Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gluten Free in Orlando for Gluten-Free Living Magazine

I wrote this post for Gluten-Free Living magazine for their conference in Orlando in April of 2014.  It is no longer posted on their website, so I decided to publish it on my blog.

There is so much to do in Orlando, and early April is a great time to visit.  With average daily highs around 80 degrees, I am sure those of you who have experienced the crazy winter I've read about and seen on TV are happy that Gluten-Free Living chose Orlando as the destination for its first conference.

Orlando, "The Theme Park Capital of the World," has enough theme parks to keep you busy for weeks, but there is plenty to do if you're not a theme park addict like me, and it's a great city for gluten free eats.  I've put together a Top 10 list of Orlando Happenings to get you started.  

1.  Universal's Islands of Adventure

My loyal blog readers might be shocked that a Disney park did not top this list, but the Gluten-Free Living Conference is being held at the Doubletree by Hilton at the entrance to Universal Orlando.   Islands of Adventure (IOA) is home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and two of my favorite theme park rides in Orlando, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.  The frozen Butterbeer is not to be missed, and yes, Chef Bob from Universal just confirmed that it is gluten free as I am writing this post.  Three Broomsticks, Thunder Falls Terrace, and Mythos Restaurant all have gluten free menus at IOA, so there are many options to choose from.  

2.  Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Florida has a special event going on during the Gluten-Free Living Conference, the Mardi Gras Grand Celebration.  On select nights between February 8th and May 31st, you can experience one of my favorite events in Orlando.  Universal's Mardi Gras celebration includes an authentic Mardi Gras parade, lots of beads, and an impressive concert line-up.  On Saturday, April 5th, you can see Skillet perform live in concert.  As far as food goes, I know that Finnegan's Bar and Grill has a gluten free menu, and one of my blog readers told me that Bumblebee Man's Taco Truck has gluten free options.  This same reader let me know that there is an information booth on Universal CityWalk where you can inquire about gluten free options at restaurants in Universal Studios and IOA, and on CityWalk.

If you would like to check out Universal, but don't want to pay theme park admission,  Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Universal CityWalk both have a gluten free menu.  Chef Bob also mentioned that the lemon and strawberry slush carts, the smoked plain turkey legs on carts, and the fruit stands are safe gluten free options at Universal.

Amazing rides that shouldn't be missed at Universal Studios include Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, The Simpsons Ride, MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack, Shrek 4-D, Terminator 2: 3-D, Revenge of the Mummy, and Transformers:  The Ride 3-D.

3.  Downtown Disney & Disney Resort Dining

If you have the time, try and visit Downtown Disney.  It's a fun place to walk around, shop, and enjoy some great gluten free eats.  It's home to BabyCakes NYC, which offers gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and refined sugar free desserts that are vegan, certified kosher, and parve.  At Splitsville Luxury Lanes you can bowl while enjoying the new menu that features 16 naturally gluten free options.  I highly recommend the rice bowls.  Cookes of Dublin has gluten free fish & chips, onion rings, garlic & parmesan skinny chips (fries), and fried scallops & shrimp.  It's attached to Raglan Road Irish Pub, which also offers an impressive selection of gluten free options.

Some of my favorite restaurants in Orlando are located at the Disney Resorts, so no theme park admission is required.  I have to start with the gluten free beignets at Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory at Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter.  Not only do they taste amazing, but they are free of gluten, dairy, and egg.  Next door at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside, you can feast on New Orleans specialties at Boatwright's Dining Hall.  Kouzzina by Cat Cora at Disney's BoardWalk has a great location and an amazing array of gluten free options.  We especially like to eat there for breakfast, but dinner is great too, and then you can walk around and enjoy Disney's BoardWalk at night.  I also recommend 'Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Resort, and Boma, The Mara, and Sanaa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

If you are looking to combine great entertainment with gluten free dining, you need to make advance reservations for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort.  We enjoy the food and show so much, it has become our New Year's Eve tradition.

4.  Magic Kingdom Park

If you have time to visit the Magic Kingdom at Disney, I suggest enjoying a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle, having lunch at Be Our Guest Restaurant, and dining at The Crystal Palace or Columbia Harbour House, which has a great special diets menu.

Besides favorite attractions like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space Mountain, the Magic Kingdom's evening entertainment is second to none.  Make sure you visit on a night when the Main Street Electrical Parade, Celebrate the Magic, and Wishes nighttime spectacular are scheduled to take place.

5.  Epcot 

After enjoying attractions like Soarin', Test Track, Turtle Talk with Crush, Maelstrom, Spaceship Earth, and Mission:  SPACE, you can dine around the world in countries like Mexico, Italy, Morocco, Canada, and the United Kingdom.  I recommend all three restaurants in the Italy and Morocco pavilions, La Hacienda de San Angel in Mexico, Le Cellier in Canada, Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie for sweet treats in France, and Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room in the United Kingdom.

All the entrees and sides at the Grill Station at Sunshine Seasons in the Land pavilion in Epcot's Future World are gluten free, and they also offer gluten free snacks and treats.

6.  Disney's Hollywood Studios

Have you been missing fried chicken since going gluten free?  If you answered yes, you definitely need to pay a visit to 50's Prime Time Cafe at Disney's Hollywood Studios.  When I first learned about the gluten free fried chicken last year, I think I ate there three times in two months.  The Backlot Express and the ABC Commissary are two good choices for a gluten free quick service meal at Hollywood Studios.  They both offer my favorite allergy friendly chicken tenders that are free of gluten, dairy, egg and soy.

For attractions, I recommend Star Tours, Toy Story Midway Mania, The American Idol Experience, Voyage of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage, The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.

7.  Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park

Last year, Disney opened the Garden's Kiosk at the Animal Kingdom.  It offers allergy-friendly snacks, and information on special dietary options throughout the Animal Kingdom.  If you stop there, be sure to pick up an Allergy-Friendly Dining Tips pamphlet.  It lists all the special diets options at the three major quick service locations in the park.  Our top three favorite restaurants to dine at in the Animal Kingdom are Tusker House Restaurant, Flame Tree Barbeque, and Restaurantosaurus.  At all three, you will find a large number of gluten free options.

When we visit Disney's Animal Kingdom, we always go to see the Festival of the Lion King, and try to ride DINOSAUR, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Primeval Whirl, and Expedition Everest.

If you're interested in seeing daily crowd calendars and recommendations for the best park to visit each day at Disney World, check out easywdw.com.

8.  Sand Lake Road

Sand Lake Road is just a couple minute drive from the Doubletree by Hilton where the Gluten-Free Living Conference is being held.  At the corner of Sand Lake and Turkey Lake roads, you will find the largest Whole Foods Market in Orlando, where you can check out a large selection of gluten free products.  You can then walk a couple of doors down to Pei Wei Asian Diner and enjoy a gluten free meal.

Other restaurants on Sand Lake Road with gluten free menus or selections include Seasons 52, Bonefish Grill, Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine, Rocco's Tacos, Chipotle, and Roy's, where you can order a warm chocolate souffle with vanilla ice cream.

9.  The Mall at the Millenia

Orlando's premier mall is The Mall at the Millenia.  After some shopping, you can enjoy a gluten free meal at P.F. Chang's, Brio Tuscan Grille, California Pizza Kitchen, or Burger 21, which is right outside of the mall.  All four have an impressive gluten free menu, but my new favorite has to be California Pizza Kitchen.  CPK's BBQ Chicken Pizza is the best gluten free pizza I have had in a restaurant, and all the gluten free salads and small plates I have ordered there have been delicious.

10.  Winter Park

Winter Park, located just north of the city, is one of my favorite spots in Orlando.  It's home to beautiful parks, great restaurants and shops, the Morse Museum, and the Scenic Boat Tour.

You can enjoy a gluten free meal and dine outside on beautiful Park Avenue at Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine, Orchid Thai Cuisine, or Paris Bistro.  Another favorite spot of ours to dine in Winter Park is Toasted, where you can order gluten free gourmet cheese sandwiches and truffle fries with rosemary.  For dessert, I usually stop at Le Macaron, where all of the macarons are gluten free.  Try the caramel salted butter.  It's amazing!

On my blog, Gluten Free in Orlando, you can find detailed reviews of most of the restaurants I have recommended in the Orlando area and at Disney World.

If you are gluten free & dairy free. and planning a visit to Disney World, be sure to check out my friend Sarah's blog at glutenfreedairyfreewdw.com.  Both Sarah and I have a large number of dining reviews posted on the new YoDish app, which is currently available for free for the iPhone.  I have also found the Find Me Gluten Free App to be very helpful in Orlando.

I look forward to seeing you all at the Gluten-Free Living Conference in April!  If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to e-mail me at glutenfreeinorlando@gmail.com or message me on my Gluten Free in Orlando Facebook page.


Post a Comment