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Disney World for adults

- February 17th, 2010

Walt Disney World makes a great family vacation destination.

Children will love being made over to look like a pirate or Disney princess in Downtown Disney. Their mouths will drop when they meet Cinderella at the Magic Kingdom. Having a real-time conversation with Nemo’s turtle friend Crush in Epcot will keep them entertained for hours.

Is Disney a great vacation destination for adults, though? What is there to love for the childless couple who wants to take a Disney trip? Can Mom and Dad sneak away from the family vacation for a few hours to find peace and grown-up entertainment?

My mission on a recent Disney World media trip was to discover if the park would make a great vacation spot for adults. I can now say, yes, adults can have an enjoyable time at Disney World, though they’ll want to pack plenty of patience for the trip.

Grown-ups will be playing dodgeball with strollers when venturing through any of Disney’s four theme parks, especially in the Magic Kingdom. Activities for adults in this particular park are limited (though everyone should take the iconic “It’s a Small World” voyage once) and, because of this, you may leave more frustrated than not.

Instead, stick to areas of Walt Disney World designed for adults, like Downtown Disney, or for the child within, like Epcot.

Epcot offers rides and attractions with a scientific edge, such as Mission: Space (an interactive journey to Mars) Ellen’s Energy Adventure (where the popular talk show host explores the dinosaur era) or Test Track (a fast paced trip through a GM test drive centre). Any curious adult will enjoy and appreciate these offerings.

Italy
The Italy area of Epcot’s Showcase Plaza.

Epcot’s Showcase Plaza is another terrific find for adults. Small villages representing 11 different countries are arranged in a horseshoe and feature iconic buildings, landmarks, and restaurants serving regional cuisine. In the Mexico area, for example, dine on tacos and churros, and drink margaritas inside a building that looks like a Mayan ruin. In the Canada area, eat steak next to a replica of the Rocky Mountains.

Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney is the most adult area of Walt Disney World and the place to be when the sun goes down. Here, grown-ups will find plenty of restaurants, bars, an Irish-themed pub, a Cuban cigar shop, and even a comedy club. If bar-hopping gets a bit old, though, the next-door AMC 24 theatre is a great place to relax and enjoy current movies on the big screen.

It’s nearly impossible to see all Disney has to offer in one trip, even when focusing on more mature activities, but there are a few must-visit restaurants, attractions, and rides grown-ups should consider when planning their trip to the Happiest Place on Earth:

Paradiso
The bar at Paradiso 37.

Restaurant: Paradiso 37. If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, try this Downtown Disney eatery. The food here is inspired by Central and South American countries and the bar, stocked with 37 varieties of tequila, is impressive. Try the pisco sour mixed drink with your enchiladas, Chilean-style salmon, or Argentinean skirt steak.

The California Grill was also highly recommended to me. Located at the top of the Contemporary Resort, guests dine on a gourmet menu, which includes sushi, tenderloin, and oven-fired flatbreads, while enjoying a great view of the Magic Kingdom and Cinderella’s Castle.

Soarin
Take a trip on Soarin’. (Courtesy Walt Disney World)

Ride: Soarin’. I had every intention of riding Epcot’s Soarin’, but an ill-fated visit to Mission: Space nixed that and left my stomach seriously queasy (when ride attendants say Mission: Space’s orange level adventure is more intense than level green, they really do mean it). However, every adult I spoke with on our trip recommended Soarin’ as one of Disney’s top rides.

Soarin’ simulates a ride on a hang glider over the city of San Francisco and other areas of California. A 360-degree IMAX screen surrounds you as you take in the sights, feel the wind, and smell the scents of the ocean and orange groves.

Attraction: Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba. After you wine and dine in Pleasure Island, head to Downtown Disney’s circus attraction from the Canadian troupe. Located in a big top designed for the show, this is the only place you’ll see this specific Cirque performance. Whether you’re a fan of Cirque or new to performance art, adults will love being swept away in the colours and acrobatic feats of La Nouba.

Night spot: Jellyrolls. Located among the restaurants, dance halls, and midway of Disney’s Boardwalk, Jellyrolls is a dueling piano bar for guests age 21 and older. Sing along – Jellyrolls invites guests to stump their pianists with song requests – or just sit back and have a drink while the pianists battle on stage.

Floridian
Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Resort: Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Some of Disney’s resorts, such as Animal Kingdom Lodge or Pop Century, are playgrounds for children. The stately Grand Floridian, though, is a place where adults get to feel like a king or queen.

The demographics are different, more grown-up at the Grand Floridian, said Patrick McDirmit, general manager of the Grand Floridian Spa. The spa, located in a stand-alone building next to the resort, plays a part in this, especially for parents.

“Here, if you have two hours, you’d come here to get a massage,” McDirmit said. “Guests are in a time crunch, they want to come and relax, so they don’t have to plan another vacation to relax.”

If a Disney wedding is in your plans, consider the whimsical ballrooms at the Grand Floridian to add a touch of elegance and class to your event.

- Nicole Feenstra

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