I come from one of those crazy Disney families. You know the type– they’ve been coming to Disney World for over ten years, they’ve ridden all the rides and seen all the shows, they know all the mouse’s secrets. While I can’t divulge all of my family’s tips and tricks (I would be shunned), I can show you how to survive as a vegan in Disney World. It’s easier than you think…
If you’re a vegan in Epcot, go to The Land. They have a huge food court full of meals that are not only vegan-friendly but also feature vegetables grown right in their hydroponic greenhouse. I’m a sucker for self-sustaining and local agriculture, even if Disney’s scientists have an odd penchant for growing pumpkins in the shape of Mickey’s head. I went to The Land for lunch and was pleased to find an entire cooler that offered vegan-friendly food. I chose the vegetable wrap, but there was also a hummus and tabouli plate as well as a selection of snacks. If you come here for dinner and want a warmer and larger meal, the stir-fry station does offer a vegan chicken and noodle bowl. Personally, I think that the coolest thing about this food court is that you can make a choice between what type of vegan meal you want. There isn’t just one alternative, and how awesome is that?
If you find yourself hungry in one of Epcot’s countries, China, Japan, Morocco, or Mexico are your best bet at finding some vegan food. My family had a dinner reservation at the French restaurant in Epcot, which, having actually been to France, worried me. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to order their vegetable pasta dish…without the pasta. Say what? Yep. The pasta was made with eggs, so I asked for the veggies in tomato sauce. The waiter was more than happy to make these adjustments for me, and the dish was still delicious. In fact, it was so delicious that I forgot to take a picture of it before I gobbled it all up…oops.
The best restaurant in Animal Kingdom is not even in the park. In between safaris and nature walks, you need to hit up Rainforest Cafe. My family makes it a point of going to this fun-filled and vegan-friendly restaurant every time we visit. (There’s also a second location in Downtown Disney.) This restaurant offers both a veggie burger and a portabello mushroom sandwich, of which I chose the latter. The only modifications you need to make this sandwich vegan is to nix the cheese and safari sauce. It’s a great choice for vegans because it fills you up but doesn’t weigh you down. Besides these two sandwiches, there is a selection of salads that can easily be made vegan. My personal favorites are the Jungle Chop salad and the Calypso salad, minus the chicken and cheese of course.
Inside the park, Disney recently added some vegan snack stands. Although I love the idea and appreciate the effort, I don’t necessarily recommend that you frequent them. My only reason behind this is price. Everything in Disney is marked up, and while that is part of the experience, it’s doesn’t really work for vegans. Other people can’t pack their own Mickey shaped ice cream bar, but vegans can certainly pack their own hummus and pretzels or veggies, fresh fruit, nuts, etc. and for half the price. I brought a small backpack
with me every day, and not only did it save me from becoming hangry, it also saved my family a nice chunk of change. The only vegan snack stand that really caught my eye was one in Animal Kingdom that offered vegetable summer rolls with peanut sauce. I certainly didn’t pack those in my backpack, and they’re now on my list of things to try next year.
Hollywood Studios probably has the best themed dining out of the four parks, which is why my family loves to indulge in it. If you go to Hollywood Studios, you need to see Fantasmic, and the best way to do that is through the Hollywood & Vine dinner package. You pay $26.99 adult/ $13.99 child, eat at a 50s diner themed buffet, and then have VIP seating in one of Disney World’s most famous and longest running shows. Although most of the buffet is not vegan friendly, a good amount of dishes are. The majority of the salad bar, including a delicious couscous salad, is vegan friendly. On the hot bar, the rice pilaf and seasoned green beans are vegan friendly. You can even order pasta! (It’s dry and does not contain eggs.) I indulged in some whole wheat spirali with basil pesto (I checked to make sure it was cheese-free), mushrooms, and tomatoes. I was actually surprised by how well I was able to fill up my plate at this buffet and how much I enjoyed each dish.
Even as I was unexpectedly delighted at Hollywood & Vine, my best vegan meal took place at another Hollywood Studios restaurant: The Brown Derby. This faux Hollywood establishment mimics real Hollywood perfectly with its inclusion of a 100% vegan and 100% delicious dish. I salivated over a huge bowl of noodles tossed with wok fried coconut tofu, soy beans, sugar snap peas, bok choy, and Shiitake mushrooms all in a red curry broth. As I nearly devoured this whole bowl (trust me, it’s pretty big), I was in my own personal happiest place on Earth.
Most of Magic Kingdom’s counter service restaurants are basic burger joints. However, Peco Bill’s in Frontierland is probably the best place to get a quick vegan meal because it offers a vegan veggie burger. The bun does contain honey, but don’t fear! I had greater things in mind for this meatless patty. What separates Peco Bill’s from other American style restaurants in Magic Kingdom is its toppings bar. It includes lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, sweet peppers, and even sauteed mushrooms and onions. (They’re sauteed in canola oil, not butter, so have no fear in piling on your fair share.) I chopped up my veggie burger and made a salad out of it all. It wasn’t the traditional Peco Bill’s fare, but it sure was tasty.
If you’re looking for a more regal meal, get excited. I know that I was when I first saw the menu for Fantasyland’s newest sit-down restaurant, Be Our Guest. Unfortunately, I have never actually been to this restaurant, but I have hope to meet its Layered Ratatoille one day soon. It is described as: oven baked zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms,tomatoes, and caramelized onions sliced and layered on quinoa served with a bell pepper sauce. I don’t know about you guys, but I’d brave any enchanted castle for a bite of that.
So, if you’re headed to Disney but uncertain as to what you can eat, don’t sweat. They’ve embraced the new normal, truly making Disney World the happiest place on Earth for both omnivores and herbivores.