Who said Disney World is just for kids? Esteemed CNN commentator Sally Kohn may play a very smart grown-up on TV, but when it comes to her happy place, her adult tastes run very young at heart.
ORLANDO, Florida — I should start by confessing something: I love Walt Disney World. A lot. I’ve been 44 times. Actually, it might be more than that. I’ve lost count.
When I was a kid, my mom worked for AT&T as part of a team based in Orlando. So several times a year, mom would travel from Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Orlando, Florida, for work. Beginning at around age 11, I would go with her. We would stay at a Disney World resort, usually the Yacht Club Resort, which for years I thought had the best pool in the world. (Stay tuned…) In the morning, my mom would go off to work and I would go to the theme parks. By myself. It was the '80s. We did a lot of crazy things back then.
Anyway, I went a few times a year, which is how my trip total ended up in the double digits. But the truth is, I’ve gone maybe a dozen times since then. It’s my happy place.
Nowadays, I bring my daughter. She’s eight and loves Disney World as much as I do. She’s been three times so far in her little life. But let’s be clear, my daughter is a relatively new excuse. I would go no matter what. Disney World has plenty for adults to enjoy.
Let’s start with hotels. The Yacht Club remains my favorite official Disney property for its sand-bottom pool and lazy river, as well as its walking-distance proximity to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. But if you want over-the-top adult indulgence, Four Seasons at Disney World is the place for you. The rooms are large and luxurious. The spa is decadent. The hotel swimming pool complex is the best I’ve ever seen, and the rooftop restaurant serves the best steak I’ve ever eaten. Honestly, as much as I love Disney World, I’d make a trip to Orlando just to stay in the Four Seasons. It’s that good. That it’s inside the Disney grounds, with views of the parks (and fireworks) from most rooms is the cherry on the top. Go there. Stay there. For a few days if you can. And make sure you have a full day just to lounge at the pool, which includes an adult pool and three family pools, including a slide and a lazy river that serves drinks.
I’m pretty sure the definition of paradise on earth is a sipping from a mojito while wedged into a plastic inner tube and gently flowing round and round in a circle.
All that pent-up pressure you have to act all mature and respectable? Let it go, yo.
Now let’s say you want to go to the parks. If you don’t have kids, don’t go when school is on break. That would be dumb. One of the many (and I do mean many!) advantages of not having offspring is that you can travel on the days and weeks when airports and theme parks aren’t bursting at the seams. So do that. Lots of websites offer Disney Crowd Calendars. Use them. (Here’s one.)
Then, as an adult at an uncrowded Disney World theme park, you have two choices: Act like an adult or act like a kid.
Might I suggest you do both?
Acting like an adult at Disney World involves such things as spending an afternoon trying to drink an alcoholic beverage at every country in Epcot — or eating something at each, if drinking isn’t your thing. You can get Fast Passes, the magical line-cutting reservations available with admissions tickets, in the wee late hours when most of the kiddos have conked out. You can do adult-only activities at places like Disney’s Boardwalk, which has an old-timey dance hall and a dueling piano bar. And you can shop. For my partner, the Mitsukoshi Department Store in the Japan pavilion at Epcot is reason enough to visit Disney. The only branch of the store outside Japan, this is the place to pick up authentic kimonos, those socks with the section for your big toe, and more Hello Kitty accessories than you can shake a Pocky stick at. (You can also buy Pocky sticks and other Japanese sweets.)
Speaking of candy, don’t forget to act like a kid. One of the many advantages (and there are many!) to actually having a child is that you have a convenient excuse to do childlike things. But if you’re a single, straight, 43-year-old male and want to wait in line for 20 minutes to meet Elsa and Anna, who the hell is gonna stop you? All that pent-up pressure you have to act all mature and respectable? Let it go, yo. Buy some mouse ears. Go on the baby Dumbo ride. Try to pull that sword out of the stone near the carousel in the Magic Kingdom. Come on, you know you wanna!
Every year, there are new reasons to go to Disney World. This year, it’s the new Avatar addition to the Animal Kingdom, which is supposed to be incredibly immersive, and you know I’m totally jonesing to check it out. And, yes, there are always reasons not to go. It’s expensive and it’s a corporate behemoth that’s profiting off our obsession with happy endings in order to feed a greedy version of consumer capitalism, and thus inequality, that never ends well. Okay, but still … we can’t let reality and political consciousness ruin everything.
Just like we can’t let adulthood ruin all the fun.