Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida has never been on my must-see list. In general, I try to avoid places that are filled with children.
However, when my best friend, Dona, invited me there for her birthday to stay in a timeshare that her family owned, I couldn’t really think of a reason to say no. I wanted to celebrate Dona’s 25th birthday with her, I wouldn’t have to book a hotel room and I could go for just a portion of the week that Dona was staying for with her college friends, so I could only take two days off of work. Plus, things have been stressful lately, and I figured I could use a few days away to decompress.
For only $250, I snagged a round-rip flight to Orlando. I can’t remember the last time that I felt so relaxed.
Old Key West
Dona booked what felt like a house in the Old Key West resort in Walt Disney World, one of the more luxurious options (and one of the more relaxing, luckily for me, in that it was very reminiscent of Key West with pastel colors and a laid-back, beachy feel).
The house, which had a full kitchen and slept eight people in beds – not including pull-out couches – felt like a big cozy home instead of a hotel lodging. When I got there, Dona’s friends had mostly left, so she, her boyfriend, Andrew, and I mostly had the whole place to ourselves.
For the first two full days, Dona and Andrew were recovering from two serious park days – 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. – so they wanted to just relax, which was definitely OK with me. We spent our days palling around, shopping in Disney Springs, which was formerly Downtown Disney and now hosted enough shops for a mall and hanging out at the Old Key West pool.
For the first time in weeks, I couldn’t feel my own pulse vibrating through my body. I didn’t obsessively check my to-do list or my emails. I felt like myself again.
On my last full day there (day three), I got a hopper pass for around $170 and Dona, Andrew and I got up around 7:30 a.m. – not too bad – and headed to Hollywood Studios, which is themed like ’50s Hollywood, equipped with bright colors, neon signs and jovial music. You don’t need TOO much time at Hollywood Studios, so we basically just went on the Tower of Terror, the Rockin’ Roller Coaster and watched some shows to start off our day.
Next, we headed to Animal Kingdom, which is organized around varying continents. A lot of effort is clearly taken in each Disney park to be ‘authentic’ to its theme, and that isn’t more true anywhere else than it is in Animal Kingdom. We did the Mount Everest roller coaster, the Cali River Rapids and of course, the safari. I was pretty disappointed that they don’t have poachers chase you through the safari anymore, though.
Finally, we went to Epcot, where we spent the remainder of our 14-hour day. A lot of time is needed for Epcot, which is divided into a futuristic portion and the ‘around the world’ portion, where there are tons of ‘countries’ to visit. Unfortunately for me, visiting fake countries is a little anti-climatic when you’ve already been to the real country. I was pretty over it about halfway through, probably since I wasn’t trying to ‘drink around the world’ since I was beat. However, the futuristic portion of the park is super cool, especially my favorite ride, Soarin.’
Soarin’, similar to many Disney rides, isn’t a thrill ride but it is a spectacular simulation ride, which simulates flying around the world in a bird’s-eye-view over famous spots of the world such as the Sydney Opera House, the Taj Mahal and the Arctic. It felt so real that I felt myself taking big deep breaths over particularly jaw-dropping moments, which is the same thing I can’t help but do when I visit a really beautiful place for the first time. My body tries to breathe it all in, and I did the same thing when I saw all these places I have always longed to go to.
Disney for adults
Disney is an incredibly smooth operation, where every detail is taken care of and organized impeccably. And even though it’s expensive, you get what you pay for – you never feel jipped, and instead, there were a lot of times I was surprised at how cheap a meal or an item was or I was surprised at how much bang you got for your bucks.
There were also lots of things to do that have nothing to do with kids. And frankly, I can’t imagine trying to drag a kid around the 26,000 steps that I walked during my days at the parks. It’s funny. I would never think of myself as the type to really enjoy Disney, since it’s not like I have kids or anything, but my trip to Disney – finally, as an adult – made me realize why adults go without kids.