How to Survive Disney World As An Adult

How to survive Walt Disney World as an adult

This post should really be called “how to survive Disney World as an adult without wanting to punch yourself in the face”.

Or just “Walt Disney World Travel Guide”.

Ya know, either works.

Last week marked my fourth time going to Walt Disney World in my lifetime… with two of those times being as an adult (within the past year). As such, I’ve picked up on a few survival techniques. For one: there are only a handful of places in Magic Kingdom that serve alcohol. (Don’t worry: they’re listed below!) For the second: know which rides to FastPass (aka skip the line).

That already sound confusing? Don’t worry: I’ve got you! Keep reading for my full guide on how to survive Disney World as an adult.

– How to get there –

Orlando (MCO) is an international airport with dozens of flights arriving from all over each day. So getting to Orlando shouldn’t be a problem.

Getting out however…

I kid, I kid.

To get from the Orlando airport to your Walt Disney World Resort hotel (and I highly recommend staying at a resort on-site), it’s pretty freakin’ easy. Sign up ahead of time for the “Magic Express”: it’s Disney’s complimentary shuttle service that takes you from the airport to your Disney Resort hotel (and back again). It’s not the most glamorous and can take up to double the time, but it saves you $50-$60 in cab fare.

Alternatively, there’s always Uber and Orlando city taxis.

Cinderella's Castle Magic Kingdom
Where to eat at Disney world as an Adult
– Where to Stay –

There are several tiers to the Disney Resort hotels. The top tier is the Grand Floridian Hotel. I stayed at this hotel last May and it was lovely. The Grand Floridian is also right on the monorail, less than 10 minutes’ ride to Magic Kingdom. It’s definitely one of the most convenient hotels to stay at on Walt Disney World property.

The next tier is the “luxury” line of hotels. Of these, I would recommend the Polynesian Hotel, the Boardwalk, and the Yacht Club. The Polynesian Hotel was recently renovated and, like the Grand Floridian, is on the monorail – less than 10 minutes from Magic Kingdom. Also it has really cool-looking bungalows on the water. So that’s neat.

On my most recent trip to Disney World (last week), I stayed at the Boardwalk Inn. The property was nice (though not as lovely as the Grand Floridian). It’s right next to the Yacht Club Hotel and both hotels have access to their own shops and restaurants on the boardwalk. Additionally, both hotels are walking distance from both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. So that definitely ups the “convenience” factor. From the Boardwalk Hotel, it was about a 5-10 minute-long walk to Epcot and about 15 minutes to Hollywood Studios.

From each hotel, there are both buses and boats to take you to the other parks. For instance, to get to Magic Kingdom from the Boardwalk, I could either take a bus directly to the gates or walk to the monorail at the front of Epcot and take the monorail to Magic Kingdom.

One thing I did really like about the Boardwalk Inn was that it seemed to be an older crowd. A lot of conferences are hosted at the Boardwalk. That, plus its proximity to Epcot, lends the clientele to be somewhat older and often sans children.

Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom
Yak & Yeti Animal Kingdom

50's Prime Time Café Walt Disney World

– Where to Eat –
Magic Kingdom:
  • Be Our Guest Restaurant: I didn’t eat here but a few of my friends did and their pictures of the space were gorgeous. Also this is one of the few spots that serves alcohol in Magic Kingdom so NOTE THAT. But also note that you can only be served alcohol if you get a table for a meal. Reservation necessary.
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table: Again, I haven’t eaten here BUT this is the restaurant inside of Cinderella’s castle so that’s pretty baller. Also they serve alcohol with the meals (sensing a theme here?). Also also this is a character dining location, so basically that means that the princesses will be on parade. Like… all of them. Reservation necessary (book several months in advance).
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table: Again, I haven’t eaten here BUT this is the restaurant inside of Cinderella’s castle so that’s pretty baller. Also they serve alcohol with the meals (sensing a theme here?). Also also this is a character dining location, so basically that means that the princesses will be on parade. Like… all of them. Reservation necessary (book several months in advance).
  • Gaston’s Tavern: unfortunately, no alcohol served here (rude!). So pop in to take a photo in Gaston’s ever-so-manly oversized chair and then GTFO. But you definitely need that photo for Instagram, so I’m including this on the list. No reservations accepted.
  • Liberty Tree Tavern: I didn’t eat here but – for Magic Kingdom at least – this is really just a list of where you can get booze at Disney World. And Liberty Tree Tavern is one of those places. The more you know. Oh and reservations definitely required.
  • Tony’s Town Square Restaurant: ever wanted to do the Lady and the Tramp spaghetti move? In the Lady and the Tramp restaurant? Well, you’re in luck. This restaurant is Lady and the Tramp themed AND – as of one month ago – it serves booze. So double yay. I went in May (before they served alcohol) and had the spaghetti and meatballs (le duh). Reservations are required and I recommend booking at least one month in advance.
Epcot:
  • Biergarten Restaurant: buffet-style German biergarten-themed restaurant. The food was good (definitely German!). The beer was great (and in very generous sizes). There are performances during dinner – the quality of which have a positive correlation to the quantity of beer consumed. Reservation highly recommended. Oh and don’t miss the pretzel rolls!
  • Chefs de France: this French restaurant was really quite good (and definitely had one of the best wine lists at Disney World!). My friends and I split the gratin de macaroni, the fruit de mer à la provençale, and the steak frites. We were happy campers. Oh and they gave us sippy cups for the wine when we didn’t finish it and wanted to walk around Epcot. Which I enjoyed. Reservation highly recommended.
  • Restaurant Marrakesh: Moroccan-themed restaurant with very good hummus. No, seriously: the hummus was great. Make sure you try the beef brewat rolls and the chicken bastilla – they’re at once both sweet and savory and quite interesting / yummy. The tabbouleh and the baba ganoush were both pretty weird so skip those if you can. BUT all of the main dishes were legitimately excellent. I had the couscous with chicken. My other friends had the couscous with lamb shank, the roast lamb meshoui, and the lemon chicken. We all loved our meals. In terms of drinks, the Sahara Splash was good (not great) but they had some really good spiked coffee drinks for after dinner. Oh, and there’s bellydancing throughout the meal. So that was interesting. Reservation highly recommended.
  • Teppan Edo: this is a hibachi-style restaurant located in the Japan pavilion. The at-table chefs are all super friendly and entertaining. This restaurant is particularly great for large groups (we were a group of 10 so we got our own special area). In terms of entrees, I particularly like the asakusa and the hotate. For beverages, they have a sake list (and beer and other drinks!). If you go the sake route, I recommend choosing one of the sakes listed as “very dry”. “Very dry” at Disney = “not-really-all-that-dry” anywhere else. Reservation necessary.
Animal Kingdom:
  • Yak & Yeti: good pan-Asian cuisine in “Asia” in Animal Kingdom. I recommend the lettuce cups, the seared tuna salad, and the lo mein (I particularly like their tofu lo mein!). In terms of drinks, the Pink Himalayan is not too sweet as far as Disney drinks go. A few of my friends also enjoyed the Lucky Buddha beer (just wait until you see the bottle!). Reservation highly recommended.
Hollywood Studios:
  • 50’s Prime Time Café: also known as the restaurant where the waitstaff pretends like they’re your parents and will yell at you about random things. So make sure you don’t eat with your elbows on the table. The meatloaf and the fried chicken are both really good (so really just go for the sampler!). Warning: you will be force-fed by the waiter if you don’t finish your vegetables. It happened to me. It was very embarrassing. There’s a video. But on the plus side, they let you make crazy-strong alcoholic milkshakes. So… there’s that. Reservation required.
  • Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater: I’ve actually never been to this restaurant but one of my friends raved about it so much, I felt like I had to include it. Reservation recommended.
Stormtrooper show in Walt Disney World
Tower of Terror Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World
Hollywood Studios Star Wars World

What rides to do at Disney World as an adult

– What to Do –
Magic Kingdom:
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: rollercoaster. FastPass+ recommended.
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin: Toy Story-themed shooting game.
  • Haunted Mansion: slow ride and indoor. And a classic ride. Keep an eye out at the end for Disney scanning your cart and creepily knowing where you’re from / what your name is even though you never scanned into the ride.
  • It’s a Small World: slow ride with a song that will drive you insane. But it’s a classic so I had to put it on here. If you want to avoid children, skip it.
  • Jungle Cruise: calm boat ride with so many puns. I recommend going on this ride during late night “extra magic hours” – the puns get even funnier sometimes when there are no children present.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: putting this on here because it’s a classic. Also don’t sit in the front or on the sides if you don’t want to get wet (learned that the hard way).
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: new rollercoaster – very smooth and short. If you need to use a FastPass+, use it on this ride, just so you can skip the line.
  • Space Mountain: rollercoaster. In the dark. I rode it 3 times this trip. FastPass+ highly recommended.
  • Splash Mountain: big drop and you will get splashed. But it is a good way to cool off if you’re hot!
Epcot:
  • Mission Space: very spinny (yes, that’s a word) ride that simulates 4G and space flight. There’s Green Team for those who are more prone to motion sickness. Or Orange Team for those who laugh in the face of danger. FastPass+ recommended.
  • Soarin’: honestly one of my favorite rides. This ride simulates flying over some of the most beautiful sights in the world (and has corresponding smells for each location). Again, don’t really recommend this one if you get motion sickness. Or have an insane fear of heights (I do but I definitely found this ride to be quite manageable). FastPass+ recommended.
  • Spaceship Earth: slow ride that covers the history of human communication. Narrated by Judy Dench. And she’s amazing so obviously it’s a must-do. Also Disney creepily knows who you are in the cart and makes a hilarious little movie of your face… so it’s worth going on the ride for that alone.
  • Test Track: in this ride, you get to “design” your own car and then “test drive” your creation. It’s super fun and great for groups. FastPass+ highly recommended.

 
 
 

Animal Kingdom:
  • Dinosaur: thrill ride that simulates going back in time to the age of the dinosaurs.
  • Expedition Everest: tallest rollercoaster at Walt Disney World. And one of my favorite rides. FastPass+ highly recommended
  • Kali River Rapids: water ride – you will get wet. FastPass+ recommended as the wait can get long.
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris: safari ride through the animal parks at Animal Kingdom. My friends really enjoyed this ride. FastPass+ recommended as the wait can get long.
Hollywood Studios:
  • The Great Movie Ride: slow ride that covers the history of cinema.
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: upside-down rollercoaster that blasts Aerosmith music at you. Definitely one of my favorite rides. FastPass+ recommended (but the line moves quickly even if you don’t have one!).
  • Star Tours: Star Wars flight simulator. You travel to various planets and meet characters (and get jostled around a bit). Another one of my favorite rides. FastPass+ highly recommended.
  • Toy Story Mania: fun shooting ride. I really like this ride because somehow I always win. Which I enjoy. Also it’s just super well-done and fun. FastPass+ highly recommended.
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: how could you go to Disney World and not do Tower of Terror?!?! One of my favorite rides at Disney World. If you don’t yet know what it is… enjoy the drop. FastPass+ recommended.