Disney is just for kids, right? Think again. Whether you’re reliving childhood memories or visiting for the first time, a Disney vacation is a blast for grown-ups of all ages too. There are plenty of awesome rides, shows, food, and drinks for adults at the four theme parks and many resorts to ensure you have an awesome vacation. As a veteran of several grown-up trips, here are my best tips for making the most of your vacation to Walt Disney World for adults only.
Don’t be self-conscious
Even if friends and family back home think you’re a little weird for going to Disney World without kids, no one at the parks will care. If you look around, you’ll see plenty of adults there by themselves from college-aged travelers to honeymooners to retired couples to intrepid solo travelers soaking up the magic on their own. And even if you were the only adults there sans children, everyone else would be too busy enjoying themselves to care. Don’t let worrying about what other people think of you put a damper on your fun. Sure, you don’t want to shove a kid out of the way so you’re first in line to meet Cinderella, but don’t hesitate to enjoy yourself and make the most of your time at the theme parks.
Take advantage of the off-season
Without kids, you’re not tied to a school vacation schedule so you can go at any time of the year. It’s no secret that the summers and holiday times are the most crowded at Disney World. Although historically uncrowded seasons are seeing more guests as more and more parents are willing to pull their kids out of school for vacation, you’ll still enjoy waysmaller crowds than you would during peak seasons. I highly endorse late January-early February for low crowds and cooler temperatures. The downside of off-season visits is that more rides are closed for refurbishment during the slow seasons, so check the refurb schedule when planning your trip so you don’t miss out on a favorite because it’s not open.
Take it up a notch with an intense Disney World scavenger hunt
If you’re competitive like I am, you’ll love this Disney World scavenger hunt made by a fellow former Cast Member. It takes you through all of the Disney World parks with fun photo missions and special spots to fin. Beware: This isn’t your average casual “Find a hidden Mickey” scavenger hunt though. You’ll have to work to win, but it’ll be worth it for the bragging rights.
Unless you’re attending the Halloween party (You really should do this because it’s amazing.), adults aren’t allowed to dress up as characters in the parks. In light of this, allow me to introduce you to the wonderful world of Disney Bounding. Even though you can’t go in full Minnie Mouse gear, there’s nothing stopping you from pairing a cute red and white polka dot skirt with a black t-shirt and some Minnie ears. For a princess look, get a yellow skater dress, style your hair like Belle’s, and bring a fake rose. (Definitely go visit Gaston at the Magic Kingdom if you do this.) For guys, Prince Eric from the Little Mermaid is an easy one. Get some jeans or navy shorts, a red belt, and white shirt. Congrats, you’re ready to Disney Bound. Go take some awesome pictures in your carefully planned outfits.
Let your Disney nerd self shine
If ever there was a place to display your love of all things Disney, it’s at the parks. Go ahead and pack every Lion King shirt you own. Wear a ridiculous hat. Buy some silly Stitch gloves. Pay the upcharge to get a colorful Mickey-shaped straw. Wear your pin lanyard with your best collection. You might as well go all out. You’re there to have fun, so let your Disney flag fly.
No parent swaps
While most of Disney’s rides are kid-friendly, many of them do have height requirements. Parents with kids who are too short to ride have to do a rider swap so one can watch the kiddo while the other enjoys the ride. The one who stays behind gets to skip most of the line when they swap out, but it still takes more time and means you can’t ride all together. (Though it works out really well for older & taller siblings who are allowed to accompany both parents – thanks little brothers and sister.)
Get up early and stay out late
You don’t have to worry about getting kids dressed, feeding them breakfast, making sure they get their iPad time, or whatever else goes into modern parenting. Take advantage of that and hit the parks before the crowds arrive. The first hour after the parks open is usually way less crowded, and there are occasionally special perks for the first riders of the day.
The last couple of hours before closing time are my absolute favorite. I love the parks at night when the lights come on, and as the hour gets later, the lines get shorter and shorter. You won’t have to worry about tired and cranky kids, so you’re free to keep playing until the turnstiles close. By the end of the night, a lot of the rides with long lines turn into walk-ons, and many times, I’ve gotten to re-ride attractions without even exiting the ride vehicle if there’s no one waiting to board. My personal record was three times in a row on Splash Mountain, and that was before I even worked at the ride.
Get those kids meals for yourself
It’s no secret that Disney park food is expensive. If you have a big appetite, you might be stuck buying full meals, but a light eater like me can easily get by with an order from the kids menu. I wouldn’t do this in a sit-down restaurant, but at a counter service place, I’m all about the kiddie food. Last summer, my boyfriend and I each got Dark Side chicken and waffles at Hollywood Studios. He got the full-size portion. I got the one pictured here. Mine cost a little over half of what his did, came with a drink, and filled me up perfectly. Don’t be shy about saving yourself a few bucks.
There’s more nightlife at Disney World than you think
Though the resort is much more family-focused than its Orlando counterpart, Universal, there’s actually quite a bit of evening options. I adore Jellyrolls, a dueling piano bar at the Boardwalk Resort. I spent many nights singing and dancing along to covers of classic songs and current hits. There is a cover fee for entry, but it’s well-worth it. You can also go dancing at the Atlantic Dance Hall right next door.
Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney, has been expanded and revitalized. The shopping and dining area has restaurants and bars to suit every taste. I quite like Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar, which is themed after the Indiana Jones franchise.
The moderate and most expensive resorts have bars and lounges you can enjoy too. Check out Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at the Polynesian. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try doing a monorail bar crawl – visit the bars at the three hotels along the monorail line – the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary. Bonus points if you time your final drink with the evening fireworks show.
There’s fine dining at Disney World too
I’m going to be honest. I’m more of a chicken fingers and fries girl, so I’ve never tried the really fancy food, but you can even get that at Disney World. Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian is rated as one of the top restaurants in the whole state. It’s super fancy, and you can expect to spend close to $500 for two people to dine there. Kids under 10 aren’t allowed, and there’s even a dress code, so pack accordingly.
The California Grill at the top of the Contemporary is slightly less fancy, but still offers great food. As a bonus, it offers a fantastic view of the nightly fireworks at the Magic Kingdom. This would be my choice for a fancy meal at WDW, but like I said before, I’m pretty content with a chicken finger kids meal.
For fine dining inside one of the parks, your go-to will be Monsieur Paul in Epcot’s France pavilion. Located above the much more widely known Les Chefs de France, this fancy restaurant was recently revamped. It has a mild dress code – no tank tops, etc – but It’s not as strict as Victoria and Albert’s. If French cuisine isn’t your thing, just two pavilions away, Canada hosts the much beloved Le Cellier steakhouse.
There’s room for romance at Disney World
You’ve definitely seen Castle proposal pictures floating around online, so there’s clearly some kind of romance in the air. Even if you’re not popping the question or posing with your hands on your face in surprise as a ring is presented, there are some great couples activities. The Grand Floridian’s full name is the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, and couples spa dates are an option. There are also private fireworks cruises on the Seven Seas Lagoon that will offer you a romantic view of the Magic Kingdom’s nightly performance. (For a budget option, time a trip on the ferry from the park to the Ticket and Transportation Center or one of the resort boats with the start of the fireworks, though this requires a bit of luck.)
Have you ever done a trip to Disney World without kids? What was your favorite part?
Looking for more Disney tips? Check out these posts:
- The Grown-Up’s Guide to Epcot
- The Grown-up’s Guide to the Magic Kingdom
- The Grown-up’s Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- The Grown-up’s Guide to Animal Kingdom
- How to Visit Disney Parks Solo
- The Most Important FastPass+ at Every Disney World Park
- What to Pack for a Disney World Vacation
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