Recently, I took a break from watching Horizons ride-through videos and funny cat gifs online and I read an article in which the author basically questioned why any rational adult couple would ever go to a Disney park. She said that she was there when she was nine years old and thought it was fun, but couldn’t imagine how people in their twenties and thirties could ever have a good time at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. I’m not going to link to the article, but it–and others like it–probably isn’t too hard to find if you really want to read such things. Honestly, if you’re a devoted Disney park-goer you’ve probably read things like it before, and have even heard similar thoughts from friends who just don’t understand why you keep going back. And hey, they’re obviously entitled to their opinions. On some level, I suppose, I can even see why someone would think that Disney isn’t their idea of fun. It’s often oppressively hot (and, in Florida’s case, grossly humid). It can be extremely crowded and loud, and there are children everywhere. You sometimes wait for a long time in a line to go on a ride, and then go wait in another long line for another ride. These are, truth be told, all reasonably valid points.
Allow me, however, to offer a rebuttal.
If you focus on all of those negative points, you miss what a Disney park really has to offer: magic. I know that sounds a lot like a company tagline (hey, I was a cast member, remember), but it’s the truth.
The thing is, being an adult can be a challenge: you’ve got bills, you have to work, and you’re generally encouraged to not wear hats with ears on them. Being a grown-up isn’t the worst thing ever, but it does require a certain amount of playing by the rules. That is, you probably can’t cheerfully sing the “Winnie the Pooh” song around the office without getting a few odd looks from your coworkers (and if you can, then congrats on having an awesome job). Yet, at a Disney park, you can let all that go and sing along and have fun and be a kid. Sure, somewhere in the back of your adult brain you know that you’re not really on a tour of a haunted house and that the characters are just actors in suits, but with just a little bit of childlike wonder you’re frolicking among the grim grinning ghosts of the Haunted Mansion and meeting the real Buzz Lightyear. It’s a rare place that lets you get your photo taken with a giant duck and doesn’t offer judgement, and it’s my opinion that many adults could use that type of escape once in a while.
A common misconception is that Disneyland and Walt Disney World are just amusement parks, with just a bunch of random rides like you’d see at any local carnival. That isn’t the case at all. In fact, I’ve been more able to really appreciate the work that goes into creating the Disney parks as an adult than I ever did as a kid. The rides are experiences. They tell stories, using music and technology to take guests on journeys. The lands around them are beautifully themed, allowing you to immerse yourself in the fantasy (or the frontier, or the jungle, or the future). You’re not just riding a roller coaster, you’re speeding through the wilderness on a runaway mine train; you’re not just riding a boat through a diorama, you’re sailing through pirate-infested waters. It’s the characters, the details, and the stories that set Disney attractions apart and make them special to so many people. The shows, too, are equally amazing: Fantasmic uses incredible effects such as fireworks, water bursts, and projections on water screens to tell an epic tale, Voyage of the Little Mermaid retells the classic story with puppets and live performers, and the Muppets perform their own irreverent version of American history. The Disney parks are a lot more than just a collection of carnival rides. Though, if that’s your thing, the Paradise Pier area in Disney’s California Adventure is themed after a classic boardwalk and does feature such amusements.
Maybe you think that rides are OK, but you want a bit more out of your vacation than sitting in a boat while animatronic children sing around you? How about fine dining, spas, golfing (miniature and full-sized), shopping, or swimming? Particularly at Walt Disney World, there’s a lot more than just the theme parks. In fact, on our honeymoon my wife and I only did two days at the parks during our six-day trip. We also spent an afternoon relaxing on a lazy river and hurtling down water slides at Typhoon Lagoon. We ate a great meal at a character breakfast, and had a romantic (non-character) dinner at Shutter’s restaurant at the Caribbean Beach Resort. We took a horseback ride through a secluded nature trail at Fort Wilderness. We spent a morning playing Fantasia-themed miniature golf. We even watched the Magic Kingdom fireworks from a pirate-themed cruise. We’ve also gone on educational journeys: at Disneyland we took a tour that delved into the history of the park and the man who created it, and at EPCOT we once went “behind the seeds” on a walking tour of the Living with the Land greenhouses. Sure, the focus of most Disney vacations will probably be the theme parks, but if you’re an adult couple looking for a bit more on a trip there’s actually plenty to do. Even just wandering EPCOT’s World Showcase can be a lot of fun, whether it be to shop the international products, try some different and exotic foods, learn more about the countries, or all of the above–and you can do it with an adult beverage in hand. I’m personally a fan of the green tea plum wine slush from China.
Also, there’s something nice about being somewhere where almost everyone is pleasant. Cast members will smile and chat with you, congratulate you if you’re wearing an event button, and take an extra moment to help add a bit of magic to your trip. Not only that, there’s something about being at Disney that often makes fellow guests extra friendly. I’ve had people in front of me in line offer us their Fastpasses (back when paper ones were a thing) because they couldn’t use them and didn’t want them to go to waste. I’ve had great conversations with fellow tour-goers simply because we all share a love of Disney. Personally, I tend to avoid many social interactions in daily life, but at Disney even I will stop to help confused strangers with their map or chat with folks while in line for an attraction. There’s something about breathing in that pixie dust that just makes people smile. Yes, there are plenty of rude guests too, or people who just look like they’re not having any fun, but there are also adults wearing Mickey ears and laughing and getting their photo taken in front of Cinderella Castle. It isn’t just a few odd adults who like to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, either–there is a global community, made up of millions of people of people of all ages who love Disney and who consider time spent at a Disney park as a magical experience.
Here’s something else to take into consideration, too: the fact that when you visit a Disney park you’re in a self-contained world. They’ve eliminated a lot of worries, allowing you to focus more on having fun. Particularly at Walt Disney World, the need to stress over every aspect of your trip is really minimized. Don’t want to deal with renting a car or finding transportation from Orlando International Airport? Disney’s Magical Express (if you’re staying on-property) will take you to your hotel and back and will even pick up your luggage from baggage claim and deliver it right to your room, and then check it for you when you leave. You don’t need a car, since Disney’s transportation system–monorails, buses, and boats–can get you anywhere within their magical world for free. You don’t need to make sure to have cash or credit cards with you, since you can set up your MagicBand to charge food and merchandise right to your room. Have questions, need help, or even just want some advice about what to do? Ask any Disney cast member and they’ll be more than happy to help, and will usually do so with a smile that will brighten your day. You can book dining reservations right from the My Disney Experience smartphone app, have purchases delivered to your resort if you don’t want to carry them around all day, and (if you’re so inclined) even pre-purchase a dining plan so you don’t have to fret about buying each meal. Less stressing out about every little detail means more time to have fun. True, all that does come at a cost (a Disney trip isn’t cheap) but for many people it’s well worth the money to be able to put the outside world on hold for a bit.
I’ll admit that a Disney vacation isn’t for everyone (even I know a few people I would never recommend it to). Maybe it really is too hot, too crowded, too loud, and there are too many singing robots for some people to handle. If you’re not the type who can suspend their disbelief for a while and lose yourself in a fantasy, then it’s true that going to a Disney park may not be your cup of tea. If you’re going to let all of the aforementioned issues cast a little black raincloud over your fun time, then it’s probably best to vacation somewhere else. I’ve seen plenty of people at the parks (with and without children in tow) who just look miserable and probably should have opted to go elsewhere. I’m not saying that it’s the perfect choice for every couple. Just as some people wouldn’t want to spend their time in an art museum or at the beach, a Disney park trip just isn’t the right choice for everyone. What I am saying, though, is not to discount it as a place just for kids and families and assume that grown-ups would have no fun there. Especially if, as at least one author admitted in her “why would you go there” article, you haven’t been there since you were a kid yourself. If it’s not your thing, that’s cool, but there’s no reason to (as the kids say) throw shade on those of us that love having fun at Disney parks.