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  • Springfield Opens at Universal Studios HollywoodWe review Krusty Burger and take a look at all the new offerings
  • Ready to Get Twisted?Twisted Colossus is nearing completion at Six Flags Magic Mountain
  • Is Fastpass+ Helping or Hurting?Walt Disney World fans debate the program's first year of operation
  • The Wizarding World of Harry PotterRead our complete guide to Universal's Harry Potter theme park lands
Springfield Opens at Universal Studios Hollywood Ready to Get Twisted? Is Fastpass+ Helping or Hurting? The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Robert Niles
Editor

How to Deal with Food Allergies at a Disney or Universal Theme Park

Published: March 29, 2015 at 4:26 PM

Disney and Universal theme parks have been opening new restaurants over the past weeks, but how can you enjoy themed food in a park if you have a food allergy?

The nation's most-attended parks have earned those visitors in part by providing a welcoming environment to people with a wide range of abilities. So it probably should not come as a surprise that these parks have tried to provide accommodation to people with food allergies, as well.

Both Disney and Universal have devoted pages on their websites to help guide people with food allergies. (We'll link to those pages in a moment.) But these parks have trained their food staff about allergy issues, too, so a visitor can find plenty to eat in the parks without the hassle of having to call and plan in advance.

When I was eating at the new Smokejumpers Grill at Disney California Adventure, I asked if they could serve their hamburgers on a gluten-free bun. The cashier immediately summoned a chef to greet me. She asked about food allergies and assured me that any sandwich at a Disney theme park could be made on a gluten-free bun. In addition, the fries that came with the burger would be fried in a separate deep-fryer in which no items containing wheat-flour batter or other ingredients with gluten would be fried. The chef thanked me for my patience, then said that she would make our lunch personally, then bring it out when it was finished.

A few minutes later, she returned, tray in hand, with our burger and fries.

Gluten-free at the Smokejumpers Grill

The policy is the same at all Disney restaurants. If anyone in your party has a food allergy, simply tell that to your server or cashier, and they will summon a chef to speak with you about your options. That chef will tell you what can be prepared at that restaurant to accommodate your allergy. Obviously, with common allergies such as wheat gluten, dairy, or nuts, accommodations are relatively easy. If you have multiple or rare allergies, your choices might become more limited, but Disney's chefs will work with you to help find a solution that works.

So how was that burger? I'll be honest, if there's a tasty gluten-free hamburger bun out there, I have yet to find it. Gluten is a protein that helps define the structure of good bread. (You'll find a helpful description of how gluten affects bread from Serious Eats' J. Kenji López-Alt.) Without that gluten to help things along, many gluten-free buns tend to be dense and chewy instead of light and springy.

If I were to offer a recommendation for eating at one of Disney's burger restaurants, do go ahead and ask for the gluten-free preparation, to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. But I'd either chuck the gluten-free bun and grab some extra lettuce from the toppings bar for a lettuce-wrapped burger, or ask if the chef could just go ahead prepare the sandwich that way. The fries, though, are amazing when prepared freshly this way. Crisp by coming immediately from a fryer that was frying only fries, without stopping for even a moment to wilt under a heat lamp, these were some of the best counter-service French fries I've ever tasted.

I have found the staff at Universal Studios Hollywood also to be helpful in accommodating dietary needs. Universal Studios Hollywood lists on its website which specific dishes at which of its restaurants are either gluten-free already, or that can be modified to be gluten-free.

Chicken dinner
Skip the gravy and the biscuit and you're gluten-free at the Jurassic Cafe.

There's no reason to let a food allergy keep you from experiencing the tastes of a theme park, as you enjoy its sights and other sensations. Just follow the links below for more helpful advice. And please share with us in the comments your experience and tips with allergen-free dining in the parks.

Helpful Links:

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Robert Niles
Editor

2015 Coaster Vote Final: The Most Anticipated New Coaster of the Year

Published: March 29, 2015 at 3:29 PM

A little more than a week ago, we asked you to vote on the new roller coaster you're most looking forward to ride in 2015. We selected five candidates for the poll that we thought would be among the most popular new coasters in the country. However, you told us that five were not enough. Fans of some of the other great new coasters coming this year demand the opportunity to vote for their favorite, so we added a second vote.

Now, in the tradition of the annual Theme Park Insider Tournaments we started back in 2008, we are putting the champions of our two votes last week up against each other for the overall "most anticipated new coaster" crown.

Ultimately, your votes told us that you are really, really looking forward to riding a new Rocky Mountain Construction steel re-tracked wooden coaster this year, because that is what both of our winners will be. Your final candidates are:

Twisted Colossus
Six Flags Magic Mountain

Wicked Cyclone
Six Flags New England


Thank you to our friends at both parks, as well as at all the other parks in this competition, for getting out the vote. Now let's do it again, and let the most anticipated new coaster of 2015 win!

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Robert Niles
Editor

Trader Sam's Opens and Aunt Polly's Returns at Walt Disney World

Published: March 28, 2015 at 3:50 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Where to Eat? Springfield USA Opens at Universal Studios Hollywood

Published: March 27, 2015 at 10:52 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Twisted Colossus Construction Tour: March 2015

Published: March 27, 2015 at 6:16 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Vote of the Week: After a Year, What's Your Experience with Disney's Fastpass+?

Published: March 27, 2015 at 6:18 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Hacking the Future of Theme Park Entertainment, This Weekend at Universal Orlando

Published: March 26, 2015 at 4:57 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Disney Announces Tomorrowland Movie Previews for Disneyland, Disney World

Published: March 26, 2015 at 10:20 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Has Disney World Started Work on the New Entrance for Hollywood Studios?

Published: March 26, 2015 at 8:34 AM

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Russell Meyer
Writer

Fury 325 is Creating Buzz at Carowinds

Published: March 25, 2015 at 8:30 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Universal Orlando Installs Metal Detectors at Rip, Ride, Rockit

Published: March 25, 2015 at 7:59 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Bonus Vote of the Week: The Best New Coaster of 2015, Part Two

Published: March 24, 2015 at 4:33 PM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Where to Eat? Lunch at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

Published: March 24, 2015 at 10:31 AM

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Robert Niles
Editor

Weekly Top 10: The Best Disney Attractions

Published: March 23, 2015 at 10:01 AM

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