Disneyland candy. It’s a tradition, right up there with corn dogs and churros. From elaborate candy apples to house-made toffee, Disneyland serves up some of the most toothsome sugary treats in the theme park business. But where’s the best spot to get it? Do you opt for the original in Disneyland’s Candy Palace, or head over to Disney California Adventure for the sweets at Trolley Treats? I tried both, checking out the selection, atmosphere, and amenities at each location, to help you acquire the best sugar buzz on Disneyland property.
Disneyland traditionalists will argue for the Candy Palace. This Main Street, U.S.A., institution has been dishing out the treats for nearly sixty years, after all. In 2012, the Candy Palace was expanded, increasing display space as well as the iconic show kitchen, where guests can watch candy chefs dip caramel apples and roll candy canes (in season). The new Candy Palace would replace the vintage red-and-white striped, carnival-ish decor with pastel stained glass, Victorian chandeliers, and patterned mosaic tile floors — a true palace with decorations that evoke sweets in every flourish. In the displays you’ll find everything from Goofy’s Candy Co. bagged candy ($3.95+) to deluxe gourmet apples decorated to look like Disney characters ($9.99 – $12.99).
Disneyland makes a big deal out of its house-made candy, and guests can call in and listen to a pre-recorded message listing the candy that will be made in the show kitchen at Candy Palace that week. (Call 714-781-0112.) During my visit, they were making English toffee every other day, peanut clusters the others. Whether it’s in the show kitchen or not, you’ll also find freshly made peanut brittle, fudge ($4.39/piece), and other confections in the shop daily. Keep in mind that quite a few non-themed items in the candy cases, such as the chocolate peanut butter sandwiches, aren’t made at Disneyland. If you want house-made, ask a Cast Member, or stick to the apples, fresh fruit dipped in chocolate, and the items that come wrapped with “Made Fresh with Magic” stickers, such as the peanut brittle and toffee.
My first Candy Palace experience came on an English Toffee day in the kitchen. Never a huge English toffee fan, I decided to swing in and go for it as we were leaving the park for the evening. Once I’d glanced inside, though, I wished I’d gotten the candy for breakfast instead. The shop, not large to begin with, was bursting at the seams with July crowds. We ordered a block of toffee ($4.99 from the case, plastic-wrapped also available), and hustled out as fast as we could.
The toffee itself, though, more than made up for the drama of buying it. English toffee is a crunchy concoction of butter and sugar which I always tend to get stuck in my teeth, so it’s never been high on my list. But this toffee was all crunch and no sticky — hard enough to crack cleanly, rich buttery flavor, and completely robed in milk chocolate and almonds. Almonds and chocolate fly everywhere — maybe don’t eat it on your white hotel duvet. It’s plenty big enough to share with a friend, although I didn’t want to share once I’d had a taste.
All in all, I was a firm believer in toffee after the Disneyland experience. I just didn’t want to buy it there.
But just across the esplanade, a second candy shop beckons — one with essentially the same candy in the cases, but with a modern design that handles the crowds a bit more efficiently. Trolley Treats, at Disney California Adventure, offers the same over-the-top candy apple creations, Disneyland specialties like flavored fudge and peanut brittle, and a full line of things-dipped-in-chocolate as Candy Palace. The dark wood and sepia tones of the Mission-style buildings at this curve of Buena Vista Street are offset with light-hearted stained glass that gives Trolley Treats that fun Victorian candy-shop feel, just in a smaller dose than at the Candy Palace.
The toffee and other items being made in the kitchen were exactly the same as the ones at Disneyland, so no loss in flavor there. (I know. I tasted them for you. You’re very welcome.)
Same candy, same offerings, so which candy shop wins?
Candy Palace gets points for whimsy, as well as being the original (although heavily refurbished). The penny arcade games scattered through the store are fun, the updated decor is perfect Main Street USA Victorian, the atmosphere is festive. Which is a good thing, until it’s too festive. On crowded evenings the benches meant to help children peer into the penny movies are occupied by tired people who are in no hurry to move, and the narrow aisles become a crush of shoppers browsing at their own slow pace. Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor is attached through an interior door, but offers no seating or relief from the crowds once you’ve purchased your sweets.
Trolley Treats, meanwhile, exalts in wide modern aisles — room for everyone. Even when it is crowded, since it isn’t half arcade/half candy shop, there aren’t frequent pauses in the shopping shuffle while the person ahead of you pauses to admire a Victorian game. It’s all very beautiful, but it’s all very functional as well.
Trolley Treats also opens onto several seating areas, including the vast dining hall of Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe, once you pass through Clarabelle’s Hand-Scooped Ice Cream. You can also step outside and find seating along Carthay Circle.
Candy Palace and Trolley Treats feel like perfect examples of a key difference in atmosphere between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure: the first one offers incomparable charm, but sees a few more people than its design can comfortably handle on the busiest of days. The second will always feel like the new kid on the block, but with all those wide-open spaces, it can feel like the perfect relief from a jam-packed visit to Disneyland. It’s still a wonderful piece of Disney design, it’s just a little roomier.
For the claustrophobe in me, Trolley Treats is the clear choice. Room to browse, a place to sit, the same house-made candies and treats as the much busier and tighter Candy Palace in Disneyland.
Oh, and — try the toffee.