Our BEST Tips for Eating Gluten Free at Disneyland – Everything you need to know for a delicious gluten-free Disneyland and California Adventure experience!
Over the fall break, we had a chance to go to Disneyland to celebrate some big family milestones. We’ve looked forward to this trip ALL year–Disneyland is my all-time FAVORITE place for gluten free travel. The atmosphere is magical, the incredible attention to detail always makes me smile (there are Mickey’s ON THE TRASH CANS, for crying out loud!), and the food is tough to beat.
Disneyland is an AMAZING place to eat gluten-free. There are so many naturally gluten-free options, plus many accommodations for gluten-free eaters throughout the parks at snack stands, quick-service dining, and fancier restaurants.
If you’ve never been, it can feel a bit overwhelming to know where to start planning (when you’ve got dietary restrictions, you can’t just “wing it”). I wanted to make it easy to know where to begin, so I’ve got a short series of posts I hope makes it easy and fun to plan your gluten free Disney experience.
Whether it’s your first trip or your 50th, here are some of our BEST tips for gluten-free dining at Disneyland. Here’s everything you need to know to plan an amazing gluten-free Disney vacation…
1. KNOW YOU CAN BRING YOUR OWN FOOD INTO THE PARKS.
The first thing to know when you’re eating gluten-free at Disneyland is that you CAN bring your own food into the parks, especially if you have allergies or intolerances. There are some restrictions on the size of your coolers but know you CAN bring your own food if you need or want to.
This can be a great way to save money (maybe pack lunch and buy dinner), bring peace of mind to an anxious child with sensory or special needs, or be 100% sure what you or your child is eating is 100% gluten and dairy-free.
(See the Disneyland policies about outside food and drink here.)
2. CHECK OUT THE ALLERGY-FRIENDLY MENUS.
MANY Disneyland and California Adventure restaurants have allergy-friendly menus. Some are posted online (click on the restaurant you want, then select “view menu”) and on the free Disneyland app. Others are available in person at the restaurants.
There are gluten-free options at quick service, table service, and character meal locations. (See tip #4 for our favorite character meal)
While not all character meals have specified gluten-free dining options listed online, we’ve been able to get gluten-free waffles, allergy-friendly hash browns, and separate items at every buffet and upscale dining option we’ve been to. When we’ve mentioned our allergies to our host or server in these places, they’ve always brought out the chef to consult with us.
See some of our favorite gluten-free restaurants at Disneyland here.
3. MAKE RESERVATIONS IN ADVANCE WHEN YOU CAN.
We’ve had great experiences at both quick service and table service restaurants in Disneyland and California Adventure. If you plan to eat at a table service restaurant, I *highly* recommend making reservations in advance, as these locations often have to turn people away without reservations if they’re busy or full (which happens often).
- We often choose our nicer or table service meal for lunch (as a great mid-day break) and save our faster/quicker meal for dinner, when we’re all tired and ready to head home.
- Reservations can be made 60 days in advance online, using the app, or by calling Disney.
- You can (and should) also specify on your reservation when someone has an allergy or intolerance. There is a section in the reservation you can use to check any allergies or write in any special dietary needs.
- If you have any special requests, you can also email those to [email protected] to see if they can accommodate. We’ve found the email is a bit slow to respond, so try to send that out as early as possible.
See some of the restaurants we love and recommend here.
4. TRY TO GET THE EARLY SEATING OR RESERVATION WHEN YOU CAN.
For specialty dining experiences, buffets, character meals, and reservation locations, we’ve had great success with getting the early seating.
In our experience, the first seating means you have the least risk for cross-contamination and the highest chance for careful attention from the cast members.
For buffets, a chef has come out to show us what we can choose straight from the buffet and has always been willing to bring us a separate plate of any item we’d like if we’re worried about cross-contamination. Similarly, they’ll often offer (or you can ask) for GF versions of items you see in the buffet. It may take a bit of extra time, but you can have a bit more peace of mind.
Our favorite character meal is Storyteller’s breakfast at the Grand Californian Hotel. (You can make a reservation to eat there even if you’re staying in a different hotel.) We get the first seating, which means a pristine buffet for fresh fruit and bacon. Then, the chef has made us hash browns, and the famous Mickey Waffles (pictured above), as well as some allergy-friendly scrambled eggs. The staff has always been warm, welcoming, and accommodating. Such a fantastic experience!
5. LOOK FOR AN ALLERGY PICK.
Many/most Disney dining locations will insert a wooden “allergy” pick into your food so you know it was made specifically for someone with an allergy/intolerance. Some other restaurants use different colored plates in place of or in addition to the allergy picks.
When you specify you have an allergy or intolerance, you often get to talk with a chef or have the chef specifically make your food. The allergy pick is then inserted to verify it was made specially.
If you’re eating somewhere where you’ve requested an allergy meal, just keep an eye out to make sure you see that allergy pick to double-check you’ve gotten an allergy-safe meal. An observant cast member helped us keep an eye out for this on our first visit (when one meal was accidentally brought without the pick), and we’ve known to look for it ever since.
6. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE NATURALLY GLUTEN-FREE OPTIONS.
There are snack stands and shops throughout most lands and areas in both parks. Many of these stands have items that are naturally gluten-free or guaranteed gluten-free:
- All freshly popped popcorn in the parks is currently gluten & dairy-free. (Includes kettle and butter flavors!)
- The famous Dole Whips (and floats!) are gluten & dairy-free. (Note, this refers to the basic ice cream (single flavor + swirls) and floats ONLY. There are some new specialty flavors with add-ons/garnishes that aren’t GF, such as Pocky.)
- Giant pickles
- Fruit Salad
- Fresh Fruit – whole, sliced, and prepped. (apples, mandarins, pineapple, grapes, mango, berries, etc.)
- Hummus and Carrots
- Applesauce Pouches
- Cheese Sticks and BabyBel Cheese (Obviously not dairy-free)
- Yogurt (gluten-free but not dairy-free)
- Most basic beverages – water, soda, juice, mint juleps, lemonade, etc.
- The new Star Wars milk – both the green and the blue milk are dairy and gluten-free.
- Frozen Lemonade & Slushies – both gluten & dairy-free
- Cotton Candy – All flavors are gluten & dairy-free
- Lays Chips
See more options in our favorite Gluten-Free Snacks & Treats at Disneyland post.
7. KNOW WHAT THE DISCLAIMER MEANS.
You can access information about Disneyland/California Adventure special diets, allergy info, and special requests here.
Disneyland dining locations sometimes use a disclaimer stating that their kitchens aren’t 100% gluten-free, so there is potential risk for cross-contamination. They will specifically call out that things are “gluten-friendly” or “don’t contain gluten ingredients” rather than saying “certified gluten-free.”
We haven’t had an adverse reaction to any food in any of our Disneyland trips, but if you are dealing with severe or life-threatening allergies, you may want to stick to items on the specific allergy-friendly menus rather than some of the more “risky” items in shared containers or display cases (such as those in a bakery or confectionery.
(Lastly, though you likely won’t need it, those with severe or life-threatening allergies should always plan to bring an Epi-Pen)
8. DON’T HESITATE TO ASK.
At treat shops and restaurants, there are often books with ingredient lists available. I recently asked about a toffee that looked amazing to make sure it didn’t contain gluten (it had dairy–I’m not dairy intolerant, but I AM *very* gluten intolerant). The ladies behind the counter immediately pulled out a binder, looked up the toffee and let me read through the ingredient list. I could see exactly what went into it and had no problem at all.
Similarly, most cast members/employees are willing to change gloves before handling your order if you ask.
You can ALWAYS ask to speak to a manager or chef. In our experience, there is always someone well-trained and well-versed in handling allergies and intolerances on hand.
HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS AT DISNEYLAND OR CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE? ASK AWAY!
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