My family and I were blessed enough to vacation in Florida a few weeks ago with Disney and Universal Orlando as our destinations.
Our first day of vacation we spent at Universal.
The main draw of going to the park was to see Harry Potter World. My son and I are both HUGE fans of the novels, so a trip to Hogwarts and Diagon Alley was a dream come true for us.
*Special Note: The below review is primarily dining-centered.*
Before I begin with my review of our dining experiences at Universal Orlando, it is worth noting that a month before our trip I did contact someone at the park to inquire about dining with food allergies. I received a short form letter with only a personalized sentence or two at the bottom from a chef. Although I did appreciate the response, I felt it did not adequately answer my specific questions and ultimately left me somewhat disappointed.
We ate breakfast prior to arriving at the park (in our hotel room) to cut down on cost. And let me just say, you will need to save every dime you can for once you are in the park.
One of our “have to” experiences was to visit the Hog’s Head for a mug of butterbeer. After extensive research, I felt reassured that the beverage would be safe for both my son and I. The butterbeer was delicious and came in a cute souveneir cup. The Hog’s Head had a great atmosphere that very closely mirrored both what I remember seeing in the movie and reading in the books.
For lunch, we ate at the Leaky Cauldron. Despite eating early (which I highly recommend) the line was long for this counter-service establishment. As we approached the front of the line, I let the hostess know we would need to speak with the chef about our dietary restrictions. She was very kind and collected the chef who was gruff and seemingly irritated with having to make a personal appearance. He did visit with us though as we asked about the specific dishes we wanted to try. The women at the register, thank goodness, were ironically more knowledgeable than the chef appeared to be and took great care placing our order to ensure the safety of our meals. Both my son and I ordered the same thing, a grilled chicken sandwich on a gluten-free bun. It wasn’t anything fabulous, but we were grateful to have something safe to eat.
After our less than stellar lunch chef/dining experience, we opted for a late dinner after leaving the park.
It is worth noting, that while we did not experience them personally, I’ve heard that the Universal Resort Hotels and restaurants of CityWalk are simply wonderful about accommodating those with food allergies and special dietary restrictions.
Overall, the park was all that a regular amusement park should be. However, for the amount of money it cost to experience the park and eat there, I felt the dining experience lacked satisfactory (if any) food allergy/special diet training to park chefs and staff. For those reasons, it is not someplace I’m eager to visit again soon.
That said, if Universal Orlando were to establish a required and effective food allergy/special diet training program for park staff, I would be willing to give it another try. Such a program, I believe, would lead to an entirely different experience and one that would make patrons sincerely appreciative of their efforts.
If you feel so inclined, take a few minutes to contact Universal Orlando to let them know what an effective park-wide food allergy training would mean to you and your family.