Going Gluten-Free at Disneyland – Theme Parks and Dietary Restrictions

There’s even magic in going gluten-free!

Smokejumpers Grill at DCA - my first gluten-free dining experience
Smokejumpers Grill at DCA – my first gluten-free dining experience

Disney theme parks are renowned for their excellent guest service.  Having been a cast member I know the extensive training that the company provides to make sure people “get it right.”  But even I was surprised by how effective their training is, and more importantly how it can completely enhance the guest experience. So often in places outside the parks, it seems like I’m imposing on the staff of a restaurant when I ask about gluten-free options.  Issues of cross-contamination are rarely addressed and trying to make sure I don’t eat anything with gluten seems to require a dozen questions or more as the people I’m talking to have no training with any kind of allergen or dietary restriction knowledge.  One wrong question or failure to ask the right ones and I could unknowingly be eating something with gluten in it.  Now, I’m fortunate.  Being gluten-free is a lifestyle choice for me.  I don’t have Celiac disease and so these issues aren’t as pressing for me, but for those who do have it or have other dietary restrictions, it’s nice to know that the Happiest Place on Earth is also the Happiest Dietary Restriction Place on Earth as well.

Carthay Circle Restaurant - one of many places with a variety of gluten-free options
Carthay Circle Restaurant – one of many places with a variety of gluten-free options

Visiting a month ago was the first time I’d gone since being gluten-free.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’d read other blogs about it and found some great information so I felt fairly well-informed. I had read that City Hall on Main Street USA in Disneyland has a gluten-free guideline to the parks, but when I went there, I was disappointed to find out they no longer have that source available.  The Guest Service representative told me that because menus and ingredients change so frequently they aren’t able to do that any more, but all I had to do was tell the person taking my order and they would make sure to take care of me.  I have to admit to being a little bit skeptical.  My experience in other places told me that the person taking the order would be pretty much clueless, but I thanked her anyway and went on my way.

My super fabulous gluten-free lunch at Smokejumpers Grill
My super fabulous gluten-free lunch at Smokejumpers Grill

When we went to Smokejumpers Grill in the new Grizzly Peak area being refurbished at Disney California Adventure, I did as I was told and let the person know we would like our order to be gluten-free.  She immediately called out the chef from the back who promptly came and asked what we would like.  She didn’t go over a limited selection of items available, but instead told us how they could make happen what we wanted to order.  We had each ordered a hamburger and fries, mine with chili and my daughter ordered hers with bacon and cheese.  She offered to make ours with a gluten-free bun (or we could have gone bunless too, but we wanted the bun).  She also told us the fries were made in a gluten-free dedicated frier AND offered to cut us up any fresh condiments if we wanted from the back to make sure there was no chance at cross-contamination!  Not only that, but since we were with a group who didn’t order gluten-free items, they put our plates on a separate tray with blue checkerboard wrapping instead of red so we could easily identify which was ours.  And to top it off, the chef made us feel not like we were bothering them, but that she was genuinely concerned with our well-being.  I can’t tell you not only what a relief that was, but how happy it made us feel.

Disney’s dedication to guest service is one of the many reasons for their success, but it’s this kind of attention to creating happiness that Disney gets right in ways so many other companies do not.  It’s one of the many reasons I keep going back.  I’d love to hear some of your dietary restriction stories too so please share them in the comments below.

  • What can you get at the new Smokejumper’s Grill?
  • For more gluten-free experiences, check out Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain blog for great Disney tips and other gluten-free advice.
  • If you’d like to see the list of edible items City Hall used to give out, go to our friends at the Disney Eats blog for a complete list.
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