Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Happiest Place on Earth

Southern California is full of fun filled day trip destinations. In less than 2 hours travel by car you can be frolicking in the waves at the beach, hiking in the mountains, picking apples in Julian, looking at lions and giraffes at the Zoo or going on rides and rollercoasters at one of many So Cal amusement parks.  Lego Land, Knots Berry Farm, Magic Mountain, Universal Studios are all lovely choices when you are looking for a day or two of amusement park fun. For me though there is one park in particular that I have a soft spot in my heart for. A place ingrained in my memory from years of visits for school field trips, family vacations and mini road trips with friends. A magical place that still makes me feel as giddy as a kid upon arrival and whose rides are as much fun today as they were when I was a little tyke (even if I do have to take motion sickness medication now to enjoy them!). 

From the candy stores and old world style shops lining main street to the drawbridge at Sleeping Beauty’s castle a day spent at Disneyland always manages to bring a smile to my face and fill my heart with childlike joy. I love all the colorful rides like Alice in Wonderland and Mr. Toad’s wild ride which remind me of story books from my youth. Then there are the mountain rides like Big Thunder, Space and Splash Mountain that are the perfect combination of slightly thrilling and fun. And of course then there are the classics like Pirates of the Caribbean, Tiki Lounge and Haunted Mansion which manage to maintain their appeal even though you go on them every single visit. As if this was not enough goodness to pack in one place there is another wonderful thing to love about Disneyland, something that has nothing to do with rides, characters in costume, or mouse eared hats. My newest and most happy reason to love a visit to the Magic Kingdom has to do with something near and dear to my heart and that as you may have already guessed is gluten free food.

Disneyland has so graciously embraced the gluten free community and offers a most extensive menu of gluten free snacks and meals throughout the park. Whatever you are craving from hot dogs and fries to pizza and pasta they have it. Not only do they offer gluten free options but they take the utmost care in ensuring your food is not subject to cross contamination when it is prepared. Every time I have ordered something gluten free they always send the chef out to talk to me and the chef will either personally make my order or watch the food being prepared themselves to make sure my meal is completely gluten free.

In the past I have dined at Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port in Tomorrowland and had the most delicious pizza made with Kinnikinnick crust. Also available at Redd Rockett’s are rice noodles with marinara as well as a selection of salads and grilled chicken.

Most recently I visited the magic kingdom with my dear friend and fellow Disneyland enthusiast Natalie to see the Nightmare before Christmas decorations.

The Haunted Mansion has always been one of my favorite rides (next to the People Mover (RIP) of course!). It was such fun to see it all decked out for the holidays in Nightmare Before Christmas style. Before we arrived I had imagined that just the outside would be decorated but nonono not only was the exterior different but the inside of the house and the whole ride was completely different!! I don’t want to spoil it for any of you who might be planning a trip there soon but let me just tell you, if you are a Hunted Mansion fan like me you are in for a most pleasant surprise

The Haunted Mansion was fabulous as were all of the other lovely rides we went on and happily my motion sickness medication even at a half dose worked like a charm. Anyways, back to the food! For our first snack we headed to Tomorrowland Terrace where we ordered french fries cooked in the fries only fryer. They also offer these fries at a number of locations throughout the park.

Now fried fries are not normally something I eat but I am a sucker for things that are specially made gluten free for me so I had to give them a try! They were just as I remembered them, crispy yet soft sticks of potato that were made even more delish when dipped in a mixture of ketchup and hot sauce. Yum!

For lunch later that day we headed to Frontierland to a place called Rancho Del Zocalo where I enjoyed chicken tacos on corn tortillas with a side of beans and rice.

I was pleasantly surprised! The tacos were much better than I imagined Mexican food from Disneyland could be. They even had bottles of hot sauce on the tables that boasted a “gluten free” label on them.

We had planed on getting some pineapple frozen yogurt from the Tiki Juice Bar but once the sun went down the chilly air unfortunately nixed any cravings for cold dessert we had been having.

There are numerous other delicious gluten free options available throughout Disneyland, California Adventure, Downtown Disney and the Disneyland Hotel ranging from pancakes and waffles to pasta dishes and cheeseburgers. To get your up to date listing of the parks offerings go to City Hall on Main Street when you arrive and ask for their gluten free restaurant and menu list. You can also call the head Chef at Disneyland, Chris Justesen at 714-781-3569 if you are planning on going to any particular restaurants for a nice sit down meal and let them know when you are coming so they can make sure they have what you want on hand.

So if you are looking for somewhere fun and gluten friendly to take the kids to or just to go and play like a kid again for a day or so yourself, Disney’s theme parks are a most delicious and fun filled destination. 

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