Today, we’d like to share a special post from guest blogger Maria-Tai Willeford of Washington!

Back in September 2014, I excitedly booked our first family vacation, which also happened to be our first family Disneyland vacation. Early on this year, I found out that I have a very intense food allergy/sensitivity that requires me to pretty much eat everything from scratch (think along the lines of Paleo). Because of that, a few months prior to our trip I e-mailed Disney directly about how to eat in the parks in a way that would not trigger my reactions. Their response back was not very hopeful, so (despite including all of my food issues on our dining reservations) I braced myself for 4 days of magical fun, but also of eating like a bird on pre-packaged things brought from home.

As most of you can probably imagine, between all of the anticipation of the magic that awaited (eek!), our early morning flight, and the lay over, we were exhausted, hot, and starving after arriving in Anaheim. While waiting for our hotel room to open, we went a few doors down to Dennys. To my shock and awe, Dennys actually has some salads that are fit for clean eating. After telling the incredible staff about what could not even touch my food, it was delivered exactly as requested. The servers went above and beyond to make certain I had what I needed, and even prompted me on what type of dressing they felt I could have. As our waiter told us, they are located at the Happiest Place on Earth, and have to provide the service that Disney guests expect from the parks.special-dietary-requests-00-sq

After eating and getting freshened up, we headed off to explore a bit before our reservations at the Carnation Café. I had made ADR’s (Advanced Dining Reservations), and had put special note down of my food restrictions. As soon as we checked in at the Café, we were immediately asked which person had the food allergy/sensitivity and clarification on whether or not I felt I needed to speak to a chef – I decided to put my trust in Disney, and forego the chef. Our waitress came, and gave us all menus pointing out that mine was different: Happily, Disneyland is rolling out a new program for those of us who cannot eat the same as everyone else! I have to admit, I was very excited to see that I had multiple options! She then insisted that I list exactly what I had problems with food wise so that she could inform the chef, as they would cross reference everything they prepared for me. The meal that I chose, the Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken, was delicious and so very filling!

The next day we had ADR’s for the Storyteller Café in the Grand Californian Hotel. We had no idea what to expect here, and were both a little nervous about how nice the restaurant was. After being seated, we had the most lovely waitress from Japan. She bent over backwards to make us feel welcome, to joke around with our kids, and to make certain that I felt normal. Though I did not ask for it, she put in an order for some special gluten free bread so that I could enjoy a small amount prior to our meal just as the rest of my family was. The bread was, to be honest, the highlight of dinner and I ate every single bite (if you’re reading this, Disney, please, oh please, Disneyland give me the recipe!)! Again, prior to ordering I was given the option to have a chef come out and speak with me and declined as I saw I had options (important to note that this restaurant does NOT have an allergy menu, but is able to work around it). Since I had luck before with salad, I chose a delicious one with sweetened walnuts and a vinaigrette. My husband had some incredibly tender pork chops, my daughter opted for spaghetti, and my son was able to create his own pizza right at the table. As you can tell, even though I am not able to eat as my family does, we were all able to get things we loved at each restaurant. When we return to Disneyland, we will be rushing back to this restaurant!

On our last day we decided to take a chance and eat at Red Rocket’s Pizza Port– I was curious to see if they could accommodate me at a quick service location! I realized that the only thing I could have was salad. And the salads that had already been made needed to have things removed. So I asked the cast members behind the counter if they could make me a new one, and stated it was for food allergy/sensitivity. Immediately they went back and got a chef, and had them come out to prepare my food for me, directly in front of me so that I could see every single thing that was added. Granted, it was nothing special, but it was wonderful to see that I could even have options at a quick service and Disney would try their best to ensure I was eating safely.

I hope this has inspired some of you to take a trip, and put aside any eating concerns you may have. Disneyland goes above and beyond to provide a magical experience, even to those of us that need some extra help and attention! Check the official Disneyland site for additional information.

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