Ahhh, Walt Disney World. A place that will certainly ignite your senses. It’s full of magic, enchantment, bright lights, bigger-than-life attractions and the brilliant, buzzing sounds of the crowds and rides. Last week, we embarked on our first Disney family vacation with our two kiddos to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. Excitement and anticipation lingered in the air for months. However, I had a little concern because along with a corn allergy and several other food sensitivities, we also needed to be gluten free.
Walt Disney World delivered thankfully, and our trip was a success. Here are some tips and tricks for allergy friendly treats at Disney…
My dear husband was the master trip planner (thank god!). He literally dove head-first into book after book and video upon video researching the BEST way to experience Disney. Hey, it’s not a cheap vacation so you want to do your due diligence. Plus, our family has at least 20 food sensitivities between all of us, and we knew needed to do a little advance planning to enjoy the culinary creations that Disney offers. And there is A LOT!
Gluten Free Walt Disney World
There is no way I was going to Disney without a little indulgence. I’m only human, right? 🙂 Our primary food sensitivities are gluten, dairy, soy and corn (my daughter has a corn allergy), so eating out can often feel like a burden. Trust me, I get it and my heart goes out to others like us who manage limited diets and food allergies. Hugs from another food “allergy” mamma!
Needless to say, we knew we had our work cut out for us at Disney regarding finding safe food… Or did we?
Overall, we were quite happy with our food and dining experiences and had no problems eating dairy free, corn free and gluten free. Walt Disney World has two different types of restaurants. 1) Counter restaurants where you walk up to order or 2) Advanced reservation, sit down restaurants.
At the counter restaurants, it was simply a matter of asking someone for an allergy menu (which was readily available) and then talking with the chef to ensure he/she knew exactly what you required. They were used to this so it was no big deal.
On this trip, we decided not partake in any of the advance reservation dining ($$$$), but I’ve heard RAVE reviews from those with even the most limited diets. It’s definitely something we will try on our next visit.
Allergy Friendly Snacks at Disney
Lets talk about clean SNACKS. This part was a piece-of-cake. Every park had “no-sugar added” strawberry fruit popsicles at the ice-cream carts that were sprinkled around every. We also found Enjoy Life chocolate and cookies plus a whole slew of other allergy-free treats at Epcot and Magic Kingdom restaurants which filled my kids heart with joy.
We also found fresh fruit and veggie stands that had small containers of fresh fruit, vegetables/dip and a fruit/cheese combo. The pineapple spears and ice-cold watermelon, my personal favorite, were amazingly refreshing after walking many, many miles in 90+ degree weather (yes, even in October!). And it only cost about $3 each which I thought was a great deal at a theme park. Let’s just say the kids (and parents) were very pleased.
If you’re watching your budget, you can pack in all the food and drinks that you can manage to schlep around. Keyword, schlep. Just don’t bring your stainless steel camping cooler (or any hard sided cooler). Only soft-sided coolers allowed. We used a large backpack that my husband carried and I carried a small backpack.
Since I was on the most limited diet at the time (can you say Candida Cleanse before leaving!?), I made sure to pack a bunch of healthy snacks including these Epic Bars (Bison is my favorite) and these no-sugar Dang Coconut Chips to keep my blood sugar at bay. This makes a gluten free Walt Disney World absolutely possible with zero hiccups.
Disney Spring’s Gluten-Free Bakery
At the end of our trip, we experienced Disney Springs which is this wonderful little “Downtown Disney” area with an array of outdoor shopping including the largest Disney gift store in the U.S. (hey, I warned you!), plus a vast array of dining and street entertainment. It’s the perfect place to visit on your “rest day.” Trust me, you will want and need a rest day if you have the time. The best part of it all… It’s FREE! Yep, FREE. Now, you obviously have to pay for any shopping or dining, but just being out of the boisterous parks for an afternoon really helped reduce everyone’s sensory overload.
What I didn’t realize, however, and I’m INSANELY glad we didn’t miss, is that Disney Springs has this HIDDEN GLUTEN-FREE FOOD GEM: Erin McKenna’s Bakery, the MOST wonderful top 8 allergen-free bakery on this planet, with more locations in NYC and Los Angeles. Truly the BEST variety of allergy friendly treats I’ve EVER had.
Now, brace yourself, because this could get insanely exciting if you are one with food allergies to gluten, dairy, soy, and egg or are looking for a perfect Kosher or vegan treat…
Let me try to describe the sheer BLISS of biting into a decadent, moist (like real gluten moist, I kid you not!) pumpkin doughnut, iced with a creamy, mocha drizzle that literally melts in your mouth. Or their tantalizing “Thin Mint” cookie that was as big as my face, made with luscious coconut oil (instead of stick-to-the-roof of your mouth wax) and tasted exactly like the original Girl Scout Thin Mints, but only better. Yes, that’s TOTALLY possible by-the-way. My taste buds are proof! You see, they don’t use nasty chemicals or preservatives. Real food rocks! End of story.
Seriously, I don’t think I can put into words the care that Erin McKenna’s Bakery puts into their tasty treats. I was thrilled and had to go back in for seconds. My kids, however, would not let me go in for thirds. I wanted to take an entire box home, but knew it would melt before we got to our car. Darn.
The good news is that Erin McKenna’s Bakery OFFERS DELIVERY! Thank you times a million, Erin. You just made my year. There IS an allergy goddess!
Anyhow, I hope I’ve convinced you to make the stop at Disney Springs and visit this terrific Orlando allergy friendly bakery. I promise that you will be in gluten free doughnut heaven. Three cheers for gluten free Walt Disney World!
Our family was thrilled with our Walt Disney World Food Allergy experience. It takes a little bit of planning, but overall, they made it pretty easy for us to not have our food restrictions be a burden and that was more than worth the trip to Walt Disney World. I’m not sure when, but we will definitely go back!
What is your biggest food allergy challenge when traveling?
Peace and Love