Adults Guide to Walt Disney World

I'm often asked for advice by friends and family about what I'd recommend doing in Walt Disney World. Giving advice is hard because what you love someone else may hate, but I thought it would be an excellent excuse to write down everything I personally love doing in Walt Disney World.

Warning, this is a long read, I think I've done a good job of splitting up the sections. But if you are looking for my opinion on a specific ride or experience, you might want to do a quick page search. If I haven't covered something leave a comment below and if I have an opinion, I will share it!

I will be keeping this article up to date as we go on more trips to Walt Disney World, or my feelings change on something.

Why have I called this the Adults Guide? Because I've only ever been on Disney trips as an adult, and I've only ever done them with other adults. I will share some other caveats shortly but if you're looking for advice on what kids would like, this isn't the article for you. Some kids might have great taste and happen to like the stuff I like, but I have no idea what kids do or do not like.

Some caveats, before we start

Some more caveats, not that I want to convince you to stop reading so soon, but I think it is important to give a little bit of context about who I am and where I'm coming from. If zero of it relates to you, then some of my recommendations won't make much sense. If some stuff resonates, then hopefully this will be useful to you.

I'm from Northern Ireland, which means I don't have an American palate for food or drink. I don't eat meat, and often don't eat dairy. I have MS and get motion sickness from some rides (which ones trigger me is a bit random). Because of where we live, when we go to Florida, we normally do about two weeks, doing less normally doesn't make sense when you're travelling that distance.

I've been to Disneyland Paris, which this article isn't about, but I haven't been on any Disney cruises, or to any of the other Disney parks.

Now that I've listed all the reasons you might not want to listen to me, here are some of the reasons why you should take my word on things! I've been to Walt Disney World six times, given the length of our stays that is probably just north of 70 days spent in the parks.  I've stayed in a range of on-property Disney hotels, covering their three classifications of hotel, value, moderate, and deluxe.

I'm also not a super fan, and I think this is important. There are some people that love Disney so much they are blinded by it. Everything is magical and amazing, etc., etc. That is really cool for them, but I'm not one of those people. If I say something is good, it is because it is subjectively good, and not just because it has a Mickey head on it.

What parks to prioritise

This is going to heavily depend on person preference of course, but assuming this is your first trip then I would suggest, in order.

  1. Magic Kingdom
  2. Disney's Hollywood Studios
  3. EPCOT
  4. Disney's Animal Kingdom
  5. Other stuff

It is important to have an idea before you go because at the time of writing it is still the case that you need to prebook which parks you want to visit on particular days. This was something that I believe was added around the pandemic, and is loosening now but still there.

Magic Kingdom comes first because it has the most Disney magic. It is the one with the castle and most of the iconic rides you will have heard about. I will be talking about specific rides later. If you only have one day in Walt Disney World, I would suggest spending it in the Magic Kingdom. Whilst all the parks have their different parades and shows, Magic Kingdom has the big parades and fireworks shows. Having said all that, I think Magic Kingdom doesn't have amazing food or drinks options. You are definitely going for the rides and magic.

Next up I would say Hollywood Studios. This has has some real love over the last few years, and has become my favourite park. This is where you can visit an entire land dedicated to Star Wars (called Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge) and ride my favourite roller coaster (Slinky Dog Dash). There are some nice places to eat and drink in Hollywood Studios, and it has a more relaxed atmosphere compared to the other parks.

EPCOT does has some rides, but the main reason to visit is to walk around the World Showcase, which is a collection of 11 country-themed pavilions. Your favourite will be different to my favourite, but I personally really love Japan, Germany, and France. Each pavilion looks like the iconic parts of the country in question and has bars, restaurants, shops, and sometimes rides. For example in France you can ride Remy's Ratatouille Adventure. I feel like I clock up the most amount of steps when EPCOT is involved.

Finally, Disney's Animal Kingdom. Now I know some people who claim Animal Kingdom is their favourite park. These people are obviously lying to you, because in my opinion it is the least awesome park. It is still incredible with some amazing scenery and some genuinely amazing rides and places to eat. But I always find the park gets way too humid and close compared to other parks and there isn't enough there to make me want to go more than once on a two week holiday.

You might be wondering why point five was "Other stuff". Walt Disney World also has two water parks. I've been to one. I'm not a water park person so have no frame of reference. If you like swimming or water slides, you will probably want to visit them once. 

There is also a really great shopping village called Disney Springs. It has a mixture of Disney and non-Disney shops and some great bars and restaurants. We go at least once a trip.

What rides to do

I have a section later talking about which attractions I think are a little too kiddie for adults, baring that, I don't feel confident in recommending specific rides. From hearing people talking about their most loved and hated rides it is so across the board.

If you're unsure on a ride, ask a cast member, they will explain how fast/jolty/jumpy it is.

Most rides have height restrictions and some will have weight restrictions, due to needing to be able to put on a belt or similar, if you're worried, again, I would ask.

Wait times for almost all rides are at least 30 minutes, getting up to way more than an hour or two for lots of more popular rides. Factor this in to your day. There is a lot of queuing!

You can pay for faster access to rides, if there is a ride you're really excited about doing then this might be worth doing but in general I'm not sure it is worth the money.

Some rides have single-rider lines, which is where you will be split up and used to fill in gaps in ride cars. You can enter this line as a group, but know that you almost certainly won't be riding as a group. This isn't something I've done but I know plenty of couples that do this frequently. It can massively reduce your wait time.

Okay, so I did say I don't want to recommend rides, but here are some of my personal favourites in each of the parks.

Magic Kingdom - I love the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rollercoaster and Big Thunder Mountain, which is also a rollercoaster.

EPCOT - My current favourite ride in all of Walt Disney World is Guardian's of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. It is a really smooth rollercoaster that moves in multiple directions.

Hollywood Studios - There are actually so many, it is my favourite park for rides. Slinky Dog Dash and Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway are two current favourites.

Animal Kingdom - Expedition Everest is a really fun and fast rollercoaster, and Na'vi River Journey in Pandora is a gorgeous boat ride.

I realise that most of the rides I've said there are coasters. There are tonnes of rides I love that are what are known as dark rides. These are slow moving rides with lots to see as you go around.

Who to meet

There are plenty of characters to meet across all of the parks. If you've never met a character before you might be thinking "why would I want to do that?". Trust me, once you've had a hug from Minnie Mouse you will get why it is so fun and wholesome.

Often times there is a photographer available, I cover Photopass in a later section.

There are five "types" of meet, these certainly aren't the official categories but I think it is a useful way to break them down.

Face characters - These are characters that can talk to you. Feel free to ask them questions about their lore and things related to the parks. These can be fairly intimidating if you've never done it before (what do you say to Snow White?) but all the characters are really good at keeping conversation flowing.

Fur characters - These are characters that can't talk directly to you, the interaction will be guided by physical movement. In my opinion these are the most fun meets.

Distance meets - These became popular during the pandemic and are still very much a thing for some characters, this is where you can interact but from a distance. Great for selfies.

Meets with meals - These are meals where Disney characters will come to your table for a bit of a chat and to pose for photographs.

Parades and shows - There are several parades and shows on each day in most of the parks, during these you will get a chance to see several Disney characters, and whilst some may wave or blow a kiss at you, you won't be able to properly interact with them.

Where to stay

I've only ever stayed on property at Walt Disney World, this means staying at a Disney-owned hotel situated near the parks.

As mentioned in the caveat section, I've been fortunate enough to stay at all three classes of hotel, value, moderate, and deluxe.

These equate roughly to price bands. Generally speaking the more expensive the hotel, the larger the rooms and the closer you are to one or more of the parks.

There are no two ways about it, staying at a Disney hotel is expensive, and honestly if you're judging the hotel just on being a hotel, you will be disappointed. In my opinion what you're paying for is staying in the Disney bubble, including access to all their internal transportation.

If planning to stay on property, and you don't have any specific preferences, I'd suggest picking based on two criteria; location and theming.

For location: Walt Disney World is a massive place, there are four main parks and only two of them are within walking distance of each other (about 25 minutes). If you know you want to spend a good amount of time in a particular park and there is a hotel within walking distance to that park, then that may be a good choice for you.

For theming: If you want to surround yourself in Disney magic, there are certainly some hotels that do a better job of this than others. If you have a favourite movie, it is certainly worth seeing if there is a hotel with an area themed to that movie.

I've stayed at the following hotels;

  • Art of Animation
  • Port Orleans Riverside
  • The Contemporary
  • The Beach Club
  • The Yacht Club

I can highly recommend The Little Mermaid section of the Art of Animation if you want lots of Disney theming. It is the most themed resort we've stayed at. With very over-the-top theming in the room, around the room, and in the hotel itself. I would happily stay there again.

When we stayed at the Art of Animation you had to take a bus everywhere, but now they have access to the Skyliner, which is a gondola system which can connect you to two of the parks (EPCOT and Hollywood Studios)

For access to parks I would choose either The Beach Club or The Yacht club, they are joined together and are basically the same hotel, so go for whichever is cheaper. These hotels are basically beside EPCOT and a short walk to Hollywood Studios. Fantastic for avoiding transport in the mornings and evenings. I've stayed there several times and would definitely stay there again.

The Contemporary was iconic, and you could walk to The Magic Kingdom, I'm so glad I got to experience staying there but I don't think I would rush back to it, and I don't think I'd recommend it if it was your first time going to Disney. You can splash for a room with fireworks viewing though, which I can highly recommend if its in your budget.

Port Orleans Riverside was gorgeous, and I stayed in a princess room which had tonnes of cute theming (all of the other princesses shared stuff with Tiana to make her feel at home, adorable). It wasn't just themed enough or close enough to other places to make me want to recommend it though.

Where to eat

This will obviously vary based on preferences and budgets, but I think you should try and do at least one character meal. This is a meal where Disney characters will come around to your table and interact and pose for photographs. It is a really fun way to meet characters. My personal favourite is Chef Mickey's in the contemporary.

We actually have an entire article on plant based options in Walt Disney World, if that is your thing!

There are some heavily themed restaurants. For example Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom has you eating in the Beast's castle from Beauty and the Beast.

Most of the restaurants have menus available online and I would recommend having a look. If you're staying on property you can book restaurants 60 days in advance, and I would recommend booking as early as you can.

Depending on the time of year you go, you might be lucky enough to be there during a festival at EPCOT, during the various festivals you can get food and drink from dozens of stalls.

Where to drink

If you've never been to Disney before you might be surprised to be reading a section all about drinking, but there are some excellent bars and drinks you can enjoy in Disney. Some of them I'd recommend just because they're tasty, and others I would recommend because of the theming (there are certainly some places I'd recommend because of both).

Here are some bars I would highly recommend.

Trader Sam's. This highly themed tiki bar in the Polynesian Resort can't be booked up front, but you can walk up from 3PM and try and book a call back. Lots of signature cocktails and really fun staff interactions.

Oga's Cantina. A Star Wars themed cocktail bar in Hollywood Studios. Heavily themed, some tasty cocktails. Most of the time it is standing room only and generally speaking a two drink maximum. This is a must do for any Star Wars fan, but even if you aren't it is still a really cool place to look at and drink in. You need to book ahead.

Nomad Lounge, is a bar in Animal Kingdom, it has a really nice outdoor seating area by a large river. Some nice drinks and bar snacks. It is relatively quiet as well so a good place to decompress on a busy day.

Boardwalk Joe's Marvellous Margaritas. There is an area just outside EPCOT called the Boardwalk, it has a few hotels, shops, and bars. Boardwalk Joe's is a margarita stand that serves frozen drinks. It is perfect on a hot day to cool off and enjoy the scenery.

Tambu Lounge. This lounge inside the Polynesian Resort serves one of my favourite drinks on property, the lapu-lapu, which is basically a large pineapple filled with rum. What isn't to love!

Yacht Club bar. This is probably going to be the quietest bar on my list. It is in the Yacht Club resort. It is in a lovely setting, but the main thing I like about it is just how relaxing and relatively quiet it is. The Yacht Club is really close to EPCOT and walking distance to Hollywood Studios, so is a great place to collect your thoughts between parks.

There are some nice places for walking drinks too, mainly of the frozen and brightly coloured variety! Initially I had five places to recommend, but I think there is enough choice throughout the parks that if you fancy a drink, you'll find one. The one place I would recommend you seek out is the milk stand in Galaxy's Edge, you can order the blue (or green) milk from Star Wars, and optionally have it spiked. 

One thing I certainly wasn't aware of before I first stayed there, was you can buy drink from the shops in the hotels, so if you're staying on property and fancy properly relaxing in the hotel room, you can certainly buy some beer, wine, or spirits and some snacks to take back with you.

What to avoid because it is too kiddie

There is some stuff that I think is just a little too kiddie for my tastes. Now this isn't to say that you shouldn't totally do these things and you might really enjoy them, with zero judgement from me! However the following are things I probably wouldn't do again because I thought they were for little kids.

  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • The Seas in EPCOT
  • The Cars Experience
  • Aladdin's Carpets
  • Any of the dance parties

How to pace yourself

There is a weird amount of walking at Disney, and lots of travel needed. As someone who quite enjoys walking, it is annoying the amount of things that should be within walking distance but just don't have a pathway to get there.

That being said there is a lot of walking, 30,000 steps type days, which even though it is very flat, is still objectively a lot of steps! You will know yourself what is comfortable for you but I would try and rest before you think you need to, and make sure you have an "escape" plan for if you suddenly fade at some point. It doesn't always mean abandoning the day and going back to your hotel, it might just mean getting a drink somewhere, or visiting a near by hotel to chill out for a bit.

The first few trips I went on, I very much tried to squeeze as much out of the day as possible, which meant being there really early to be one of the first people in the park, to staying as late as possible to try and make the most out of lower queues. As time has went on, I've definitely prioritised doing less stuff with less stress.

Once each day, pick three things that if done would make it a really successful day. That might be three rides, or it might be one ride, one shop you really wanted to check out, and one restaurant. If you plan your day around those three things, then you have the rest of the day for "bonus" stuff, or maybe nothing at all.

The thing about Walt Disney World is, it is massive. I honestly think you could stay for a month and not get to do 100% of everything. Don't try. It is much better to come back tomorrow for the fireworks than watch the fireworks half asleep.

Get Photopass

Photopass is a service where Disney photographers or some rides will take photos of you. If you have the option of adding this onto your ticket, I think you should take it. Their photos are going to be much better than your ones 90% of the time, and it means everyone in the group can be in front of the camera.

If you do have Photopass, something I can highly recommend is keeping at eye out for the photographers, they normally wear all white and it is very surprising how many of them have zero people queuing for a photo. They wear more themed clothing in Galaxy's Edge, the Star Wars area of Hollywood Studios.

Photos will be uploaded to your Walt Disney World app and stay online for a good amount of time, giving you plenty of time to download them when you get home from your trip.

Small note on haters

Going to Disney with adults-only occasionally attracts flack and stupid comments. There are generally two types of people who want to chime in with their opinion.

Self-entitled parents who think Disney is for their kids and their kids only. These are the folk that would tut because they are stuck in a queue behind you and think that their child should have preference or right of way. It goes without saying that as a paying ticket holder, you have every right to experience every little of bit of Disney that you want.

Adults who don't know how to have a good time. There will be people who have never been to Disney, so have no frame of reference, who will ask if it isn't a bit weird to pay lots of money to see cartoon characters. Those same people will also pay lots of money to go and watch overpaid people run around kicking or throwing a ball around the place, so, you know, to each their own.

You can safely ignore both. Disney is definitely for people of all ages. It is sad that some people think only kids can experience fun or magic.


I can't believe you've made it to the end, congratulations!

Hopefully all of the above was useful! If you have any questions, or want to share your opinions on anything I've written here please do leave a comment below.

If you know someone planning a holiday to Walt Disney World, feel free to send them a link to this article. I'm going to be keeping it up to date with my latest thoughts and feelings as we go on more Disney holidays.

Written by tosbourn - Thursday 01 June 2023

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