Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Busch Gardens is NOT Gluten-Free safe :-(

Busch Gardens - Where the UNEXPECTED comes together

Well, as much as this disappoints me, I have to say that Busch Gardens is NOT a Gluten-Free safe place to visit.  Not only did they not have a clue...but didn't seem overly concerned about it either.    And I have to say that I was really looking forward to doing a positive review after my visit.  Sadly, that's not something that I can do.  Thank goodness I always pack something to eat...just in case.  This time I only grabbed a couple packs of Schar's Crackers just to share with my sister, who is also Gluten-Free. 

It was an incredibly beautiful day so we took ourselves and the grandkids to the park for the day.  I really didn't expect any trouble with finding something safe to eat.  I mean we've been to visit the Mouse before in Orlando.  And the care and understanding were second to none.  I honestly expected nothing less at Busch Gardens Tampa - one of the largest tourist attractions in my area. Not so in Tampa.  First of all none of the employees that I spoke to had a clue.  In fact I had to repeat my request because it appeared they'd never even heard the words 'Celiac' or 'Gluten-Free' before and didn't understand what I said.  I will give them credit...they immediately turned to a supervisor for guidance.  But even that didn't seem to help.

My lunch consisted of chicken and grapes...that was all I was told I could have...then they plopped the standard roll on top.  When she saw my daughter poke the roll (my baby always watches out for me :-) and pull it off the plate...then begin pulling off the area of chicken it had touched...she came back and took the dish back with an off-handed comment.  She then dumped the dish into the trash with a look of disgust on her face...and disappeared back into the kitchen.  She returned a few minutes later with a fresh piece of chicken and grapes.  When I asked if there was anything else available to me she said no…that was it.  Apparently it was a huge bother for her to take care of my needs.  I was charged full price for the disservice!

When my sister arrived about 10 minutes later she received the exact same treatment…with the roll plopped on top of her chicken and grapes…very sad.  Trying to find dinner was no easier…I ended up eating my last package of crackers, with my sister getting a side salad and everyone else eating a full meal.  Our questions always met with the same uninterested, uneducated, ill informed answer and a ‘who cares’ attitude.  I might even have understood if the park had been filled to its normal capacity…but it wasn’t.  The park was practically empty with only five-minute waits on all the lines.  It was perfect timing for us to enjoy the day without lines…the kids loved it.  And it also meant that the restaurants were uncrowded.  In fact, our dinner restaurant had NO-ONE else there…and our lunch restaurant had very few people.

So my suggestion??  Pack a full day’s supply of food!!  Because you’ll have a very difficult time finding anything safe to eat…and when you do you’ll pay quite a bit for the risk.  Pack sensibly, sandwiches, dry fruit, nuts, protein bars...much the same as you would for a plane trip.  And don't be shy when the guards go poking through your bag.  Make certain you tell them exactly what you're packing and why.  I've never had any problem bringing food into any park...especially after I've paid $85.00 for the privilege.  They want my money...I want to be safe.

PS – I was sick for the standard three days after my visit :-(

Carolanne LeBlanc
Meeting: Cypress Palms, 400 Lake Avenue N E, Largo, FL 33771


  1. For me the most frustrating thing about Celiac Disease is the way people treat your gluten free diet like it’s a “Lifestyle choice”. People seem to lump “Gluten Free” in with “Low Fat”, “Low Carb”, “Organic”, “Vegetarian”, “Vegan”, “Kosher”, “Free-Range”, etc… Things that if you were stuck on a desert island and HAD to eat something outside that choice – your health wouldn’t be affected. When in fact “Gluten Free” should be lumped in with diseases and allergies. If you say “I’m diabetic so I need a low sugar option” people don’t get all huffy. If you say “I’m allergic to shellfish” the kitchen specially washes your pan, scrubs down the prep surface, and prepares something that hasn’t touched shellfish or shellfish contaminated equipment. They don’t want to call an ambulance because they made your throat swell shut.

  2. We went to Busch Gardens today. The park was not busy at all. We walked right on many rides. I was met with the same lack of service that you received. Nobody seemed to know or care about gluten free items. I ended up eating an apple all day at the park. The fries are cooked with the chicken. They couldn't tell me what was in different food items and didn't try to find out. If you're going to Busch Gardens in Tampa, bring your own food.

  3. I've sent this entire blog to Busch Gardens nearly two weeks response...sad :-(

  4. I go to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg Va every years for the last 25 years. I have written to them online, prior to going for the last 3 years so that I could see if they had changes.
    I have found that the managers at the different restaurants had more knowledge regarding the gluten free foods. Now I can go and have no problem at all, they even tell you to go directly to a manager and have them make your platter. I also have dairy intolerance (cassein and lactose) so I am even more limited. But I have not had a problem eating there since being gluten free. And I eat my way through Busch Gardens!!!! Even getting gluten free beer if I want it.