Epcot’s Wilderness Explorer!

Please tell me you’ve seen the movie UP! If you haven’t, you need to stop reading this now and go watch it. But fast-forward through the first 10 minutes because no one should have to cry during Pixar movies! Anyway, there is this little boy in the movie named Russell, he is on the hunt to get all his badges and become a Senior Wilderness Explorer!


Well, in June when we were at Animal Kingdom, I saw all these stands that said Wilderness Explorer. One of the cast members told us that you could get a book and go all around the park earning your badge, but there were 31 badges you had to earn so it was hard to do it all in one day! So I asked the obvious question that any normal 31 would ask-Is this just for kids. I was told it was for kids of all ages! I knew we would be going back to Disney in early September, so I told Scott that is the one thing I wanted to do! Go to Animal Kingdom and earn ALL the badges in ONE Day!


And we did! If you are thinking about doing this fun activity at Animal Kingdom I would encourage you to! I don’t feel like we missed out on anything and I paid attention to more things in the park by doing this! There were also some things I wouldn’t have done had it not been for the Wilderness Explorer! Here are some tips/thoughts/suggestions from our time as a Wilderness Explorer:

  • You don’t have to skip the rides or shows! Go ahead and make your Fast Pass for Expedition Everest and the Kilimanjaro Safaris. A few of the badges are earned from these rides. (If someone in your party isn’t tall enough or doesn’t want to ride Expedition Everest you can find the items you need to locate around the outside of the ride). We also made our fast past for the first showing of Festival of the Lion King. The park opened at 9:00am the day we went and the first showing wasn’t until 10, so we had an hour to start on our Wilderness Explorer book!

  • Africa is where you will spend the majority of your time! 13 badges are found in Africa, so we spent about four hours in that section of the park. This included watching The Festival of the Lion King, eating lunch, and going to Rafiki’s Planet Watch to earn those badges.

  • Get a picture with Russell and his dog Dug! We were going to go back and do this, but didn’t get a chance. Every time we walked by the line was never long, we were just in a hurry to get somewhere else. But looking back, it would have been cute to get a picture with them while we had our Badge sticker on and had our book.

  • To get a few of the badges you have to meet someone from that country! Scott loves to talk to people so this was probably his favorite part! It’s fascinating to learn about other countries and what is important to them. Like the fact that pretty much everyone we met spoke at least one other language. One guy we met knew 5! I don’t even remember Spanish from high school!
  • You do get a prize for receiving all the badges! You get a special sticker that says Senior Wilderness Explorer plus you have a special ceremony on the bridge! {Parents, or husbands, get your camera ready for that one}
  • Make your dinner reservation late enough in the day to find all your badges. We were probably done by around 4:30 or 5:00 and we got to the park when it opened normally (non Magic Hours)
  • Be prepared to say this motto to anyone who has on a badge! It’s so much fun!!!

    Haha!!! I love it!

  • Disney and Food Allergies: Part Two

    We just got back from Disney for my 32nd birthday! 32!!! Because Scott and I have only been married two years and have no kids, a lot of times I feel a lot younger than I really am.

    Anyway…. Onto what the post is about…Food and Disney. If you missed my last post on Disney and Food Allergies from our visit in July you can find it HERE! This time we tried out some new places! Some where hits and some where complete misses!


    Animal Kingdom Quick Service:
    Harambre Market
    Harambre Market is inspired by the street foods of Africa. They had an allergy menu to choose from, but it wasn’t one of our favorites! Scott and I both had the Grilled Chicken Skewer which is gluten and dairy free. It is served with Green Papaya Slaw and Black-Eyed Pea, Corn and Tomato Salad. The Salad was very good, but the Slaw had too much vinegar for my taste. We didn’t order dessert, but I think they had a Gluten Free Cookie- probably from the brand Enjoy Life.

    Animal Kingdom Lodge
    Boma-Flavors of Africa
    Scott really wanted to try out Boma. It’s a family-friendly buffet that has flavors from over 50 African countries. Like with any table service, when we made the reservation we listed that I couldn’t have gluten or dairy. The waiter showed us to our seat and then the chef came out and walked us through the buffet, explaining the ingredients in every dish and letting me know what was safe and what wasn’t. The chef is extremely thorough and if you forget anything or have any other questions during your meal he will come back! There were a lot of things I couldn’t have, but what I could was WONDERFUL. Some of the highlights: Seafood Gumbo over Rice, Salad Bar with the Apple Dressing, and Steak with a dipping sauce that I can’t remember the name of now. I couldn’t have anything on the dessert buffet, so the chef made me my own special gluten/dairy free dessert plate. It had a cupcake, two chocolate cookies, a chocolate chip and sugar cookies and I think some DF ice cream. The menu for the buffet changes slightly from night to night, but I’m sure all the food is equally as great!

    Magic Kingdom Quick Service
    Columbia Harbour House
    The Columbia Harbour House is in the Liberty Square section of Magic Kingdom. They have a great Allergen menu! Complete with gluten free, dairy free chicken fingers and fries! I am a chicken finger and fries addict, so I looked no further on the menu than that! Here a little tip- There isn’t a chicken finger plate on the regular menu. It’s Chicken Breast Nuggets and Fish Fingers. So if you are more of a chicken finger fan vs nugget fan than order off the allergy menu. Here is what I really like about the Columbia Harbour House that is different than most quick service restaurants. When you order off the allergen menu, they prepare that food to order. They give you a pager and tell you to sit down and when your food is ready they will page you. Once it’s ready, one of the cast members will escort you through the line to the counter to retrieve your food. They also put the food that is ordered off the allergy menu on a separate tray, away from all the other food!

    Epcot Table Service
    Coral Reef Restaurant
    This is a restaurant you go to for the atmosphere. It sits next to the The Seas with Nemo & Friends and has panoramic windows so you get a great view of the coral reef and the 4,000 sea creatures! There allergen menu wasn’t extensive and it looks like they serve their diner menu at lunch, so the food was kind of heavy. Scott and I ended up splitting the Grilled New York Strip Steak. We ordered if off the allergen menu, so it came with steamed green beans and roasted whole potatoes. I also ordered the Frisee and Endive Salad with was very good! If goat cheese is a form of cheese you can have, make sure to tell them or they will leave it off.

    Disney Springs Table Service
    If you followed along on my elimination diet, you may remember that dairy (specifically casein) was the only thing that showed up on my blood work that I was sensitive too. However, because of my autoimmune disorder, I was strongly encouraged to go gluten free as well. Because of this, I eat gluten every now and then and for the most part have a fine reaction. I just try to limit the amount. So, fair warning, the food I ate at The BOATHOUSE was not gluten free…. But it was delicious! I had the Coconut-fried Wild Pacific White Shrimp, with Orange- Chili Sauce and French Fries! It was soooo good! If you get a chance to eat here you need to and you need to ask for a table outside on the dock. The boats outside are owned by the restaurant and they are beautiful.

    Disney and Food Allergies

    Ok, so first off, If you have food allergies or restrictions Disney World is THE PLACE to go. I haven’t gotten this whole “food restriction ordering” thing down yet and feel like I’m being so bothersome sometimes. But the staff at Disney was AMAZING!

    First, whenever we made reservations for table service meals we added my food restrictions to the reservation. We also called the Disney Dining line and talked to the nicest lady and she was able to add my specific restrictions that weren’t on the main page for us to choose.

    I will say the table service meals were so easy. The quick service meals on the other hand were much harder to find something to eat. I pretty much stuck to a hotdog with a gluten free bun, fries and water. After a few days that can get old.

    AllergyEats Disney World was such a great resource as we were picking out restaurants!

    Here is a breakdown of all the places we ate!


    Epcot Quick Service:
    Lotus Blossom Cafe
    There were only two things on the menu I could have, Shrimp Fried Rice with no Egg Roll and Vegetable Stir Fry. I went with the Shrimp Fried Rice. Because I had to order it without the Egg Roll and Cabbage they subbed a bottle water. This is great if you aren’t on the meal plan because you can save $3.00 on a drink! They only have ice cream for dessert so I didn’t get any of that 🙁

    Epcot Table Service:
    Le Cellier Steakhouse
    I was very impressed with our waitress at Le Cellier! When we sat down I was given the allergen menu and the waitress was able to show me what I could and could not have and even had suggestions on how to change meals to fit my restrictions. I ended up having gluten free bread with diary free butter, the Le Cellier Filet Mignon with green beans since I couldn’t have the mushroom risotto and for dessert I had the Strawberry-Basic Float. I am not a float type of girl, but I would go back for that float. It was delicious. (It could also be the fact that I hadn’t had anything creamy like a milkshake in 2 months so my judgement may have been a tiny bit impaired by that, but not much because it was still amazing)

    Teppan Edo
    This was a last minute decision one night and it paid off. Before our orders were taken, the manager came out to discuss with me what I could have. Dairy is used a lot in their dishes so he really made sure he understood that i couldn’t have dairy at all, not just milk. I ended up not being able to have their salad dressing or any of the sauces for the meats. So I had a plain salad (they brought me Red Wine Vinegar but I didn’t use it) and Asakusa (steak and shrimp) with steamed rice and vegetables for my meal. The steak was very good. The chef prepared my food first so there wouldn’t be any cross contamination. The only thing they had for dessert that I could eat was a fruit bowl. Not the best, so I would skip dessert next time.


    Animal Kingdom Quick Service
    Yak& Yeti Local Food Cafes
    This was the only place we ate in Animal Kingdom. They didn’t have a large selection of gluten free meals. I ended up having the American Kobe Beef Hog Dog with a gluten free bun, fries and a lemonade. For dessert I ordered the Minute Maid Frozen Lemonade Cup, but once I looked at the ingredients it had high fructose corn syrup so i didn’t have that.


    Magic Kingdom Table Service
    Be our Guest Restaurant
    What’s great about Be our Guest Restaurant is when you eat there for lunch it’s only considered a quick service! But you are inside at a table which is nice during the summer. And each part of the dining room is themed for a different part of the Beast’s castle. For lunch I had a quinoa salad with vinaigrette. The salad included mixed greens, tomatoes, green beans, roasted red peppers, olives and beets and then had a side of quinoa. There was nothing on the dessert menu I could have, so they let me sub an appetizer. I had the French Onion Soup without cheese and croutons.


    Hollywood Studios Quick Service
    Backlot Express
    As I’ve said, quick service meals were the hardest and it was no different at Hollywood Studios. The food lines were super long the day we went to Hollywood Studios, but they are doing massive changes to the park so that may have made if feel a little more cramped. We ended eating lunch at Backlot Express. For Lunch I had the Hot Dog with a gluten free bun and fries. The day we went, they only had one allergen menu that was being passed around to all the registers, so just know it can be a long wait.

    Hollywood Studios Table Service
    Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant
    This is such a cute little place and so accommodating. We were done with everything at the part by 4:30 and our reservation wasn’t until 8:30. Scott went and asked if we could move up our reservations and since our reservation was for a party of 2 they were able to movie it without any problem. I was given an allergen menu but the waiter still insisted that the chef come out and speak with me. Am I’m glad he did! There were only a couple things on the menu I could have so he made me something not even on the menu! I had vegetable pasta and it was very good. It was a mix of asparagus, peas, diced tomatoes in a chunky tomato sauce with gluten free pasta. I read online that they have dairy free milkshakes, but since it was so early we decided against dessert. (I was Scott’s birthday so they brought him out a cupcake with a candle on it!)

    Disney Polynesian Resort
    By far our favorite place we ate was ‘Ohana! This was hands down the best meal we had. ‘Ohana is a churrascaria style restaurant where they serve unlimited meat skewers for a fixed price. Both the host and the waiters said they wouldn’t bring anything to our table until the chef came out. He was great to talk to and to my surprise I could eat almost everything. They brought me gluten free bread with dairy free butter. For the appetizers, they cooked me special chicken wings (Which I couldn’t have because I can’t have chicken right now 🙁 ) and brought out steamed rice and veggies. The salad was probably the highlight of the meal! They had to leave off some things that contained gluten but it wasn’t a big deal. The dressing is fantastic and I could have made a whole meal out of the salad! (And I’m not one who gets really excited about salads) I could have all the meat with no special requirements made to it! For dessert I was able to have dairy free ice cream with Enjoy Life chocolate cookies! Seriously, food restrictions or not, you’ve got to get to this place!

    Whoo, I think that covers all the places we ate! Have you been eating at Disney with food restrictions? I’d love to hear your suggestions!