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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Vegan at Disney World

Christmas is coming up, and for many that means traveling to visit family. For a lot of people, that travel will include a visit to Disney World. I decided that it would be a good time to share some of my experiences and tips as a vegan Disney lover.

To say that I love Walt Disney World would be an understatement. I practically grew up there. The first time I visited the Magic Kingdom was when I was 3 months old, and I've been to it and the three other parks hundreds of times since. My dad and I are certified Disney nuts, so we go to the parks every chance we get. Epcot and the Magic Kingdom are tied for my favorite park, but I love Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney MGM Studios) and Animal Kingdom as well. Some of my favorite rides are Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Star Tours, Dinosaur (aka Countdown to Extinction), Mission: Space, and Splash Mountain to name a few. The Disney resort hotels are also wonderful. So far I've stayed at the Wilderness Lodge, The Polynesian, The Yacht Club, The Pop Century, Port Orleans Riverside, The All Star Music resort, and All Star Movie Resort. I've visited (but not yet stayed in) the Contemporary, The Grand Floridian, and the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. My favorite hotels are the Wilderness Lodge because of the Native decor, the Polynesian because I love Hawaii, and the Pop Century because they display many items related to my favorite TV shows and music.

If you are a vegan or vegetarian visiting Disney for the first time, you may be a bit apprehensive about the food situation. You may be wondering if you'll find anything that you can eat beyond iceberg lettuce. If so, let me reassure you that the Disney Parks offer a vast amount of yummy animal free food! I have not visited Disney as a vegan yet, but I did go a few times after I became a vegetarian and I never had any problem finding food. Their veggie burgers, which were vegan the last time I was there, are delicious. Also, the Disney chefs and cooks prepare food for MILLIONS of visitors from all over the world every year, so they are no strangers to special orders! Here are some tips from my experience to help you during your visit:

1. If you have any questions, please ask to see a chef. My mom has many severe allergies, so she often has to ask about ingredients. One time we were eating at one of her favorite restaurants in the Magic Kingdom called the Liberty Tree Tavern. She had a question about a menu item so she asked the waiter who offered to get a chef. He came out to the table and was very polite and helpful. He informed her that the meal she was planning to order included french fries that were prepared in shellfish oil, which she is highly allergic to. My mom and the chef discussed the items that she couldn't eat and he made her a special meal. I've have heard that they will also do this for us vegans. So if you see a fun restaurant that you want to try that has nothing vegan on it's printed menu, don't automatically rule it out. Ask to speak to a chef (preferably when you make your reservation if you are going to a table service restaurant) and see if you can work something out.

2. As usual, buffets are your best friend. They have the most ingredients to work with and I've been told that some chefs will walk you through the buffet if they have time and tell you the ingredients of any questionable items.

3. Epcot is probably the best park for food lovers. A large portion of the park dedicated to what is called the World Showcase. It is divided up into pavilions which are built to resemble different counties. The countries featured are the US, Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, Germany,Italy, France, the UK, Norway, and Morocco. Each Pavilion has at least one restaurant (some have two) where you can taste the unique cuisine of that country. My biggest piece of advice for veggies at Epcot is to avoid the restaurants in the China Pavilion. I haven't ate at those restaurants since becoming a vegetarian because according to the AllEars website (listed below), all of their food is cooked with beef stock. However, if you see something on the menu that appears veggie friendly, ask about it because they could have changed in the meantime. If they have, let me know because I LOVE Asian food!

4. Veggie burgers are available at counter service restaurants in the various parks. Some of the restaurants such as the ones at Epcot prepare them fresh with each order, which is great. The only problem is this means that you will likely have to wait awhile for your food, especially at lunch and dinner times! I'd advise you to try to eat a little bit early or late if possible to avoid that hassle.

 5. One of the best things to do is research the restaurants before you book your trip. One of the best websites I have ran across is the AllEars site. It is chock full of info on Walt Disney World written by visitors. it contains more info than Disney's official site, and the vast majority of the info on the site is very reliable. The best part is that they have an entire section of the site for vegan and vegetarians, including a list of all the vegan items that are available at each restaurant. It is regularly updated and maintained by a vegan woman. It really takes the guess work out of meal planning! The guide is divided into three sections: Counter Service (parks), Table Service (parks), and Resorts Table Service. You can find them at Vegan Park Counter Service , Parks Table Service , and Resorts. You might also want to check out these links: Vegetarian Disney Dining Strategies and A Vegetarian at Mickey's Table

Have a fun filled vegan vacation at Disney!

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