Babes in Toyland: The Vegan Project Goes to Disneyland

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If you ever visited Disneyland as a child, you’re already well aware that the food is a major component of the experience. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner merge into an expansive series of snacks, treats, and buffets. Dessert for breakfast is permitted (if not required), churros are an acceptable side dish for any course, and it is an absolute given that while standing in line for the Haunted Mansion, you must purchase a minimum of one frozen orange treat from the ice cream vendor.

ladies

Entering the experience as an adult, and a vegan adult as that, this was naturally all prone to change. Inspired by the Spring opening of BabyCakes, Disney World’s first vegan and gluten-free bakery, The Vegan Project contacted Disneyland and requested media passes so that we could conduct a vegan audit. The objective: gauge how feasible (or not) it is, for a vegan to visit Disneyland for a full day, and experience meals and snacks in the same way that a non-vegan or vegetarian guest would experience them.

In an ideal world, our visit would have lasted longer. Disneyland is a huge park, and you could easily spend a week alone visiting all of the culinary ventures, without even considering rides or retail. Since we were only allotted a day, we decided that we would focus our attention on finding the best on-the-go options for guests, as opposed to the more formal, sit-down restaurant options.

Our arrival time dictated the (almost immediately) seeking out, and ordering of lunch. Within a few minutes, Bridget found a vendor selling a grilled sandwich, offering to switch in a portobello mushroom in place of meat. This seemed to be a park tendency- there weren’t necessarily major lists of veg-friendly sandwiches and burgers, but most vendors were open to small modifications, and it seemed that the Portobello mushroom was the default option. The sandwich we shared included lettuce, grilled red pepper and zucchini, and red onions. Aside from a light vinaigrette, there was no spread of any kind. Between the lack of dressing and the non-toasted bun, the only flaw here was a sandwich that was slightly messy, and required both hands (and napkins) to consume. Though not filling on its own, we also sourced out a side of fries, and naturally, guacamole, to help fill the stomach space.

 

veg

Word to the wise: snacks are essential at Disneyland. They help fuel walks from Tomorrowland to Critter Country, and keep you satiated while you’re waiting in line. Since vegans can’t partake in a lot of the traditional fare (ice cream bars, churros), we were pleased to find that Disneyland has set up  series of healthy snack bars, spotted at several locations throughout the park. These include options such as hummus and pretzels, containers of sliced apples, bananas, pineapple chunks, veggie cups, individually wrapped pickles, and bottled water.

Though covered for the savoury, when it comes to satisfying one’s sweet tooth, options here were lacking. Despite the prevalence of lactose-free diets (vegan or not) across North America, not one of the multiple ice cream shops, stands, or bakeries, offered a dairy-free cone. One café in Adventureland does boast a dairy-free pineapple dessert, however we attempted to sample it twice, and were quickly deterred by very (very) long lineups. Granted, it may have been tucked away somewhere, but with the prevalence of ice cream shops, candy shops and counters, and milkshakes- it would have been appreciated to see at least one dairy-free option to balance out the savory.

snacks

 

Second word to the wise: coffee is also essential at Disneyland. Although the stand-alone carts didn’t offer a non-dairy alternative, the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café (Main Street) offered soy milk on its menu, in addition to the Jolly Holiday Salad (sub out the feta for extra pecans and veggies), and the Grilled Vegetable & Whole Grain Salad.

The following options were also sourced as veg-friendly, though we didn’t have time to sample them ourselves:

 

Blue Bayou Restaurant- Portobello Mushroom and Couscous Macque Choux (watch for the salad dressing, order oil + vin on the side!)

Tiki Bar (Adventureland)- Dole Whip Sorbet (the infamous pineapple treat I was referring to earlier)

Hungry Bear Restaurant (Critter Country)- onion rings, sweet potato fries

Big Thunder Ranch BBQ (Frontierland)- vegetable skewer, or corn on the cob (without the butter topping!)

 

One of the best parts about both vegan and vegetarian lifestyles is that more and more, they are entering the mainstream conversations around the food we eat, both in our homes and outside of them. Restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores are diversifying menus and product selections, and the next inevitable step in this process is that the tourism industry follows suit.

Attractions such draw as Disneyland have the potential to attract- and cater to- a wide vegan/vegetarian population, and are already setting a positive first example for the ways a business can begin to adapt its practices to encompass all dietary choices. Next steps for Disneyland should include a veggie burger (they’re on site, but not dairy-free), a non-dairy ice cream (everyone wants ice cream when they go to Disneyland), and in my very ultimate dream world- the vegan churro.

For now, when all else fails, we have french fries.

 

– Zoe // zoe@theveganproject.com // @zoemarg

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