So you want to go to Walt Disney World. But, maybe you’re hesitant because you don’t have kids to take along as an excuse for going. My advice? Go anyway! Contrary to popular belief, WDW is not just for kids! As the great Frank Sinatra sang:
“Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you…if you’re young at heart.”
We’ve been going to Disney as an adult couple sans children for 6 years now. We’ve gone as a solo couple, with another couple, and with our extended family of 8 (all teenagers or older).
And it is the best. Magical beyond belief. A relaxing and fun break from the daily grind. A moment to breathe, reconnect, and feel young again. There is a common epithet used to refer to the phenomenon of leaving the real world behind for a few days and being completely immersed in the magic of WDW…the “Disney Bubble”. Visiting the Disney Bubble is like living in a warm hug, while seamlessly zipping around The World without a care in the (real) world. And this is a magical feeling for children and adults alike. Maybe even more-so for adults, because it means the ability to disconnect from stressful reality, relinquish worry and responsibility for just a short time…and live like a kid again.
And if I haven’t convinced you to go yet, here’s a few more tips and reasons for visiting WDW child-less.
Wake up when you want
It’s no secret. Parents of young children don’t get to make their own schedule. They just pretend they do to keep their own sanity. When not having to be responsible for keeping any other humans alive besides yourself, you really get to be your own boss…run your own life. When you don’t have to worry about being first in line to sign your child up for the Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios, your schedule really opens up. Sleep in. Or don’t. Wake up extra early to have breakfast with your spouse, and run through the parks at rope drop. You do you. You’re in charge…take a hold of the freedom you have to schedule your own breaks rather than having to schedule family bathroom breaks, meal breaks, nap breaks, and random-whims-of-a-four-year-old-breaks.
Disney After Hours event
Disney introduced this hard-ticket Magic Kingdom event a couple of years ago, and it got off to a slow start…I expect this was mostly due to the high price of the experience. It’s currently priced at $125 per person (they have lowered the price just slightly since it’s debut), and you can save about $5 per person by purchasing tickets in advance. But we made “the sacrifice” despite the cost, and tried it out in May 2016. On nights when MK closes at 10, the event runs 10pm-1am (3 hours after the park closes to the general public). Even if you don’t have regular park admission for the day, you are allowed to enter the Magic Kingdom at 7pm. I highly recommend making use of that whole time period, as you are paying a premium for the experience….you might as well get as much park time in as possible. Ice cream novelties and bottled beverages are offered in various locations around the park…included in your ticket purchase. Basically, eat as much ice cream as you want!
It was one of the most magical nights of my life! When I say there were no lines, I mean that in the most literal sense. Later in the night, we took picture upon picture without anyone else in the shot. If you’ve seen Main Street USA on any random day around 12pm, then you know that this seems like just a dream. Well, it was one of the best dreams I’ve ever had. If you have the budget to spring for it, I highly recommend attending this event if it’s being offered during your trip.
Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours
This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous two items. As adults without kids in WDW, you are more capable of making full use of the early and late hour offerings of the parks. A major perk of staying at an on-site Disney Resort is that each day you will be able to access a different park 1 hour earlier (Morning Magic Hours) and/or 2 hours later (Evening Magic Hours) than the general public. And, unlike Disney After Hours, this is a complimentary amenity for resort guests. When my husband and I go to Disney, we are taking advantage of both of these offerings almost every single day (with the exception of a few days to sleep in late or turn in early). We love the ability to wake up and rush out the door early in the morning (on our own schedule), come back to reset and refresh in the afternoon, and be back out in the parks until around midnight. As a young couple, we relish the ability just get up and go on a whim, and it’s a factor that should not be taken for granted when considering going to WDW without kids.
Here’s another option that gets you out of the parks (and away from the crowds). Head to the entrance of any of the Disney Parks, and from there hop on a bus, monorail, or boat to other on-site Disney Resorts. You can make a day of this, or take just half the day to leisurely explore the atmospheres and themes of each resort, before heading to the parks for some evening fun. Some of our favorite resorts to experience are the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, and the Wilderness Lodge. The lobbies alone in these resorts will transport you to another time and place, rich with immersive detailing and distinct scents and sounds. Explore the grounds, eateries, and gift shops of each resort. This activity can be especially magical during the Christmas season, when it’s fun to see the themed trees and seasonal decor that adorn the resorts.
Movies under the Stars
If you are staying at an on-site Disney Resort, take advantage of this nightly free amenity. Cozy up with your loved one on the beach, pool, or lawn area of your resort to watch a movie on the big screen in the open air. Yes, often these movie offerings may be Disney animated films…but remember, you’re embracing your inner child here at Disney. My husband and I loved watching A Muppet Christmas Carol curled up on a lawn chair at the Wilderness Lodge beach one chilly December night, as the stars twinkled above us. Bonus points for bringing along a snack purchased at the Main Street Confectionary earlier that day, and a warm coffee or hot chocolate in your refillable resort mug. Check out your resort’s Monthly Recreation Calendar for locations, times, and film offerings.
Take a romantic boat ride
Slow down and enjoy Disney on the water. Take a break from running from attraction to attraction and spend a few moments watching The World go by, while a refreshing breeze blows through your hair. There are several boat rides throughout WDW. The Friendship Boats run between Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot (with stops at The Boardwalk, Yacht Club, and Beach Club). There is also a Friendship Boat that runs across the World Showcase Lagoon inside the park, starting at World Showcase Plaza and running to Germany and Morocco. The Sassagoula River Cruise Ferry Boat runs between Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, and Disney Springs (grab some lunch and do some shopping here before cruising back to the resorts). Disney Water Transportation is also offered between Magic Kingdom and the area resorts, including Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, and Fort Wilderness, as well as to the Ticket and Transportation Center.
Or, take a different approach and enjoy the parks’ boat/dark rides. These include classics such as Small World (MK) and Gran Fiesta Tour featuring the Three Caballeros (Epcot – Mexico), as well as newer rides like Frozen Ever After (Epcot – Norway) and the Na’vi River Journey (Animal Kingdom). These rides aren’t just to be enjoyed by kids. In fact, my husband often fondly recalls the time we got our own private boat on the Pirate’s of the Caribbean ride during evening magic hours at Magic Kingdom…this has been one of his favorite Disney memories.
Yet another boat experience you can take advantage of at WDW is motorized boat rentals. These are available at Fort Wilderness and all Disney Deluxe Resorts (with the exception of Animal Kingdom Lodge). We haven’t done this yet, but it’s on our bucket list! For rates and more information, check out the WDW website.
Fireworks Dessert Parties
Whenever we go to Disney with our extended family, we all tend to schedule private date nights with our spouses at some point during the trip. A great venue for such a date is a Fireworks Dessert Party. There are several parties offered for the fireworks shows around The World (MK, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios). We loved watching the Happily Ever After fireworks at Magic Kingdom at the Plaza Garden Viewing area after nibbling on endless sweet treats and coffee at the Tomorrowland Terrace. Watch the fireworks comfortably with your loved one in this reserved viewing area of the Magic Kingdom hub, without the jabbing elbows and kids-on-dads-shoulders-right-in-front-of-you on Main Street USA.
Fancy dinner dates
Disney abounds with Signature Fine Dining experiences. One of our favorite spots for such a meal has been California Grill, located on the top floor of the Contemporary Resort (check-in on the 2nd floor of the resort, you’ll be escorted via elevator to the restaurant). Enjoy dinner overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon and Magic Kingdom.
Special bonus: Each night the lights of the restaurant are dimmed and the music to Happily Ever After is piped in as the fireworks erupt above Magic Kingdom. If you’re dining earlier in the evening, you are able to re-enter the restaurant for fireworks viewing that night by simply returning to the check-in desk and showing your dinner receipt. You can choose to view the show from inside the restaurant, or step outside to the rooftop terrace for another great view.
Take in a movie at AMC in Disney Springs
Here’s a great opportunity to get away from the park crowds on a date night at Disney. During our Christmas visit to WDW in 2013, my husband and I were a little perplexed by all the Frozen references popping up around The World. The movie had just been released, and we’d neither seen it, nor heard much about it at that point. Feeling very out of the loop, we decided to take a trip over to Disney Springs one night to take in dinner and a movie so we could see what all this Frozen fuss was about. We were pleasantly surprised by the option to combine both activities into one – AMC offers a Fork and Screen Dine-in Theater experience!
International Food and Wine Festival
If you plan to travel to Walt Disney World during the months of August to November, you’re in for a delightful (and delicious) treat. Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival features culinary delights from the 11 already-represented countries in World Showcase AND MORE. Pop up booths from places like Greece, India, and Patagonia spring up all throughout Epcot. Grab a passport and taste your way around the world.
Pro tip:Even if you don’t intend to take advantage of the special Food and Wine Festival booths, the regular eateries around World Showcase (i.e. Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in France, Sommerfest in Germany, and Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in Norway) have virtually inexistent lines during this time (as people tend to fill up at the booths instead).
These are only a few ideas for enjoying The World without kids. Certainly, these experiences can still be had WITH kids, but a certain air of freedom accompanies venturing to WDW child-less. I’ve been going to WDW since I was young. Conversely, my husband’s first Disney experience was the year we got married. And now, he’s as much as a WDW-lover as I am…proof that Disney is not only for the young, but also for the young at heart.
So long for now!