Disney World without kids: 9 ways to enjoy an adult trip to Disney
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As someone who writes Disney World guides, I spend a lot of time at Disney World either solo or with adult friends. Every time I visit Disney World without children in tow, I hear at least one “Really?” from the peanut gallery. Said peanut is usually scarred with memories of endless lines, searing heat and screaming kids. The debate over adults at Disney without kids has even spilled into social media.
The truth is that there are so many ways adults can truly enjoy Disney World without kids. Here are nine of our favorites:
A new resort option for couples
The Riviera Resort, a Disney Vacation Club property, is accepting reservations beginning December 16. While the 300-room resort (small by Disney standards) is considered a timeshare, the rooms are also available to those without DVC membership either by booking with cash via Disney or renting DVC points. Guests will even have access to the new Skyliner gondola system opening in the fall, which makes both Epcot and Hollywood Studios much more accessible.
Most notable for adults are the Tower Studios, which feature a unique layout and are the first Disney World rooms built for only two people. Each 255 square foot room (just under the 260 for a Value Resort such as Pop Century) has a single queen Murphy bed that is hidden behind a sofa for daytime use. While I understand the concept, I’m skeptical about the practical usage. To be honest, I’d take a good look at less-expensive Pop (which has both a standard queen bed and a hidden Murphy bed/table combo) before booking into Riviera’s Tower studios unless you have some budget to spare. That said, these rooms are proof Disney has adult-only visitors on its radar.
Here’s how to rent Disney Vacation Club points, which can be cheaper than booking stays with cash.
Recently, a friend and I enjoyed a spectacular view of the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks accompanied by a ukulele serenade at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and Tiki Bar in the Polynesian Resort. We added a frosty mug of rum goodness and it was pure heaven. Best of all, kids are not allowed inside Trader Sam’s after 8pm. (They are allowed on the patio outside, though.)
Another terrific spot for an adult beverage is tucked away in the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot: La Cava de Tequila. The intimate spot features more than 70 varieties of Mexico’s nectar in a variety of margarita concoctions including horchata, passion fruit and avocado (trust me on this one).
And, of course, inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Oga’s Cantina is a hot ticket for a cool drink.
Eat amazing food
You heard me right. There is amazing food at Disney World, so get off the chicken nugget express and you will find fresh, well-thought-out and all-around-great eats. Even better, you don’t have to go to the most famous of Disney’s restaurants to find excellent fare.
My personal favorite spots for Disney World dining are the sit-down casual restaurants, including The Wave Lounge in the Contemporary Resort, Ale and Compass in Beach Club Resort and Skipper Canteen in the Magic Kingdom. All three offer a dining experience that’s appropriately priced and are easy to visit with a last-minute reservation.
Disney even turns salads into art. At some restaurants, the chefs venture into the gardens and pick what they’ll use each day, so the ingredients change with the seasons. When in doubt at any Disney World restaurant, order salad. It will make up for the Dole Whip(s).
I’d be remiss not to mention the ultimate Disney World dining experience — and one only for adults — Victoria and Albert’s. This is definitely a splurge item: the least expensive menu selection is $185 before adding the wine pairings, which can take the bill over $400/person easily. That said, I’ve never heard a diner say they were disappointed with the experience. With just 14 tables in the dining room, Victoria and Albert’s is just about the hottest Disney dining ticket in existence. You’ll have to be on your A game to nab that reservation 180 days out from your visit.
Take a flight
Disney prides itself on theming, and every bar and restaurant has a specialty drink selection. The best way to enjoy them is in a flight, which comprises a handful of sample-size beverages of your choice, arranged on a sampling menu like you might see at a vineyard. From the organic beer at The Wave Lounge to the 12-year scotches I enjoyed at Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar in Disney Springs, you will get a variety of top-notch drinks at a value price.
Ride the highway in the sky
On a recent trip to Disney World, I tried out a relatively new tour: Highway in the Sky. It’s a progressive dining adventure unlike any other meal at Disney World (or anywhere else, for that matter).
On my tour, a group of diners, limited to 25 people, met at the Contemporary Resort for a ride around Bay Lake in a private monorail car. At each stop, we disembarked and enjoyed an adult beverage and personalized dining experience. To cap it off, the monorail whisked us back to the Contemporary for dessert, coffee and liqueurs on a private terrace. It provided a perfect vantage point for the Magic Kingdom fireworks, which we enjoyed while the soundtrack played along.
Highway in the Sky has an exclusive vibe, which is hard to get at Disney World. The group of diners self-selects as people who enjoy both Disney and higher-end drink and dining experiences. You are fed well, and alcohol pours freely (if anything, too freely). We were served five full drinks in three and a half hours. Kids as young as 12 and those not drinking are certainly invited, but they won’t get as much out of the $170-plus price tag. I only recommend Highway in the Sky for adults who enjoy alcoholic beverages — but for that particular group, this is one event I thought was more than worth the price.
Float in an amphicar
Get to Disney World for no other reason than to ride on the single coolest mode of transport ever created: the Amphicar, an actual car that drives into the water! At The Boathouse restaurant in Disney Springs, eight Amphicars are available for half-hour tours around Disney Springs.
The tours are available every day from 10am to 10pm, weather permitting, on a walk-up basis. I have yet to see anyone wait to get a seat. Out on the water, we felt like celebrities stalked by paparazzi with all of the iPhone cameras aimed at us.
Three adults can share the private tour. You can bring kids, but the experience is a lot more relaxing if you don’t have to worry about your little one taking a dip in the water. In other words, this is better as a grown-up experience.
What does it feel like to drive a car into a lake? In a word, surreal. The cars looks quite ordinary (besides being cool 1960s convertibles). Once you’re in the water, it feels more like driving a motorized paddleboat. Amphicars are not fast at all, but the ride is plenty smooth and comfortable. The best part? Sticking the landing.
Get $25 off your Amphicar rental if you eat lunch at The Boathouse and present your receipt.
Get your party on at an Epcot festival
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival in the fall (and Flower and Garden in the Spring) are fine with kids. That said, having done them both solo and in mom mode, they’re just so much more fun without the littles. The sheer range of dining options sails over many in the macaroni set, and festival treats are meant to be savored, not scarfed down between Test Track and Frozen.
Last year, one of my visits coincided with the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The festival includes Eat to the Beat concerts, which often feature stars from the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s. I got to relive my headbanging days to Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian.” My kids wouldn’t have sat through one verse.
If that sounds fun, here’s what is new at the festival this year. Spoiler alert: It includes air-conditioning.
Try a special tour
Did you know you can go bass fishing at Disney World? How about scuba diving? Or channel your inner Merida with archery lessons? What about go behind the scenes? All are available as special tour options and many are best suited for adults. Check out your options on Disney World’s website. You could even set up a Disney World without the parks trip with all of the fun things to do. If special access tours sound fun to you, know that having a Disney World annual pass can save you up to 15%, so check that math if there’s lots of Disney on your horizon.
Appreciate the details
Each Disney World attraction, restaurant and resort has an extensive back story. For instance, at Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar at Disney Springs, the back story is that Jock, who was Indiana Jones’ pilot and friend, retired and opened a bar. Sitting at that bar, it was a good half-hour before I realized the case under my seat was jam-packed with artifacts that supported the narrative.
I spent a long time last year in the Animal Kingdom noticing the torn layers of posters in Harambe Market, a casual dining spot in the Africa section of the park. Each one had to be hand-painted just to be ripped up so a half inch would show through. I had a chance to chat with the Harambe Imagineers who spent weeks in Africa sourcing artifacts and researching the scenery. If you’re chasing kids on every visit, you’ll miss all of that hard work, which is OK, but try to visit at least once when you can appreciate all the little things.
I hope I’ve convinced you to try at least a few days without kids at Disney World. I like coming to Disney even when I don’t have a park ticket. I stay on-property to restaurant and bar hop, and I certainly don’t miss waiting in line with the kids for Slinky Dog Dash.
Want to read more about Disney parks around the world? Check out TPG’s other Disney guides…
- The Best Points Hotels Near Disney World
- TPG’s Ultimate Guide to Disney World
- In the Shadow of the Mouse: Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs
- 9 Things Families Should Know Before Visiting Disneyland
- How to Save Money By Renting Disney Vacation Club Points
- The 10 Best Disney Thrill Rides Around the World
- How to Use Points to Buy Disney Tickets
- 10 Things Kids Will Love at the Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii
- How to Ride Every Disney World Ride in One Day
- How to Eat Healthy at Disney World
Featured image by David Roark, photographer for Disney
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