My family and I were blessed to vacation at Walt Disney World, Florida earlier this summer. To say we had a blast is a ridiculous understatement. We are still going through what we affectionately call vacation withdrawal at my house (the name makes it sound much cuter than it really is).
We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge while at Walt Disney World and had a magnificent experience. To learn more about this amazing hotel, be sure to visit my post.
Our first full day in Florida, we visited Universal Orlando. While I’m glad to have enjoyed the experience, the park’s commitment to customer service for those with dietary restrictions leaves quite a bit to be desired. For more specific information about our visit, be sure to visit my post.
Before I review our dining experience, I want to note: Every single Walt Disney World park map I picked up had the first aid station clearly labeled with a yellow Epi-Pen icon. I am so excited about this and am so grateful to Disney for taking such a vested interest in their consumers!
While at Walt Disney World, we did a little bit of sight-seeing outside of the main parks. One of our favorites was an evening stroll around Disney’s BoardWalk, a circular strip of real estate that boasts restaurants, live entertainment, music, and a stroll around the lake. Evening is a perfect time to take it all in as the temperature is a bit cooler and the lights of the BoardWalk truly make it look enchanting. We didn’t eat here during our visit, but rather took in the scenery by way of a surrey bike for four. We did two laps in under half an hour and thoroughly enjoyed the ride (disclaimer: there are two rather large bridge inclines on the route, so be sure everyone is pedaling).
We also enjoyed just riding the monorail around the park to take it all in! One of our favorite stops to make is Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Aside from the fact that this hotel is more elegant and gorgeous than words can do it justice, it is where my husband and I stayed for a couple of nights on our honeymoon. Of all the marvelous Disney hotels I’ve stayed at, the Grand Floridian was possibly the most grand (forgive the pun). It was wonderful to be back, even though it’s a with a few extra pounds and a few more years!
We had also hoped to take our kiddos to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort Luau (also something my husband and I did on our honeymoon), but found the menu options to be largely difficult for those with dietary restrictions and food allergies. This broke my heart, because the Polynesian puts on an amazing show that the kids would have loved! (Special Note: A travel agent that specializes in Disney vacationing and food allergies (such as Pixie Lizzie) might be able to help you better navigate the luau if you want to give it a try.)
During our actual visit to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the whole family (even with all our food allergies and dietary restrictions) ate like virtual kings and queens! Here’s a breakdown of our favorites:
Be Our Guest (located within the Beast’s Castle): This was truly an amazing place to visit, much less eat.
It felt like I walked into a page of one of my daughter’s Beauty and the Beast storybooks. No really, I’m not exaggerating.
Guests are seated in one of three locations: the forbidden West Wing, the Grand Ballroom, and the Castle Gallery. (Special Note: Dinner reservations are not required but highly advised. We made our dinner reservations six months in advance.) We were seated in the Grand Ballroom which featured breathtaking detail from the ornate chandeliers to the “snow” falling right outside the windows. Our customer service was a wonderful experience. Our waiter was advised of our food allergies and invited Chef Ryan Hart to our table to discuss our orders. Chef Hart has first-hand knowledge of food allergies and our family felt very blessed to be eating under his supervision. Not only were there safe menu options, there were delicious AND magnificent options.
We started with the most delicious, specially-made warm dinner rolls.
Then, my son and I each ordered this for dinner:
The steak and veggies were flavorful and delicious. See, I told you we ate like kings and queens. But…Oh.My.Goodness…the french fries were out of this world. And this is coming from a girl who isn’t all that big on french fries to begin with. The main entrée was simply fantastic!
But dessert was down right decadent.
I enjoyed every-single-bite of this decadent, gluten-free cream puff. As if getting to eat such a beautifully made treat isn’t enough, I love the special touch of the “Be Our Guest” chocolate tile that sits on top of the puff.
Pinnocho Village Haus
A fast-food favorite for us inside the Magic Kingdom is Pinnochio Village Haus (right beside the It’s A Small World attraction). I pulled aside a cast member inside the restaurant to let the know about our food allergies and she was kind enough to present me with this menu to review while she fetched the manager.
When the manager arrived a few minutes later, my son and I picked out the items we wanted for lunch. The manager was extremely patient with us and walked us through if the item we selected was safe and then let us review each of the ingredients (found in a large white binder most Disney restaurants keep on hand). Both my son and I decided on pizza, although each of ours was made differently and personally watched over by the manager.
My pizza was made on an Udi’s crust and was quite delicious as you can tell by the way I ate half before I remembered to take a picture.
Then I enjoyed this delicious brownie from OMG…It’s Gluten-Free.
You can find these brownies and chocolate chip cookies readily available throughout the parks and resorts. They were sinfully delicious and quickly became a favorite of mine!
The food at this restaurant was tasty and safe and the scenery was amazing as if you can grab a table by the window on one side of the restaurant, you have a view of the inside of the It’s A Small World attraction.
Coral Reef Restaurant
We spent one day at Epcot and dined at the Coral Reef Restaurant on our dining plan. The restaurant was quiet and fancy. If you sit down at the front of the restaurant, your table sits next to a huge aquarium that is almost the size of the entire wall. The aquarium is home to hundreds of fish and a ginormous sea turtle! To be honest, I felt a little bad eating fish in front of the fish!
I will say this restaurant has a fancier fare with less of the “normal” foods you see at other establishments. Here’s a view of the allergy friendly menu the waiter gave us to review while he alerted the chef.
Our waiter was wonderful and very careful to work with us on our orders. Although the chef did come out to the table and was kind, I felt like the allergy menu information he gave us had been thoroughly rehearsed and not as personalized as it could have been. Regardless, I was grateful to both men for their help in finding my son and I safe meals to enjoy. My son and I both ordered the Seared Rainbow Trout, which was very tasty.
Although dinner was good, I can tell you that my son and I were blown away by the dessert.
This may very well have been one of my favorite sweet treats during our Disney vacation. Decadent doesn’t even begin to cover it. This dessert is a masterpiece all on it’s own. Too bad they don’t mass produce these for purchase at grocery stores!
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
For dinner in Epcot, we escaped the rain and dined at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.
This is definitely a restaurant you need to make dining reservations far in advance for as Disney Princesses come by your table to chat and take pictures during your meal. The decor is charming and has quite a bit of the same designs and shapes you see in Disney’s Frozen (as the story takes place in Norway). My daughter loved being able to meet the princesses and dine like a princess too.
Once you’ve ordered your drinks, guests are allowed to visit the appetizer bar. Let me be perfectly clear, this is no ordinary appetizer bar. The spread is full of fancy Norwegian meal favorites. But I’ll be honest, as soon as I saw it, my heart sank. Some dishes obviously had our allergens and the buffet style made it a resounding no for me and my son to participate in…until we met with the chef.
The female chef who visited our table listened intently to our allergies and guided us in ordering safe meals for me and my son. In addition, she offered to bring us some safe items from the appetizer bar (but straight from the kitchen to ensure our safety.) She asked if there was anything specific we wanted, but I told her we were delighted to be eating part of it at all and to surprise us. Boy did she!
For dinner, I ordered Norwegian meatballs…a tradition for specific to that country. It was a little unusual, but still very good.
My son ordered this pasta dish, which disappeared so fast, I’m thankful I snapped this picture quickly!
Overall, this was a treat. The restaurant was beautiful and the princesses’ visits delightful, but what really made our dinner was our chef’s careful attention to detail of our dietary restrictions!
Toy Story Pizza Planet
When visiting Hollywood Studios, we ate lunch at Toy Story Pizza Planet.
We ate a little on the early side as we did for almost every meal as it helps your servers ensure you get their full attention. I enjoyed a gluten-free pizza and my son also enjoyed a pizza, but each were made differently to ensure our safety for our separate dietary restrictions/allergens.
Because of the fast speed of counter-service, I’ll admit to being a little concerned about getting the meal right, but it was unnecessary. The cashier was extremely knowledgeable and still had the manager come out and go over our orders with us. They were thorough and we did not feel rushed.
The meal did take considerably longer to make, but I’m not complaining because I was grateful to have something safe for my son and I to eat. Pizza really hit the spot!
50’s Prime Time Cafe
This place was so. much. fun! In 50’s Prime Time Cafe everything is styled as it was in the 1950s from the decor to the food to the way your server interacts with you. He/she might remind you not to put your elbows on the table, to eat all your vegetables, and wash your hands before dinner. Our waiter, Eric, was hilarious and we had a really great time. I think this was one of our kids’ (and my husband’s) favorite places to eat.
Both the waiters and chefs were very knowledgeable and kind and we had a great experience!
I ordered the chicken and dumplings which the chef was kind enough to make gluten-free. It was absolutely delicious. Any time I get to eat comfort food that is gluten-free and still delicious…feels like my birthday! That’s exactly how this was!
My son ordered Aunt Annie’s meatloaf and enjoyed it!
Dessert was a special treat…allergy safe ice cream, brownie, chocolate sauce, whip cream, AND Mickey Mouse sprinkles. Get outta town! We felt so special…even the non-allergic family members at our table were drooling over our food!
I highly recommend this restaurant…for the food and the atmosphere!
Our only bad Disney experience was unfortunately on our last day at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary for breakfast. Breakfast is set up as buffet, but in the past a chef has been wonderful to bring us safe options straight from the kitchen.
After being seated, I asked to speak with a chef. When the chef arrived he didn’t once crack a smile. He seemed irritated to be speaking with me about food allergies at all. He told me what I could get off the buffet. When I explained my concerns about cross contamination he almost sighed out loud. He begrudgingly took my requests and a staff member delivered them too us. I’m sure the food was really better than what I remembered, but I was so put off by the experience, I don’t remember much good about it. I even found a wayward tater tot on my breakfast plate (not something I asked for nor am I sure it was safe). The entire experience was very disheartening. With that said, we’ve had great and safe meals here in the past. I feel that under a different chef’s direction, our meal could have been a different experience all together.
Walt Disney World is simply an amazing place for those living with food allergies and dietary restrictions. It is my favorite place to vacation because I don’t have to pack any safe food or worry about my son feeling left out. Disney just simply makes the vacation a more magical place than you can ever imagine!
From the bottom of The Food Allergy Mom’s heart, thank you…thank you…thank you, Walt Disney World!