Helen Sessions/Alamy

Disney for Grownups

By Kellie Davenport

For many years,I was a Disney skeptic. As a single woman in my 30s, I figured the park’s best left to seven-year-old princesses and teenage thrill-seekers. Then I went there. After that first trip more than a decade ago (and a long overdue follow-up pre-Covid), I can definitively say Walt Disney World and Disneyland are brimming with delights for grownups. The parks appeal to adults with curated experiences, luxe amenities and world-class dining. Here are a few of my favourites—plus some practical pointers.


THRILLS AND CHILLS

Sure, Space Mountain is iconic and the teacups make an adorable Instagram post, but these adrenaline-inducing rides are truly unforgettable

Flight of Passage

This multi-sensory Avatar-inspired flight simulator at Disney World is both relaxing and exhilarating. Soar through the Pandoran sky on a dragon-like banshee. While you dip and swerve through caves, treetops and waterfalls, fresh scents envelop you and cool water gently mists your face and body.

Tower of Terror

Disney World’s original big-drop ride, this rickety elevator is arguably the most thrilling experience at Hollywood Studios. Don’t exit without buying a souvenir photo snapped at the exact moment you plummet 13 storeys in a terrifying (but totally safe) freefall.

Mission: Breakout!

This Guardians of the Galaxy experience at Disneyland takes you on a raucous rescue mission. Led by Rocket, you’ll shoot up and down a gantry lift to save Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora and Groot from the clutches of the dastardly Taneleer Tivan, a.k.a. the Collector.

Rise of the Resistance

As much a piece of story-telling as it is thrill ride, the newest attraction at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in both California and Florida is Disney’s most ambitious yet. Using simulators, holograms and trackless riding, you’ll meet BB-8, fly on a starship, and hurl through space to outrun Kylo Ren.

A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY

Get your Skywalker on at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Photo: Disney

Whether you’re a First Order fanatic or Team Resistance, set aside a full afternoon to explore Black Spire Outpost—a village on the planet of Batuu. Opened in 2019, the sprawling intergalactic land offers a truly immersive experience—even snack stands are emblazoned with Coke logos translated into the Star Wars language of Aurebesh.

May the Force be With You

Start your visit with a trip aboard Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, a motion simulator ride that has you piloting the famed ship or serving as a gunner or engineer. After safely landing the craft, refuel with a glass of blue milk; Luke Skywalker’s preferred beverage tastes like a tropical coconut slushie (I preferred the citrusy green milk). For something a little stronger, Trandoshan Ale is a hoppy thirst-quencher.

While sipping your libation of choice, try a hand of sabacc, the game of skill and chance that cost Lando Calrissian the Millennium Falcon. Like an intergalactic carnie, a pop-up dealer patiently taught me the rules—before giddily taking the pot.

The newest attraction on Batuu is Rise of the Resistance. Join the Resistance in an epic battle against the First Order on this exciting ride, during which you’ll encounter Rey, BB-8, Kylo Ren and Stormtroopers.

Hive of Fun & Activities

Wrap up your visit with a drink at Oga’s Cantina, the hottest club this side of Tatooine. (Make sure to reserve online in advance.) At this watering hole for starship pilots, intergalactic bounty hunters and all manner of strange space creatures, try the Carbon Freeze, a strawberry-blueberry concoction with popping pearls. Instead, try a Bespin Fizz, the cantina’s rum-based take on a Cosmo with yuzu purée, pomegranate juice and a dramatic swirl of dry ice.

First disembark, and then head to the Droid Depot to design, assemble and activate the droid of your dreams. Pick parts from the assembly line conveyer belt, which is loaded with BB-8-style heads and R2-D2 legs. A complete droid runs about $100 USD.

Other must-shops include Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, where you can pick up mini busts of Jedi legends, and the Creature Stall for cute critters like a Kowakian monkey-lizard or a cuddly penguin-like porg.

MORE TO READ
New travel insurance benefits to protect your trip.

GOURMET GOODS

Because there’s more than Mickey-shaped ice cream and popcorn (though you should nosh on them too!)

Best appetizer

Served with spiced pecans, crispy papadum and apricot chutney, the artisanal cheese plate at Nomad Lounge is perfect with a pint of Disney-made Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale. Also, on a sunny day, the riverside patio provides a relaxing escape in Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. 

Best burger

The juicy Hawaiian cheeseburger at Disneyland Hotel’s Tangaroa Terrace is a half-pound Angus patty topped with grilled pineapple, applewood-smoked bacon and havarti cheese.

Best brunch

Helmed by master sommelier George Miliotes, Wine Bar George at Disney World is the ideal spot for a boozy brunch. Tuck into an artichoke-and-asparagus omelette or steak-and-eggs frites, paired with one of 140 wines served by the glass.

Best cocktail 

Tiki lovers will swoon over the Hippopoto Mai-Tai. You can find it at Trader Sam’s (which has tiki bars at both Disney World and Disneyland). It combines dark and white rum with orange curaçao, orgeat, agave nectar and fresh lime juice.

Best beer

Disneyland’s only on-site brewery, Ballast Point Brewing Co. pours award-winning California craft ales and lagers. You won’t be disappointed with a pint of Victory at Sea, an imperial porter made with coffee and vanilla. 

Best vegetarian

Plant-based picks are no longer the exclusive realm of table-service dining. At quick-service Pym Test Kitchen at Disney California Adventure Park, the Impossible Spoonful is loaded with rigatoni and ditalini pasta, plant-based meatballs, dairy-free parmesan and micro basil.

Best fest 

Do not miss Walt Disney World’s annual EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival. It features global marketplaces offering a taste tour across six continents, live entertainment, shopping and other authentic activities.

ONCE IN A LIFETIME

Bucket-list experiences you didn’t know you needed

Build a custom lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Start by choosing an Imperial Era kyber crystal, which determines the colour of your blade. Then the rest of the process is top secret and reserved for Jedi-in-training. May the Force be with you.

At Disney World, swing by Epcot to see The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure. The museum-style exhibit celebrates all things jazz! It showcases artifacts, like Louis Armstrong’s trumpet and original sheet music from Duke Ellington.

Say “I do” Disney-style and turn your big day into a real-life fairy tale. Disney Weddings in both California and Florida offer complete packages including venue, food, flowers, cake and entertainment. Exchange vows under the Tree of Life, in the shadow of the Tower of Terror, beside Sleeping Beauty Castle. Think beyond mouse ears when it comes to souvenirs. In Florida, Epcot’s World Showcase carries imported items you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in North America. Pick up a handcrafted German teddy bear from Der Teddybar. Finally, at Disneyana in Disneyland Park, you can take home a real piece of Disney history in the form of original artwork of your fave characters

SEE IT WITH AMA
Contact an AMA Travel expert to help plan your Disney holiday and make your vacation even more memorable.