Surviving Disneyland As A Vegetarian

In 2015 Disneyland News released this list of vegetarian options within the resort. It's one of the first articles that comes up when you search for "Disneyland vegetarian". Unfortunately, it's a bit outdated and some of the restaurants no longer have the same menu items. Much to my own surprise—having never been a Disney aficionado—we've wound up visiting Disneyland three times over the past year and a half. With quite a few park meals under my belt (literally), I wanted to share some updates and suggestions.

Vegetarians and vegans who've never visited Disneyland should know that there many restaurants and plenty of options, but none are particularly special. In our experience, even when a menu item sounds good, it's turned out to be rather dull. If a great food experience is important to you, you'd be wise to eat a meal outside the park. You may or may not be allowed to bring food into the park, based on Disney's discretion. Here's their statement on packing a picnic:

At the present time, you can enjoy your own food and beverages in an ideal setting at the complimentary picnic area—conveniently located outside the Main Entrance to Disneyland Park.

However, with the exception of food items for Guests with specific dietary restrictions, outside food or beverage items are not permitted in either of the Disneyland Resort theme parks.

So here are my suggestions for surviving Disneyland as a vegetarian/vegan:

Tip 1.  Download the Disneyland app. You can buy your park entrance tickets through the app which helps you bypass the ticket line. It provides a map of the park with current wait times for each ride. It also allows you to make restaurant reservations. Sit down restaurants are busy and will usually have long waits if you don't have reservations. And considering all the walking you'll be doing, a sit down meal will be welcome respite.

Tip 2.  Go Cajun. For some reason Disneyland has quite a few New Orleans/Cajun themed restaurants. I count five if you include Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney District. Ralph Brennan's is actually a nice spot for Sunday outdoor brunch but you'll be hard-pressed to find anything veggie on their lunch and dinner menu.

All of the other New Orleans/Cajun restaurants have vegetarian options and my favorite is Royal Street Veranda in New Orleans Square. They have a vegan gumbo served in a sourdough bread boule. It's surprisingly spicy and flavorful and the bread boule will really fill you up. Outdoor seating only and there are few tables.

Cafe Orleans is quite veggie friendly but we found the food bland and heavy. It's no surprise that the 3-Cheese Monte Cristo was a gut bomb, considering it's pure deep-fried cheese and dough. But we also got the Fried Green Tomato sandwich and it was such a disappointment. The parmesan pommes frites were the best part of the meal but hardly worth the $60 bill for 2 people. I should mention that they also have a N’awlins Vegetable Ragoût on the menu which we did not try and can't imagine is very interesting.

Vegan gumbo in bread boule at Royal Street Veranda. My favorite quick meal in Disneyland.

Vegan gumbo in bread boule at Royal Street Veranda. My favorite quick meal in Disneyland.

The fried green tomato sandwich at Cafe Orleans. Too much bread and not enough flavor.

The fried green tomato sandwich at Cafe Orleans. Too much bread and not enough flavor.

The fried green tomato sandwich at Cafe Orleans looks promising upon first inspection, so I'm not sure how they managed to leave out any semblance of flavor.

The fried green tomato sandwich at Cafe Orleans looks promising upon first inspection, so I'm not sure how they managed to leave out any semblance of flavor.

Do your stomach a favor and avoid the 3-Cheese Monte Cristo sandwich. You don't want something this heavy in your gut when you're going on rides and walking for miles. Cafe Orleans, if you read this, please please please at the very least serve this sandwich with a side salad or some steamed veggies.

Do your stomach a favor and avoid the 3-Cheese Monte Cristo sandwich. You don't want something this heavy in your gut when you're going on rides and walking for miles. Cafe Orleans, if you read this, please please please at the very least serve this sandwich with a side salad or some steamed veggies.

I have to give Cafe Orleans credit here, the pommes frites were delicious.

I have to give Cafe Orleans credit here, the pommes frites were delicious.

Tip 3.  Speaking of fried green tomato sandwiches, my next tip is to avoid Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country. They are included in Disneyland's vegetarian list for having a fried green tomato sandwich but it's no longer on the menu. And with that gone, this place is not worth the walk to the farthest reaches of the park. 

Tip 4.  If a sandwich is what you're looking for, you'll find a few places with standard fare veggie burgers. We saw them on the menu at Carnation Cafe and Village Haus Restaurant, but as an uppity vegetarian who's grown jaded by restaurants' unimaginative use of token veggie burgers to placate us vegetarians, we weren't tempted to stop in.

Tip 5.  On our next visit we hope to check out River Belle Terrace in Frontierland to try the BBQ Tofu. This item is not listed on Disneyland's vegetarian list. Although I can't yet report on its flavor, it gets good Yelp reviews. This photo posted by Yelp reviewer Jennifer C doesn't look half bad... as long as you're not craving vegetables or, you know, vitamins: 

Photo credit: Jennifer C/Yelp 

Photo credit: Jennifer C/Yelp 

Tip 6.  Mexican food reliably has vegetarian options. At Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante in Frontierland you can get veggie soft tacos, veggie burrito, and enchiladas. The tacos and burrito can be made vegan. Nothing exciting on this menu, but it's a safe choice if you want some actual vegetables.

Tip 7.  So maybe I'm being too tough on Disney. You come for the rides, the parades, the people watching (oh wow, the people watching!), and the overall experience. Maybe I should just be grateful there are so many vegetarian options, regardless of how boring they are. I'll take that into consideration. In the meantime, one thing I'm absolutely grateful for is Dole Whip®. You can get the mind-blowing frozen vegan treat at Tiki Juice Bar in Fronteirland, just outside the fabulously kitschy Enchanted Tiki Room attraction.

Tip 8.  Prepare well and know before you go. Because menu items change and you don't want your time wasted on a tofu goose chase, you can email your food questions or chat with a representative on their Help page. If you're trying to make restaurant reservations online and don't see a time you want, contact a help rep and they might be able to get you in. The park is just too big, too crowded, and most days too hot to be wandering around looking for a place to eat.

Surviving Disneyland is all about preparation. I highly suggest packing a survival kit. We bring a backpack with bottled water, a blanket and sweatshirts (Anaheim gets cool at night), Tums and Pepto (see Tips #2, #4, #5, #6), hand wipes, and fully charged phones (you spend a lot of time in lines at Disney so you'll need to keep yourself entertained). 

Oh, and one last restaurant tip: If you're planning on watching a parade, make sure you're done eating at least an hour before the parade starts. Two reasons why: 1) Spots along the parade route fill up quickly so you'll want to find a place to sit 45-60 minutes ahead of parade start time. 2) The parade route starts getting roped off 30-45 minutes before a parade starts and you don't want to get stuck behind a cordoned off area. It can make traversing the park tricky.

If you have a Disneyland vegetarian tip, please leave it in the comments below.