Thursday, July 3, 2008

Disneyland: The Happiest (Gluten-Free) Place on Earth

I recently got back from a trip to Disneyland in celebration of my recent graduation from Sacramento State University, a fine public university if I do say so myself. During my trip, I discovered something about Disneyland that I never knew before: it is perhaps one of the (if not *the*) most gluten-free-friendly places on the face of the earth. My girlfriend, who has been gluten free for about three years now, was super excited to go to Disneyland after she read an in article in the Living Without Magazine that spoke of Disney as a featured gluten-free destination. Apparently the head chef in charge of all the dining establishments at Disney contacted her within 24 hours of sending an email.

When we arrived at Disneyland's City Hall to get this great list of dining options, I was impressed with the 10 pages of choices that were geographically categorized according to where you were located in the park. We were also allowed to bring in some gluten free snacks without any complications. My girlfriend also happens to have a disability and the staff truly bent over backwards to help her out. Between the advantage of being able to bypass the long lines and not being anxious about whether or not the food was going to ruin our day, it was truly one of the happiest days in the happiest place on earth.

Now, on to an entirely different gluten free experience.

During our trip, we also visited Universal Studios in Southern California and it was truly a night and day difference between the two parks. Universal had no literature at all to assist sufferers of celiac to dine safely. The Universal Guest Services department had reassured us that the staff was knowledgeable and that Debbie would just need to ask to speak to the chef at any of the dining options, but that did not go so smoothly. She had to shout over customers in line at the Jurassic Café to speak to the chef who was not knowledgeable about eating gluten free at all. In fact, he thought that if you remove the croutons from a salad it would be safe. She's a real trooper though; she ate a meal replacement bar that she snuck into the park, while I spent $7 on a Dodger Dog and a bag of chips (no drink included in that price; that's just ridiculous). Afterword, we left the park and enjoyed some Chipotle and some Pinkberry for dessert.

Next time we go to Southern California I vote to spend 3 days at Disneyland/CA Adventure. Between the overly chipper staff and their willingness to make sure everyone, regardless of diets or disabilities, has an equally pleasant experience, Disneyland truly lived up to its slogan of being the Happiest Place on Earth.