Want a taste of how the other half lives? No, not the rich and the famous. The "Disney adult."
Childless, we visit Walt Disney World not only for the coasters but also for the four star dining from Michelin-awarded chefs, entertainment and more. The Disney adult lifestyle has blown up on social media with fierce opinions from both sides. A proud group, they've been met with animosity and utter confusion from those who can't fathom why one would visit a theme park without children.
For me, it's simple: Walt Disney World is much more than beloved characters and reliving fond childhood memories — and dare I say I have even more fun on my frequent visits than the kids? Walt Disney World is an adult's playground with a AAA Five Diamond Award-winning restaurant, the only sommelier-owned wine bar in Florida, award-winning food festivals and one of the nation's top tequila bars. And that's just the tip of the mouse-obsessed iceberg.
As an annual passholder since the ’90s and a monthly visitor, here's how I enjoy the most magical place on Earth — sans children.
Book at least one signature dining experience per visit
Dining is a big part of why Disney adults keep coming back, and Walt Disney World's signature dining experiences are nothing short of incredible. With not only a well-thought-out menu, but also an expertly-curated cocktail and wine list, my favorite is Topolino's Terrace — Flavors of the Riviera, located inside Disney's Riviera Resort. This rooftop spot is home to jaw-dropping views of the parks and fireworks plus a menu that takes inspiration from French and Italian cuisines. My must-eat? Arguably, the best filet mignon on property — topped with onion jus and a savory shallot jam.
Splash, sip and unwind on a waterpark day
I love building in at least half a day to visit Disney's Typhoon Lagoon water park. Instead of running from slide to slide like the kiddos, I prefer to enjoy the spacious sandy beaches and wave pool. Let's Go Slurpin', the park's waterside bar, is home to brightly-hued tropical drinks. For all things Dole whip, Typhoon Tilly's snack shack serves up the beloved park snack along with a shot of rum or tequila. Relax — you're on island time.
Hit up happy hour at Disney Springs
Happy hour isn't a common thing around Walt Disney World, but at Disney Springs, the shopping, entertainment and dining venue on property, there are a few reasons to cheer for great deals. I love to begin my night in the lounge of vibey steakhouse STK Orlando for their standout raw bar offerings, like jumbo shrimp and oysters, and specialty cocktails like the Cucumber Stiletto, that are offered at a discount during happy hour.
Disney's Animal Kingdom is an adult delight
While eating and drinking around the world is popular at Epcot, I love the wild side of the food and beverage scene at Disney's Animal Kingdom. After spending the morning riding my favorite attractions, like Avatar Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest — Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, I enjoy an afternoon snack-and-drink crawl around the largest Disney theme park in the world. My favorite spots include the globally-inspired bites at Nomad Lounge, rum concoctions at Yak and Yeti and enjoying the live music in the park's Africa section while bellied up to Dawa Bar.
La Cava Experience
For something truly intimate, the La Cava Experience is a splurge-worthy offering fit for an adults-only trip. Held at the popular agave spirits bar inside the Mexico pavilion at Epcot, a certified tequila ambassador leads your small group through a tasting of high end and rare tequilas and mezcals. There are even chips and guacamole and fried grasshoppers (Yes, fried grasshoppers.) to cleanse the palate between sips.
Disney's Hollywood Studios delivers in thrills, chills and sips
Some of my favorite thrilling attractions are at Disney's Hollywood Studios, like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, but the park is the entire package for the Disney adult. Aside from standout food in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge (Get the Ronto wrap!), it's also home to some of the best in-park bars, like the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge and Tune-In Lounge. BaseLine Tap House is also a favorite, pouring West Coast craft beers and serving up the best charcuterie board on property.
Epcot festivals are a must
While the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, Walt Disney World's longest-running festival, gets all the glory, the theme park hosts four annual food and wine festivals each year. With dozens of food and drink options exclusive to these festivals, they're a great opportunity to get outside your comfort zone by trying sample-sized portions. The theme park also partners with local craft breweries to showcase up-and-coming brews which is always a highlight.
Take a break aboard the Skyliner
If I'm needing a break from the parks and Florida's inevitable heat, I love to ride the Disney Skyliner to Disney's Riviera Resort. The sprawling Mediterranean-inspired hotel is home to my favorite coffee shop on property, Le Petit Café. Brewing Tampa-sourced Joffrey's Coffee, you can grab a cold brew before relaxing next door in the Voyageurs' Lounge. Themed to Walt Disney's travels around Europe, this stylish nook is a cozy spot to kick back and enjoy board games and gawk at the relics of Disney history that line the walls.
It’s not all corn dog nuggets at Magic Kingdom
A true Disney adult knows it's so much more than hot dogs and pretzels at Walt Disney World. While Magic Kingdom Park is rampant with theme park food staples, it's also home to one of the property's most interesting restaurants. Themed to the fan-favorite Jungle Cruise, Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen is full of Easter eggs for long-time Disney Parks fans. Paired with a standout menu, it's always a hit for me. You can also throw back a few here, like the Disney World exclusive Kungaloosh draft beer, to forget about the throngs of strollers and screaming children outside.
My favorite restaurants are at Disney Springs
Disney Springs is a hotbed of celebrity chef-fueled restaurants. As the only master sommelier-owned restaurant in the state, Wine Bar George leads as one of the top restaurants on property. Incredible bites —like saganaki (fried cheese) on fire and grilled whole sea bass — are paired with over 150 rare and interesting pours of wine available by the glass.
Morimoto Asia is helmed by the acclaimed Iron Chef and dazzles with an approachable but outstanding selection of Japanese dishes, including a buttery A5 Wagyu that will set you back a pretty penny per ounce, but is absolutely worth it.
Explore the resort lounges
Reservations are practically a must for families with kids, but Disney adults have the flexibility to wing it. Some of the best dining experiences can be found at Disney's many resort lounges. My favorites include the incredible bites at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge's Victoria Falls Lounge and Dahlia Lounge, located in the Gran Destino Tower at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort. The craft cocktails also continue to impress at Disney's BoardWalk, where magician-themed AbracadaBar is located.
Fireworks and champagne
The only thing better than fireworks over Cinderella Castle? Fireworks, champagne and a reserved viewing space far from the overwhelming crowd. While the Tomorrowland Terrace dessert party is open to all ages, the value is further felt for adults who like to partake in the many 50th anniversary-themed desserts and unlimited beverages. This two-hour experience includes a reserved fireworks viewing space, reserved seating during the food and beverage service and unlimited wine, beer and champagne. Sip, sip, hooray!
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