I grew up just a couple of hours from Disney World in Florida. It was my happy place long before the castle t-shirts started selling on Etsy.
Disney was my annual birthday trip, mother-daughter getaway vacation spot, yearly French Club fieldtrip (Epcot)… a place that excited and delighted me, yet felt like home.
When I became a mom in 2011, bringing my child to Disney became one of my mommy goals- sharing my favorite place, recreating memories from my childhood with my little man, meeting characters, the whole 9 yards! It was going to be magical, memorable, and absolutely fantastic.
….and then I realized that Disney with kids is absolutely exhausting. I have no idea how my mom did it when I was little- waking up before dawn to drive a couple of hours, run ragged all day, and then drive home. Don’t get me wrong, there is delight in bringing your children to Disney… watching their faces light up when they see their favorite characters, experience a ride for the first time… it’s all new when you get to see it from their perspective.
However, you also gain a renewed appreciation for Adults-Only Disney. You don’t battle lines unless you want to, you get to try the restaurants kids aren’t interested in… you can do the fun experiences, and soak it all in (with appropriate pool/lounging breaks) without fearing that you’re not seeing and doing it all to maximize the experience for your little ones.
This trip was our second no-kids Disney vacation, and was full of awesome moments, and new go-to’s. We went in September (for Rabbit’s birthday), vacationed in Disney luxury, and got to catch things that neither of us had done before- including my birthday gift to him: private surfing lessons at Typhoon Lagoon, and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!
The resort. This trip we stayed at The Grand Floridian. Wow. I’d been to the lobby on the monorail, waltzed through the corridors exploring during previous visits… but staying there was a whole new, and wonderful experience. It felt truly special. A great place to stay without kids (its a little more serious and swanky than other resorts), it still had a great poolside (and kiddie area for those going with kids), and a very spacious and quiet hot-tub area (for those who may need to relax and loosen their muscles after surfing or a long day at the parks). Food was delicious at the Grand Floridian Cafe (casual sit down), and Gasparilla Island Grille (their quick-service location). *Bonus: if you snag a spot outside Gasparilla Island Grille at firework time, you can watch the fireworks from Magic Kingdom, and enjoy the theme music which is piped through that area of the resort for your viewing pleasure – MUCH better than battling crowds. The lobby has a lot of hidden special touches (in Disney fashion), and was really a pleasure just to sit back and enjoy.*
The Surfing. Prior to this trip, the only “special experience” I had done at Disney was a Keys to the Kingdom Tour (also totally work checking out). Our morning of surfing, however, left me craving opportunities to check out more special experiences. As you may guess from their typical level of customer service, “special experiences” are truly special. Rabbit had shared with me that he had always wanted to learn to surf (yet has a fear of sharks)… and this seemed perfect. Staffed by professionals with real surfing experience, classes are held before park opening (yes, its an early start), and include only a small group of students. The best part? Professional photos of all of your wipe outs are included – along with a light breakfast. We got very lucky, and even though the classes cap out at about 12 people, we were in a group of three students (others had cancelled last minute), so we got practically 1:1 instruction. It was amazing… and MUCH harder than it looks! Though I only got up on the board successfully one time, and got pounded pretty well by a few of the waves, it was worth every moment (and the very reasonable cost of $199/per person). The photos are incredible, and it was really awesome to get to experience the water park before open – no crowds, no pressure, and plenty of time to enjoy our lessons.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. You may wonder why two adults would choose to go to a seemingly kid-centric Halloween Party at Disney without kids. Honestly, when we were initially planning the trip, so did I. After looking closer though, how could you resist? The Party takes place late in the day, technically after park close (you can get in earlier – I think 6pm – when you check in and get your wristband)… which means fewer crowds (and a cheaper ticket price). Disney sets up special themed experiences and foods, has special parades and experiences throughout the park, and keeps all of your favorite attractions running for the duration of the evening. (Idk if you’re noticing the recurrent idea that we wanted to avoid large crowds… but that was our main goal). Though we only stopped at a couple of the candy stations (had to do it at least once!), we loved the Halloween-themed parade (complete with a dance of the grave diggers from the Haunted Mansion, a headless horseman… and the usual suspects in their Halloween best), and the overall feel of the evening. It was a great time, and something that I definitely think we will revisit someday- perhaps even with the kids in tow. *Fun fact: if you/any of your travelling companions have a nut or other food allergy, and you’re concerned about allergy-friendly candy while trick-or-treating, have no fear. Disney handled that extremely well, and has a token system and full monitoring of what is handed out. You’re in good hands, just make sure you check in with a cast member.*
Other highlights for us really center on Downtown Disney – aka Disney Springs. We do a little restaurant sampling at every visit to make sure we try it all. A potentially unpopular opinion: we didn’t love Morimoto Asia. It had great atmosphere, but the food didn’t live up to the hype or our expectations. Surprisingly, one of our favorite spots is the outdoor seating at Splitsville. Open late and equipped with several TV’s, outdoor heaters, and a decent menu – it is our go-to spot to relax, enjoy the sights, and watch an Eagles game while away. It’s somewhat typical sports bar food – burgers, wings, etc…. but the pizza is one of our favorites.
We also got to check out Pandora at Animal Kingdom, and enjoy a meal at Tiffins (a more adult dining experience than others). We planned a strategic visit- focused on our must-sees, and on enjoying our new food experience. It was great – the rides were beyond my expectations, and the area theming is incredible!
Though an adults-only trip may not seem like the prime Disney experience, I firmly believe it’s a must for all adults- at least once in their lifetime (or per year as is our goal!).
See ya real soon!