Disneyland: The Happiest (Gluten-Free) Place on Earth

DPP_923I’ll be honest with you, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Disneyland.  Spending a day at Mickey’s lair makes me feel like I’m vacationing inside of a giant advertisement—an entire theme park dedicated to living in, wearing, and practically even breathing Disney.  And brands aren’t exactly my thing even when I’m not feeling suffocated by them.

To Disney’s credit,  the rides are fun and it can be a nice place to relax and play.  And it truly is magical when you’re young enough to not be concentrating on brands or how things like gender or social-economic status are portrayed (or maybe that’s just me).  But what really convinced me that I could have a nice—maybe even “magical”—time at  Disneyland was the food.

Vacationing Gluten-Free:

My fiancé, Mr. Munger, and his family took me along on vacation last September to Disneyland.  I hadn’t taken a major vacation since going gluten-free, so the idea of traveling out of state and eating in unfamiliar places was downright scary at first.  I imagined being surrounded by happy vacationers as my stomach loudly demanded food or cried out in pain because I’d accidentally been glutened.

To my surprise, vacationing at Disneyland was almost magical—the ultimate food vacation.

The very first day we arrived we stopped by Town Hall (the welcome center right inside the park) because we’d been told they’d be able to supply us with a list of celiac-safe dining.  I was presented with a huge packet.  It listed every restaurant in Disneyland and California Adventure and what I could eat.  When you’re used to only being able to eat only one thing on the menu being handed a stack of papers detailing all the foods you can safely have feels almost like Christmas.

The Menu:

We usually didn’t eat inside the park for breakfast, so I packed Udi’s gluten-free bagels and put cream cheese on them.  When I did have breakfast at Disneyland, though, I was able to eat eggs, bacon, hash browns, and ever pancakes shaped like Mickey’s head.  For lunches I ate tacos, salads, gluten-free pizza, chicken burgers on gluten-free buns, and kabobs.  For snacks I could grab a turkey leg or fruit or French-fries.  And for dinner, because I’m madly in love with sea food, I usually ate some  sort of shrimp or fish.

What was truly magical about the trip is that after an entire week of eating away from home I never got sick from cross-contamination.  Not to mention I had so many healthy, delicious options while there that a year later and I still find myself missing the restaurants inside the park.  The fact Disney is so well prepared for accommodating their gluten-free guests also kept the planning ahead of time to a minimal, which made the trip feel more relaxing.

Despite my love-hate relationship with Disney, I decided that for gluten-free folks Disneyland truly is one of the happiest (and safest) places on Earth.  I’d hands down recommend Disneyland as a destination vacation for anyone with celiac.

Eating Gluten-Free in Disneyland:

  1. Eat inside the park.  Yes, it’s a lot more expensive than eating at McDonalds but it’s also so much safer.  And the food tastes great and there are lots of healthy options.  Honestly, if I ever go again I’d rather have a shorter trip and be able to eat in the park than stay for a week and risk getting sick.  There are also counter-service options that are around what you’d spend at McDonalds and offer gluten-free choices.
  2. Talk to the staff at Town Hall.  They can give you a list of everything you can eat in the Disneyland and California Adventure.  And they also provide complete lists of peanut-safe foods and other common allergies.
  3. Ask questions.  All of the staff I interacted with was friendly and more than willing to answer any questions I had in order to help keep me safe.  Don’t risk your health. If you’re not sure about something, ask.
  4. Always tell the waiter you’re gluten-free.  Whenever I went to a sit-down restaurant, the cook who’d be specifically making my food would come out to talk to me about the area they’d be cooking my food in and what they could do to make sure cross-contamination wasn’t an issue.  It made eating out so much more relaxing!
  5. Have fun.  Enjoy being able to have choices, try something new.
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