For many Disney film and/or theme park enthusiasts, a trip to a Disney theme park is one of the most nostalgic, exciting experiences known to man. What sets Disneyland apart from other amusement parks out there is that it isn’t simply a park with attractions and food. It’s truly a state of mind!
I have been visiting both Disneyland and Walt Disney World since I was barely able to walk. I always take trips to the parks with loved ones, whether it be my parents or some of my closest friends.
Being diagnosed with type 1 has never held me back from continuing my beloved tradition, (which sometimes occurs more than a few times per year!). Disney parks, in my opinion, are perhaps the most type 1 diabetes (T1D) friendly theme parks in existence.
My “diabestie” Sarah and I visit Disneyland and California Adventure often, as she lives in the Orange County area, and I take every opportunity to enjoy a #diabeticsatdisney day with her. Recently we explored in depth the many pros of visiting Disneyland with T1D. Here are our findings!
Eating healthy at Disney is easier than you think!
If you think finding a balanced, healthy meal at Disney is next to impossible, you are mistaken, my friend!
Disneyland has no shortage of wonderful restaurants with something for everyone. If you can’t find it within the parks (Disneyland and California Adventure), you can certainly find it somewhere in Downtown Disney—the shopping/dining complex a short walk from the parks, or at one of the Disney Resort hotels. Here are some of my favorite restaurants, as well as “quick service” options to refuel.
- Carthay Circle Restaurant
Inside California Adventure park, Carthay Circle is a new favorite. It is modeled after the historic theatre where Snow White was premiered. This restaurant has some pricier options, but it is well worth the extra bucks. The burger, fish entrees and fire cracker duck wings are all popular choices.
- Café Orleans
This New Orleans themed eatery is located in the New Orleans square area of Disneyland. Although it is not as popular as its neighbor restaurant, Blue Bayou, it is actually more affordable and has more options. My favorite dish is the vegetable ragout with added grilled chicken or salmon!
- French Market
If you’re in a hurry to get on more rides, this “quick service” version of Café Orleans is just around the corner. French Market offers many lower priced, cafeteria style options that are still very healthy and satisfying.
- Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria
Naples is located in Downtown Disney, and is by far the best Italian food you’ll find on Disney property, if not the whole Orange County area.
It is very easy to avoid a hypo
Getting low with all the walking and bolusing? The fact that you cannot walk two feet without running into an opportunity to grab a sugary treat is true of any theme park. However, there are some Disneyland specific “low” remedies that are far superior to what you could find anywhere else! Although Mary Poppins might recommend “just a spoonful of sugar.” (Haha. See what I did there?) Here are just a few examples.
- 1 Churro – Total Carbs: 24g, Dietary Fiber: 2g, Sugars: 2g
- 1 Chocolate Mickey Mouse Rice Krispie Treat – Total Carbs: 38g, Dietary Fiber: 1g, Sugars: 26g
- 1 Cup of Dole Whip Pineapple Soft Serve – Total Carbs: 42g, Dietary Fiber: 0g, Sugars: 40g
- 1 Chocolate Dipped Ice Cream Cone – Total Carbs: 35g, Dietary Fiber: 1g, Sugars: 27g
- 1 Regular Caramel Apple – Total Carbs: 46g, Dietary Fiber: 3g, Sugars: 37g
- LOW SUGAR Dessert Option: No Sugar Added Butter Pecan Ice Cream (1/2 cup) – Total Carbs: 13g, Dietary Fiber: 0g, Sugars: 4g
BONUS TIP: Need to balance out all of that sugar?! Consider a famous Disneyland TURKEY LEG!! Packed with protein and zero carbs, a turkey leg has approximately 1400 calories per leg. That means that if you split one with a friend, you’ll be consuming about 700 calories each, which is (approximately and conveniently) the amount of calories you’ll burn if you spend an active day at the parks.
Escaping the heat
Heat can certainly drop blood sugar levels when there is insulin working in the system, especially with the added walking, so avoid injecting insulin into the legs!
Insulin and other supplies must be kept cool. If exposed to extreme heat for too long, insulin will become ineffective. The heat can also alter the effectiveness of supplies such as test strips and blood glucose (BG) meters.
When you sweat, pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) sensor site adhesive can become less effective. Bring extra supplies, and/or adhesive tape.
Be sure to have a bottle of water with you at all times! Dehydration can cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
Here are some optimal spots to cool off at Disneyland!
- Any restaurant in the parks, Downtown Disney, or at the resort hotels.
- The hotel lobbies, lounges and pools at the Grand Californian Hotel, Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier Hotel.
- Various Starbucks locations located within the parks.
- “A Bug’s Land” at California Adventure (water features and plenty of shade!)
- The “Sorcerer’s Workshop” and “Beast’s Library” area in Hollywood Land at California Adventure.
- The “kiddie rides” in the Fantasyland area of Disneyland—all mostly indoor, air-conditioned rides.
- Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
- Splash Mountain & Grizzly River Run (water rides).
- Gift shops.
T1D Packing essentials
- Backpack or bag (large enough for all your supplies)
- Frio cooling wallet
- Test strips
- BG monitor (& batteries)
- Backup infusion sets & batteries (for pump)
- Insulin pens or syringes
- CGM + backup sensor
- Nasal glucagon BAQSIMI / Glucagon kit
- Pump & CGM clips or pockets
- Medical Alert ID/bracelet
- Adhesive tape
- Quick sugar: (Glucose tabs/gels, juice, shot bloks)
- Nuts/Nut butter pouches
- Nutrition bars
Adrenaline can be released on thrill rides, which is a hormone that can make the body more resistant to insulin, so be sure to check your blood sugar after riding the more exciting attractions.
Certain amusement park rides can tamper with pump and CGM function, although not all T1Ds have had this experience. To be on the safe side, however, many people with type 1 completely disconnect from their pumps while on thrill rides, or opt to use insulin pens for the day.
Here are the thrill rides at Disneyland that can induce adrenaline and/or could warrant disconnecting from your pump!
- California Screamin’
- Tower of Terror
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Grizzly River Run
- Big Thunder Mountain
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Goofy’s Sky School
- The First Aid Facility is near the entrance at both parks, and they can store your insulin if needed.
- In case of consistent lows at the park, consider the DAS Card. The “DAS Card” stands for Disabilities Access Service, and is available at Disneyland. This card allows for people who are not able to wait in long lines to come back at a designated time and skip to the front of the line. Hypoglycemia as a result of T1D would be the reason given when requesting one of these cards. Be sure to show your medical alert ID, prescription, or a note from your doctor at the Guest Services area of any amusement park.