LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Call ‘em “tweenagers” -- the crowd whose generation falls somewhere between life’s fast lane and easy-does-it, between P.Diddy and Presley, between lasers and lava lamps.
Baby Boomers born from 1946 through 1964 represent a whopping one-third of the U.S. population. They grew up with Walt Disney World. But they haven’t outgrown Walt Disney World.
Never mind that the kids have moved out and gray hair is moving in. Never mind that they can name the original Mouseketeers but are clueless as to who or what constitutes Unk or Stone Sour.
As the Boomers have grown up, so has Walt Disney World Resort. From one Magic Kingdom to a 40-square-mile vacationland consisting of theme parks, water parks, resort hotels, Downtown Disney nightlife/shopping district and other magical attractions and recreational centers.
Now that they’ve paid off the mortgage or maybe the kids’ college tuition, it’s their time. And what better way for Boomers to spend it than to revisit and remember the magic of Walt Disney World Resort?
Sure, kid-friendly attractions are the cornerstone here. But there’s a grown-up, less frenetic side of the Vacation Kingdom. Like music in a splendid dance palace. Salmon steaks at breakfast. Golf lessons. Flower gardens that look as good as they smell.
“Lots of adults, both younger ones (‘pre-kid’) and older people whose children have flown the coop (‘post-kid’), are descending on the parks with needs and notions that are vastly different from those of the parental persuasion,” observed Jill Safro, editor of Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World without kids (Hearst Business Publishing).
And, OK Boomers: You can ride Space Mountain like you did 20 years ago. Or drop in a free-falling elevator in The Twilight Zone™ Tower of Terror, just to prove to your kids you’re hip as ever.
But if your vacation march is to the beat of “brushes on snares” rather than ear-splitting heavy metal, here are some Disney best bets with a “grown-up” slant:
Disney’s BoardWalk is a whole district of dining, entertainment and recreation that might have shifted 700 miles south. A broad wooden boardwalk on a waterfront is the “main drag” of the resort complex. Stroll the boardwalk or rent a peddle-driven surrey bike built for two or four. Shoot a “hoop,” win a prize. Taste the micro-brewed beers of Big River Grille & Brewing Works. Dance the night away in the elegant Atlantic Dance ballroom. Accommodations evoke the charm of early
Mid-Atlantic coastal inns.
“A forested wonder” -- that’s the way Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World: The Official Guide depicts Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. It is more than 700 acres of cypress and pine forest that have been carefully laid out as a campground with nearly 1,200 sites. It’s a home-away-from-home for everyone from tent campers to folks who prefer one of the Wilderness Cabins complete with fully equipped kitchens, air conditioning and maid service. There is a white sand beach and a marina on Bay Lake, a nature trail and waterways for fishing. Canoeing and pedal boating complete this idyllic vacation setting. To make reservations, phone 407/W-DISNEY.
Imagine times and places long ago and sometimes far away. The fantasy experiences for which the Walt Disney World theme parks are world-famous extend to the resorts. Across Seven Seas Lagoon from Magic Kingdom are ports of call that welcome guests to the South Seas (Disney’s Polynesian Resort) and 19th century South Florida (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa). Some of the other adventures: the old New England seaside (Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort), the heyday of the mid-Atlantic shore (Disney’s BoardWalk), America’s great western parks (Disney’s Wilderness Lodge), the American Southwest (Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort), the Old South (Disney’s Port Orleans Resort), exotic Africa (Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge), and the fads and crazes of the 20th century (Disney’s Pop Century Resort).
If golf’s your game, Walt Disney World Resort has days worth of challenges that have helped earn the Vacation Kingdom a distinction as one of the country’s top golf resorts. Disney’s Osprey Ridge Golf Course was crafted by Tom Fazio, while veteran designer Joe Lee was architect of the Magnolia, Palm and Lake Buena Vista courses. To make reservations, call 407/WDW-GOLF.
Tennis, anyone? Walt Disney World Resort answers with 30 of the finest courts in Central Florida.
For guests who love the great outdoors, adventures abound by land or by sea. There are trails for jogging, biking and horseback riding. And for fun on the water, guests can skim across Walt Disney World waterways aboard a personal Sea Raycer watercraft. These modern-looking mini-powerboats make waves as they cut through open water. Sailboats, pontoon boats, canopy boats, pedal boats, rowboats and canoes are also available rentals at select Walt Disney World marinas. For more information on these activities call 407/WDW-PLAY.
Even sports fishermen’s dreams come true at Walt Disney World Resort. Guests on BASS-guided fishing excursions routinely catch bass weighing 2 to 8 pounds. And BASS fishing participants at Walt Disney World Resort receive a one-year BASS membership, including 11 issues of Bassmaster Magazine, special discounts and more. For reservations, call 407/WDW-BASS (939-2277).
Relaxing and Eating
Breakfast can be a civilized great adventure if you know the menu. Some ways to start the day at Walt Disney World Resort: Smoked Norwegian salmon with bagels and cream cheese (Concourse Steak House at Disney’s Contemporary Resort), thick French toast stuffed with bananas (Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Resort) and Egg Rotollo -- eggs with chorizo, onions, peppers and cheddar rolled in lavosh (Spoodles at Disney’s BoardWalk).
Need a lunch break? If you’re spending the day in Magic Kingdom, at lunchtime hop on the monorail for a quick trip to Grand Floridian Cafe at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, where you’ll experience a great meal and a nice change of pace.
Dinner is a regal occasion at Victoria & Albert’s, an intimate dining room with just 18 tables at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Elegant touches include Royal Doulton china, Cristofle silver and Riedel crystal. Culinary offerings are created daily with the best available fresh ingredients.
Indulgence knows no boundaries with the pampering guests receive at the two full-service spas at Walt Disney World Resort. The Spa at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort combines Disney’s expertise in service with natural spa therapies from around the world. The Grand Floridian Spa & Health Club offers 17 treatment rooms for massage, herbal wraps and aromatherapy.
Snuggled away on the far southeast corner of Walt Disney World property is Celebration, a new community with an old-fashioned downtown where an evening stroll can end at a cinema or a cozy restaurant with tables along the sidewalk.
Downtown Disney West Side, a hip corner of Downtown Disney, features some of the world’s most exciting restaurants, nightclubs and shopping adventures. Highlights include Cirque du Soleil, Virgin Megastore, House of Blues, Wolfgang Puck Cafe and Bongos Cuban Cafe.
Downtown Disney Pleasure Island is a nightlife district that includes a comedy club that is always good for a chuckle. Note: You’ll hear plenty of hot-rocking sounds from clubs along the street en route to your club of choice. And how is this for Boomer nirvana -- adults can savor a smoke and premium cocktails at Fuego by Sosa Cigars, a stylish lounge next to Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant.
Watch a dazzling fireworks show. Choose between “Wishes” at Magic Kingdom and “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” at Epcot. Or catch “Fantasmic!” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or the “SpectroMagic” parade at Magic Kingdom as they light up the night sky.
Take a grand circle tour of Magic Kingdom aboard the Walt Disney World Railroad, churn along Rivers of America aboard a Liberty Square riverboat and catch a ride on a horse-drawn trolley down Main Street, U.S.A.
Be a kid again, revisiting the attractions of Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom -- it’s a small world; Peter Pan’s Flight; Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel; Snow White’s Scary Adventure; Dumbo, the Flying Elephant; The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh; and “Mickey’s PhilharMagic” 3-D spectacular.
Epcot World Showcase features 11 nations of the world in architecture, dining, art and history exhibits, entertainment and shopping. A tree-lined promenade encircling a peaceful lagoon is the byway connecting the countries: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom and Canada.
In the Future World section of Epcot, Boomers can get lofty on Soarin’ -- a breathtaking, wind-in-your-hair experience simulating flight over the natural wonders of California. Riders are softly lifted 40 feet into an 80-foot projection screen dome that fills their field of vision with the spectacle of the Golden State.
The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is an annual six-week-long rite of autumn celebrating the food, beverages and cultures from more than 25 regions.
The gardens of Epcot are never brighter than during the months of March through early June, when guests discover the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. There are lectures, demonstrations and gardens ablaze with colorful displays from the entrance plaza to the far reaches of World Showcase.
The heyday of Hollywood is captured in the architecture of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The park has its own Hollywood and Vine, and also a Sunset Boulevard that recalls the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown. The trip down memory lane is completed by The Great Movie Ride, a ride through famous moments from the big screen, and The Hollywood Brown Derby, where the famous Cobb salad of the former Vine Street restaurant is alive and well along with the interior design of the
one-time hangout of Hollywood stars. Boomers who grooved to '70s rock will want to take a spin on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.
Unleash your inner explorer with a day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Up-close encounters with exotic animals and adventures of the prehistoric kind await guests at this theme park that sprawls across 500 acres. The park’s largest attraction, Kilimanjaro Safaris, is an incredible journey across an “African savannah” where hundreds of animals roam free.
Timing your visit for the cooler months and away from the peaks of family vacationing can add to the comfort of the adventure. Prime time for family vacations is when the kids are out of school -- during the summer months of June, July and August, around major holidays and spring break late February to mid-April.