For a landmark wedding anniversary one December, we did what many people do to celebrate an accomplishment. We went to Disney World.
We always meant to take the kids, but somehow it didn’t happen. And, actually, it wasn’t our idea. We thought Florida in December sounded good, and planned to visit relatives, among other things. They suggested spending a day at the theme park.
Disney, without kids, we asked? Sure, they said. People (like them) do it all the time!
So we went.
It was a chilly Friday in December, before most schools were out for the holidays, so we figured the park would not be very crowded. We figured wrong. It was packed. Chilly temperatures just got everyone into the holiday spirit. Christmas decorations were everywhere, and Christmas music was piped throughout the park.
To avoid the pint-sized crowds, we first headed for Epcot Center. It appealed the most to us, and for part of the day, it was only slightly overpopulated with visitors.
Crossing the bridge into the center, it quickly became apparent that we could spend many hours here.
In France, we watched a gorgeous 180-degree film on that country. Then we munched on French pastries
while we listened to Pere Noel (the French version of Santa Claus, or Father Christmas) talk about French holiday traditions.
Off to Germany, then Morocco, and China. Each had its own unique shops, restaurants and attractions. At China, we filed into an auditorium to watch a 360-degree film on that nation. Fascinating!
In Mexico, we took a tame water ride that also escorted us through the colorful history of that country, with lots of eye-candy to keep us entertained.
Each place had its own appeal: In Africa, for example, children from the audience were invited up to help beat the drums.
By afternoon, we decided we had to brave the Magic Kingdom, the Disney of our childhood dreams. So we boarded the tram and it whisked us there in no time.
Here is where all the kids had congregated. Mickey, Minnie and friends were doing regular Christmas shows at the Sleeping Beauty Castle, but it was getting colder. So we sought the warmth of the Laugh Floor, where characters from “Monsters, Inc.,” entertained us with corny jokes and silly pranks.
OK, I admit it. We laughed!
It was getting dark, so we braved the chill a while longer to visit Hollywood Studios, where we heard the lighting display was spectacular. Whoever told us that underestimated the impact millions (yes, millions) of lights can have on the Christmas spirit. Spectacular doesn’t begin to describe it. Entire buildings were encased in lights that sometimes blinked, moved or just glowed in the dark. Manufactured snow fell from the rooftops of the mock buildings – and it was cold enough, it hit the ground, sprinkled our hair and faces, as we wandered like enchanted children through the wonderland of lights.
This alone was worth the trip.
So Disney can be a magical experience for visitors of any age. For adult travelers, however, I offer this advice:
* Go when it’s less crowded. That usually means weekdays right after Thanksgiving and before Christmas break. Or consider the last week of August, before Labor Day -- but then you don’t get the Christmas stuff.
* Don’t be afraid to visit if you are physically impaired. Everything was handicapped-accessible and there were lots of places to sit down and plenty of restrooms, strategically placed.
* Go early. Not only is it less crowded in the morning, but small children tend to be happier that time of day – before they’ve missed their naps or overloaded on Disney fun.
* Park your car at your hotel and leave it. Buses, ferries, light rail and other public transportation at Disney World would put most major cities to shame. It’s easy, free, accessible and convenient.
* Wear comfortable shoes. No matter what, you’ll be doing a lot of walking.
* And, finally … Let yourself go. Giggle when Donald Duck offers to have his picture taken with you. It’s OK to be a kid, even in your 60's.
Nobody will notice. I promise.
For information on ticket prices, dining reservations and more, visit https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/.
Linda DuVal is the former travel editor for The Gazette, a freelance travel writer and winner of several Lowell Thomas awards. She is the co-author of Insider’s Guide to Colorado Springs and writes a local Web site, Pikes Peak on the Cheap (www.pikespeakonthecheap.com).
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