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If you have a food allergy or sensitivity, you know that traveling can sometimes be hard. Even downright scary at times!
Does it mean you hide in the shelter of your house, eating only off your pots, pans, and dishes you bought after you got diagnosed, afraid to go anywhere? Or are there places you can go and feel safe eating your meals and have an incredible time as well?
We recently made a trip to the California version of the happiest place on earth. We are all (yes, all 4 of us) Celiac, so we HAVE to eat gluten-free.
Yet we are on vacation and HAVE to enjoy ourselves as well (I mean, isn't that really the point of vacation?) So the less stress about food, the better. In this post I share my experiences with eating gluten-free food in Disneyland.
If you are wondering what it's like to eat gluten-free food in Disney World, check out my posts about that.
Before I get into what I ate, if you want to know why I don't eat Paleo on vacations, watch this.
The short version is that I have healed enough through all my 6 years of eating Paleo at home that I can do short stints of eating gluten-free grains, dairy, etc without serious ramifications these days, and I just want to enjoy my vacation. Saying “just wheat & gluten-free” when asked about allergies is much easier than “no grains, gluten, dairy, beans, sugar, etc”. Trust me, I've been there and it IS doable. I just choose not to if I don't need to.
Plus you'll see that I didn't exactly eat healthy while I was there either. I think the only “veggies” that passed my lips might have been ketchup and fried potatoes 🙂
This isn't a post on how to eat HEALTHY at Disneyland, just to avoid things that cause reactions…
*Full disclosure – I know there is an inherent risk in eating out and cross-contamination. I fully accept this risk and choose to live my life and not hide in my house, not enjoying life, worrying about every last molecule of gluten out there. If you aren't comfortable with this risk or are really really sensitive to gluten or other allergens, you might be better served bringing your own food to Disneyland, despite what I think are great precautions taken by Disney.
Ok, onto what I ate.
WHAT WE ATE
You can watch the vlogs I did below or just skip ahead to see pictures and descriptions of the meals down below. Keep in mind, this is all from the perspective of someone sensitive to wheat and gluten. There are two vlogs – traveling and then all of our meals at Disneyland.
This one is the vlog for the day we traveled to Disneyland – our meal at Root Down DIA and Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney
And this is the actual eating gluten-free food in Disneyland vlog:
WRITTEN LOG-FORMAT WITH PICTURES
These photos and descriptions are written in a log-like format. I made notes each night as we ate our meals, so these are my notes:
Travel Day 1
Location: Root Down at Denver International Airport – Terminal C
Ate: Arepas Egg Benedict with coffee, kids got sliders with gluten-free buns and french fries
Notes: Gluten-free items indicated on menu, informed server of our allergies and had no issues (we've eaten here many times, always been great)
Location: Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney
Ate: Ahi tuna tacos with white rice and sautéed veggies, Erik got the bbq ribs
Notes: We sat down, talked to our waitress and then it took about 10 min for the allergy rep to come out to talk to us. She asked us what we wanted and was really nice. Had to check on a few items to make sure they were indeed GF but then checked and let us know that they indeed were and that she had put the order in. After that it seemed to come out in normal time. I really liked the tacos – they were quite tasty.
Location: Marceline's Confectionery in Downtown Disney
Ate: Some ridiculously prettily decorated white chocolate covered apple – should be in a museum, not in our mouths
Notes: You have to get a number when you enter here and then when I was called I asked if the apples were gluten-free. The man got out a book that had every ingredient for every item in it and let me look. While not at all healthy, this particular apple was indeed gluten-free. And quite delicious. Just felt so bad cutting it up!
Disneyland Day 1
Location: Storyteller's Cafe in the Grand Californian Hotel
Ate: Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins, GF Chocolate Muffins, Scrambled Eggs, Hash Browns, bacon, GF Mickey Waffles
Notes: This is a character breakfast where Chip & Dale, Pluto, and Kenai from Brother Bear greet you at your table. The food is buffet style here. I had noted on our reservation that we had a gluten allergy and the hostess confirmed. We sat down and our server came out, got our drink order and told us the allergy chef would be right out. The allergy chef came out within 3 minutes of us sitting down – super quick. He walked us through the buffet- omlettes were ok, eggs, bacon, hash browns ok, the other potato hash might be cross-contaminated, sausage not ok. He brought us out blueberry muffins, chocolate muffins, and gf Mickey waffles and pancakes. The waffles took 15 min to come out- but were well worth the wait. This was a TON of food, btw. We didn't realize we were going to get this much and wound up taking some with us to have as a snack later.
Location: Blue Bayou in the Disneyland Park (by Pirates of the Carribean)
Ate: Portobello Mushroom Popcorn Rice, House Salad and gluten-free buns prior to the meal
Notes: I noted we had a gluten allergy when I made the reservation (3 months before to the day – very hard to get reservations here) so the hostess confirmed that with us and then provided us with an allergy menu when she sat us. Did not talk to a chef (though it always is an option to talk to one if you want to). The gluten-free buns prior to the meal were amazingly good. My mother-in-law joined us that day and loved them too- ate them instead of the regular buns the server brought out for her. Erik and Nathan got the salmon and liked it. Oliver got the kid's beef and it was tasty. I thought my popcorn rice was ok – too much portobello mushroom for my taste but someone who likes them a lot would probably love this. You go to this place for the ambiance though – it's inside the Pirates of the Carribean. (No picture of my entree – totally forgot. Was caught up staring at the fireflies that I miss so much out here in Colorado)
Location: Tiki Juice Bar at the Tiki Room in Adventureland (Disneyland Park)
Ate: Dole Whip in Pineapple Juice
Notes: LOOONG line for this one – think it was 35 minutes, but it's always a welcome treat on a hot day. It was my son's 8th birthday so he was super excited to get one too as a birthday treat 🙂 This is a dairy-free (and apparently vegan as well) treat that tastes like pineapple ice cream. Quite delicious!
Location: Galactic Grill in Tomorrowland (Disneyland Park)
Ate: Burger with gluten-free buns and fries
Notes: This is a quick service (fast food) restaurant. We had to wait in the regular line and then once we got to the front, wait a few more minutes to talk to allergy chef for more than one person with allergy (she was incredibly nice though). She asked about our allergies and then took my order and told me to ONLY get the food from her. They cook everything in a separate frier. Really good bun. Service took maybe 7 min from order to getting food, so longer than the “normal” food but it wasn't too bad.
Disneyland Day 2 (California Adventure)
Location: Ariel's Grotto in California Adventure
Ate: Gluten-free blueberry muffins, GF Waffles, fruit bacon, and eggs
Notes: This is a character breakfast where many of the Disney princesses come to greet you at your table. I made the reservation for this and noted on there we had a gluten allergy and the hostess confirmed. The server left an allergy menu with us so didn’t need to talk to chef. We ordered straight off the menu (I got eggs as an extra a la carte item). Took us a few more minutes to get food than everyone else but it wasn’t too bad of a wait. The presentation of the food here was the best of any meal we had on the trip – the plate of waffles was gorgeous and really made me not feel any different than anyone else eating “normal” food. They also brought out gluten-free blueberry muffins as an appetizer.
Location: Award Weiners in California Adventure
Ate: Hot dog with gluten-free bun and a banana
Notes: This is a quick service “restaurant”. We waited in line with everyone (long line – about 20 min), but I asked an employee managing the line for an allergy menu and he immediately got me one so we could look at it while we waited. We didn’t have to talk to a chef and the man behind the counter was very knowledgable about what was gluten-free and not. The fries were not cooked in a separate frier so he suggested fruit instead (banana). Also could not get the vegetables on the Bacon Street Dog due to cross-contamination. An allergy chef served our food at the window and it was quick. The buns were kind of dry so we only ended up eating part of them, but otherwise the hot dog was decent. Not sure about ketchup, relish, and mustard packets since they contained distilled vinegar and “spices”.
Location: Cocina Cucamonga (California Adventure)
Ate: Beef tacos on soft corn tortillas, beans, rice, glass of sangria
Notes: This is a quick service restaurant where you order at the cashier and then step up to the window to get your food. Asked for an allergy menu while waiting in line for the cashier. Went to order- but they were out of the 1/2 Chicken we wanted (it was 8 pm) so I ordered the beef tacos instead. Easy to order. Food took about 10 minutes, which was longer than most of the other people waiting with us (Erik got a fajita salad and it took the longest).
Disneyland Day 3
Location: Plaza Inn (Disneyland park)
Ate: Gluten-free Mickey Waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns
Notes: This is a character meal where the Fairy Godmother, Tigger, Eeyore, Chip& Dale, Captain Hook, and Pip the Penguin come to your table and you get to meet Minnie before you sit down. You pay upfront and then there is an allergy specific waiter/host (not really waiters there- it’s all buffet including drinks) and he spoke with us about our allergy as he sat us down. (Again, I had noted our allergy on our reservation) Then he notified the allergy chef and about 4 min later the chef came over to the table. It’s a buffet style here but the chef said because we have celiacs that he would just cook up a safe family style meal for us, but that the fruit up in the buffet was fine. He brought out gluten-free waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, and hash browns, which was PLENTY of food. The allergy host was a busy man but made sure to stop by one other time to make sure we were ok.
Location: Smokejumper's Grill in California Adventure
Ate: Cheeseburger, fries, gluten-free brownie
Notes: We had had a fast pass to ride on Radiator Springs Racers so decided to eat over in California Adventure again. This is a quick service place where you order at a cashier and then go to a different counter to pick up your meal. I just went up to an empty cashier's station and grabbed an allergy menu while we waited in line (short line though). No need to talk with a chef – able to just order from the cashier. They have a separate frier here. Took 10 min to get food, which was longer than everyone else by like 5 minutes or so – food was brought to the counter by an allergy chef.
Location: Snack cart in Fantasyland (Disneyland Park) – right near Casey's Train
Ate: Pineapple spear, some fresh mango slices, and a cup of coffee
Notes: Look at that exhaustion on Nathan's face. We were all hot and really tired. A bit of sugar (and caffeine in my case) helped pep us up
Location: Bengal BBQ in Adventureland (Disneyland park)
Ate: beef, chicken, and veg skewers, hummus platter with veggies (couldn’t have rice or sauces because they all had gluten)
Notes: This is a quick service place where you had to wait in a long line. No allergy menu and not particularly gluten-free friendly. The lady who helped us was knowledgable and friendly, they just didn't have a ton for us. The “safe items” were beef, chicken, and veggies skewers without any sauces or added spices and some hummus with veggies. Even the rice here was NOT gluten-free. You get 1 skewer per order, with 3-4 small chunks of meat on each skewer – not a lot of food and there was a long line, so after we realized how little food we got it wasn't worth it to go back to get more. It was Mickey’s Halloween Party and not a ton of food options open because several of the quick service restaurants were trick or treating locations (the party was a special event that the park is only open to people who had bought the extra tickets).So this was one of the only food options available at the time that you didn't need a reservation for. We had gotten some Pirates Booty, potato chips, and apple chips from trick or treating so we just supplemented with them. Definitely not the most satisfying meal 🙂 (I forgot to take a picture of our skewers, but here's the Apple Crisps we received from Trick or Treating)
Disneyland Day 4
Location: Storyteller's Cafe in the Grand Californian Hotel
Ate: Omlette with everything, hashbrowns, Gluten-free Mickey Waffles, bacon, coffee
Notes: See Disneyland Day 1 more details on this place. This time our waiter asked if we wanted to talk to the allergy chef but we said no thanks since we ate there on Sunday and he said he’d have the chef start on a plate of GF Mickey waffles. We went through the buffet and instead of the hash browns they had tater tots. I asked if those were ok but the chef behind the counter said no because of shared frier. We could get our own batch made but it would take 20 min, so they said it would be faster for them to make us some hash browns. About 5 min later our server came to our table with 4 huge plates of hash browns – a bit too much! I thought the food tasted better than on Sunday. This place definitely has our fave Mickey waffles – each place seems to be a bit different. We actually chose to eat here because when we had last visited Disneyland a few years ago we had stayed at this hotel and they had the best gluten-filled Mickey Waffles, so I made a guess that they'd have the best GF ones and we were right!
Location: Hungry Bear (Across from Splash Mountain) in Disneyland
Ate: Burger with gluten-free bun and fries
Notes: This is a quick service restaurant where you order from a cashier and then pick your food up at a different window. I grabbed an allergy menu off of an empty cashier's station and looked at the menu while we waited in line (just a few minutes). Were able to just order from the cashier. Erik got a Turkey sandwich and said it was good. Took us same amount of time to get our food as the other people waiting for regular burgers (maybe even a bit faster). Received the food from an allergy chef. Outdoor seating under a big structure and felt away from the hustle and bustle.
Location: A street cart on Main Street
Ate: Chocolate covered banana
Notes: There is just no PG way of eating one of these things, is there?
Location: Rancho del Zocalo in Frontierland (Disneyland park)
Ate:1/4 chicken, chile verde, beans, rice, and corn tortillas. Flan for dessert
Notes: This is a quick service restaurant where it's more cafeteria style – you order your items from counters and then you pay a cashier. We walked in and two nice ladies were there to help us. They gave us an allergy menu and told us that most things were already gluten-free. We were told to tell the people behind the counter that we needed to be gluten-free. When I told the lady behind the counter where I ordered she very nicely said “no problem, let me just change my gloves” and then made our meal. Probably the easiest meal to obtain and one of the tastiest. Think this was our favorite meal of all places we went on this trip. (This was one of the places closed during Mickey's Halloween Party).
We left to go to Calabasas, CA this day to visit family, but did have one more meal, this time breakfast in the Disneyland Hotel.
Location: Goofy's Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel
Ate: Scrambled eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, Gluten-free Mickey Waffles
Notes: This was a character breakfast where you meet Goofy and then Chip & Dale, Pluto, and I think Minnie (she didn't actually visit us) comes to your table. It felt REALLY disorganized in there. When we were sat down the chef came out and told us verbally, while we were sitting at the table, in a heavy accent what was safe to eat but seemed too busy to bring us around and seemed quite put out by us. He offered to make us gluten-free waffles or pancakes so we said waffles. Those came out within 10 min. This was my least favorite meal overall just because of the chaotic feel of the place and the non-welcoming feeling from the chef, plus the food was just ok. Not our favorite batch of waffles either – the other gluten-free waffles at all the other places were MUCH better (really crazy how they differ so much from place to place). And the least engaging of the character meals too – we felt kind of rushed in those experiences and as I mentioned, Minnie never even came over to our table. Kind of sucked to end on such a low note, but we had such good memories during the trip that it didn't much matter. I'm hoping it was just our experience, so if you have had a better experience eating at this restaurant with a food allergy, please chime in in the comments!
Just some closing notes:
• You won't notice many snacks talked about here because we ate so much during our meals we didn't want much in the way of snacks. There are however, many market-style locations throughout both parks that offer fresh fruits, pickles, hummus, and freeze dried apples.
• We ate a lot of character meals just because in our experience at DisneyWorld two years ago it seemed it was much easier to get gluten-free food at the more expensive sit-down restaurants. But now it seems a lot easier, at least at Disneyland, to get quick service gluten-free meals as well. Plus the hotel we stayed at did not have any viable breakfast options, so I made sure to have reservations made so we had that meal covered at least. I also wanted to get these character meals in while my boys actually still LIKE them, haha. Give us a few years and I'm sure I'll hear “maaaah-ahhm why do we have to go to one of those?”
•You CAN bring food into the park if you want to bring your own snacks or meals. Your bags are searched but they weren't concerned with food when we went through.
• Everyone you deal with seems to know what gluten-free means. No weird “huh?” tilts of the head or “what is that exactly?”. I felt confident that my meals were gluten-free.
•If you want to eat Paleo or a more specific set of food, it's best to make reservations at the sit-down type restaurants and then talk to a chef about what you can eat. They are usually pretty good about coming up with things that fit in a ton of dietary restrictions. I heard chefs talking with people who sounded like they had 4 different allergies and weren't even phased.
• Biggest thing to note is that if you make reservations it's easy to indicate that you have a food allergy(ies) on the reservation, and if you go to most of the quick service restaurants they now have allergy-friendly menus. It's pretty easy to talk to an allergy chef if you desire, and eating gluten-free at Disneyland is really as easy as waving a magic wand 🙂 You can read more about Disneyland's specific allergy protocols on their Special Dietary Requests Page.
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