If you are worried that a trip to Disney is as American as hamburgers and you and your family will be left without any meat alternatives, think again. It is possible to visit Disney and maintain a vegetarian - and even a vegan - diet while there. However, the key to a successful veggie vacation involves a bit of pre-planning before you find yourself sitting down at a Disney restaurant staring across the table at your tired, hungry brood after a day of traversing the Magic Kingdom. But then again, if you are a veggie parent, chances are you are used to a little planning ahead!
Restaurants in Disney World do not take reservations but they do allow Priority Seating that is reserved in advance. Susan Shumaker and Than Saffel, authors of Vegetarian Walt Disney World and Greater Orlando, recommend that for starters vegetarians call (407) WDW-DINE to discuss your dietary needs with those at the specific restaurants where you will eat and make priority seating arrangements then as well. This can be done up to 120 days in advance in most restaurants and should be done minimally at least one week in advance. If you are vegan or on a strict low-fat diet, then you can call the main number at Walt Disney World at (407)824-2222 and ask for the restaurant of your choice. Once connected, ask to speak with the chef and explain your needs and when you will be in to eat at that restaurant. Don’t forget that if you are flying to Disney you will want to call the airline ahead as well to ensure that any meals served will be in compliance with your eating needs.
Once you arrive at the park, check in at the restaurants where you made prior arrangements with the chefs and remind them when you plan to dine there and what your dietary requests are. Make sure you know the name of the chef with whom you made prior arrangements over the phone.
If you prefer to pack your own snacks while you are in the park, you may do so. Only guests with special dietary restrictions are allowed to take coolers inside the park. There are lockers for rent inside Disney where you can put your cooler until you need it. Call the main number to notify them in advance of your plans to bring in your own food and drinks to make sure there will not be any problems when you arrive.
For snacks and meals on the fly, be sure to check the ingredients for the dishes you wish to order at the snack booths and fast food places. It is customary for these eateries to have ingredient lists for every item on their menus.
If you do find yourself in a restaurant that does not feature vegetarian or vegan menu items don’t be shy about asking if a particular dish can be prepared as you specify. Many times the culinary talents of the Disney chefs are brought to light as they creatively assist you in preparing a meal that not only meets your needs but is delicious as well. Don’t forget to ask those all-important questions like: how is the entrée prepared and does it contain any animal broth or stock (chicken or beef)? French fries may be vegetarian and so might that veggie burger but they might be fried in lard or other animal based products. Peruse the whole menu, including the kids menu. Adults can order their meal from that menu as well, and it may have choices that are more appetizing to you.
If you are vegan, the following places are recommended by Michelle Richer-Mengerink in the article, “Being a Vegetarian in Walt Disney World”.
Tony’s Town Square Restaurant
The Garden Grill Restaurant
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Best of the Best in Asia
There are lots more restaurants and eateries for those of you who are vegetarian. These range from pizza places to more upscale dining at places like the famous Victoria and Albert’s in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, which was rated the top restaurant in Orlando and one of the top ten in the country. They have a seven-course vegetarian meal and with prior notice can create a culinary masterpiece for vegans as well. Priority seating at this restaurant needs to be arranged 180 days ahead and it is considered pricier than many of the other more casual spots that Disney has to offer.
So get the guidebook for vegetarians travelling to Disney, Vegetarian Walt Disney World and Greater Orlando, and get busy planning ahead for a memorable and worry-free vacation. Bon appetit!
Written by: Carol Laliberte
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