Gluten Free Disney - California Grill

Gluten Free Disney

Walt Disney World really makes dining with food allergies easy. I chatted a while back about my favorite resources for doing your Gluten Free Disney research but since then it has gotten so much easier. 

Every single Disney owned restaurant has a food allergy plan, and menu. They have even made it easier and faster by at a lot of locations you don't even need to speak with the chef to place your order. 

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In fact, you can view the Gluten Free menu for Disney's California Grill right from the My Disney Experience App.

And now for our review, 

 

This dining experience took place on October 24th, 2015. 

 

We choose California Grill for their amazing food and views of our favorite Magic Kingdom Fireworks display, Wishes.

We thought it would be the perfect place to get all dressed up and celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. 

California Grill does have a slight dress code, but nothing too strict. You could tell there were a few people who came straight from the park. Since this was a special occasion we decided to dress up but we were hardly the fanciest there.

 

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When we arrived to the Contemporary Resort. We followed the signs for the California Grill check in. You check in on a different floor than the restaurant is located on. 

Once we were checked in and given a pager, a hostess ushered us into a private elevator and up to the restaurant. We arrived about 20 min ahead of our reservation which gave us plenty of time to enjoy the bar area while they got our table ready.

I had the most amazing drink, which was called Santa Monica Cider. It contained Rekorderlig Strawberry Cider, Hendrick's Gin with Agave Nectar, Lime Juice and Micro Basil. Hands down it was the best drink I have ever had. I checked the Rekorderlig website to verify that the cider was gluten - free, it was! I highly suggest this if you like gin.

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Don't worry I kept the adorable drink stir.

We decided to skip the appetizers so we had room for dessert. Honestly the gluten - free appetizers didn't really appeal to us. 

They brought us out gluten - free rolls to start our meal, and some amazing butter with fresh sea salt. I ate a second roll just for more of that butter.

The server was very helpful, and went over the gluten free options on a special allergy menu that was brought when we sat down. (I had noted it in our reservation) We chose not to speak with the chef, although that is always an option for guests with extra concerns about allergies.

We placed our orders right around 9:45 and it was time to go wait for Wishes to start!

Some tips on viewing Wishes from the California Grill observation area: We made a 9:30 dining reservation and arrived early. This worked out perfect because we were able to get a drink, place our order and have a roll (or two) before it was time for heading out. The table next to us had their food arrive as the fireworks were starting and they were faced with the horrible decision of having to eat hot food or enjoy the fireworks. I would suggest heading out to the right side, if you are looking at the Magic Kingdom, viewing area by 9:45 for a good spot. By 9:55 (Wishes was at 10pm that night) the viewing area was packed. If you dine earlier in the night, just keep your receipt, they will let you back in when it's fireworks time!

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hereWatching Wishes from the Contemporary viewing area was a real treat! The lights are dimmed inside, and the music is pumped in both inside and out. You don't realize how huge the display is until you are viewing it from far away. 

When Wishes was over we headed back in and it wasn't much longer until our entrees arrived.

Cameron ordered the Bison Strip Lion. He loved it. The bison was cooked perfectly and everything else on the plate from the brussel sprouts to the glaze was perfect.

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I ordered the signature dish, Pork Two Ways. Although the Bison was amazing, this was probably the best thing I have ever eaten. On the left of the dish was pork loin over a goat cheese polenta with mushrooms and a delicious sauce. It was so good, I could have eaten a bowl of that goat cheese polenta. On the right is the real star of the dish though. Crispy pork belly on top of a fried apple with an applesauce on the side. There are no words for the amazingness that is this pork belly. 

ORDER IT.

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After we successfully polished off our entrees it was time for dessert. We ordered the chocolate pudding cake. Which is Chocolate Cake with Nutella Filling, Meringue Kisses, and Chantilly Cream. OMG. 

I think the homemade marshmallows and the meringue kisses were the best part, but we loved everything about this dessert. 

And since the waiter knew it was our anniversary it came with a little edible chocolate congratulations message.

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Since our reservation was at 9:30 and the restaurant closes at 10 there was hardly anyone left when we were leaving. We went out on the observation deck to get one last look at Magic Kingdom before we headed home. 

It was an amazing night and a dining experience we won't forget. When we were leaving Cameron said this should be our special night out once a year and I won't fight him on that. 

California Grill does not have an Annual Passholder discount, but we were able to use our Tables in Wonderland card which got us 20% off our bill. (including alcohol)

Have you eaten at California Grill? What was your favorite?

10 Things to do at Walt Disney World without a Park Ticket

The thing that holds most people back from a Disney vacation is the cost. I get it, it's expensive. I could go into why it's worth saving up for, but that deserves it's own post. 

To help with the cost, I suggest planning some non-park days. There is so much to do at Walt Disney World that does't require a park ticket. Here is what I would consider the top 10 in no particular order.

10 Things to do at WDW without a park ticket

1. Disney Springs (aka Downtown Disney) This is becoming a full day destination with all of the new and exciting things Disney is adding to the area. There's a movie theater, bowling alley, characters in flight, and of course plenty of shopping, dining, and live entertainment. Plus you can get Starbucks and Mickey Bars down there now which makes for the perfect day!

2. Play Mini Golf - Disney has two mini golf courses, Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland. Just like everything else Disney designs, they are adorable and perfect for everyone in the family. At the time of this post, both are under $15/person, and I have seen free mini-golf offers quite a few times when you buy your tickets via Disney.com

3. Take a Fireworks Cruise - WDW offers a couple of different ways to experience the fireworks without a park ticket. One of them is to take a Fireworks cruise. I would suggest contacting a Disney travel agent to book one of these. Disney travel agents services are always free. I have been using Pam from MEI Mouse Fan Travel. This is not a cheap option, but a really awesome way to end the night!

4. Catch the Fireworks - This is my FREE way to catch the fireworks, and possibly my favorite on this list. Catch the fireworks at Magic Kingdom by taking the monorail to a monorail loop resort (Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian) and watching from there. If you watch from the Polynesian beach (that would be my suggestion) you can do so with a dole whip in hand from Pineapple Lanai right near the pool. They even pump in the music from Wishes so you get the full "in the park" experience.

5. Resort Entertainment - Tthere is so much to do see and explore at all of the WDW resorts! Most have night time movies, s'mores roasting, and pool activities during the day. The Fort Wilderness campgrounds have the best campfire parties! Select other resorts have live music as well.

6. Rent Bikes - WDW Resorts are full of trails to explore. Rent a bike for a few hours, it's a great way to explore all the hidden gems that WDW has to offer.

7. Visit The Boardwalk - This is the perfect place to walk around, and maybe even take some pics. There's shopping, places to eat, and entertainment as well.

8. Character Dining - Don't feel like spending one of your park days eating with some of your favorite Disney friends? Enjoy a character meal at a resort instead. Here is a list of character dining locations that don't require a park ticket.

9. Rent a Boat - There are many places/ways to rent boats and canoes at WDW. I think this is an awesome way to see some of the beautiful nature that WDW was built around and a great way to relax!

10. Relax by the Pool - When you combine all of the pools at the WDW resorts there are 27 of them! All of them are perfectly themed to the resort and most of them offer a fun feature like waterslides and kid play areas.

The full list of Sports & Recreation can be found here. It has descriptions, ages and prices for each.

Did I miss any of your favorite things to do without a park ticket. Leave me a comment below!