If you think that only kids can enjoy Disney World — that once you’re an adult, the magic is over and “Magic Kingdom” is just a name cooked up in some marketing department meeting that took place in the late 1960s — then you, sir, are a sad, sad man. And besides, you’re wrong! It’s easy to enjoy Disney World as an adult; all you need is the right attitude and a bit of insider information, and you can have a great time whether you’re there with the kids or you are having a purely adult visit to Epcot, Animal Kingdom, or any of the Disney theme parks.
First things first, if you think you need alcohol to have fun at Disney World as an adult, well… it helps, sure. And it’s not as hard to come by as it once was. Disney is no longer a 100% dry park; as of late 2016, you can now get booze at multiple locations within the Magic Kingdom (up from just one — the Be Our Guest restaurant — for many years). You’ll be limited to beer and wine, but FYI there’s alcohol in beer and wine. Also flasks are a thing.
However, if your idea of a good time is limited to drinking, then Disney is a pretty expensive place to do your boozing; you’d be better off just putting on a copy of The Lion King and sipping whiskey in your basement. (Sounds… fun.) While having a drink or three certainly helps, Disney World is actually a pretty great place to visit as an adult whether you tipple heavily or not.
MASTER THE FASTPASS
If you don’t already know what a Disney FastPass is, then you have some learning to do. The short story, however, is that a FastPass offers you a pre-assigned window of time during which you can cut to near the front of the line for a ride. Sounds convenient, right? Well, these days, they’re more like necessities than conveniences. Seriously. If you don’t get a FastPass, you can pretty much forget about Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, or any of the other classic ride, unless waiting for two or more hours sounds like your idea of fun. FastPasses can be booked many days in advance, and if you want any chance of selecting the times and rides you want, you’d better plan ahead. You can book three daily FastPasses per park entrance ticket ahead of time, and once those are used up, you can add one at a time on the same day, provided any are available. Use your FastPasses for the more popular rides (AKA the rides popular with grownups) and plan to wait in line a bit more the kiddy rides, such as It’s a Small World (which also moves a pretty high volume of people, so is usually not worth a FastPass).
GO LATER IN THE EVENING
If you’re visiting Disney World without kids, or if your kids are old enough to stay up late (or, better yet, you have someone who can babysit them at night), head to the Magic Kingdom in the late afternoon or evening. Most rides operate until 11 at night on most days, so you can enjoy hours of fun even if you don’t arrive at the park until the afternoon. One of the best times to start a day at Disney (or to return for a second helping) is six in the evening, when so many visitors have left to have dinner and/or to tuck younger kids into bed. The crowds are thinner, the lines shorter, and the average age of the park guests will be older so you won’t have to worry as much about un-Disney-like language.
HANG OUT AT DISNEY SPRINGS
Disney Springs, formerly called Downton Disney (apparently there was some confusion, with people wondering whether or not this name referred to Downtown Orlando, which it doesn’t) has several fine restaurants and bars (House of Blues, e.g.), a huge bowling alley, and myriad opportunities for fun that don’t require the price of an admission ticket to a park. You can catch a boat ride to and from Disney Springs to the multiple resorts lining the lagoons and canals of the area, which is a free and enjoyable source of recreation; you can pay a few bucks for a ride into the sky aboard a hot air balloon; and at night, Disney Springs offers great views of the amazing fireworks display that lights up the sky every day of the week.
VISIT EPCOT AT THE RIGHT TIME OF YEAR
Epcot Center is arguably the best place for an adult to have fun at Disney in the first place; there are fewer kid-friendly rides there as compared to the Magic Kingdom, so there are often fewer kids at Epcot than at other parks. Epcot also has a series of annual festivals and events that cater to certain interests; visiting during a special event that suits your fancy will only enhance your enjoyment. For example, if you’re a music lover, the Sounds Like Summer concert series in June and July sees nightly live music played by amazing rock tribute bands. The International Food and Wine Festival sees even more great eats and drinks than usual available in the many international pavilions of Epcot Center. Of course, as you can get great beers, all sorts of wine, and good, strong cocktails all year round at Epcot, it’s pretty much always a good place for an adult to visit.
And for the record, we are indeed talking about Florida’s Disney World specifically, though much of this “wisdom” can be transferred to California’s classic Disneyland. They serve plenty of booze at the Disneyland partner park, California Adventure, for example, so think of that as a stand-in for Epcot.