By Carol Garcia
We’re like most people who enjoy Disney, and own Disney Vacation Club points. When people hear we are going to Walt Disney World “again” on vacation, we hear our share of not quite supportive comments. When those same nay-sayers heard about our last trip, they were even more surprised. “Why are you going to Disney without the kids?” What are you going to do there?” “Why don’t you go somewhere more ‘adult’?” Hopefully here I can give you some insight as to our answers to these questions.
One of the better kept secrets about Disney is that it is for adults just as much as for kids. I have traveled many places in the world and this is one of the few places that adults can and are encouraged to suspend reality. When staying on-site, I don’t have to see my car if I don’t want to. In fact, I don’t even need a car. From the complimentary trip from the airport, my luggage magically finding its way from the plane to my room without my hands touching it and jumping on Disney transportation to get from park to park, I don’t have to worry about transportation. If I am a few minutes late for my Advance Dining Reservation, they will accommodate me. If I don’t want to wait in that line for Soarin’, I can grab a fast pass and somehow I will have a place in line later on in the day.
Why go on a trip without the kids? Let’s explore some reasons.
Flexibility. One of my favorite reasons to go on an adult trip to Disney is flexibility. I’ll give a brief example of what I mean. We arrived on an early morning flight. After checking into the resort and settling our luggage, we strolled over to Epcot via the International Gateway. We decided to go left and find a restaurant that could accommodate us. We just walked in and were immediately seated in France. This is not place we would pop in with the kids. Later in the day we returned to the room for some rest. We met friends for dessert and fun conversation. Then we went to Epcot and savored a few rides and the Christmas decorations. There was no bed time to worry about, no schedule to which we had to adhere. We ate what we wanted when we wanted (I’m not suggesting that adults don’t need Advance Dining Reservations at times, though). We stayed up late if we wanted and got up early if we wanted (hopefully not back to back, though).
We’re tall! Yes, we are tall when the kids are there, too, but we don’t have to worry about height requirements on anything. In fact, on one adults-only trip, when our children were very young, we resolved to only do those things we couldn’t do with the kids. Not only was it a great experience for us, but as an added bonus, as the children get older, we have first hand knowledge on when many rides would be appropriate for our children.
We are sick of French fries! Although we try to get our children to eat well, the truth is that sometimes on vacation, they don’t. We end up eating places that have something for them on the children’s menu, rather than our preference. When they are home, we can explore a bit more without worry. In fact, we have made a No French Fry vow. And we have experienced some great places that the kids would not try or we would not enjoy if we had them in tow.
So many resorts, so little time. We tend to gravitate toward the Magic Kingdom when we travel with the kids. For an adults-only trip, we prefer Epcot. The Epcot resort area works much better for us since we can just stroll over to our favorite park. Now of course this many be different for everyone, but the beauty of the Disney resorts is that they are all somewhat different and there is one out there to suit your needs and tastes.
So, what exactly is there for adults to do in Disney?, you ask. Well, let’s just take a look.
Yes, you know there are four theme parks right there in Walt Disney World. But the theme parks are just for kids, right? No, not at all. There are things to do in each of the parks.
Magic Kingdom. Now maybe most people would expect a four year old to love the sight of Cinderella’s castle, but there are plenty of adults who are much older than four who have a similar reaction. Quite often adults feel the real impact of getting there. All of the stress of planning, packing and paying melt away. We walk into a place that is truly magical. It is not just for the young, but also the young at heart.
If you aren’t quite that into reliving your youth, there are still other attractions to see. The Mountains are a great place to start. Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain all offer lots of fun for those of us over 44” tall. We can encounter Stitch in his not-so-friendly 626 form. We can even take ourselves back to the World’s Fair and visit the Carrousel of Progress, one of Walt Disney’s original attractions. There is also the Hall of Presidents, when we want to take an amazing glimpse into history. Actually listening to the words of our forefathers rather than try to explain to a four year old that really isn’t Abraham Lincoln is a nice treat.
Epcot. Many consider this a more “adult” park to begin with. Although my children love Epcot and have many favorite attractions here, it is definitely my favorite park, and the one we usually head to first when it’s just us grown-ups.
First and foremost, there is the food. Each of the countries in the World Showcase offers a unique full service restaurant featuring the flavors native to that country. There are also opportunities for counter service or snacks to get a sample of some local cuisine without a big meal. If you are in Future World, the Coral Reef Restaurant in the Living Seas pavilion is a favorite that doesn’t seem like it should be found in a theme park.
Then there are the attractions at Epcot. Just like the big three at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot is host to Mission:Space, Soarin’, and Test Track. All are favorites for those of us who can really appreciate them. One can spend hours exploring the World Showcase without once being told it is “boring.” The architecture in each country is very authentic. There is entertainment in many of the countries that is meant to be enjoyed and not rushed past in search of a character. There are movies in Canada, France and China that will give one a better appreciation of those countries. There are museums in several places. A trip through the department store in Japan will reveal many native treats once you venture beyond the Hello Kitty section.
Animal Kingdom. What better way to spend an afternoon than holding hands with your sweetie while getting completely soaked on Kali River Rapids? OK, don’t answer that. But it is a fun attraction with a conservation theme that you will notice if you stop looking for the next opportunity to get gallons of water in your lap. The Kilimanjaro Safari is another, decidedly drier, attraction that families love, but adults will be able to really take time appreciating the wonder of the African habitat. If thrills are more your speed, there is always Dinosaur! Not for the faint of heart, go ahead and get sent back in time to face some beasts that make the Disney villains look loveable. While you’re in the area, take a spin on Primeval Whirl. This ride is what happens when a Tilt-a-Whirl and a roller coaster get together. Finally, Expedition Everest is sure to be great fun for thrill seekers when it opens in April.
Disney-MGM Studios. Tower of Terror and Rock-n-Roller Coaster. Do I need to say more? Alright, maybe just a little. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Play It is a great place to get off your feet and use your brain in a re-creation of the popular game show. You can even win real prizes. The Great Movie Ride is a lot of fun for those of us to remember movies older than, say, Finding Nemo. In face much of the park brings back a nostalgic Hollywood. Don’t miss the street performers…lots of fun!
This may seem obvious, but it is a great playground for the adults. There is literally something here for everyone. For those who like to dance, there are clubs. For something out of the ordinary, try the Adventurer’s Club. And if you just want to laugh, there is the Comedy Warehouse. Combine that with food and shops for a wonderful evening. Guests are free to roam Pleasure Island and can purchase a wristband that allows entrance to any of the clubs. Although my husband and I aren’t big drinkers, part of the attraction of Pleasure Island is that we can have an adult beverage or two and simply hop on a bus back to our resort when we are done. There is no need to worry about a designated driver because Disney is our driver.
Disney offers many behind the scenes and one-of-a-kind tours. Most of these programs are designed for adults (or at least people 16 and over). There are opportunities to go backstage at the Magic Kingdom, learn about Epcot, or find out about Christmas magic. There are also opportunities to try something new. How about learning to ride a Segway?
We went on the Yuletide Tour this past December. It was great to have time to listen to the tour guide point out things we have rushed past a number of times.
This could be one of our favorite reasons to travel to Disney. The food here is not typical theme park cuisine, although hamburgers and the like can be found if that is what you want. Although the restaurants for the most part are family friendly, there are some places that definitely appeal to a more mature crowd. One of our favorites is the California Grill. It is fun to have dinner with a bird’s eye view of the Magic Kingdom. The music for Wishes is piped into the restaurants and if you don’t have a window table, you can just pop outside to the balcony area for an amazing view of the fireworks. Although not quite as spectacular, the other night-time shows can be seen from here as well.
There are two very special times of the year that play host to perfect adult-only events. The Flower and Garden Festival and Food & Wine Festival both offer a bevy of new experiences. Although it is way too much to explore these festivals here, remember that both of these offer a great opportunity for some quality grown up time. There are displays of flowers and samples of amazing cuisine. There are also special seminars and presentations to be investigated. Learning something while having fun is a great way to spend an afternoon at Disney.
A few quiet moments
Taking time for some peace and quiet may not seem like something to do at a theme parks, but it can be done. There are many places for a quiet stroll around the resort. Although it is possible to find a nice place to walk in each of the resorts, the deluxe resorts offer some quiet places for solitude, and you don’t have to be staying there to enjoy it. The Polynesian has the beach with the hammocks, but so does the Caribbean Beach (and any other resort that has a beach). While near the beach at a Magic Kingdom resort, take some time to watch the Electrical Water Pageant and maybe even catch a glimpse of Wishes. If you are near Epcot, the Boardwalk is a great place for an evening stroll. Don’t discount the parks for a little solitude, either. After the parks close, take some time to people watch snack and stroll out of the gates. The World Showcase and even Main Street can be truly magical when you are not among throngs of people.
So, as you can see, a vacation is what you make of it. And a vacation for just adults at Disney can be just as full as a vacation with the kids. There is more to do and see for adults than one might think from Walt Disney World. Take some time to investigate some more adult activities for your next trip.