Do Disney in style: a Florida theme park trip for grown ups

by Carol Muskoron
Disney World Florida montage - USA holidays - travel and holidays -

If you think you need a small child in order to go to Disney World in Florida, think again. I went recently with my very grown-up sister and we had a wonderful girlie trip which had everything I'd hope for from a holiday - relaxation, great food, thrills and amazing entertainment. And without a toddler in sight - or not one that we had to look after.

I'm a big fan of all-inclusive style holidays so I'd signed up at for something called a Magic Band - a hypoallergenic wristband that acts as your room key, your entry to parks, FastPass+ entry (if you opt for that - and I did because I hate queueing) and your credit card for anything you want to buy while you're at Disney World. All of which is brilliant but the best part is that MagicBand also gives you access to something called Memory Maker - this means that at the end of each ride you touch your Magic Band to a monitor and photos of you on that ride are sent to your account for you to download. It's lovely not having to decide there and then whether you want the picture of you screaming your head off!

We stayed at the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge - a huge yet homely African-styled hotel with lots of hand-carved furnishings in rich wood. The grounds are home to more than 200 animals - this wasn't immediately apparent as I arrived at night. We went to dinner that first night at Jiko, an elegant fine dining restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge which offers African, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine. The food was vibrant and delicious and it set the tone for all of the wonderful food that was yet to come.

After dinner, we went up to our room - it was very comfortable with air con, a bath, a fridge, lots of cupboard space and a huge television. But best of all was the balcony - when I opened my curtains in the morning and looked out, there next to the balcony were two giraffes sauntering passed. There were also exotic birds and gazelles. We sat on that balcony for some time, watching the animals before breakfast!

We'd planned our trip quite carefully - I think that's important on a Disney World visit - and we'd factored in lots of relaxation time, but our first port of call had to be Magic Kingdom, with classic rollercoasters like Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Disney World covers about 40 square miles of land and is served by about 300 buses, which are free to those staying in the Disney resorts. It didn't take long to get to Magic Kingdom and I survived Space Mountain with my eyes open this time (in Disney Land in Los Angeles a few years back I'd kept them firmly shut).

Lunch was at Tony's Town Square Restaurant - 'Tony's' is the restaurant in 'Lady and the Tramp' where the two doggies go on their romantic date. This 'Tony's' turned out to be a great Italian eatery - casual with a good and varied menu .

After lunch we watched the daily Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade which was cute as a button - a classic spectacle that gets you all fired up and Disneyfied! The most breathtaking moment had to be Maleficent, the dragon from Sleeping Beauty breathing fire! And following all that excitement, it was back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge pool for the rest of the afternoon, surrounded by Florida palms and with a great cafe, there is also a 67-foot-long gentle waterslide which I didn't go on as I sipped my cocktails, but I did see kids happily plopping out of it all afternoon!

That night we decided to be oh-so-grown up and head to Epcot - this is the Disney park dedicated to the real world rather than fantasy ones. We had dinner at a restaurant called Via Napoli, with Italian delicacies served in fantastic American-sized portions. I'd pre-booked us in for an Illuminations Sparkling Dessert Party with a VIP viewing spot of the 'Reflections of Earth Illuminations' - a stunning firework display which we watched eating lots of fresh fruit dipped in chocolate, with boozy doughnuts.

The next morning there was time for a bit of animal spotting on the balcony again before breakfast at the Mara - an American self-service restaurant which served a hearty breakfast including Mickey Mouse waffles and maple syrup (there were also healthy options and African ones too). We had spa treatments booked that morning at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa - this is perhaps the plushest resort in Disney World where, 'Victorian elegance meets modern sophistication at a 'lavish bayside Resort hotel'. An apt description.

The spa is an absolute haven. I had a facial and my sister had a full body massage - we both felt positively dreamy afterwards and floated off into the hotel for lunch at the incredibly pretty Grand Floridian Cafe. Specialising in American food, this classic restaurant has lots of fresh Florida fish on offer - the shrimps, unlike English shrimps, are enormous!

See the highlights of Carol's Disney World trip...

That afternoon it was back to Epcot, where we experienced three more amazing rides: Test Track (a wild car ride), Soarin' (a simulator ride that has you sky diving over Los Angeles - I adored this) and Mission SPACE (another simulator ride which uses centrifugal force and spins you so that you feel what an astronaut feels like during launch and re-entry). You can opt for the less intense Mission SPACE experience - and I did. That was quite enough for me! But people who opted for the real thing said it was spectacular - maybe next year...

Dinner that night was at another wonderful restaurant, Citricos, which serves American Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. I had the divine scallops, followed by slow-cooked beef ribs minus the ribs (which had fallen off during the slow cooking, leaving the most succulent beef ever).

Post-dinner, we had booked ourselves another little luxury: a Fireworks Cruise. You head out on a small motor boat and, whilst sipping Champagne, watch 'Wishes Nighttime Spectacular- - yep, another stunning fireworks display. The audio of the show is on the boat so that even though you're not in Magic Kingdom, you can hear the narrative.

We spent our final day at Disney World in Animal Kingdom, doing a Kilimanjaro Safari - we saw hippos, lions and the most amazing array of African animals at such close range as we drove through the cleverly-crafted landscape on a truck. It looks as if you are right there with the animals, but of course, they can't get to you! There are walking safaris too. After that I needed a rollercoaster fix and Expedition Everest was just perfect - soaring through the Himalayas with some fantastically scary drops. And feeling like I needed something a little calmer after that, we headed to The Lion King Experience - a half-hour show which has stunning acrobats. I got a great seat next to Pumba and he was even cuter in 'real life' than he is in the film - the costumes worn by the actors were that amazing.

Our final evening was spent at the Hollywood Studios, the fourth Disney Park (there are also two Disney waterparks but we didn't visit them). And here I was brave, oh-so brave - I did the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - twice! The Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (along to Aerosmith) and a really fun little ride called Toy Story Mania, an addictive shooting ride - I was so proud that I scored more than the five-year-old boy behind me!

We chose another fine dining experience that night, eating at The Hollywood Brown Derby. The cocktails here were amazing, and the signature cobb salad is absolutely delicious.

The last firework experience of the trip was the Fantasmic show which was an absolute joy that goes deep into Mickey's imagination and has the famous mouse triumphing over the baddies once again. There is a lake between the audience and the stage and at one point the lake is literally on fire! I love the quality of Disney experiences - the shows are of such a high calibre, and they're free once you're in the parks. There is a sense, on a Disney trip, that everything is a treat. You don't have to be a child to enjoy it but it will bring the child out in you. And that's no bad thing.

Disney’s 14 day Ultimate Ticket for the price of a 7 day Ultimate Ticket. Available for bookings made by 30 June 2015 for arrivals until 31st December 2015. Seven nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge including return flights from £897pp - available for bookings made by 31 March 2015; price based on two adults and two children (age 3-11) travelling and sharing a standard room (includes transfers to and from Orlando International Airport, 2 FREE hotel nights as well as all applicable taxes). For more info and full details visit or call 0800 16 90 730.

Guests who sign up to Memory Maker can buy individual photo downloads for $14.95 or can buy the whole Memory Maker package for $169 and download all photos taken of them and their travelling companions on their trip, plus there are opportunities for special photo shoots of your whole party with Disney photographers at set locations, restaurants, attractions - and video footage too.

For more information about Disney World, Orlando, Florida visit


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