The happiest place on Earth (and why it’s great for adults, too.)

I am lucky enough to have received some pretty amazing graduation gifts, mainly in the form of bottled alcohol and money. To a newly unemployed 22-year-old gal, those are– let’s be honest– great presents. But I was given one thing that was more activity than alcohol and mouse than money: a trip to Orlando, Florida with my boyfriend and my mother to go to Walt Disney World.

I suppose now’s a good time to mention that I love Walt Disney World. 

Some friends understood my excitement, while others had that ‘Why Disney World? You’re an adult. That’s for kids’-type reaction. Or, what’s worse, the ‘Wouldn’t you rather go to a thrilling park, like Six Flags or Universal Studios?’

Eek! No. You’re wrong. Couldn’t be more wrong. So painfully wrong. You’re totally missing out due to your wrong-ness. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

Not only do I vastly prefer Disney World to any other park (Six Flags? Please.) but it is not just for kids. Disney World was made the same way the best children’s TV shows and movies– many made by Disney because, let’s be real, they’re good at this– where it is fun for children and equally, if not more so, entertaining for adults.

Think about the classic Disney flick Who Framed Rodger Rabbit? I watched that movie as a kid; it’s totally fine for kids. But as an adult? Three times as funny! The dirty patty-cake reference? Rodger’s hilarious reaction to strong liquor? The safe room at the bar? ‘On the rocks’ drinks coming on actual rocks? C’mon now, people! It’s adult humor gold!

Disney World is the same idea (and presumably Disneyland, although I’ve never been) And going to Disney World with three adults was, believe it or not, more fun than my amazing childhood Disney World memories and has officially taken the spot as the best trip I’ve been on. Care to know why?

Note: According to Wikipedia, Disneyland is the “happiest place on Earth” and Disney World is the “most magical place on Earth”. Whatever. They are crazy happy magical places, and you should totally go, post titled be damned. 

There’s so much to see! My mother is a Disney pro. She went to Disneyland a few times as a child and visited it on her California honeymoon. It was our vacation pick during my childhood and her idea for my graduation gift. While we still have to use the maps a bit, her expertise and general directional savvyiess makes wandering the park easier, and her keen eye for detail means we don’t miss a thing to look at. And there is a lot to look at.

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To keep that magical feeling going, no detail it overlooked at Disney. You never see characters in the wrong spots, nor “normal” items in themed areas. The waiting area before rides is decorated to match the ride and keep guests entertained while they wait, and small “hidden Mickeys” are placed all over the grounds on things like manhole covers and decorative stonework.

Be it a graveyard in front of the Haunted Mansion or an undersea cave before an Ariel ride, you’re there. While that magical feeling is great for kids, as an adult it’s fun to see this impressive work as you can appreciate what a land they’ve created (and, in result,  feel just as swept away as those eating from the 10 and under menu).

The food is simply too good for children… Okay, it’s not too good for children, but it’s too good and expensive for children who may not know the difference. Take this Mickey-shaped ice cream bar, for example. By my guess, it was dipped into three layers of premium chocolate atop its silky-smooth vanilla filling before being packaged and sold. Other than the shape, would a kid  think this tastes much better than the grocery store alternative?

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Use that adult foodie palate of yours to eat things shaped like cartoon characters (or served next to life-size cartoon characters or on plates featuring cartoon characters) in restaurants you’ve never dreamed of.

Try the Famous All-America Picnic Burger at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, where you sit in a 50s ‘convertible’ and watch the drive-in screen play retro-classic shorts with a sci-fi and tacky-horror theme.  Or the Fire-Roasted Rotisserie Chicken dinner at T-Rex, where you eat in a fully-decorated part of the dino world (an ice cave, under water, the tropical forest) and watch for animatronic dinosaurs and above-head meteor showers.

…And the cocktails are even better. In fact, while you’re at the restaurants, skip the appetizers and head straight to the specialty drinks. Disney doesn’t leave the magic out of its (semi-pricey) cocktails, as most have some unique twist and come with some entertaining freebie.

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Take this light up Maui Wowie I ordered at the Prime Time Cafe. Since it was a 1950s homelife-themed restaurant (think: you’re living in a sitcom) I found it listed on the “Dad’s Liquor Cabinet” menu and it was given to me by a waiter who said, and I quote, “Dad says it lights up and’ll get ya lit!”

As a note, I feel it important to say these cocktails are not that much more expensive than cocktails are anywhere.  For example, I ordered the Tropical Cotton-tini, which was something like $10. For $10 I got a free, take-home shaker and enough cocktail for two full drinks… Plus, it was poured over a blue thing of cotton candy and changed colors under the alternating lights in the room. Two drinks for $10, plus the crazy atmosphere, plus a free dinosaur-themed shaker? Sold. Also, it was delicious, so that helped.

There’s more to it than the Magic Kingdom. And some of that other stuff is more fun for the childless few. Take Downtown Disney, for example. There is the Marketplace (shopping) and Pleasure Island (clubs, bars, restaurants, attractions), plus a dine-in movie theater and a Cirque du Soleil tent with on-going performances and more. We visited the area three times during our trip: once at the beginning, once at the end, and once (for a second) in the middle.

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Right before heading out of town we went up in a ginormous, tethered, helium balloon to get one last great look at the area. All three of us have always wanted to go up in a hot air balloon, but this was a more affordable option (under $20 per adult, as opposed to the $200+ we’ve seen) with a spectacular pay-off.

It can be pretty romantic. While this was a family vacation, Lance and I still found the experience to be rather romantic at times. Be it the fireworks, the dark rides, the necessary snuggling in the air conditioned theaters… Something about all the magic and humor and fun felt good to experience with a significant other.

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Maybe this is because we’re both equally childish, or maybe it’s because we still really like Disney movies, but I’m glad he was there to experience this with. Also, his presence made Princess Aurora ask if he was my Prince Charming and if we’d be having a ‘happily ever after ending’ soon. When Disney Princesses ask you things like that it’s sort of makes every five-year-old part of you that’s left giggle with joy. “Yes, he is my Prince Charming! [insert obnoxious giggle].”

Sounds like a perfect trip, huh? And fun for adults? Absolutely. We had the best time, and I am so thankful for the gift. No better way to celebrate entering the supposedly bleak workforce than by visiting the place where dreams come true.

Oh yeah, and while we waited in line for Spaceship Earth a little kid told his dad I looked like Ariel. Off-topic, perhaps, but important. That’s a compliment I, as an adult, can appreciate. You think I look like Ariel?! That’s the nicest thing anyone could say!


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