“There & Back” is a semi-recurring series on Going Places, in which writers recount and share their favorite destinations, journeys, and travel stories.
I’ve had a margarita in Mexico, a riesling in Germany, a Sam Adams in the states, sake in Japan, champagne in a French bistro and a pint in a British pub — all in the same day.
The only thing more surprising than my imbibing around the world — all within walking distance — was where I was doing it: Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center in Orlando, Florida.
I just turned 32, and I’ve been to Disney World far more than 32 times, spanning from my first visit as an infant to just this past spring. I’ve been there with parents, friends, girlfriends and extended family, young and old. And while nothing beats a child’s awe in seeing Cinderella’s Castle for the first time, the self-proclaimed “Happiest Place on Earth” is also perfect for some adult-centric fun.
Obviously, Disney World (which this month celebrated its 45th anniversary) is a place designed for families. But, believe me (a non-parent), it has plenty of allure for adults traveling sans kids looking for a good time, a romantic getaway or even to embrace their inner child.
A prime starting place for any 21-and-older visitor is EPCOT’s World Showcase. Opening on the resort’s 11th birthday in 1982, EPCOT, which is nearly three times bigger than the Magic Kingdom, was touted as a sort of “permanent world’s fair.” It features 11 pavilions of different countries around the world, where food and drink are plentiful … and there’s a sweet laser and fireworks show called IllumiNations at closing time each night.
But EPCOT is far from the only place on Disney’s expansive property where adults can escape Mickey Mouse for a few hours. You can stay at the Swan or Dolphin Hotels (the only hotels on Disney property operated by outside companies), where the music pumps all day at the outdoor pool bar and you can go for dinner at their signature restaurants Il Mulino or Todd English’s Bluezoo.
Or head over to the Disney’s Boardwalk to dance the night away, sing along to the classics at a dueling piano bar or kick back at the ESPN Zone sports bar.
Pro Tip: Take advantage of extended park hours for Disney resort guests to go on rides without having to wait on peak hour lines.
There’s also Disney Springs, where you can catch a show at the House of Blues, get tickets for a Cirque Du Soleil show exclusively performed at Disney, or even go bowling.
If romance is on the agenda, Citricos at the Grand Floridian Hotel is a perfect spot for fine dining and views of the castle, while the California Grill at the top of the Contemporary Resort offers a panoramic view of the Magic Kingdom and prime viewing for the nightly fireworks. After dinner, be sure to ride the monorail around the deluxe Disney resorts. It generally runs until midnight and is scarcely ridden after park closings, offering couples the chance to cozy up while making a wish upon a star.
For those wanting to embrace their inner child — after all, you are in DISNEY WORLD — there are two water parks, character-themed breakfasts, and several high-quality thrill rides at Hollywood Studios.
So if you’re looking for an adult vacation, forget Vegas or the Caribbean and remember that Disney World offers more than just Mickey ears and tea cup rides.
Disney World is owned and operated by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts & The Walt Disney Company. No association between OneTravel with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts & The Walt Disney Company is intended or should be inferred.