by Tiggerific Diva
Anyone who knows me knows I’m from a Disney family. My husband, daughters and I love all things Disney, especially Disneyland. One of the questions I get most often from people is “What do you eat at Disneyland?”. For most people the answer would be “Everything, we eat everything!”. For my family it’s a little more complicated. My daughters and I have Celiac Disease which means we can’t just grab any old snack when we’re at the park.
I didn’t get to experience Disneyland for the first time until I was 32 years old. That’s right, for one reason or another that childhood rite of passage had eluded me. My husband grew up in Santa Monica and was absolutely appalled that I had never been to Disneyland. He surprised me after our wedding with a trip to Disneyland complete with tickets to Mickey’s Halloween party.
I was beyond thrilled to be going to Disneyland yet also extremely nervous. Up to that point my experience with safe food options at amusement parks had been less than stellar. I had been told that Disneyland had Gluten Free options and I expected the usual – drinks, fruit and maybe a salad or two. We headed to City Hall to get the list of food options that were “me” friendly and I was astonished. The list was pages long with just about every food I could possibly want Popcorn, Dole Whips, Soups, Sandwiches and even the coveted Mickey waffles were all things I could eat with or without modifications. I’m still holding out for Gluten Free Beignets and Churros (hint, hint Disneyland).
Disneyland does a lot of things really well and being able to accommodate food allergies is right at the top of this list.
Avoiding Cross Contamination
Anyone who has ever been “glutened” knows how scary the prospect of cross contamination can be. I have been to Disneyland 8 times for a combined total of roughly 40 days and I have never gotten sick. That’s all meals and snacks inside the park or at Downtown Disney. Not even the slightest hint of a reaction, ever. My daughters have been going to the parks since birth and they’ve never gotten sick either which is really saying something given how young kids put everything in their mouths.
You can look at any restaurant’s menu either in person or on the Disneyland mobile app. There will be a separate section on the menu detailing the allergy friendly options or if information is available upon request. The menu will list items for adults and little Mouseketeers as well. When you order at a quick service location, tell the counter staff that you have Celiac Disease and cannot have gluten. They will provide you with a list of what you can eat and, in most instances, a Chef will come to the counter to speak with you and go over your order. A Chef will personally prepare your food and bring it out separate from the rest of your party to ensure no cross contamination.
Even the receipt has the reference to the “gluten allergy” in red ink so it really stands out to anyone filling that order. The Disneyland app does have a mobile order option now for quick service locations. I plan on testing this during our next trip to see if it works well for those of us who need dietary modifications.
Sit down locations follow the same process as quick service regarding special ordering and speaking with a Chef. We book reservations every year for the Minnie Character Breakfast at the Plaza Inn and have dinner at Tortilla Joe’s in Downtown Disney. When you make your reservation either online (super easy with the mobile app) or by phone be sure to tell them you or someone in your party has a special dietary request. It will be documented as part of the reservation. We also mention it when we check in for our reservation to make sure they can accommodate our needs.
The Plaza Inn does an amazing job making sure our breakfast is just as robust as the options for people at the buffet. I have heard the same thing about other Character breakfasts throughout the resort.
Gluten Free Snacks
Surprisingly the majority of Disneyland snacks are gluten free. We can eat the popcorn, Dole Whips, regular Mickey ice cream (there is one that isn’t gluten free), turkey legs, cotton candy and many more options. It’s a family tradition to stop at Clarabelle’s in California Adventure for a “Kitchen Sink” ice cream sundae and we have plenty of safe options. There are also fruit and veggie stands throughout the parks as well. Disney has even started selling bagged cookies that are gluten free. My girls love the Chocolate Chip cookies and the Lemon ones are my favorite. Certain Candy Apples are gluten free and counter staff can help you with your selection. We tried a “Poison Apple” one last year and it was delicious.
When Pixar Pier opened, several new gluten free snack and food options were added including a cookie filled with Blackberry Jam at the Jack-Jack Cookie Num Nums stand. The IncrediCookie lives up to its name and is in high demand. If you’re looking to try this delectable gluten free treat go to the stand earlier in the day, they sell out regularly. Next trip we’ll be checking out the chicken legs at the Poultry Palace and soft serve ice cream at Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats.
Gluten Free Menu Options
One of my favorite things about Disneyland is they are always adding new gluten free options to the menus. We’ve been going to the park for eight years and I’ve never eaten the same thing twice unless I wanted to. Several quick service locations offer burgers and fries, but they are all unique when it comes to the toppings and types of fries (hello Pommes Frites!). From what I have experienced the same goes for most other menu items too from salads to main courses. I have never been bored with my options and there is a new list of things I want to try each time we go to the park.
Staying Gluten Free
It would be impossible to completely avoid gluten while at Disneyland. You will ultimately touch something; a ride, bench, railing, etc. that has gluten on it. We’ve always made a point of carrying wipes with us. I tend to pack antibacterial and regular for our trips. I’ve trained our girls well, when we get table before anyone sits down we wipe down the table and chairs to make sure we’ve cleared off anything that can potentially make us sick. We also wipe hands after every few rides, before another handful or two of popcorn and when sitting down to eat if we’re not close to a bathroom which is very rare as most bathrooms are near dining areas. So far this has worked well for us.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. When in doubt ask the staff/server/chef about the food or if something doesn’t seem right. They’re happy to help. Chefs have made special order items to accommodate us. I’ve seen staff run from one restaurant to another to get a dressing that’s gluten free or go pick up gluten free buns for a sandwich. They are always willing to go the extra mile to make sure you have a good dining experience. I’ve been told that if you call ahead and give them enough notice, Café Orleans can even make a gluten free Monte Cristo.
Always double check with staff before ordering something. If for some reason the app is not up to date or a menu item has changed you don’t want to be caught by surprise. You can also bring food into the park in your backpack or a soft sided cooler if you would be more comfortable having something on hand you already know is safe. Review the park rules prior to your trip for a list of approved items that can be brought into the park.
Rest assured, you can still have an amazing Disney experience even if you have Celiac Disease or other food allergies. Enjoy your trip and have a Mickey waffle for me!
Do you have any tips for Gluten Free dining at Disneyland? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your tips in the comments.
If you would like information on planning your first or 50th trip to Disneyland be sure to contact Patricia at All For Dreams Travel for a free vacation quote.