I am back from Disney World (aka the most magical place on Earth – it’s actually true!) We went at the end of January and we tried to find a week that we thought would be quiet. It turns out that it’s busy no matter when you go. 😉
If you follow me on Instagram then you saw that my son Jack, who just turned three, got really sick when we were there. So sick we had to take him to urgent care and he missed two full park days. Poor thing had croup which is inflammation in the airways caused by a virus which includes a fever, lethargy, and a cough that sounds like a barking seal. It is very scary the first time you hear it, but he has had it before so we knew the he needed a steroid to help it calm down.
Quick Side Note About Medical Care in Disney World
We didn’t have a car or a carseat because we had planned to just take the busses to/from the parks and our hotel. We weren’t planning on going anywhere else. It turns out that you can order an Uber with car seats so that is always an option and that’s what we did!
Disney does have a car service called Minnie Vans, which you can order through the Lyft app. These are SUVS that automatically come with two car seats and the drivers are all trained on how to properly install the seats. They only transport within park limits though.
We actually took the Minnie Vans a couple time to get to parks – one when we had to be to the park early and another when the line for the bus was sooo long. It’s worth every penny. I will repeat this….IT IS WORTH EVERY PENNY!
If you don’t need to actually see a doctor at either a clinic or hospital, Disney also has access to a pharmacy that will deliver your prescriptions to your hotel. So if you need your doctor at home to call in a prescription for you, then they can do that and you can have it delivered (for a fee, of course. It’s Disney after all.) I’m unsure of the name offhand but all the hotels should be knowledgable about this.
Ok, on to the stuff you REALLY care about…the gluten-free food!! I am going to show you food by park/destination and I’ll also include some of our favorite things to do in each.
You’ll see that I did some Nima tests during my trip. I did!! Not everything because I trust that Disney is well-trained and understand Celiac Disease. I did my usual of asking a zillion questions when ordering and making sure everything was safe. I tested about eight different dishes throughout our vacation. And they all came back with smiley faces!!
Art of Animation
We stayed at Art of Animation this time. One of the reasons we knew it would be a good idea was because they have sections of the hotel that are themed around different Disney movies: Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid. It was so fun to see the characters throughout the grounds. It’s really amazing what Disney thinks up!
We stayed in The Little Mermaid section which was kind of like a motel, where everyone enters their rooms from a shared balcony. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t stay there again…unless they do an upgrade. It was just a little underwhelming. Granted, we did spend a bit more time physically in our room because Jack was sick. There are also suites available which I think have kitchenettes. It was too cold to swim when we were there, but the pools at this hotel are amazing and so fun for the kids.
Last time we stayed at The Polynesian which was like twice as expensive …and you can tell why. It’s a ‘cream of the crop’ hotel at Disney World.
The food at Art of Animation was very good! They only have quick-service available and it worked out fine for being gluten-free. I got to know one of the breakfast chefs really well. His name is Huy (pronounced like Wee) and he was so kind and always smiling and made sure my food was safe.
Art of Animation had a great selection of foods. You can get sandwiches, hamburgers, french fries, salads, pastas, Mickey waffles, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, etc. Not many options for desserts or even snacks though (besides a few bags of chips, Enjoy Life chocolate bars and some gummy worms) so that was a tad disappointing.
If you’re at any quick service restaurant and you need an “allergy” order the chefs use a special pad of paper to write down your order and then you also get a copy for yourself. Make sure to tell the staff at the checkout counters that you have an allergy order because that’s one of the ways they track the volume.
A good thing about Art of Animation is that they are walking distance to Pop Century. They also only offer quick service, but I was able to get chicken tenders and french fries for lunch one day and I got a delicious turkey sandwich with potato chips made especially for me in a separate fryer. It was so great!
Pop Century definitely had a better selection of snacks and quick treats. Like pre-packaged hard boiled eggs and cheese sticks. Art of Animation didn’t even have those. It would have been nice to have something I could just grab quick if I needed it. Pop Century even had gluten-free bagels!! My mind was blown. They are made on site and placed in plastic containers with ingredient labels and everything.
Every single chef I talked to at both Art of Animation and Pop Century were 100% willing to do whatever they needed to get me safe food! It was amazing! And I will tell you that I definitely saw others requesting allergy orders from the chefs. One chef even told me to never feel bad about asking for special food because they hear it all day and that’s what they’re there for!
Gluten-Free Waffles at Disney World
My internet friend Alexis from Alexis’ Gluten-Free Adventures recently found out that some of the Disney restaurants have started using a newer gluten-free pancake/waffle mix. Specifically it’s called Carbon’s Golden Malted (I know, couldn’t they think of a better name??). The issue with this one is that it is made on shared lines, but not denoted on the packaging anywhere.
Alexis has an entire blog post on her website about this issue, which includes the verbiage one of her readers got when they contacted the company. They received this response: “At our gluten free facility, every batch of gluten free mix made is tested. The equipment is tested as well, and we even have the product retested after it is packaged.” Go and read Alexis’ blog post for all the information she has on this topic!
The waffles at Art of Animation are made with this mix. I personally decided to eat them and I did so multiple times. I enjoyed them. The waffles were prepared on separate equipment and in a separate space outside of the kitchen more in the serving area. I also did Nima test my waffles and they came back safe for me.
If you don’t feel comfortable eating foods that are made on shared equipment, then I would suggest you ask the chef what mix is used wherever you are dining and choose what is best for you. I did read Alexis’ blog post beforehand and was aware that there may be different mixes used throughout Disney. I weighed the risks for myself and decided that I felt comfortable eating them on this trip. Thanks to Alexis for doing the research and providing all this information to our community!!!
We had a lunch reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table which we had also gone to last time. This is a really special place to eat because you’re actually inside the castle and princesses come around to your table and talk to you a few moments and take photos. They also have some good “adult” food here! It’s even fun for little boys.
They do have a somewhat limited menu for gluten-free choices, but I got the surf and turf and it’s delicious!! They also had a great dessert, an almond flavored cheesecake, and I really liked it.
We happened to be at the right place at the right time and were close by to the Dole Whip stand just in time to watch the parade. I believe the parade starts at 3 everyday. It’s so fun!! Take a little break from the day and stop to watch it!
I really like Disney Springs. We like to go here for two reasons really. The first is because they have a location of Bippidi Boppidi Boutique that is much less busy than the one at Magic Kingdom. The second reason is so that we can go to Raglan Road/Cookes of Dublin for gluten-free fish and chips and onion rings! They have lots of great shopping there, too!
Epcot is maybe my favorite park. Ok, fine, they’re all my favorite! We actually went here three times this trip. This is one of the parks that I would LOVE to be able to go with just Brian and I and take our good old time walking around the countries without kids screaming, fighting, and whining the whole time. Am I right?!
One of our days there it was pouring down rain all day and like 45 degrees. That’s COLD for Florida and not what you expect when you’re at Disney. This day we had a lunch reservation at Garden Grill which is a character dining restaurant. All the food at Garden Grill is served family style, so if you have an allergy then you get an entire family style meal to yourself. They also include all allergies in this menu so it’s automatically free of all gluten/wheat, dairy, fish, and nuts. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters we saw here were Chip and Dale, Mickey, and Goofy.
If you drink alcohol, then you HAVE to get a frozen margarita at the Choza de Margarita stand in Mexico. Delicious!
I also got popcorn at one of the snack stands and even though I felt it would probably be safe, I asked to see the packaging for the popcorn and the oil it’s cooked in. It was safe.
On our last day we had a lunch reservation at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall which is another character dining with the princesses. I had a very satisfying lunch with a sampler platter. Every meal also comes with the salad bar which includes cold salad, meats, bread, etc. I took one look at it and said, “No way am I eating off of that!” So I just asked a chef standing nearby if I could get a simple side salad with ranch dressing. She went into the back and made me something fresh and safe.
Another one of my favorites is the Patisserie in France. I was blown away to find that Disney tries to hire people actually from the different countries within Epcot. So in France, the employees speak French and have accents. Such an authentic experience. I asked which desserts were gluten-free and there was a bit of a communication barrier when trying to explain Celiac Disease and cross-contamination, so they asked me to write it out. As soon as they saw it written out they knew exactly what I was trying to say.
I was shown about five desserts that were gluten-free and the chef explained they do use shared equipment but they thoroughly clean and sanitize and take other precautions. The main reason I went there was for the macaron sampler and the raspberry macaron sandwich. I tested both of these with my Nima and they came back good.
Of course you need to visit the Frozen ride, and have some photos taken with Elsa and Anna. Belle, Mulan, Jasmine, and Mary Poppins are also at Epcot. My five-year-old daughter’s favorite ride was Spaceship Earth within the giant Epcot ball. It’s a journey through history and the development of communication. It is pretty interesting, but why that’s her favorite I don’t know!! She keeps asking if we can go back to Disney so she can go on that ride. Not Slinky Dog, not Seven Dwarfs Mine Train…but Spaceship Earth. Haha!
Poor Jack had to miss our Early Morning Magic (EMM) and Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios. This was the first day he was really sick and when Brian had to take him to urgent care. So Lucy and I decided to still go and we had a great girls day together!
If you haven’t heard of EMM before, they open up the park early on certain days and let only a set amount of people in to have breakfast and have access to select rides before the rest of the park opens. It does cost extra, but it was really great to do because the lines in Toy Story Land are outrageous. We got to go on Slinky Dog, Toy Story Mania, and the Alien Swirling Saucers without having to wait in line. And we got to go on them multiple times. This would not have happened otherwise. It was a fun girls day for just Lucy and I.
The breakfast that comes with the package is quick-service at ABC Commissary. I told the checkout gal that I had Celiac Disease so they called a manager over to show me all the ingredients for the dish I was going to get on an iPad. Then it is prepared by someone separate in the back. I ordered the chilaquiles which came with tortilla strips, eggs, salsa, and avocado ranch crema. I felt safest ordering this and I also Nima tested it. It came back good!
Since it was so cold, I ordered Lucy a hot chocolate. There just so happened to be a bag of the hot cocoa mix sitting on the counter so I took a look (note: this is the same mix used at many locations at the parks and resorts). I believe it was a Nestle mix. It is not marked gluten-free and it also has a “may contain wheat” disclaimer on it. I would never consume it.
We highly recommend 50’s Prime Time Cafe! This is a really fun decade themed place to eat. Last year we went and both Brian and I ordered the fried chicken dinner (you have to pre-order this about an hour before your reservation time). This visit I ordered the chicken pot pie and it was so good!! Really tender chicken and creamy sauce. Instead of a pastry crust, they put gluten-free toast on the top and it worked perfectly.
I also ordered the s’mores dessert. They were out of this one the last time we visited so I decided to indulge and get it this time. I think they use Enjoy Life cookies with melted chocolate and scorched marshmallows. A very special treat! Especially because we don’t get to have something like this very often!
My favorite things to do/see at Hollywood Studios is the Frozen singalong musical, The Little Mermaid show, and all the rides at Toy Story Land. It is so fascinating to walk through that and see how they make all these movies come to life!
Animal Kingdom is another fun one! Lots of cool shows, fun rides, and options for gluten-free food! You can even get gluten-free pizza at Pizzafari (but it takes about 15 minutes to cook so keep that in mind). We went to see the Lion King show and that was a big hit with the kids.
Last trip we ate at Flame Tree Barbecue which is still there. This time I ate at Satu’li Canteen located by the Pandora section of the park. I got some sort of bowl with seared beef, veggies, rice and delicious herb vinaigrette sauce. Very good, a more grown up type of dish – just what I was needing!
We also sat in Nomad Lounge which was nice and quiet and relaxing. I had a watermelon margarita and we got two orders of the gluten-free churros to snack on. They actually only offer gluten-free churros here, no regular ones. I highly recommend this!
One thing I like to get at Animal Kingdom (and I think they’re available at other parks too) is the cinnamon roasted almonds or pecans. All the snack carts have ingredient books you can ask to see so I double-checked to make sure they were good to go! These are just yummy to snack on while walking through the parks.
We saw the Lion King show and it was so fun. Since the kids aren’t big enough to go on the Avatar Flight of Passage ride, Brian and I decided to get Fast Passes and go separately. So I went alone and I thought I was going to have a panic attack and die. Kidding. Not really. 😉 It’s like a virtual reality ride and I do get anxious, especially when I don’t have someone I trust nearby and it was so real!! This is another ride where I was blown away by all the little details that go into everything. One thing you always have to do at Animal Kingdom is the Kilimanjaro Safari. It’s so fun, for kids and adults.
Here is a link to our 2018 Disney World vacation and gluten-free food reviews!
And just for fun, some more photos of our vacation! And since our little guy was sick and our plans were messed up a bit this trip, I guess we’ll just have to go back. Fine by me!!
You can PIN this blog post by clicking on the photo below:
I am so happy to read all this! I have celiac and I’m planning to go to Disney World with two friends. I always feel like a burden when eating out with people because of the restaurant selection process. Are there gluten free options in all disney restaurants? like pizza and fast food. Thank you!!!!
Kari @ The Savory Celiac
Oh good, I’m so glad it helped to ease your mind! Disney is absolutely amazing and you will be well-fed and safe. Most all restaurants have gluten-free options (not just GF, but celiac-safe). They refer to fast food as “quick service” there, but yes they also have options! And I know you can for sure get pizza a quick service places at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
I am going again at the end of the month so I will share all my eats and treats this time around, too. When are you going??
Thank you’ Thus was a great read/review for me as we approach our first trip with kids. My husband has celiac and the our kids also eat gf. My question to you is did you do a meal plan or is that far too limiting with needing gluten free? It’s had to know if it would be worth it for all 5 of us. I’m trying to keep it simple And fun but also can’t help my cost-conscious side!
Kari @ The Savory Celiac
Oh good, I’m so glad it was helpful! We did a meal plan our first trip, but the second trip we didn’t. The only reason we didn’t do it the second time was because we felt it included too many snacks for us to actually eat. But my kids were pretty little when we went so maybe if they were bigger we would have eaten more snacks. Either way, the meal plan will not be restricted AT ALL and you’ll get your money’s worth.
Seriously, Disney is one of the best travel destinations for Celiac/GF and you’ll have no problems eating anywhere! You’ll be able to find safe and delicious foods at all restaurants and many of the quick service/snack kiosks as well. They’re amazing there. Just always ask to speak to a manager when ordering at quick service and if you’re staying on property you’ll get to know the resort chefs really well – the servers usually offer to have a chef come out to talk you through the menu. Just always make sure you tell them it’s for Celiac when ordering; they’re all super well-trained.
Let me know if you have more questions as your trip approaches!!
Thanks for your review. This was really helpful as we have 2 members of our family with celiac disease. It has really helped with planning and I have all my restaurants booked for November. Thanks so much!
Kari @ The Savory Celiac
Oh good, I’m glad it could be helpful for you!! If you have any questions as your vacation approaches, please let me know! Enjoy your magical time in Disney!