Granted, most people head to Walt Disney World with their kids in tow, and many people would not even consider it a vacation destination without kids. However, you can’t beat a night (or a week) in Disney without the kids, whether you leave them in the room with a sitter, or leave them at home all together. Those who have only been in the parks with little kids, running from character meal to parade to nap time miss out on the wonderful options available in the parks, if you just take a few minutes to look around.
#10: Downtown Disney – Now, of course, you can enjoy Downtown Disney with kids. That is true for most of the options below, but if your kids are anything like mine, they bore quickly when shopping, especially when there are rides to be riden. Downtown Disney has some great restaurants (Fultons!), some great “adult” shops, especially on the West Side. Even with Pleasure Island closed, Downtown Disney is a great place to hang out and enjoy yourself. I had intended to add Cirque du Soleil as #9, but I will include it here. Great show, even better when you don’t have to shell out all that money to take the kids too.
#9: Street Performers – By far the most hidden gem of Disney World, the street performers of Hollywood Studios are a site not to miss. There are others that are great too, the Jammitors of Epcot and the Mayor and his posse in the Magic Kingdom. Just hang out and watch for a while, you will laugh like you have never laughed before.
#8: Boat Rides – Disney offers numerous boat rides throughout the Walt Disney World resort. Many in and around the Magic Kingdom to nearby resorts and the Transportation and Ticket Center, from Epcot to Hollywood Studios and back (with stops at the Boardwalk area resorts), the boat from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney, etc. Many times with kids, you just want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, which often precludes you from enjoying one of the many boat rides. Relax, the kids are safe, and enjoy the ride.
#7: Special Events in the Parks – Disney offers many special events in the parks year round, many of which can be enjoyed even more without little ones. I love the Food and Wine Festival and the Flower and Garden festival in Epcot, which are much, much better when you can take your time and enjoy. Also check out the Eat to the Beat concert series, the Candlelight Processional, ESPN the Weekend and any of the Disney marathons. Fantastic events that make Disney special.
#6: The Boardwalk – One of my most favorite places in all of WDW, especially in the evening. Great restaurants, a few shops, Jellyrolls, bike rentals and buskers. Just take some time strolling and checking out the performers, grab a treat at the bakery, you will be in for a fantastic evening.
#5: Just act like a kid for once – With kids around, especially if they are little, you end up riding kid rides all day long (Hello Dumbo for the 13th time!). Worrying about the kids, getting on and off the rides, you really can’t enjoy the rides for what they are. Take time and ride a few of the “kids” rides, Peter Pan is my favorite, Snow White is decent too.
#4: Dinner at a Signature Restaurant – I prefer not to take my kids to super nice restaurants while at WDW, not because of the cost or that they won’t behave themselves, but because the (and all kids) tend to fall asleep on the table. Not sure why, long day, slow service, etc. Take your significant other out to a nice meal, Disney offers some of the nicest restaurants in Florida. I love Flying Fish and Jiko, but any signature place will do.
#3: Ride the “Boring” rides – My kids have a list of boring rides they refuse to ride (or will only ride once), many of which are my favorites. I could ride Living with the Land over and over (same with Tomorrowland Transit Authority). Without kids, you can relax and enjoy those slower rides, and not worry about having to drag the kids on kicking and screaming.
#2: Explore the Resorts – My kids can’t think of anything more painful that taking time out of the parks to explore other resorts. My wife on the other hand, can’t think of anything better to do. The kids always win. Disney has some fantastic resorts, with great themes and grounds. Maybe schedule a nice dinner at a resort one night, and spend a few minutes just walking around to see what the resort has to offer, you may find a new place to stay your next trip.
#1: Quiet places in the Parks – Disney has built some fantastic places in each park, many of which you never notice as you are running to fit in that last Pirates of the Caribbean ride before the parade and fireworks. Without kids, you can sit and relax your feet for a few minutes without hearing constant crying (unless your feet really, really hurt). As you walk around, take your time and find those secret places. The English Garden in Epcot is fantastic, and the Animal Kingdom is full of quiet corners and fantastic benches.
Disney is so much more than a theme park, it is full of wonderful places, restaurants, rides and entertainment. I love taking my kids to WDW, but if I had the choice, I would leave them home, it makes for a much better vacation.