It’s the dead of winter, and most of the fun holidays are behind us—but there’s still months of cold and slush to get through. So we’d like to welcome you to Tropical Staycation, a week of island-inspired recipes and other stories that will transport you to much warmer, sunnier places. Just don’t look out the window while reading.
Disneyland Resort is a destination filled with a sense of nostalgia, and sometimes that nostalgia takes on edible forms. The feeling of being transported back to kitschy times long gone can, in my opinion, only be served up by the number-one must-order snack for anyone visiting the parks: a Dole Whip, the bright yellow pineapple soft-serve treat served in a cup with a cherry and tiny tiki umbrella on top. In the Adventureland section of the park, look around and you’ll find that seemingly every visitor is carrying one, and for good reason. I implore anyone and everyone headed to the resort to give the Dole Whip a try.
The Dole Whip is so synonymous with Disneyland, and so retro-looking, that some people think it’s been around since the park’s opening in 1955. But the history of this pineapple delight starts a little later in the Disneyland timeline. In 1976, fruit and vegetable producer Dole replaced United Airlines as the sponsor of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room (an attraction with a great history of its own). With the swap in sponsors came the idea to sell Dole pineapple juice and pineapple spears for guests to enjoy as they toured the park and watched the Enchanted Tiki Room’s animatronic show where the birds sing words and the flowers croon.
A decade later, in 1986, Disneyland introduced a new snack in their Dole repertoire. The Dole Whip is a pineapple soft-serve treat that isn’t quite ice cream but is richer than sorbet. The secret to its airy texture lies in Dole’s signature Pineapple Dole Whip powder, which is mixed with water and run through a commercial soft-serve machine—but anyone can order the powder online, which means you can make an authentic Dole Whip at home if you’re not planning a trip to Disneyland anytime soon and want to give this tropical indulgence a try.
Even though the parks are constantly experimenting with new menu items, Disney recognizes the importance of the Dole Whip as part of their history and an ongoing draw for visitors. “The tropical flavor of the Dole Whip transports guests to another place,” John State, culinary director at Disneyland Resort, told The Takeout. He describes the Dole Whip as “a gold standard offering” within the park, universally beloved and a great way to introduce new guests to Disney’s dining scene. “Smell is the strongest of our senses, and when guests absorb the soft, delicate aroma of pineapple, they know instinctively where they are standing: Disneyland.”
While the parks have great pretzels and pizza, you can get (less Mickey-themed) versions of those foods just about anywhere. A Dole Whip is part of the quintessential Disneyland experience in a way that other snacks just aren’t. This is especially true on warm California days when a frozen treat (one with a nearly 40-year history) is a refreshing way to cool down and keep moving, for around $5. Even when it’s cool outside, you’ll see the line to get a Dole Whip wrapping around deep into Adventureland. It’s just that good.
Or, even better, you can head for Adventureland’s Tropical Hideaway marketplace, open since 2018. There are many snack options here, both sweet and savory, but the only one you should be focused on is the Chile-Mango Whip, a loaded Dole Whip creation that puts a modern spin on a classic. And makes heads turn.
First off, a cup is filled to the brim with the same classic pineapple Dole Whip that you can get at other spots around Disneyland. Then things start to get a little more unique. The soft-serve is swirled with chamoy, a Mexican sauce made from pickled fruit, then the whole thing is topped with big chunks of fresh mango, cucumber, jicama, and pineapple, and finished with a sprinkle of chile-lime seasoning.
Not only is this specialty snack highly Instagrammable (very important), its variation in flavors and textures make it a unique experience, which is what a day at the park is all about. The cool soft-serve, crunchy relish, sweet and sour sauce, and spicy finish are a great showcase of Disneyland’s skill at making a day at the park feel fresh for returning visitors.
My favorite way to enjoy any Dole Whip is at the Tropical Hideaway. In this secluded little dining area, you can grab a seat near the river to watch the Jungle Cruise boats pulling back up to the dock, and you’ll get a shoutout from the skipper as you wave to them and their crew. If you only make one purchase at Disneyland, this is the way to go.