My Disney Top 5 - Things for Grown-ups to do at Walt Disney Worldby Chris Barry, contributing writer
I've spent some time over the last few articles breaking down what I feel to be the very best things to do at Walt Disney World for a variety of age groups. I started out with the little ones, moved on to the tweens and last time I covered traveling to Disney with teenagers. After all that, it's time for the adults. Time to leave the kids behind and focus on yourselves a little. If you didn't think that was possible on a Disney vacation, you couldn't be more wrong. If you thought your non-Disney fanatic friends didn't understand why you were still going with your tweens and teenagers to Walt Disney World, they're never going to be able to wrap their heads around the possibility that you would go there without kids.
That's just the reaction that Diane and I got a few years back when I surprised her on Valentine's Day with plane tickets, telling her that I booked a long weekend for just the two of us at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. I had coworkers and friends that looked at me kind of strangely when I revealed that we were finally getting away by ourselves and that yes, we were going to Walt Disney World. "Yes, we're grown up." "Yes, we're leaving the kids behind and going by ourselves." "Yes, we're sure about this." "No, we're not crazy." The Disney fans in our circle of friends knew just what we were doing.
We went at the end of April that year. Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival was in full bloom and we were ready and raring to go. Despite our enthusiasm, it was hard to leave the kids behind, especially going to Disney. It was a very special place for all of us to be together and being there without them was going to be strange. But the flights were booked, the plans were made and nobody needed a break alone together more than us at that time, so, off we went. And what exactly was that like? Let's take a closer look as I cap off this age-related series with my Top 5 things for adults to do at Walt Disney World.
5 – Shopping
One of my favorite things to do when I'm down at Walt Disney World is to hit the shops. When I say that, I'm not talking about the mall stores at Disney Springs. If I want that, I've got plenty of it all around me here on Long Island. For one, I'm talking about the Disney gift shops. I'm a Disney collector, or as I used to say during all those years of writing Disney Stuff articles, I'm a Disney accumulator! I'm always on the lookout for something new and unique in places like the Emporium on Main Street U.S.A in the Magic Kingdom, or my favorite Disney shop of all, MouseGear at Epcot. But it's not just the Disney centric merchandise I'm looking at. I'm a big fan of strolling around World Showcase and spending time in each of the shops in the 11 countries found around the lagoon. You can do that with the kids in tow, but not for too long and not at a leisurely pace.
Diane and I spent a lot of time in World Showcase on our grown ups-only trip. Weaving our way in and out of the shops in each country at our own pace and discovering the unique items for sale was a real pleasure. Our favorites always seem to be Germany, especially the crystal shop, the shops of the United Kingdom, and one of the best shopping experiences in Disney, Mitsukoshi in Japan.
4 – Grown Up Beverages
I'm not going to say that we don't enjoy a drink or two when we're on our family vacations. However, when you're down there and not tied to kids, you can let your guard down a little; you will be amazed at the incredibly diverse cocktail offerings throughout the Walt Disney World resort. On our first night there, we sat down at one of our favorite restaurants anywhere, Artist Point at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. We had an excellent meal and ordered a bottle of wine from the Pacific Northwest, chosen by the always knowledgeable wait staff who perfectly paired the wine to our meal. We took our time to savor the delicious food and equally delicious wine, and just relaxed enjoying our view of Bay Lake out the window. That's just not something we'd get the chance to do when we're there with the kids. We've taken them to Artist Point, but we all know, it's just a whole different pace.
Once again, World Showcase is the place to be at Walt Disney World if you're looking to sample some of the finest wine, beer, and cocktails you'll find at any resort anywhere. Check out the tequila bar inside the Mexico pavilion, the wine shops in Italy and France, and one of my favorite stops, the sake bar at the aforementioned Mitsukoshi Deptartment Store in Japan. The resort hotels all have their own specialty drinks, and now that Disney Springs is bursting with more dining establishments than ever before, you'll have no trouble finding something that wets your whistle.
3 – Excellent Food
I can't say that we don't eat well at Walt Disney World when we're there with the kids. We have our fair share of pizzas and counter service food for sure, but we've been known to sit down at some of Disney's finer restaurants together as a family, but those moments are few and far between.
On our grown ups-only trip, which only lasted four nights, my wife and I managed to eat dinner at Artist Point, Citricos, and Monsieur Paul. Those are three of the best restaurants down there. We would never have attempted that with the kids in tow. Of course, you can take them and order off the kid's menu and they'll be fine. But, when it was just the two of us, we savored the meals, ordered fine wines and cocktails and really took our time and enjoyed the wonderful atmosphere and, of course, the company. Dining at Disney is much more than churros and French fries; when you're there on a adults-only trip, make sure you sample some of their best.
2 – Do Whatever You Want to...Whenever you Want to
Perhaps the greatest thing about being in Walt Disney World without the kids is being able to really do whatever you possibly want to on your own schedule without any discussion or discrepancies. I adore my kids and I love being with them at Walt Disney World, but it was pretty darn nice to turn to Diane and say, "So...now what?" and not have to worry about what each one of the kids wanted to do or didn't want to do. It was a game changer for sure. We had fun at our own pace and that still included the "kid stuff" like Perter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, and Buzz Lightyear. If we wanted to walk around World Showcase slowly, soaking it all in, without a particular destination in mind, we did so. If we wanted to spend more time looking at the animals in Animal Kingdom, we did so.
We did whatever we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do it and it was glorious.
1 – Romance
That's right. I said the word romance in an article about visiting Walt Disney World. That's just not something the average guest envisions when they begin to think about the most popular tourist destination on Earth. On the surface, you can't blame them. There's nothing really romantic about a packed Tomorrowland on a hot summer night or just about any place in my least favorite park, Hollywood Studios. That's just the point though. It's always hard to believe, but trust me when I tell you this, if you want to get away from it all and take a quiet walk or share a tender moment with that special someone in your life, you can absolutely do so in Walt Disney World. Without too much effort, you can find yourself in places that are downright tranquil. My wife and I had one of the most romantic moments of our lives together in the Magic Kingdom rose garden right as Wishes started. It was as peaceful as you can get considering that there were literally thousands of people a hundred feet or so away from us.
Take a slow, nighttime stroll around Crescent Lake in Disney's BoardWalk area. Even if you're not staying at one of the resorts or dining at one of the restaurants, there's nothing stopping you from taking in the sights and stopping at the pavilion on the BoardWalk Inn side and gazing across the lake at the beautifully lit Yacht and Beach Clubs. How about a horse and buggy ride around the Port Orleans Resort? Pull up a bench in World Showcase after illuminations finishes and the park just about empties and you have the place just about to yourself. Stay in a resort that offers boat service to and from the parks. You'd be shocked just how romantic the ride can be from the Wilderness Lodge to the Magic Kingdom when the moonlight is shining down on the lagoon. The same can be said for the ride over to the Polynesian from the Magic Kingdom. There's peace, quiet, and solitude to be found all over the place at Walt Disney World if you know where to look.
I can't emphasize how much fun and what a fantastic time you can have at Walt Disney World on a grown ups-only trip. I've been at Disney a few times without my kids and, yes, absolutely, I miss the heck out of them. It's impossible to walk through the Magic Kingdom and not relive memories of my children in my head as I turn every corner. But I've had some amazing times there by myself, some even more amazing times with friends and colleagues and perhaps, some of the most amazing times of my life there with just my beloved wife and I. We ate like adults, drank like adults and acted like adults and never once felt strange that we weren't pushing a stroller around because there were plenty of other grown ups doing the same exact thing as us.
The naysayers who look at me like I'm cuckoo when I say that Walt Disney World is a great place to go without kids will never understand. You don't have to be a kid to go to Disney. It's not about being a kid there, or taking a kid there. It's about reaching down deep and letting the inner kid that lives in all of us shine while you're there—and there's definitely no age limit for that. If you can accomplish that little feat of magic and still have some killer gourmet food, fine wine, and blissful romantic moments then I say, more power to you.
That ends another series of Top 5s. As always, I'd like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below, let me hear your thoughts and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.