April 2, 2012

Disneyland: Our Food Allergy Experience

Yep.  We did it.  We packed three kids in the car and roadtripped it down to Anaheim for Spring Break. 

I am not a huge fan of driving anywhere with the kids that takes longer than three hours.  And this is why (for those of you without small children): The first hour of the drive is usually filled with excited chatter and some family favorite songs sang nearly in tune (and besides, the caffeine's still pumping through my veins).  The second hour starts several rounds of car games, including "I Spy" and anything else the kids can think up, along with the breaking out of a few cherished toys from their self-packed backpacks.  The third hour, if kids are really getting antsy, is where we break out a DVD to be played for the benefit of everyone's sanity, and somewhere in the middle of the movie is where we arrive at our destination.  This three hour travel rule usually limits the "Are we there yet?"'s, the "I'm hungry"'s, and the "My stomach isn't feeling so good"'s.  So you can see how a 7 to 8 hour trip is few and far between.

In fact, the ride down wasn't so bad after all (although I have to say coming back was harder), and it was awesome to see the looks of wonderment on the kids' faces during our two-day excursion to Disneyland.  Best of all, we were able to eat two enjoyable, safe sit-down meals at the Park, without incident.

I had heard that Disneyland was allergy-friendly, so I went to a few blogs to see what their experiences were like, then checked out the Food Allergy Information section on the Disneyland site.

Because I hadn't planned in time to make the 14 day advance special accommodations for multiple food allergies, uncommon food allergies, or multiple guests with food allergies, I decided to accept their other option and just book reservations through their reservation hotline, have the allergies noted on the reservation tickets, and speak to the chefs when we arrived at the restaurants.  I wanted to have some sort of a game plan, but I packed extra food in case this option didn't work out for us.  The Disneyland operator was very knowledgeable and patient, saying, "We deal with allergies on a daily basis."

The reservation tickets helped the greet staff know about our food allergies.  At one restaurant, I had to ask the server if I could call the chef over to our table to discuss food allergies, but at the other restaurant, the chef came out shortly after after we were seated.

On day 1, we had lunch at Big Thunder Ranch Barbeque.  The environment was casual and relaxing, with long picnic tables under a shady canopy, and ample waitstaff, who were super friendly and attentive (special thanks to our server, Tuesday!).  The all-you-can-eat meal is served family style, and consists of a bucket of bbq ribs and chicken, beans, coleslaw, and cornbread, all of which my dairy, egg, nut, and shellfish allergic son could eat, minus the cornbread.  And they've got a vegetarian option too: skewers with potatoes, squash, bell peppers, mushrooms, and tofu.  Everything was tasty, although the kids complained of the meat being a bit "spicy."

On day 2, we enjoyed the character breakfast at the Plaza Inn on Main St.  I was pretty skeptical about having a buffet breakfast, of all things, with so many egg-based dishes, but it was wonderful!  Based on the kids' food allergies, the chef listed the items that were safe to eat, and offered to make some gluten, dairy, and egg free waffles for the boys.  Out came four Mickey waffles with a fruit assortment, free of any chance of buffet contamination.  Tristan, particularly fond of waffles, was thrilled!  I supplemented their breakfasts with sausage and bacon, which were served to us from the hot foods area.

Aside from the allergy-safe food, the kids adored all the characters, who were silly and friendly, and knew not to startle Addi, who wasn't sure what to make of it all.  But once Minnie came around, it was all worth it.
Tristan got to be a Jedi in Training, and practiced his lightsaber skills along with the other Padawans.

Cinderella's storytime

It's a Small World--again!

Thanks Disneyland!  We had a blast!

Note: Please make sure to speak directly to chefs about your specific food allergies, as ingredients and menus may change without notice.


  1. I'm so happy for you and ohana that your trip went off w/out a hitch. Loved your ideas for the long car trip!
    This was such a great post to read, so interesting and informative.

  2. Thank you so much! The coleslaw didn't have mayo? That's amazing, and very promising for us.

  3. that's what i was thinking. What did they use for the coleslaw? Also, were you worried that they would not scrub out the waffle machine good enough?? I just don't know if i could do it....

  4. Disneyland has a very good reputation for handling food allergies and recommends you contact them and speak to a chef no fewer than 6 weeks before a planned trip there. Having said all that, I would be too scared to have my kids eat the food especially since we recently had a bad experience with Chipotle despite rave reviews from food allergy diners. I wonder if there have some waffle machines that are clearly labeled and dedicated to be free of the top 8 allergens?

  5. Hi. This post was such a help! I am wondering if you or anyone reading this with peanut/treenut allergy tried eating at the Village Haus restaurant (a quick service restaurant in Fantasyland)? We will be doing the Thundermountain BBQ for sure based on your review! Thanks for any help!