Disney off the Beaten Path: Disney for People Who Hate Disney World.
Okay, I know you’re out there, the guy who doesn’t like Disney World. Maybe you found this place because someone’s dragging you to the World and you’re trying to figure out how to get out of it. I do feel for you. No really. And I feel bad for the person who’s taking you as well. While it can be amusing to watch your annoying brother-in-law squirm in the hot Florida sun as hundreds of sticky little kids swarm by violating his precious personal space (and oh by the way, why can’t I get a decent cup of coffee around here?!), no one wants to spend their vacation with someone who is, dare I say it, Grumpy.
I’ll admit that it’s possible you have some valid reasons for your antipathy towards the happiest place on earth beyond the fact that you’re a miserable killjoy (I kid. Really). Maybe you went and had a terrible time. It was hot and crowded. You spent a lot of money. The kids whined a lot and the grandparents gave them way too much sugar. You swore you’d never set foot on Disney property again and now here you are, going again. So what are you going to do about it?
Well, there’s a lot you can do. First, get rid of the idea that Disney World is for kids. There’s literally something for everyone. Second, do something that you want to do. Here are a few ideas to make your torturous journey, um, I mean vacation, a little happier for everyone:
1. Try to go when it’s the least crowded. If that’s not possible, use a touring plan. They really do work.
2. You’re being a good sport, right? Reward yourself with a game of golf or even a bit of fishing right on Disney property. You can also rent little small watercraft (like double jet-skis, only slower) in front of the Polynesian Resort at at the Boardwalk.
3. Have a spa day. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Spa is often cited as one of the best spas in the Southeast; the Grand Floridian also has a spa. The spa at the Ritz-Carlton, a few miles off Disney property, is expensive but worth every penny.
4. Hire a sitter or take the in-laws up on their offer to watch the kids and have a night out with your spouse. After a few days, you probably need a break from the kids as much as they’ll need one from you. California Grill is an obvious choice for a great meal on Disney property, but if you want quiet and fewer kids, try Citricos in the Grand Floridian or Artist’s Point at the Wilderness Lodge. If you really want some grown-up time, try Victoria’s and Alberts. Not only is it blissfully child-free, it’s also consistently named one of the best restaurants in Florida.
5. Be a hero and be the one who takes the little ones back to the room for the mid-day break. No one needs to know that you’re getting a nap too. Show up with the refreshed tot just in time for dinner.
6. Go off by yourself. If you’re staying on Disney property, take advantage of Extra Magic Hours at night and leave your spouse and the kids back in the room (no need for a sitter) while you explore on your own. Disney parks are safe and especially beautiful at night and often considerably less crowded. Drink around the world in Epcot–and take the bus back to your resort. Switch off with your wife the next night. You’ll be surprised how much fun time the parks can be without stragglers and obligations to others in your party. Go see the Christmas lights at the Wilderness Lodge or head on over the The Boardwalk and people watch; if you’re there long enough, a wedding might even break out.
7. Take a day off from the theme parks. You’re right in the middle of everything in Central Florida. Head over to the coast and hit the beach or go to the Kennedy Space Center. You get extra points for injecting an educational experience into your kids’ vacation.
8. Don’t try to do everything. The world won’t end if you can’t get a Fastpass for Soarin’ or if your youngest is really afraid of Mickey and won’t let you get a picture. Don’t be the guy in front of Mickey’s Philharmagic yelling at your three-year old because he wouldn’t eat his Figaro Fries. Why was that guy yelling? Chances are he’s a nice guy, but he’s stressed out and hot and the kids are overwhelmed. Time to remember that it’s a vacation and relax. Some of the best moments I’ve had at Disney World have been just riding the monorail and talking to a stranger about his grandkid’s first ride or sitting on a bench at closing (the parks actually stay open about an hour after the attractions close) with my best friend watching the castle turn colors and telling funny non-Disney stories while everyone else rushes out of the park.
9. If you’re travelling with extended family or a large group, agree ahead of time that you won’t spend all your time together. Instead, on some days arrange to go off in smaller groups and meet up for later dinner. It’s amazing to me how many family arguments are started because no one can agree on the same activity for the day.
10. Put together a good plan; know when to throw it out. I’ve travelled around Europe with little more than a Eurailpass and a vague idea of where I wanted to go next, but I never go to Disney without making at least a couple advanced dining reservations, an idea of when the parks open/close, and who has Extra Magic Hours. You won’t regret spending a small amount of time figuring out fastpasses, learning about on-site transportation, or making advanced dining reservations a few months before you go.
Now go and have fun! You might just surprise yourself.