Disney World - Mickey and Minnie
Epcot at dusk

I’m loving Disney on a whole new level as an empty nester. Although I had so many magical family memories in this wonderful place, I had no idea how much more FUN Walt Disney World is as an adult. Unencumbered by strollers, feeding times, child-friendly menus, obligatory nausea-inducing rides, and cost consciousness, empty nesters have the freedom to experience Disney their way. Here are my top 7 Walt Disney World empty nester experiences.

1. Food Fests – Don’t miss out on Disney’s fantastic festivals at Epcot. This year, I made it around to all 22 booths during the Flower and Garden Festival. Make sure and get a park hopper added to your multi-day ticket and plan to have a late lunch and dinner at the Festival. As of the date of this blog, guests can park hop any time after 2pm. Epcot is open until 11pm so you can plan a late lunch and dinner at the Festival. I completed my tour of all 22 booths in two days. But I recommend spreading it out over at least three days. My favorites this year were the frushi at the Hanami booth in Japan, the papa cakes at the Lotus House booth in China, and all of the dishes at the Taste of Marrakesh booth in Morocco.

Rocking it out with The Hooligans

2. Musical Performances – During the food fests, 70s and 80s bands serenade you beginning at dusk. Most recently I rocked it out with The Hooligans belting out Who, Rolling Stones, and Led Zepplin hits in the America Gardens Theater. The real deal also frequents these fests. My husband and I enjoyed Night Ranger a couple of years ago during the Food and Wine Festival. It was a perfect end to a fantastic day. Throughout the day, check out the Beatles cover bands in England and the culturally rich performances in Japan and Canada.

3. World Showcase Immersive Experiences – The World Showcase is an empty nester’s playground with so many ways to experience the lands.  The music, decorative lighting and realistic bazaar make Morocco a particularly immersive treat at sunset or at night. Grab your dinner at Tangierine Cafe and find a café table tucked away inside the bazaar. Italy can also be quite captivating with a scaled down version of St. Mark’s Square. I love sampling the Italian wine from the Tutto Italia Wine Cellar and chocolates in the piazza with Italian music transporting me to this wonderful country. France also has possibilities of an immersive experience. One of my fondest memories is discovering the Napoleon layered pastry from Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie and finding a small café table tucked back into the “village.”

4. Cantina Hopping – Make dining reservations as soon as possible for the Nomad Lounge and Oga’s Cantina. The menu at Animal Kingdom’s Nomad Lounge features a variety of creative dishes and drinks catering to adult tastes. My favorites are the Mother Earth cocktail paired with the chicken bowl. Outside seating is on a shaded balconey overlooking the river where various Disney characters and entertainers can be seen drifting by on pontoon boats. It was a hot day so we opted for the air conditioning inside. Disney Holywood Studio has Oga’s Cantina which could also be listed in #3. After stepping into Oga’s, you are transported to a galaxy far far away – Batuu in Galaxy’s Edge to be precise. I jumped to light speed during lunch where drinks and snacks were out of this world. Try the Bespin Fizz with its dramatic presentation and my personal favorite, the Fuzzy Tauntaun for the physical effect (I won’t spoil the surprise with details). The chips or alien charcuterie plate are plenty to keep your tummy full while clinking glasses with your favorite scruffy nerf herder.

5. Shorter Wait Times – As an empty nester, you can go anytime! Pick an off-season time of year (generally while school is in session). The crowds and lines will be much shorter and temperatures cooler. You will be traveling with a smaller party – maybe even just you and a travel buddy. So you might be able to into a restaurant without a reservation and use the singles ride line to zip through those long lines. At the end of the day, you might find yourself being waved onto the park transportation buses quicker with a party of two. As adults you’ll be able to flex to whatever situations arise and take advantage of what might appear to be less than optimal conditions. My favorite example of this is when my husband and I weathered a rain shower to dine at the Food and Wine Fest a few years back. The booths were open, there were no lines, and the vendors were very generous with their helpings. It ended up being one of the best Disney trips we every took!

6. Fine Dining – Treat yourself to the meal you’ve always wanted at Disney without needing to worry about bedtime or naptime constraints, whether or not the cost would be worth a potential meltdown, and the presence of a kids menu. There are so many options to choose from. Start with cuisine that is not broadly available in your area. I’ve had my most memorable culinary experiences in Chefs de France and the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway. If you’re looking for after dinner wonder, schedule dinner right before the Magic Kingdom fireworks (save this for next year…no fireworks (whenever those start up again) at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill – one of the BEST places to view this breathtaking show.

7. Rides My Way – I’m one of those empty nesters that has outgrown roller coasters. I am SO GLAD that Disney is spending a great deal of effort designing rides that focus on immersing you into their world. Rise of the Resistance, Smuggler’s Run, Avatar, and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Train come immediately to mind. I was too busy enjoying the experience I forgot to get sick! Trackless systems also minimize the jerking motion making it more comfortable ride.

Walt Disney World is the happiest place on earth to enjoy your empty nest status and bring out your child-like glee after many years of behaving like an adult. It’s all about you now – relish this time – you’ve earned it!

Contact me today to plan your escape to the happiest place to be an empty nester at leah@escapethenesttravel.com


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