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Debbie Does Disney

If you’re one of those ones who thinks of screaming kids and cartoon balloons when you think of Disney, we’ve got news for you: grown-ups dig Disney, too.  And for good reasons.  The Disney Parks were awarded 2008′s top prize from the adult beverage industry for Best Signature Cocktail;  celebrity Chefs Todd English, Wolfgang Puck, and Cat Cora all have restaurants on property; and outside the parks guests enjoy sailing, golfing, and shopping with Disney service.  Add to that three hotels with full-service spas and an additional six with in-room massage, and you’re getting somewhere.  Here, how to do Disney like an adult.

The Best Time of Year to Visit

For an adults-only vacation to Walt Disney World, plan to go while kids are in school.  That means no summer trips, spring breaks, or holidays, when families with kids are crowding the parks.  Instead, travel in September or January, when young ones have just reentered the classroom and won’t be keen to miss new instruction.  For an extra treat, try a trip during Epcot’s fall Food and Wine Festival.   You’ll see a little spike in visitors, but the gourmet goodies with international flair are worth a few new friends.

Where to Stay for Grown-up Fun

Stay on Disney property for maximum relaxation and convenience.  Free door-to-door transportation in the form of boats, buses, and monorails will take the stress out of planning and parking, and 24-hour Disney service will keep you on vacation from touch down to wheels up.  As for hotels, the resort has themed lodgings for every taste and most pocketbooks, but some are more adult-friendly than others.

The most noise you’ll hear at the plantation-themed Port Orleans Riverside is the zing of a cicada, and the relatively new Saratoga Springs is practically empty except for spa goers and those who want to be close (but not too close) to Disney’s night life area.  If you’re looking for something for a special occasion, the Grand Floridian‘s Victorian gentility does a wonderful job of repelling kids.  Try the high tea or any of three fine dining establishments, including Victoria and Albert’s, a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience that requires reservations a year in advance.

Wine and Dine at Disney

Eight o’clock is the magic hour for intimate Disney dinners.  Make late reservations for romantic peace and quiet, and chose restaurants whose themes will not appeal to children.  In the parks, most restaurants featured in Epcot’s World Showcase area are too adventurous for young eaters.  Try the Rose and Crown dining room for a selection of British brews and recipes from the Isles or the Canadian Le Cellier for the best soups, steaks, and wine list.  Hotel restaurants are a smart bet, too, as most families are still in the parks at dinner time.  California Grill and The Wave, both at the Contemporary Resort, offer delicious, modern fare, complex enough for the foodie in your group.

Disney After Hours

If you’re into the bar scene, Downtown Disney is not a bad option for nightlife.  Themed dance locations like a 70s disco make it fun, and the fact that it’s Disney keeps the sketch down a little bit.  It is crowded with locals, so take that for whatever it means to you.  A slightly more tame option is the boardwalk at the Boardwalk Inn.  It features a dueling pianos bar and a dance hall that isn’t quite as collegiate as clubs in Downtown.

If the party scene isn’t your scene, don’t fret.  Book tickets for La Nouba, a stunning Cirque du Soleil performance unique to Walt Disney World.  Listen to an old-fashioned radio show at the Boardwalk Inn, take a glass of wine out onto the roof at the Contemporary, or enjoy a turn-of-the-century jazz band at the Floridian.  Or, wait until everyone’s asleep and go for a dip in your hotel pool.  Even taking a long walk around the lake at the Coronado Springs resort can be romantic and secluded.  If you’re in the parks, stay past the fireworks, after which everyone else clears out to put the kids to bed.  Take your time winding through deserted areas.  Sit and talk.  Make the security guards chase you out after closing.

Be a Strategic Tourist

To get the most of quiet times and calm pockets at Disney, sleep in and stay up late.  You’ll find the breakfast areas are bereft after 10:30, and pushing back your schedule will make it easy to book a late dinner and sneak around after dark.

So, Why Disney As an Adult?

There’s something delicious about breaking rules, and being young at heart in a place filled with youth feels like the ultimate rebellious trick.  Avoiding kids is a fun game of chase, and beating kids at their own game is even better.  How much do they appreciate recreations of exotic locations or cars for two on endless dark rides?  What do they care that Disney attention to detail means nooks and crannies to disappear in?  Or, who knows?  Being a kid again might be the best fun you’ll have all week.


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