an appropriate way to handle it, whether it's returning to the car for your own food, sharing food with your party to cut portion size, searching for less unhealthy options, or a combination of these. Because, as someone has already said, they're not the only kind of place that doesn't offer great options for healthy eating (or whatever your particular diet is).

Thanks for the nice comment about Holiday World (we're in Santa Claus, Indiana). We provide our allergen-friendly and healthy-option mentions here on our website: along with other information. As others have commented, sneaking food in is a violation of park rules at many facilities. We offer a picnic shelter adjacent to our Raven Parking Lot for those who wish to bring their own food. And by the way, our free soft drinks stations all include water as an option, along with Gatorade, fruit punch, lemonade, and carbonated beverages. Thank you!

Pack your lunch in a backpack and cover it with tampons and pads...the security guards will shut that bag fast!

Growing up, my friends and I went to Hurricane Harbor (Six Flags' water park) every summer. Since we were poor teenagers, we packed our own lunches in a cooler and did exactly what you mentioned--we got our hands stamped at lunchtime, and went and picniced in the parking lot. It was a lot of fun, a good break from the park, and a cheaper way to enjoy a good meal (and probably a lot more food than we would have been able to get in the park.) Plus, we all got to control exactly what we were eating!

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