I was born at a hospital about 20 minutes away from Disneyland and grew up with relatives who loved to give yearly passes to Disneyland as gifts. You could say that a love of Disneyland started early, as some of my fondest memories are of going to Disneyland with my family. I wanted to share some of those experiences with my children, too.
During my husband’s Christmas break, we decided to do a surprise trip to Disneyland with our two children. Our 5-year-old was in seventh heaven — but she also needed to eat gluten-free. As anyone knows who has children with special dietary needs, it can be really disappointing and hard for children to be in a special place or at a party, and be unable to eat the food that everyone else is enjoying. I was concerned it would be the same at Disneyland, but I was impressed with the efforts they made to make dietary issues a happy thing in the “happiest place on earth.”
You can go to the town hall and request a list of all gluten-free foods right after you enter the gate. There is a lot of variety! We found gluten-free pastas (available on request), gluten-free pizzas and desserts! It is important that you always recheck the gluten-free list, as ingredients can change. So what was gluten-free when we went there may not always be gluten-free.
I am going to link to a variety of resources on eating gluten-free in Disneyland (from people who have more “Disney” hours under their belt then I do), but I wanted to share some highlights from our family trip eating gluten-free in Disneyland.
Who hasn’t seen a gluten-free child’s eyes grow big with envy while they watch a sibling or friend eat a delicious pizza while they are stuck with meat and vegetables yet again? At the sit-down restaurants in Disneyland, many had gluten-free rice pasta available on request. This meant that our gluten-free girl was able to get a plate of pasta and feel like she too had a special treat. She also has to be careful about dairy, so she didn’t get any of the gluten-free pizzas. But they serve these as well, which is nice for the gluten-free child who can have dairy.
Giant smoked turkey leg
They have these delicious, giant smoked turkey legs that are also gluten-free. They are perfect for sharing after a long morning of rides and fun. We were also able to get a large baked potato and steamed corn at a stand, which made a complete, yummy meal that was surprisingly wholesome. Since my daughter can have butter, she was able to enjoy both of these.
Dole Whip, to my understanding, is lactose- and gluten-free. If you have never had it before it is this splendid, light, pineapple juice based, soft-serve ice cream. It is absolutely perfect on a hot day. (Though not perfect nutritionally, you can read the ingredients here.) But, if you are looking for something that is refined sugar-free, the plain pineapple juice or the pineapple spear are also refreshing.
Two helpful things on our trip
One of the two most helpful things we did on our trip to Disneyland was bringing some lunches in with us that were gluten-free. This was possible because we were staying where we had a refrigerator and a relative kindly drove us to a nearby Trader Joes. This allowed a couple of meals of budget-friendly, gluten-free lunches. This also allowed us to continue to have fun without having to worry about finding the right place for our child to eat. Technically, you aren’t allowed to bring in food unless you have special dietary needs (like in our case).
The second most helpful thing was the chef’s involvement at some of the sit down restaurants we went too. As soon as the server knew we had a gluten-free child, she would ask the chef to come out to share with us all of the options on the menu that were gluten-free. This was really helpful and made ordering simpler for us.
All things considered, I think that our child having special dietary needs at Disneyland didn’t dampen the fun at all! I was glad to see that there were a variety of gluten-free options, and that she was able to eat special foods (that she normally wouldn’t eat at home) like the rest of us. Our trip was a great experience, and I hope to go back again someday. And it seems like our experience wasn’t the only good one! Read some other blogger’s experiences eating gluten-free at Disneyland with the links below.
Blogger's gluten-free dining experiences: