By Emily

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My childhood memories of theme parks are generally pleasant ones: a dolphin flinging a carnation into the crowd — and right into my lap — at SeaWorld; the giant bouncy castle at Sesame Place (I think it was Ernie’s bed); etc etc. Of course, these memories are BGF — before gluten-free — and I wonder how my experiences would have been if I were on a special diet.

Happily, for those kids (and big kids) with allergies or intolerances who are visiting SeaWorld, Sesame Place, Busch Gardens, or any of the other parks in the SeaWorld family, the menu options have just grown drastically.

SeaWorld has teamed up with the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) to introduce a comprehensive set of guidelines for all of their various locations. According to the press release blog post, more than 6,000 staff members have been trained to assist guests. There are some really nice touches here, not least that the program is designed to suit gluten-free guests as well as those with multiple sensitivities.

New programs include:

  • Chef Cards, a downloadable template allowing you to fill in the foods to be avoided while still at home, and then simply present the card when eating in the parks. Especially when field trip season rolls around, this is a nice way to ensure that children’s needs are communicated clearly.
  • New options, “ranging from gluten-free pizza to an allergen-friendly Shamu-shaped chocolate bar,” and also pre-packaged snacks from companies like Gluten Free To Go and the (not-GF) Divvies.
  • Additional information on-site to help you plan your visit
  • Location-specific extras

From glancing at the SeaWorld San Diego website’s Dining page (and clicking on Allergen Information), I was quickly able to see plenty of helpful information. I also appreciated their note about cross contact:

“Not all of our meal facilities are free from cross contact. In order to ensure your meal is safe, please discuss the preparation process for your meal with the supervisor as you place your order to ensure no cross-contact takes place.”

This note would be par for the course if it weren’t for the follow-up on the Designated Facilities tab:

“SeaWorld San Diego’s Designated Allergen Friendly Location is Shipwreck Reef Cafe. Although all of our meal facilities are prepared to assist you with your allergen needs, Shipwreck Reef Cafe has been designated as the most fit restaurant to serve your special meal. With the largest variety of menu options, Shipwreck Reef Cafe is the best location to offer you a safe option for your dietary needs!”

The FAQ go into more detail, and also indicate that you are still welcome to bring your own collapsible carriable cooler full of snacks if you would prefer not to dine at their locations.

The Special Dietary Needs page on Sesame Place’s site has comparable information. They, too, are carrying including lists of which Gluten Free to Go packs are being carried and which restaurants on site have them. In addition, at least two of their restaurants are stocking the Conte’s gluten-free bake-in-bag pizza, which first came to our attention when Chuck E Cheese started carrying it. Busch Gardens in Tampa, similarly comprehensive overview.

Have you been to any of the SeaWorld parks as a food-aware guest? Will you go now that their menu has changed?