Today we’re focusing on the most magical place on earth… Walt Disney World! Specifically, how to enjoy a trip to “the World” while sticking to a reasonably healthy vegan diet.
Depending on the last time you visited Walt Disney World, you make think all they have to offer is burgers and fries. If so, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. On the whole, WDW is well known for being very vegetarian friendly–almost every eatery in the World has vegetarian and sometimes even vegan options directly on the menu. WDW chefs are also well equipped to handle a variety of special diets, from allergies to lifestyle choices. One of the reasons why I love visiting WDW is that I can sit down at any of their table service restaurants and know I’ll get a delicious meal that’s not salad-with-no-dressing or white-pasta-with-tomato-sauce. Here are 5 tips to get you started:
1. Make Advance Dining Reservations
If you do nothing else for your Disney trips, make Advance Dining Reservations (“ADR’s”) as close to 180 days in advance as you can. This will make your vacation better in two ways.
First, when making the reservation online or via phone, you will have the opportunity to note special dining needs, like allergies to dairy, eggs, shellfish, etc. When you arrive at the restaurant, the host/hostess will already know of your special dining needs and will alert your waiter and the chef. I have found that this helps the chef be ready for you and makes the experience go faster and easier for everyone. After you are seated, your waiter will take your drink order and alert the kitchen that you have arrived. A friendly chef will come out to talk to you and work with you to make your meal.
The second reason to make ADR’s is that during busier seasons at WDW, you will get turned away from many table service restaurants if you do not have a ressie. During slow seasons, Disney tends to run free dining promotions, which can make getting a walk up table just as hard. Taking the time to make ADR’s can make the difference between fast-food veggie burgers at every meal and foodie heaven.
2. Review the Menu from Home
Although chefs at WDW are on the whole extremely accommodating, you can make their lives a lot easier if you have already looked at the menu and can suggest a modification to an existing dish (most restaurants have at least one vegetarian appetizer and entree or can modify a pasta or rice dish usually made with meat). If you don’t like any of the dishes on the menu, the restaurant is probably not a good fit for you.
For counter service restaurants, there is a much more limited menu so there is only so much the chef can do for you. Looking at menus ahead of time lets you pick restaurants with delicious vegan or veganizable dishes without always having to get a veggie burger.
3. Have a Treat
Think being in Disney means never having a fun treat? Think again! While Disney offers a lot of healthy snack options like fresh fruit, hummus and veggies, side salads, etc., there are also several vegan options for treats. The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor in the Magic Kingdom offers vanilla and chocolate Tofutti and Rice Dream (so do most table service restaurants — ask your chef!). Another beloved Disney treat, the Dole Whip, is accidentally vegan for the fruit (pineapple and orange) flavors. Most of the Deluxe Resorts stock treats from vegan bakery Babycakes at their food courts. Also, know that the chef at The Primetime Cafe in Hollywood Studios keeps a vegan, I think gluten-free brownie on hand that is amazing with Tofutti on top. Pop into the bar area to order this treat without needing an ADR or go for a full meal. Plan your park touring so that you’ll be by one of these treats when hunger cravings hit mid-afternoon.
4. Be Adventurous
Don’t write off a restaurant because it doesn’t seem vegan friendly on paper. Check for reviews online before planning your ADRs and you may be very pleasantly surprised. For example, Cape May Cafe has a seafood focus for it’s dinner buffet but I had one of my best meals there from this last trip.
5. Plan a Splurge Meal
Some of the best meals of my life have been at WDW! If you have the budget, dinner at Victoria and Albert’s is an amazing once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience. Seven courses of vegan food prepared by a AAA Five Diamond Award restaurant? Yes please! I’ve eaten here twice, once with my husband on our honeymoon and once as a treat for my mother and I’m already dreaming and scheming about when I can go back.
Not up for V&A’s? Try Jiko (they have a special vegan menu!), Boma (amazing vegan-friendly chef and cool menu), California Grill or Narcoossee’s (both have amazing views of the Wishes fireworks) or Citricos (walk down to the dock after your meal to catch the fireworks).
Have you been to Walt Disney World as a vegan? Do you have any additional advice? Stay tuned for more articles on being vegan in WDW, including the best table service, counter service, and snacks for vegans at WDW!