If you’re childless adults visiting Walt Disney World without the kids, we have info & tips for making the most of your trip. This includes romantic hotels, relaxed experiences, bars & lounges, and other unique activities catering to an older audience. How to do Disney as adults should be a topic of interest for couples, friends, or anyone else looking for a more sophisticated or slower-paced vacation.
Despite the misconception that Walt Disney World is only for families, there has always been a lot for adults to do. After years of marketing Walt Disney World almost exclusively to families with small children, things are finally starting to change. As of the time we last updated this post, we’ve been noticing more adult offerings at Walt Disney World in the last couple of years.
This includes hotels like Disney’s Riviera Resort and Gran Destino Tower, restaurants by celebrity chefs at Disney Springs, an explosion of bars & lounges, adult-oriented special events, and more. Walt Disney World is now aggressively catering to adults without kids, a demographic that accounts for over half of all visitors….
It might surprise some families, but Walt Disney World is actually quite popular for adults without kids. There’s an unfortunate stereotype that childless adults who visit Walt Disney World are weird or odd (and maybe we are, but that has nothing to do with our affinity for WDW!). This stereotype is an outright myth.
As with families, many adults who enjoy visiting Walt Disney World appreciate the escapist environments, fun attractions, wonderful details, great dining, and other options. By and large, they enjoy the parks for a lot of the same reasons families do. However, they also enjoy some different experiences at the parks (and beyond), and this post tries to speak to some of those more adult experiences. Note that these experiences aren’t reserved exclusively for adults traveling without kids–with great childcare services at Walt Disney World, and “adults-only” date night can be perfect for parents, too!
As you may know, my wife and I are visitors of the childless adult variety, and we get a lot of enjoyment out of Walt Disney World…but probably in some different ways than many families. Here’s how we do Disney…
If you’re one of the people who can put aside the cynicism and look for the quality adult-oriented entertainment and experiences at Walt Disney World, you’re in for a lot of fun. We’ve already touched upon a lot of these things in our “Walt Disney World Honeymoon Tips” post.
Think of this as a bit of a sequel to that post, with less (albeit some) focus on the “romantic” side of adult offerings. About the biggest distinction between honeymooners and adults without kids is a potential lack of romance, so we’re mostly focusing on that. Still the same concept.
Everyone’s idea of how to do Walt Disney World for adults is a bit different. Some adults enjoy things like character meet & greets, and some adults like peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. I’m not passing judgment on these folks (I like characters and PB&J!), but I’m going to aim for the experiences and adult activities that I think will have the broadest appeal to average adults…
The first question when planning this type of a trip is where to stay? If you’re doing an adults-only Walt Disney World trip, we don’t recommend Disney’s Art of Animation Resort or one of the other resorts featuring larger-than-life Disney characters. These resorts are primarily themed towards children. Unfortunately, these are the cheapest resorts at Walt Disney World, so you’re going to have to spend a bit more for ideal adults-only Disney accommodations (or, you can go off-property).
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be too much more expensive. The “Moderate” tier of Walt Disney World resort-hotels has several nice options. These include both Port Orleans Resorts if you’re after something romantic, or Coronado Springs Resorts if you want amenities more tailored towards adults. You can read more about these in our Walt Disney World Moderate Hotel Rankings.
While we personally favor Port Orleans Riverside, there’s a lot to be said for Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. It can be appealing because it’s the “convention” resort among the moderates, and has amenities that go along with that. Moreover, Gran Destino Tower is a lot like a Las Vegas style hotel, albeit with a Disney twist. Thematically, it’s not Disney’s finest work, but it’s hard to argue with the adult amenities and value for money–especially at the Chronos Club Level!
If luxurious themed hotels are more your style, we prefer the Epcot resorts (BoardWalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, and the Swan & Dolphin). They’re all within walking distance of Epcot’s World Showcase (the highlight of the theme parks for adults) and within walking distance of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you’re not a fan of walking, boat service is available to both parks.
Another great option is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is especially good for those who don’t have as much interest in the theme parks. This resort is filled with rich cultural theming, and just outside the hotel is a savanna with animals roaming it.
If you have the money, a room overlooking this savanna is a great option and a balcony overlooking the savanna could provide you with the perfect relaxing hangout spot. The other great benefit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is that three very nice restaurants (Jiko, Sanaa, and Boma) plus a great bar are located at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Alternately, if you like luxury, but don’t need to stay in a Disney hotel, there are a variety of nice hotels in Disney Springs and just off property. Among these hotels are the Four Seasons, Waldorf Astoria, and Ritz Carlton. The overall experience off-property isn’t the same as it is when staying within the confines of Walt Disney World, but luxury travelers may find that the Disney accommodations aren’t up to snuff or don’t offer good value for money.
If you are unsure of which hotel might be best for you–or need personalized help with any aspect of your trip–we recommend contacting a no fee “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” (basically, Disney’s term for a travel agent) to get a quote and to help you plan. They get their commission from Disney, so none of the authorized (key word) planners will charge you for booking their trip and helping. Here’s one such recommended Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
When Walt Disney World closed its Pleasure Island nightclub complex a few years ago, Disney’s most “adult” form of nighttime entertainment died. Even though Pleasure Island is gone from Disney Springs, there are still several other locations there that have great nightlife.
Raglan Road, Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar, Morimoto Asia, STK, Jaleo, Wine Bar George, the Edison, and the Boathouse are just some of the options that are great for adults later in the evening hours. Since Disney Springs has sprung to life, we are much more interested in this entertainment district, and now visit several times per trip. It’s much more convenient than it used to be, and there are some awesome dining options and bars.
The BoardWalk, which is part of a hotel that we recommend above, has good nightlife. Starting an evening at the excellent Flying Fish Cafe and concluding the night at Jellyrolls (dueling) piano bar with stops to see the boardwalk entertainers along the way is a great way to spend an evening. From there, you can also see the nightly Epcot fireworks, Illuminations, without going into the park.
In the resorts, some great options include Territory Lounge at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Crew’s Cup Lounge at Disney’s Yacht Club, Mizner’s Lounge at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and Bellevue Lounge at Disney’s BoardWalk. Really, you can’t go wrong at any of the Deluxe Resort lounges.
For a truly unique nightlife experience, we recommend Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Tucked away into a quiet corner away from the lobby, this is a themed tiki bar that features interactive effects, tons of detail, and references to classic Disney attractions. Even if you don’t drink, it’s worth going here solely for the entertainment value. (Just order an appetizer and non-alcoholic drink–it’s totally worth it!)
Surprisingly, some of the best bars are actually located inside the parks! With the exception of Magic Kingdom (where you can only order alcohol for dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant), every park has at least one excellent bar.
There’s La Cava del Tequila at Epcot, Tune-In Lounge (part of the 50s Prime Time Cafe) at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Nomad Lounge or Dawa Bar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Just don’t have one too many there and fall into an animal area!
There are a lot of nice restaurants at Walt Disney World, but the vast majority of them are in the resort-hotels, so most people never experience them. Instead, they eat at the large counter service restaurants, many of which churn out uninspired options in order to quickly service a high volume of guests. If you’ve ever heard any of your friends complaining about the dining at Walt Disney World–that’s why.
If you’re doing an adults only trip, make an effort to eat at restaurants outside of the theme parks (if you’re really ambitious, make it your goal to eat at least one non-theme park meal per day). Even if it’s only doing a counter service restaurant at the Mara, eating outside the parks will make you more likely to explore the resorts in which they’re located, taking a stroll along the beach or sitting in front of a lobby fireplace while you’re there.
If you really want to have an inexpensive but slow-paced Walt Disney World dining experience, head over to Captain Cook’s at night, grab some snacks, and then grab a hammock on the beach and watch the Wishes Magic Kingdom fireworks show. A relaxed way to enjoy the fireworks with a drink in hand…pure perfection.
As far as nicer table service restaurants go, there truly are too many to list comprehensively. We’ve compiled our list of the Top Romantic Walt Disney World Table Service Restaurants, but there are countless options that didn’t make the list. Although we have not dined at them, we’ve also heard great things about the restaurants at the Swan & Dolphin hotels, and those options are high on our list of places to try in the near future.
It’s on that list, but the restaurant that really bears separate mention here is Victoria & Albert’s. It’s by far the best restaurant for adults at Walt Disney World (not just according to me–Zagats agrees!). There are some other restaurants that we really enjoy that didn’t make our “top” list–you can read all of our Disney restaurant reviews here. Even if you are on a trip with kids, you might consider getting a babysitter and having a date night at one of these restaurants!
One thing worth noting for those who aren’t Walt Disney World regulars: some restaurants at Walt Disney World are “character dining” meals. If you’re not interested in meeting Disney characters, you should avoid these restaurants. By and large, they are loud and filled with kids. We happen to enjoy character dining, but we’re big Disney geeks who get kicks out of that sort of thing.
In general, we seem to find fewer children at the resort-hotel restaurants late at night. Families generally eat earlier and in the parks, so going at the end of the night can be a respite from kids (if they bother you).
Are certain Disney attractions more adult than others? Ehhh, if we really wanted to bump up the word count of this article (a noble goal, indeed), we could come up with a tortured list, but I think it would serve little purpose. By and large, the attractions are a constant. They’re the main draw of Walt Disney World, and you should experience the attractions that you most enjoy, or the ones you most expect to enjoy. They won’t really set the tone of the trip one way or the other.
The only recommendation here is to avoid anything with even a moderate wait time. Whereas there are some “rite of passage” attractions that parents with kids shouldn’t miss, as adults, there’s nothing that should be all too devastating if you miss (unless you have an absolute favorite attraction you simply cannot miss). Plus, there’s nothing relaxed or romantic about spending hours in line with other peoples’ children. That is, unless you need some “motivational” birth control.
To prevent this section from being totally superfluous, we do have one recommendation for doing “non-attraction” attractions. What does this mean? We have no idea, to be honest. Actually, what it means is doing things that aren’t listed on the park maps as attractions, but can be such enjoyable experiences that they ought to be considered attractions. Our favorite non-attraction attraction is Drinking Around the World Showcase.
If you’re not a drinker, try replacing alcohol with snacks. (If you love snacks and booze, combine both for the ultimate experience!) World Showcase is a great place to find great food and beverages, with some fun entertainment along the way. Your own self-driven “exploration” tours of the parks also fit the bill here.
For example, if you’ve got a green thumb, you can wander around the parks looking at the numerous types of flowers used (for a low-cost alternative, check out the Behind the Seeds at Epcot tour). If you’re interested in old Hollywood, wander around Disney’s Hollywood Studios examining the different props throughout the parks. Interested in a certain type of architecture? Find a park or resort that includes examples of that architecture.
The possibilities are truly endless here, and these self-driven explorations will give you a greater appreciation for Walt Disney World. Not only will you have a lot of fun in the process, but you’ll see that Walt Disney World isn’t the simple kiddie park many people degrade it as being.
There is no shortage of special activities at Walt Disney World for adults. The problem will be the amount of money you’re willing to shell out for such activities. Options range from things as simply as a couples trip to the spa (or solo trips to the spa and golf course) to things as extravagant as a private dinner in the Tower of Terror. Other popular options include fireworks cruises and tours.
A free alternative to a fireworks cruise is timing a free boat ride from the Ticket & Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom right as the fireworks start. You’ll be on the boat with about one hundred of your closest friends, but it’s a big boat, and that’s still far fewer people than on Main Street! Try the boats from the Magic Kingdom resort hotels to the Magic Kingdom for a more intimate experience than the TTC to Magic Kingdom boat.
It’s difficult to list all of the special experiences you can have if you’re willing to pay a bit extra because there are simply so many. Disney has become very adept at exploiting its property for profit over the years, to the point where (literally) anything is possible if you’re willing to pay the price. Many of these experiences originated as part of Disney’s Fairytale Wedding packages, but are now offered to non-wedding guests. Many of these things are fairly extravagant and expensive (‘If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford them’ level of expensive!)
Less costly options include some of the above, Disney tours, private photo sessions, and carriage rides are all great options. A few of the tours that go backstage specifically prohibit kids under a certain age, and the content can be interesting for even those who aren’t hardcore Disney fans. These “tours” include diving in Epcot, swimming with Dolphins, and Segway tours. As for the photo sessions, we recommend contacting a local photographer (rather than a Disney one), and doing a shoot at one of the resort hotels.
All in all, there are a lot of ways adults can get more enjoyment out of a Disney trip. Our caveat with this particular list is that since we haven’t personally tested most of this “special stuff,” we can’t offer a resounding recommendation. Quite the contrary, in fact. We haven’t tried most of these offerings because we expect the price to be greater than the value. We also don’t find it necessary to spend the insane amounts of money that some things on the “special stuff” list require, but if you have the money and don’t care about value, you might as well give them a try.
While we’ve listed a lot of things here that are great for adults that we personally do (and some we don’t), this just begins to scratch the surface of things adults could do to have a great time at Walt Disney World. If you have your own tips for adult activities at Walt Disney World, please share them in the comments!