“Disney for Grown Ups” is an examination of adult entertainment, attractions and distraction. This installment is for those visiting to Walt Disney World as part of another trip, i.e., those who will have far too little time. This is an appropriate Disney for Grown Ups article as a quick sojourn to WDW is not recommended for anyone traveling with children, for they will rightfully kill you. (See also Disney’s Most Romantic Spots and Walt Disney World of Adult Beverages)
Okay, you are of an ambitious bent, and you figured since you are going to be in Florida anyway, why not stop by Walt Disney World for a couple days? Best Advice; stay longer. Whatever else you have planned is not going to compare, and should readily be sacrificed for more time at Disney. Secondary Advice; do not try to see everything. The WDW Resort is vast. Hoping to do it all in a few days is like trying to hit the Smithsonian or Louvre in an afternoon. You are condemned to wind up exhausted and wholly unsatisfied.
For maximum results during a minimal stay try to take it easy. There is an energy that permeates the resort and will flood your system with adrenaline. Make an effort to pace and enjoy yourself. Just know that on a trip of two days, even two weeks, you are going to miss some stuff. Truly, you are going to miss a lot. The good news; EVERYTHING you see, and EVERYTHING you get to do is going to be wonderful. So relish the experiences you have, and lament not those that you do not.
We have already determined from the brevity of your stay that you are a bad planner. It is unlikely, then, you will be getting to the resort early enough on your first day to justify the cost of park admission. Anyone arriving before noon on, say, Monday, who will then have all day Tuesday, and aren’t leaving until sometime in the afternoon Wednesday, may want to invest in a 3-Day, One Park ticket. But not you.
You are going to over pack, thus have difficulty with your bags, rental car and check-in, and it may be well into the afternoon before you are fit to do anything. DO NOT BUY A PARK TICKET FOR HALF A DAY’S ENJOYMENT. This may sound like blasphemy, until you are made aware of all there is to do in the resort outside of the specific park properties.
It should go without saying, but is of vital importance so needs to be said, if you are going to Walt Disney World at all, even for a day, you ought to stay at the Resort. The money you think you are saving by staying at a motel in Orlando is nothing compared to the convenience and pure delight of staying at a resort property.
Go directly from the airport, or from Sarasota, to your hotel. Dump your bags, ditch your car if you have one, and don’t think about those things for the rest of the day.
Start with a leisurely walk around your hotel. Depending upon where you are staying, the Grand Floridian, Animal Kingdom Lodge, etc., you could spend an entire day at this. Remember, your limited schedule does not allow for an entire day dedicated to any single activity. Try to stay focused.
Also, depending upon where you are staying, you may easily extend the walk around your hotel to become a walk around some neighboring properties. Cherish the freedom to move from one area of the resort to another, at no cost. Again, entire days may be spent freely exploring. This you may do, and should do on your first day.
Ideal exploring districts are Downtown Disney, and each of the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Epcot Resort areas. If you are not staying at, or are not within easy walking distance of these (walking distance is arbitrary, certainly, but considering how much walking you are going to do once you are at something, you will want to limit the amount of walking it takes to get there), grab a resort map, then hop on Disney bus.
Disney transportation is free and convenient, and the semi-reliable wait for a bus is preferable to the traffic and parking hassle attached to being in your own car.
Better than buses are the numerous boats and monorails. If you find yourself in a place that offers either, jump on one. Sailing and railing around the resort is a splendid way to spend a non-park day. The keen and perceptive can reconnoiter the best way to get back to the parks for Day 2.
Where to eat, Day 1:
Your hotel may offer extraordinary restaurants and fare, but by default you spend a good deal of time here anyway, so pick somewhere else to eat; anywhere else.
Head for Downtown Disney or the Epcot Resort Area. Both contain a wealth of options, in addition to a lot to see, do and explore on your non-park day after you eat. At Downtown Disney, try Fulton’s Crab House, a charming, if pricey, riverboat restaurant and lounge. Within the Epcot area, check out Kimono’s Sushi Bar at the Swan hotel, or head for Disney’s BoardWalk. Enjoy intimate dining, the ESPN Zone, or a Coney style hot dog and lemonade from an outdoor vendor.
After dinner bus, boat or Monorail your way back to the Magic Kingdom Resort Area. Explore any of the extravagant hotel properties here. If your timing is right (but we’ve already discussed your issues with timing) grab yourself a drink and a table outside an watch the semi-distant, but delightful fireworks display.
Stay out and enjoy the evening to maximize your time, but don’t overdo it. You have a big day tomorrow.