Vacay.ca’s Alison Kent provides expert advice for exploring the Magic Kingdom as a couple.
Story by Alison Kent, Vacay.ca Writer
ORLANDO, FLORIDA — Think a vacation to Walt Disney World is designed exclusively for families with kids? Well, think again, as there are more grown-up friendly and adult-only options to entice, enchant, and adore than you can shake Tinkerbell’s wand (and magical pixie dust) at.
For while there is no question the folks at Disney know a thing or two about how to captivate and entertain youngsters, they also excel at recognizing and embracing the ever-growing number of travellers seeking experiential vacations without necessarily having children in tow.
After working my way through a few select stops in and around Walt Disney World in Orlando, here are a few mature-minded highlights I think you should consider:
Epcot: Perhaps the most adult-oriented of Walt Disney World’s four theme parks (Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios being the other three), Epcot’s overarching theme is the celebration of the human spirit, with Future World featuring innovations in the technological realm and World Showcase highlighting culture and cuisine of nearly a dozen countries. Speaking of cuisine, within World Showcase, food and drink standouts of particular appeal to adults include regularly occurring culinary demonstrations, and cheese or mixology seminars, while Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar includes hundreds of Italian wines on offer.
If visiting in the fall, the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is not to be missed. Running for more than 60 delectable days it features a culinary tour of flavours from six continents — all located within the parks’ global marketplaces. Stroll the Promenade and feast on sips and nibbles from around the world, including fine wines, craft beers and ciders paired with innovative fare, both savoury and sweet. Also on-hand, a slew of mixologists crafting cocktails, master sommeliers sharing their expertise, chefs leading cake-decorating workshops, and the popular Eat to the Beat concert series with live music and sizzling tunes throughout.
Disney Springs: A one-of-a-kind experience, combining outdoor dining, shopping and entertaining with waterfront charm and a casual yet elegant ambiance. Adult-friendly highlights include shopping at the Art of Disney (along with the occasional appearance by distinguished Disney artists) and live music by the waterfront at Paradiso 37 Entertainment. The Boathouse features marine-themed noshing along with interactive experiences by land and by sea (well, water) with private cruises aboard vintage Amphicars, romantic Italian water taxis and rare, retro dream boats.
And more dining … oh, the dining! There’s Morimoto Asia, from culinary legend Masaharu Morimoto of both Iron Chef and Iron Chef America fame. The restaurant features the finest pan-Asian flavours created in an exhibition kitchen and second-level sushi bar and lounge. Then, there’s renowned Chef Rick Bayless bringing his passion and flair for innovative market-fresh Mexican cuisine to Disney Springs with his latest Frontera restaurant. Another upscale option, there’s STK Orlando and its modern spin on the classic steakhouse fused with the atmosphere of a swanky lounge. Nosh on grilled lobster Rockefeller or porterhouse steak with truffle butter while the in-house DJ spins a steady stream of tunes.
Disney Resorts: For those who love a leisurely Sunday brunch, head to Disney’s Contemporary Resort for brunch at the Top at California Grill. Along with panoramic views from its 15th-floor setting, you’ll be encouraged to mix and mingle, interacting with the talented culinary team in its open show kitchen while sampling fresh sushi rolls, fine cheeses and charcuterie, and house-made chocolate truffles and macarons. In-between appetizers and dessert, there are tantalizing main course brunch dishes galore to select from. Not to be missed, the Bloody Mary Bar, with more garnishes and embellishments than one could ever think possible.
At Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, embrace your inner tiki lover with this South Pacific-themed resort complete with “volcano,” hot tub and lava pool. Over at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, hand-crafted cocktails both original and retro-inspired (a Shrunken Zombie Head, anyone?), along with smaller bites like Kalua pork tacos or pan-fried dumplings make this a lively lounge you’ve just “grotto” try.
Let’s take our collective minds off the plethora of culinary delights for a moment and find serenity now at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Here, modern elegance and timeless turn-of-the-20th-century style meld within this lavish bayside hotel. Along with its white sandy beach, the soft jazz and ragtime tunes, you’ll also find Senses — A Disney Spa, nestled within a Victorian-themed setting with a complete selection of therapies designed to relax and rejuvenate.
Disney Cruise Line: From Orlando, Port Canaveral is a little less than an hour’s drive away. But you need not concern yourself with such trivialities, for every last detail regarding travels and transfers between Walt Disney World and the cruise terminal will be well taken care of. (Same goes for transfers to and from Orlando airport to either location). Once aboard the cruise ships Disney Fantasy or Disney Dream, guests age 18 and older will have no trouble finding secluded areas designed just for adults. This includes private pools and sundecks, a deluxe spa, plus nighttime entertainment venues and cafés.
There are also two adult-only fine-dining restaurants. Palo features a modern spin on exquisite Northern Italian cuisine, complete with wheel-around antipasti cart, braised meats, decadent desserts and an outstanding wine list. While at Remy, Disney’s French-inspired gourmet restaurant in a dazzling art-nouveau setting, the lavish Champagne brunch features an exceptional six-course offering expertly paired with six exquisite champagnes.
Oft on the itinerary when embarking from Port Canaveral, and exclusive to Disney Cruise Line guests, Castaway Cay is Disney’s private 1,000-acre island in the Bahamas. And speaking of private, it’s a short bike ride or stroll to the island’s adult-only Serenity Bay Beach. It’s an ideal oasis for lounging — perhaps while sipping a thirst-quenching beverage — or simply floating on blue, blue waters. There are also yoga classes on the beach and open-air massages offered at secluded cabanas.
Disney has so much to offer kids and families, yet also adults and couples seeking a little escapism and exploration, all punctuated with a touch of elegance and a whole lot of creative imagination. Whether strolling the international-themed pavilions at Epcot, dining finely in Disney Springs, savouring the tropical flavours of the South Pacific at Polynesian Village Resort, soaking up the majestic splendour of Grand Floridian Resort, or setting sail into the sunset, you may just find yourself appeasing the kids with reassuring words of how you’ll be sure to take them along with you next time … maybe.