Food at the park can be a major point of pain because of high prices and long lines. There are several food-related topics coming in the book. In part one, I'm sharing the best money saving options. Later we'll explore the park meal plans.
Most of the food options are designed to be good sources of energy. These large baskets of fries, pizza with breadsticks and other high-carb options help sustain you during your day of walking, riding and standing around in the park. There are healthier options mixed in. Keep in mind that if you live close and have and paid-for food plan (which starts to feels a lot like free,) you will increase the frequency of your visits, just for the food. I'll go into this in more detail in a later next section, but be warned, the meal plans and souvenir drink cups can cause you to gain weight!
Bring Your Own (BYO)
The most cost-effective option that I see people do is to bringing food from home. You can walk out to your vehicle and enjoy a nice picnic in the parking lot. Some people lift the back of a minivan, pull out lawn chairs, open up a large cooler and eat food prepared in advance. On the last operating day of the 2016 season, I saw two men playing chess on a folding table, set up under a tree in the grassy median, between the sign and the entrance. It looked like they had also eaten lunch there. They were enjoying a quiet and pleasant break, which is also one of the cheapest ways to eat during your day at the park.
If you do tailgaiting in the lots outside of large sporting events, you are probably well equipped for eating at your car. Don’t be surprised if you get attention from the park security. They may see this as going against the park rules of not bringing food into the park. But I doubt they’d really give you much trouble. I see a lot of families eating at their car.
Kings Island’s lot is small enough that you can easily walk out and back in a few minutes. If mobility is a problem for some of your party, you could send a runner out to the lot and bring a backpack or nondescript bag of food in. This should be done discreetly because the park’s policy is that no food or beverages are permitted to be brought into the park. When security is inspecting bags, you may get turned back at the entrance. So stay flexible and be prepared that your whole group may need to have their hands stamped and walk outside the park to eat food that you bring.
If you do get turned back and don’t want to eat all the way back at to your vehicle, you can eat right outside the entrance. There are nice, shaded areas outside the park gates with brick seat areas lining the sidewalks that lead up to the entrance. Then only one or two members of your group need walk all the way out to the car.
Go Out for a Bite
There are many restaurants within a ten-minute drive of the park. It might take you out of the park for a little more than an hour to leave, eat and return. This also makes sense if it is early in the season and restaurant service is not up-to-speed. If you don’t have a reason to stay, like a meal plan, eating outside the park might be a good idea.
Gold Pass carriers, you don’t have a thing to worry about, just go and come back in. If you don’t have a season pass of any kind. Make sure you keep your parking receipt and get your hand stamped as you exit.
There are many nearby restaurants in either direction. Kings Mills road to the northeast of the park, turn right as you leave the parking lot. Ahead, near the I–71 entrance/exit has several restaurants from McDonald’s and Wendy’s to Chipotle and a couple of table-service options too. If you want more variety, you can turn left out of the lot, turn right on Western Row and the proceed straight onto Tylersville Road. Or you can stay on Western Row as it turns left and then go left onto Mason-Montgomery Road. These are two large commercial areas, nearly within view of the park that offer nearly any food option you could want.