Earlier this year, we won a raffle contest at my daughter’s school. It was so exciting to win a free trip. We had three choices of places to go, but the only one where our whole family could go, was the trip to California. It included airfare, hotel, a dinner at Medieval Times, Knotts Berry Farm tickets, and 2 day passes to Disneyland.
The kids and I had gone to Knotts and Disneyland 7 years ago with my mom. I remembered them riding Dumbo and all the little kid rides, this would be a very different experience with them so much older and tall enough to ride all the rides. My husband and I are not really into theme parks, and I have to admit, I just don’t understand the appeal. However, it was something we wanted to do for the kids to enjoy.
I had done a little research as to how we might be able to eat vegan, or even vegetarian at these places since I remembered people eating giant turkey legs last time we went. It appeared there would be some options. Since we were staying in a hotel and taking a shuttle bus to the park, we didn’t want to cart food around with us. But, after our experience, my advice to you is bring your own food.
I’m going to write about the veg aspect, and try to separate our experience from the fact that it was over 100 degrees in mid-October most of the time we were there! Record-breaking heat for them, and made everything a lot less enjoyable. Here is our best moment, cooling off at Splash Mountain. This photo makes me laugh every time at our reactions.
The best vegan experience we had was actually at the most surprising place- Medieval Times, a dinner show featuring knights jousting. It was surreal, especially as we had no idea what it would be like. You are given a paper crown to wear when you enter, and that is “your” knight for the evening. There were about a million ways to separate you from your money from the moment you enter this already expensive show—from a family photo with the king ($21), to a full gift shop. You are served your meal while watching the show and cheering your knight with optional $5 flags. I didn’t see anyone else order the vegetarian option, but it was quite good. It was comprised of a stew of potatoes, beans and rice served in a bucket; tomato soup; hummus, pita bread and vegetables. The apple pastry at the end was not vegan- it was supposed to come with a sorbet I think. As you can see in the photos, everyone is served a huge portion of chicken. The woman next to me ate practically none of it. It was depressing to see all those chicken legs, but I appreciated that they actually offer a delicious and much healthier substitute meal.
There may have been veg options at Knotts Berry, but we didn’t look past the chicken dinner restaurant and another place that only offered grilled cheese, instead opting to go to TGIF nearby. We got their black bean burger for $13.49, and I believe it was the only adult veg entrée available. It was the same Chipotle Bean Burger that we get from Costco for at most $1.50 each, which is a good burger but quite a big mark up!
For Disneyland, we found a portobello sandwich (that was delicious) in Tomorrowland. It had a full mushroom, large grilled red pepper and onions. It was not vegan, and it was already prepared with mayo (I think) and 1 slice of cheese. We ate that twice.
We tried to find other places, like Ariel’s Grotto, which was supposed to have a tofu scramble. Unfortunately, you have to make advance reservations to eat there. One night we ended up at Flo’s V8 diner in California land seeking out the veggie tater bake. After waiting in line for 20 minutes, we found out that they were sold out! As you can see all the other entrées were mostly meat. One could argue that you could eat a salad without the meat, but after being in the sun and walking all day, we were hungry! And our kids don’t eat salad, and how difficult is it really to offer veggie options? Especially if they sell out of them. Do I sound bitter? Here is a photo of our dinner comprised of sides. And no, not vegan.
One night we went to visit friends in the area, and stopped at a grocery store for some BBQ items, where I got to finally try the Beast Burger. They had delicious salad and fresh fruit, it was the best meal of our whole trip.
The last morning of our trip we went to Jamba Juice in Disney Town, and we all got large smoothies. I got to try their new Almond Milk smoothie with pumpkin, banana and cinnamon. It was delicious! Kudos to Jamba Juice for offering these new dairy free options.
So, while it is possible to eat veggie in Disneyland, it is much harder to eat vegan. And I don’t want to hear about frozen lemonade, french fries or an ear of corn as options. I want a real meal, just like everyone else.
Experiencing how difficult it is to eat vegan, and how predominant the meat culture is in America really shook me up a bit. I know I live in a bubble normally – Portland is one of the most veg-friendly cities in the world. I usually eat at home, or can easily choose where to eat. Until you stop eating meat (and especially eggs and dairy), you don’t realize how little choice that consumers have. We need to have those options so that people can choose them.