Thankfully, many of my friends have made the Disney trek, and one girl friend in particular had road-tested a lot of the dietary restrictions for herself when dining at Disney restaurants. It was her personal testimonies about these experiences that gave me a little boost of confidence in thinking, "OK, yeah, maybe we really can pull this off."
Then, it was suddenly DISNEY WEEK, and we went from theory to practice. This is where I want to give a huge one-woman teary eyed round of applause to the Disney parks staff for the grace and courtesy we encountered everywhere we went. Never once did I witness a roll of the eyes or any other similar reaction from staff. With the exception of 1 or 2 restaurant visits, the staff seating us already knew that we had a gluten and dairy restriction in our party (my 4 year old daughter). The restaurants that did not have the
gluten/dairy information at hand when we arrived for our reservation, for whatever reason, did not skip a beat and continued as though they had known it all along.
Here are the restaurants where we had a fantastic experience.
- Rainforest Cafe (Downtown Disney)
- Tusker House breakfast buffet/character breakfast (Animal Kingdom)
- Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Villas)
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall breakfast buffet/character breakfast (Epcot)
- Teppan Edo Japanese hibachi dining (Epcot)
- Cinderella's Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)
- The Crystal Palace breakfast buffet/character breakfast (Magic Kingdom)
- Biergarten (Epcot)
The breakfast buffet/character breakfasts were a really REALLY great experience. The chefs were friendly, compassionate, efficient, and best of all, knowledgeably presented lots and lots of options that were dairy and gluten free. I would say that those dealing with cases of celiac disease who are especially paranoid about cross contamination should ask the chefs whether it is possible to get some fruit or other options they serve to be brought separately to the table. In our case, there were often separate areas where the gluten free breakfast pastries were served, OR we were offered some prepackaged. Enjoy Life and Kinnickinnick brand foods were commonly available in lots of the restaurants. That said, my daughter was able to enjoy hearty breakfasts with lots of whole foods and protein available...and good thing, because breakfast was often one of our biggest food stops of the day. Best of all, the character breakfast experiences allowed the girls to meet many of the characters AND got us into the park early, so I would recommend them for all families of small children, but especially families with spectrum kiddos who might otherwise avoid long outdoor lines to meet characters or be frustrated with slow line waiting to enter the park in the morning.
at Biergarten - a live band!
For non-breakfast meals, Cinderella's Royal Table, the Epcot Biergarten, and Sanaa went the extra mile with exceptionally delicious gluten free dairy free options. The Rainforest Cafe and Teppan Edo met our family's needs graciously, but the fare was of the "naked protein and veggies with salt and pepper", very stripped down type. You could enjoy a gluten free dairy free meal with loved ones at all these locations, but if you are looking for a little extra oomph, the Royal Table, Biergarten, and Sanaa would be the first places I'd direct you out of the restaurants we'd visited.
Like any parents (and any parents of a dietary restricted kid), we brought LOTS of nonperishable gluten free dairy free snacks with us into the park: Larabars, rice crackers, raisins, beef jerky, and toasted seaweed. I also had a stash of Quest bars for myself to keep my protein consistently adequate over the course of the week, which was useful considering that we walked several miles each day through Disney parks and were far more active in a "low level activity" sense.
I visited CrossFit MouseTrap with my brother one morning for a drop-in fee. It was a nice experience - a friendly and accommodating box that is a well-oiled machine in terms of dealing with visitors. On the morning we visited, they had a group warmup, a strength set, and a 20 minute workout of the day. I'd heartily recommend checking them out if you are a Disney traveler looking for a group workout. They have some great graphics on their shirts, too, and the inventor of WOD Counters coaches there, so be prepared with some souvenir money!
Have you successfully done Disney with one or more trip members with dietary restrictions? What tips do you have to share about your trip?
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