Going Veggie at Disney, Universal Studios/IOA and Busch Gardens
Hello all, hope you’re doing well. Lately I’ve been researching a few traveling tips and such preparing for a possible trip 2012 and it got me thinking of the last times I traveled which were the years I was a vegetarian. I do have another post about eating veggie in the Miami/Palm Beach areas (especially Boynton Beach where I lived) but today I’m going to concentrate on my last trip to Orlando/Tampa in 2008.
The trip was my high school Senior trip which translates to – doing as much as you can in very little time and VERY, VERY, VERY limited dining options and although I do realize that many of those subscribed to VegLatino are past the high school age many of us often get caught in quick trips (or “viajes relámpagos” as my mom calls them) with limited options and surrounded by people who don’t understand or simply tell you to get some lettuce and tomatoes.
This trip was during April/May 2008 and was from Monday – Friday. We visited all Disney parks, Downton Disney, Islands of Adventures, Universal Studios, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, Busch Gardens and Pirate’s Dinner Adventure. Please note that this was in 2008 so I cannot recall if some of these things have changed but I’m parting from my experience not so long ago. Here goes..
First things first make sure you call ahead to Medieval Times and Pirate’s since they do have vegetarian options. Medieval Times is known for it’s meat dishes (and no forks…how fun) that include various pieces of chicken and a potato. Truth be told my vegetarian plate was delightful and had nothing to envy the meat plates, truth be told I couldn’t see it so I had to take a picture to see what I was digging in to. My plate consisted of a vegetable kabob, rice pilaf that had roasted almonds and dried cranberries, hummus with pitta chips and a huge mushroom topped with a slice of eggplant and some spices…to die for, and a huge plus – veggies get forks (+10 points for Medieval Times) the soup that they offer at the beginning I was told was fish stock so I stayed away from it.
Pirate’s dinner, once again call ahead but don’t expect a delicious delight it was a slice (rather huge) of frozen vegetable lasagna, not bad but I think they could do better. I believe the others had some sort of chicken with vegetables and pasta dish, I was feeling rather sick that day so I just ate my meal and watched the show without questioning much. But..in my opinion, the Pirate’s show is much more interactive and if you get close enough seats you’re practically part of the action, very well decorated as well.
Now on with the parks. Let me state before I proceed that we had breakfast at Ponderosa (Kissimmee) every day so it was rather flexible and that’s why I won’t state anything about it. The parks generally have very little healthy foods and if you’re vegan you’re in for a tough day. In regards to snacks you have your regular cotton candy, popcorn, pretzel, etc. snacks and we all know the ice cream varieties; what I mean to say is that if you’re looking for a quick healthy pick-me-up during the day you might have to take it with you since apparently for Disney they only protein filled snack they believe in is Turkey legs and nuggets. However, many Disney stores do have trail mixes and nuts available so that’s good, I remember buying a rather tasty Chip and Dale Trail Mix in a little souvenir shop right in front of the Sorcerer’s Hat at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (which will always be Disney’s MGM Studios for me!) and the only frozen treat that I did not feel guilty about eating was their frozen banana pop dipped in dark chocolate sprinkled with chopped nuts – however if you’re allergic to nuts it will be even more complicated for you. A good option there as well is the Hollywood and Vine Buffet, they have lots of good veggie options such as pasta salads, potatoes in all ways, hot pastas, grilled veggies, etc.
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom they all decided to have lunch at Pizzafari, a over the counter pizza place, they did have Caesar salad available but since I dislike dressings I didn’t get it – it was all pre-prepared so I couldn’t get it without (-10 points for Disney) and some dressing variations include anchovies so it was out of the question anyways. There I had cheese pizza..and that’s it since the only other options were breadsticks (more carbs? A week before prom? What are they crazy ?!?) and pepperoni pizza.
At Disney’s Magic Kingdom I only had lemonade since we arrived straight from the airport and then went on to Medieval Times but I do remember going on a previous occasion to the Terrace (where different counter services are available) and the Asian one had veggie noodles with tofu.
At Disney’s Epcot Center I had a feast at the Moroccan Pavilion since they have lots of veggie options. At the restaurant I ordered a vegetable kabob with some hummus and spanakopita. All amazing. Definitely a good veggie option if you’re dinning at Epcot.
Now for Universal Studios/IOA. At IOA some friends and I decided we were tired of on-the-go food so we decided to sacrifice going on a few rides and go to a sit-down restaurant. We opted for Mytho’s Restaurant a Greek-ish restaurant beautifully decorated and the architecture was amazing. The special was pesto-steak pizza and some different burgers. Since the other plates were rather pricey and I still had a few good days left in Orlando I went for the pizza which they kindly made veggie for me. The made it without the meat and added extra red onions, the pesto sauce gave it an amazing touch and would definitely stop by again next time I go.
Universal Studios, we went a few hours after eating so I wasn’t really starving but I was pleasently surprised at all of the healthy snack options they have (+50 points for US). Right in front of what today is Harry Potter’s Wizarding World and back then was Dueling Dragons was an amazing “market” cart with lots of fresh fruit, some whole and some cut and ready to eat, bags of granola and 100% pure juices. I remember grabbing a fruit salad and apple juice and they were very tasty. Definitely a great twist on amusement park foods.
And now Busch Gardens. I know some people love it but other than the animals I honestly wouldn’t go again. We decided to go once again to one of the counter-service places and it was just depressing the menu was hot dog, chicken nuggets, cookies, hamburgers, garden salad and fruit. I will show a picture of what I had which was obviously a salad and fruit and don’t get me wrong it’s great and healthy but would some soy nuggets kill them? or assorted veggies with perhaps some dressing or heck, even a baked potato with some mixed veggies in it? It was rather depressing, the strawberries with cream were great but that just doesn’t make a meal.
At Downtown Disney I went to Wolfgang Puck’s Express restaurant and had a hummus sandwich which was rather tasty, it came with cut up veggies although I highly suspect that the hummus wasn’t home made. Other options there are Planet Hollywood, McDonalds, Fulton’s Crab House and an Irish Pub as well as an Italian Restaurant.
All in all, my recommendation is to call ahead where you can and if you’re planning to eat inside of Disney do some research beforehand, search online for the menus at the parks and Downtown so that you know where to go and to see if you have to call ahead. Luckily for me every night we went to Walgreens so I was able to pick up some cereal bars/cups and some 100 Calorie Snacks which I always made sure to have 2-3 in my bag. Other than that, plan ahead, call ahead and make sure you take some healthy snacks with you – veggie or not it’s just not healthy to feed children (or anybody really) pretzels, popcorn and turkey legs bigger than our heads. Hope this helps.
When we went to Epcot, we had delicious vegetarian options at Les Chefs de France. On several of our trips we did find it a bit difficult for Raul to eat anything besides just plain pizza. But the meal at Les Chefs de France made up for all the previous trips we had made. Thanks for the suggestions Ana.