Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gluten Free at Canada's Wonderland!

A few weeks ago, my son began asking to go to Canada's Wonderland, after a few of his daycare friendstold him about their visits.  We hadn't planned on taking him this summer, since I can't exactly make it through an entire day of walking around the park and going on rides, so I was thrilled when my sister offered to take him along with her and her daughter.  My son was excited, and kept talking about the trip all week. 

For those unfamiliar with Wonderland, it's a huge amusement park in Ontario, Canada, with one of Canada's largest roller coasters.  It has a waterpark, various rollercoasters and rides, and a kids area.  All great fun for kids and adults of all ages. 

For the mother of a kid with dietary restrictions, they also have an unfortunate no outside foods policy.  There are several food options within the park, but since most are fast food type joints, I was worried about what exactly my son would eat.  So, like anyone familiar with food restrictions, I did some research.

The Canada's Wonderland website has a comprehensive section on special dietary needs.  They do preface it by saying that they cannot guarantee separation of food preparation surfaces due to the high volume of visitors, which is something to consider depending on where you choose to eat.  There are quite a few food outlets listed with gluten and/or dairy free options, including a few in the kids area, which was a nice surprise.  However, most items are either french fries or desserts, so there's still much room for improvement.  On the plus side, patrons with dietary restrictions are encouraged to email guest services to get more information and to help make arrangements for eating at the park. 

A phone call revealed that they were willing to make an exception to the food rule and the representative was quite willing to work out a solution for us.  I wrote a note outlining my son's medical food restrictions (gluten and dairy), and they allowed my sister to bring in a small bag of snacks for him to round out the meal choices available.  Nothing huge, just some cut up fruit and a few other things, but it was a nice gesture on the part of park officials to show some empathy and make our lives a little easier.  After inquiring about food preparation, my sister also bought him some french fries as a treat and a popsicle for dessert.  He was happy, she was confident that what he was eating was safe, and I was relieved that his dietary restrictions weren't an issue, and he could happily eat with everyone else. 

I was really happy with the service the park provided.  While I wish there were more gluten free food options available, I was impressed by how simple it was to find information regarding available options and to plan our visit accordingly.  Staff was helpful and accommodating, and my sister wasn't given a hard time at the gate.  Overall, a success! 

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