Adulting Through Disneyworld
Earlier this year, a confluence of opportunity and timing lined up, offering me the chance to hit Disneyworld with some friends for the first time as an adult. Now while I, like most of my generation, was raised on their backlog of films, I’ve never been especially drawn to Disney with the same fervor as some of the more passionate fans. But I love travel, theme parks, and I extra-love trying new foods, so it wasn’t very hard to sell me on the adventure. That said, I did wonder what it would be like, tackling Disneyworld with neither children to entertain nor a youthful stamina, to say nothing of my tendency toward motion sickness.
For those curious about the same thing, I decided to briefly detail my trip. Oh, and it goes without saying, but I of course didn’t do everything, so this is by no means a comprehensive guide. Just what I managed to experience in the course of a single trip.
The park most geared toward children, this is where groups tend to start off their vacations. I liked this one though, partially because it being the original and the flagship means there is a ton of stuff packed into that space, with decades of tradition and history piled together making it all feel more textured. There’s always something to see, watch, or do; it launched the whole park for a reason.
Rides: Generally, the rides here are geared for the younger folks, meaning my tender tummy was able to withstand the vast majority of them. Seven Dwarves Mine Car is really fun on a Fastpass, probably not worth it if the lines are still hours long. There are ample chill rides that are great scenery, like Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. Most of the powerful coasters like Space Mountain are still generally manageable, though I’d save those for the end of the day just to be safe.
Food: Between the array of lands, stands, restaurants, and carts, Magic Kingdom has more variety than it might appear at first. The standout experience was an easy one to pick, however. They have a restaurant where you eat French food in the castle from Beauty and the Beast. That was booked by communal consensus before we ever reached the park, and overall a pretty damn cool experience with surprisingly good grub. Don’t skip on that Gray Stuff Cupcake either.
X-Factor: Parades. This park throws a huge parade in the middle of the day that draws a ton of people, freeing up rides, but also messing up traffic and routes for a time. As a child of New Orleans, parades are in my blood, so this will always be a positive point.
Commonly called “The adult park” it sadly features less kink-wear and open-air fuckin’ than that nickname would suggest. Epcot is known for having less rides/shows/generally kid entertainment than most of the other park options, and a stronger emphasis on things like food and shopping. Also, for being goddamn huge and hard on the feet.
Rides: Weirdly, Epcot was a way harder ride experience than MK. It might have less, but by and large the ones it does have are power-players. Even doing the low-stress Mission: Space left me a bit queasy, and the Dinosaur ride shakes just a hair too much for comfort. I did enjoy Soarin’, which is where you’re suspended in the air and look at scenery, and recovered some vitality in there.
Food: Holy shit, the food at Epcot. For all the lackluster elements in the ride section, I still loved Epcot, and it came down to their food. Since the whole gimmick is lands from all over the world, there are all sorts of cuisines, drinks, snacks, you name it. My standout would be Les Halles for all the various snacks we ate there, or Chefs de France for the best meal of the trip. Yes, I do clearly have a predilection for French food, but I think we can blame part of that on the Cajun heritage. Or the fact that they’re quite free with the cheese and butter.
X-Factor: Drinking around the world. The fact that Epcot has an unofficial event where you spend the day buying booze from all the different lands while touring around gave it an early lead. Actually getting to do it and taste the various drinks was an awesome time. Lots of fun, would definitely recommend if you have a responsibility-free day.
The “newest” park in the lineup (opened in 1998, AK is old enough to buy a beer) Animal Kingdom is part theme park, part nature reserve. Having some fun rides and lots of creatures to see was the main draw until recently, when they added Pandora from Avatar as a land, much to the confusion of basically everyone. Once again, the mouse was right though, Pandora was one of the most packed places I dealt with. And not without good reason.
Rides: Pandora has some kickass rides. There’s really no other way to say it. Flight of Passage is basically if Soarin’ could fuck, that was the only ride where I saw the massive lines and actually got it. Some things are worth waiting for. Outside of Pandora, I always enjoy Expedition Everest even if it leaves me staggered for a bit afterward. If you’re really into the animal side of the park, Kilimanjaro Safaris has a solid tour, albeit with a disturbing lack of animal fights. I’m not saying they need to be real, throw on some capes and costumes and make a production out of it. Someone’s going to invent WWE for animals, get ahead of the ball Disney.
Food: To be honest, this one didn’t wow as much for reasons we’ll get to. There are certainly some adventurous options out there though. Easing in is good for some folks, which was why we did the breakfast buffet at Boma, which offers a mix of familiar and new. Outside of that, I don’t have much to talk about, it tended to be a matter of finding food where one could.
X-Factor: Crowds. Hot damn, the crowds. Look, there is cool shit in AK I didn’t get to, Pandora-themed foods and drinks I would have for sure tried, but not with an hour-long wait. The Avatar section acts as a huge beacon drawing people to it, causing some serious congestion. Wait a while on this one, or hit it super early in the morning.
The smallest of the parks, both in size and grandeur, apparently people nicknamed this one “The Half-day park” and by the end of the trip, I couldn’t say it was an improper one. Don’t get me wrong, what Hollywood Studios has is cool and impressive, there just feels like a lot less of it than at other spots. I should also note that this all happened before Galaxy’s Edge opened. Much like Pandora before it, that will no doubt change things up substantially, so enjoy this look into a time already past.
Rides: Oh boy, this one beat my ass good. This was the day I had to officially call off a few repeat-rides and sit on the sidelines. Some are pure fun, like Tower of Terror which is one of my all-time favorites. Others, like Slinky Dog Dash, are good on their own but can exacerbate existing problems. And then there’s Rock n Roller Coaster which damn near took me to the ground. I was near-useless for half-and-hour after. If you’re with me in the easily-nauseated boat, maybe go get a churro when the group goes there.
Food: The fun of the food in this park comes from the theming. Want to sit in a 50’s diner? They got that at Prime Time Café. Want to eat at a drive-in movie? Sci-fi Dine-in has you covered. Thing is, because the focus is on ambiance over food, nothing here jumped out at me culinarily, though the restaurants were definitely fun to check out.
X-Factor: Star Wars. It was already trickling in when I went, now I can only imagine how it’s already changed Hollywood Studios. If you’re considering hitting this one up, you’ll have to see what is open, opening, and how long crowds have had to adjust. Because that shit is going to be crazy for a little while.
Overall, I have to say it was a fun trip. Disney knows how to streamline stuff and remove the minor hassles, which made it fairly low-stress in spite of the crowds we were sometimes seeing. If you’ve been on the fence and get the chance, give it a try. Turns out there’s a little magic for adults too.