A short list of the things I love most in this world would include Christmas, birthdays, good mail, sunny days, amazing vegan restaurants, and Disneyland. So when we were heading to Florida earlier this month to enjoy a few of those things, my husband and I knew that Disney World would definitely be on the itinerary. I’ve been to Disneyland many, many times. (More than I could count really since I also worked there for a while.) And I know that park with my eyes closed. However, I’d only been to Disney World one other time, and that was about fifteen years ago. So I was excited to see what was different than the park I know so well. (If you’d like to see my vegan tips on Disneyland, check out this post.)
When getting ready for our Disney World trip, I pored over blogs and forums to see what I could find about vegan food on offer. (More about that at the end of this post!) I’d heard that the vegan options at Disney World were better than Disneyland, and after the trip, I tend to agree. We only visited one of the parks, Magic Kingdom, and so this post will only be about that.
If you want to eat at a sit-down restaurant, Disney advises noting your needs when you make a reservation online or calling ahead. (The phone number and information on specific dietary requests is available here.) They’ll make a note that you’re vegan and tell the chef. Then once you get to the restaurant, the chef will come out to talk to you. She/he will walk you through the buffet (if there is one) and point out which items are vegan, and then they will make you something either on or off menu that’s vegan, depending on their particular offerings.
I didn’t call ahead and make a reservation, because I don’t think the sit-down restaurant prices are worth it. At Crystal Palace Buffet, for example, lots of people online have had good experiences with getting vegan fare. But the cost of Disney buffets are between $40-50. For two people dining, that same hundred bucks could be spent on a really stellar dinner outside of the park.
While my husband and I haven’t eaten at the Disney World sit-down restaurants, we have eaten at Blue Bayou in Disneyland and Blue Lagoon in Disneyland Paris. Both times I felt like the ambience was much, much better than the food, which was still quite bland and ordinary. I don’t regret doing it once, because in the case of Disneyland, for example, it’s fun to eat outdoors indoors. However, it wouldn’t be something I’d need to do again.
Bringing Food into the Park
If you’re going to one of the Disney parks for the day and don’t feel like bringing in your own food, you certainly won’t starve. There are plenty of places to eat. However, it is theme park fare. Personally, my favorite way to enjoy the Disney experience is by packing my own morsels from home that I can supplement with anything from the park that I might enjoy.
There’s a Whole Foods location about 8 miles from Magic Kingdom. We went there before our day at the park and picked up healthy snacks. We also had an early lunch of a bean burrito before going into the park, so that we wouldn’t immediately need to eat when we got inside.
Some people worry about bringing food into the park and they fear that after parking and hauling a cooler from tram to tram that they’ll be turned away at the gate and have to return it to their car. Not to worry. I’ve brought in my own food many, many times, and no one has ever said a word about it. Yes, they will check your bag at security, but they’re not looking for Lara Bars… On the Disney World website, they have this to say about bringing in your own food:
Guests with food allergies or intolerances are allowed to bring food into Walt Disney World theme parks and dining locations. When entering a park, simply inform the Security at bag check that someone in the party has a food allergy or intolerance.
This time around there was a family going in right before us, and they’d brought enough food to feed a family of four for an entire day. Inside of their ice-filled cooler, there were juice boxes, bottles of water, croissant sandwiches… They didn’t mention anything about having special dietary needs, and the guard looked through the cooler but didn’t say a word and let them through.
There is one thing you need to remember, though. The cooler must be soft-sided. A hard Playmate-style cooler can’t go through. My other advice is to bring in a water bottle to refill throughout the day. There are plenty of water faucets, and in the hot Florida sun, you’ll need it.
Once you’re inside the gate and before you go under the train into the Magic Kingdom, you’ll see lockers on your right. They’re next to the area where wheelchairs are rented. Currently lockers are $9/day for large lockers and $7/day for small lockers. There’s a $5 deposit, and you get that back at the end of the day when you return your key. You can go in and out of your locker throughout the day. We rented a small locker, and we were easily able to fit a lunch bag, a sweatshirt, and a water bottle (when it cooled off and we didn’t need it).
List of Vegan Items in the Park
Once you get inside of the park, there’s a rumor that if you go to Guest Services they have a sheet of all of the places that you can eat that have vegetarian/vegan items. I don’t know how this rumor got started, but it’s not true. I went to the Guest Services and requested one a couple of years ago at Disneyland, and they had no idea what I was talking about. I also sent an email to Disney World recently and asked if they had that kind of information, and I was told that they don’t. Since their suppliers frequently change, what is available at various locations also changes. I found that my best bet was looking at blogs of people who had visited the park recently and seeing what they’d discovered. (I’ve linked to those particular blog posts at the bottom of this page.)
Our Mickey-rific Meals
At the end of Main Street USA, there’s an ice cream shop called Main Street Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. On the bottom of the menu, they have listed that they have two kinds of non-dairy ice cream – Tofutti and Rice Dream. We were told by the clerk that Tofutti is available in chocolate or vanilla and Rice Dream is available in vanilla.
David ordered a root beer float with Rice Dream.
I had a kid’s scoop of vanilla Tofutti. They typically put chocolate ears onto the scoop, and I assumed that the ears weren’t vegan, and so I requested not to have them. When I got the scoop, in addition to not giving me chocolate ears, they also didn’t give me a cone. I was going to ask about it, but it was busy so I just had it without.
I learned later, though, that the cone is vegan. (Rachael let me know in the comments that the cone is not vegan, as it contains honey.)
At Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland, it’s divided into three separate stations. There’s a vegan sandwich in the sandwich area and a vegan burger in the burger area. Go to the particular area that you want, and when you get to the person working the cash register, tell that person that you are vegan and/or have special dietary needs. They’ll call the manager over.
When we were there, the manager working was Samantha. She had a binder with all of the allergens in all of the food. (They have these binders at every food location in Disney World.) She said that the veggie burger was vegan, and that now all of the buns at Starlight Café are vegan. (She told us that the buns used to have animal products in them, and that it had been a frustration that they had a vegan burger but not a vegan bun.)
On the side, we could get fries or apple slices. She said that there is one fryer in the back that is used only for fries. The rest are used for a combination of fries and chicken parts. So if we wanted fries, she could call to the kitchen on her headset and let them know to cook our fries in the fryer that’s solely used for french fries. She also said if we’d like to get green beans, they are just cooked in oil, not dairy butter. We both got a veggie burger & fries, and I got a side of green beans as well.
We weren’t interested in dessert, but she said that they have mango gelato, which is vegan, and a chocolate chip cookie, which is both gluten free and vegan.
As you might guess, all of the food was very oily and salty, and I felt like the inside of my mouth was covered with a layer of grease afterwards. I wouldn’t seek out this kind of food in my day-to-day life, but I was very impressed with the service. I appreciated how thorough and knowledgeable Samantha was and that it’s the kind of thing they’re clearly used to handling.
Other Vegan Fare in the Magic Kingdom
Obviously we just sampled a few things that are vegan and on offer at the Magic Kingdom. Here’s a list of some of the other items that I saw while I was there or that other vegan bloggers have found on their trips to the Happiest Place on Earth. (I included a link to other bloggers’ posts and pictures when available.)
Keep in mind that availability changes, and it’s always a good idea to check in with the manager or chef to insure that what’s being sold is still free of animal products. (To see all of the menus in the park, visit Disney’s dining website here.)
- Hummus & chips, vegetables (without the dip which has dairy), apples (without the caramel which has dairy), fruit cup, and chocolate & regular soy milk at Gaston’s Pub & The Lunching Pad
- Popcorn (including caramel popcorn) & Pretzels throughout the park
- Cinnamon glazed almonds & pecans and frozen pineapple bars
- Tofutti & Rice Dream at Main Street Plaza Ice Cream Parlor (without the cone)
- Dole Whip in Adventureland
- Divvies Snacks at Main Street Bakery
- Mickey waffles throughout the park
- Pasta at Tony’s Town Square
- Crystal Palace buffet (More buffet pics are available here.)
- Veggie Burger at Peco’s Bills in Frontierland and at Liberty Tree Tavern
- Vegetarian Burrito and nachos at Tortuga Tavern (According to a commenter, the cilantro rice in the burrito has romano cheese in it. Ask for plain white rice instead.)
- Veggie burger and sandwich, fries in the dedicated fryer, green beans, gluten-free chocolate chip cookie, and mango gelato at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
- Tofu & rice at Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station
- Veggie sandwich (the Lighthouse sandwich) with no slaw, vegan chili, fries, and apple pie at Columbia Harbor House
- Layered Ratatouille at Be Our Guest
If you have any favorite places that you like to eat vegan in the Magic Kingdom, let me know, and I’ll add it to the list!
P.S. I know it’s sacrilege, but we actually didn’t eat at Babycakes, the all-vegan bakery at Downtown Disney! I think it’s so great it’s there, and we passed by a couple of times. However, it was never when we were in the mood for sweets. We’ve both had Babycakes at other locations, though.