Discover the Grown-up Side of Disney World

Foodies, gardening enthusiasts, romantics—there’s a Disney World for grown-ups, too.

by NEA Member Benefits

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From attractions such as It’s a Small World to Splash Mountain, a visit to Walt Disney World (WDW) is an adventure the whole family will never forget. The best part? You get to be a kid again. “You can put on your Mickey Mouse ears and leave your adultness at the gate,” says Kimberley Bouchard, an educator and author of Positively Disney.

Still, if you’re looking for experiences geared for adults only, you can find them. Bouchard, who has visited WDW once or twice annually for the past 26 years, highlights these not-to-be-missed WDW activities tailored for kids at heart.

Foodies: Don’t miss Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at the Epcot World Showcase.

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Photo courtesy of Matt Stroshane and Walt Disney World

A treat for your taste buds, this annual culinary event features cooking demonstrations and a sampling of food and beverages from a country, continent, region or culinary style from around the world—from Japanese wasabi shumai steamed pork dumplings to warm goat cheese pudding with spinach from France. The event is held in the late summer and fall, from mid-August to mid-November. “It’s a lovely experience with a party-like atmosphere that draws people from all over the world,” Bouchard shares. It’s included in your admission ticket to Epcot, though food—served as small plates—and beverages, are sold separately.

Stop and smell the roses at Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

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Photo courtesy of Matt Stroshane and Walt Disney World

Even if you aren’t an avid gardener, you’ll enjoy the stunning array of blooms, topiaries, gush-worthy gardens and habitats featured at this annual event, held at Epcot from late February to late May. “It’s absolutely stunning,” Bouchard says. The festival also offers live music and seasonal food tastings. Admission is included in your Epcot ticket; food and beverages sold separately.

Enjoy upscale dining. WDW offers plenty of delicious on-the-go offerings.

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Photo courtesy of Kent Phillips and Walt Disney World

But, if you’re hankering for a lavish, sit-down experience, you’ve come to the right place. (WDW restaurant price ranges per person: $ = up to $14.99, $$ = $15 to $34.99, $$$ = $35 to $59.99b and $$$$ = $60+.) In Epcot, enjoy themed dining, such as Le Cellier Steakhouse ($$$), which features tender steaks and fresh seafood in a setting designed to look like a Canadian château, or the hibachi grill at Teppan Edo ($$). Victoria and Albert’s ($$$$), in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, features a seven-course menu and a 10-course chef’s tasting menu with the elegance of white tablecloths and china in an old-world setting. Looking for something more modern? California Grill ($$$) showcases fresh California cuisine and sweeping views from the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Treat yourself. End your day with a fireworks dessert party on the Tomorrowland Terrace and other areas throughout the parks. While savoring dessert and refreshments, you watch the IllumiNations fireworks production from a waterside seat by the park’s World Showcase Lagoon. There is an extra fee for this VIP experience.

Chart your own course. Looking to get away from it all? Rent your own watercraft, such as a mini speedboat or pontoon at Walt Disney World Resort marina ($32+ per half-hour rental). After spending time on the water, you can head back to the park refreshed and recharged.

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Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World

Psst! Disney savings secrets

Disney special events and splurging on high-end restaurants can add up. To keep your overall costs down, use NEA Click & Save to purchase discounted theme park tickets in advance instead of buying them at the ticket window. If you’ll be going to WDW more than twice a year, Bouchard recommends an annual pass. If you’re a Florida resident, get a seasonal pass. “It’s a bargain,” she says.

To save on food and beverages, stock ready-to-eat items, such as bagels, yogurt and bananas in your hotel room. Pack your own lunch and snacks in a cooler bag and bring your own water bottle and refill it at the water fountain. “As long as it’s not glass, you can bring it in,” Bouchard says. And, keep in mind that during the summer months, Orlando is known for its frequent afternoon thunderstorms. “To avoid paying $9 for a rain poncho, pack your own from your local dollar store,” Bouchard advises.

To save on lodging, NEA members can access NEA Click & Save to net a discount on Orlando-area hotels and resorts. Members can also save on gift certificates to local eateries via Restaurant.com on Click & Save.

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Photo courtesy of Matt Stroshane and Walt Disney World

To save your sanity, stay on-site so you won’t have the hassle of dealing with parking. And, to avoid the crowds, get a FastPass+ and “get there at rope drop,” Bouchard says. “If you arrive when the park opens at 9 a.m., there are always fewer people, no matter what time of year, which makes for a nicer experience.”

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