Ok, I’ve now covered where to stay and what to eat at Disney World but let’s face it, the real reason you go to Disney World is for the theme parks. And as a woman with wanderlust, I am guessing you don’t want to be surrounded by families with screaming kids and cranky Moms and Dads, not to mention Granny and Gramps in tow. So, here’s the long and short of it for the solo traveler.
1. Don’t expect to tackle more than one park in a day. Save your money on those Park Hopper passes that promote that fanciful notion. There is plenty to do and see in each park from dawn to dusk, except for the Animal Kingdom and I’ll get to that later. Instead buy the Magic Your Way tickets (one park per day) and perhaps add the no expiration option. Often, if you are a member of your local auto club you can get discounted tickets but check the Disney World website for package rates because sometimes the mouse’s way really is the best way.
2. Magic Kingdom – This is home for the princess in every girl, whether your 7 or 67. Let yourself dream and be a child again. You are encouraged to do that here and you are not chided for it; so go with the flow.
Now, since this is the go-to destination for the diaper set, best to hit this park first thing in the morning so you can take a break mid-day before returning at night for the fireworks. Upon entering the park you will see Main Street and Cinderella’s Castle directly in front of you. I would suggest you hop on the Walt Disney World Railroad right over the front gate and take a ride to the last stop. You can peruse the park’s sections along the way and start with the attractions out back and work your way back to the front gate. The park is broken into Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Liberty Square and Mickey’s Toontown Fair.
Must-sees in Fantasyland include: Peter Pan’s Flight, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Dumbo the Flying Elephant (go ahead, I double dog dare you) and of course the never-changing, ever-present, It’s a Small World.
I tend to hop right over Frontierland, mainly because I’m not into roller coasters. However, if that’s your thing, Frontierland is where you will find Splash Mountain and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Adventureland holds Pirates of the Caribbean (sorry, Johnny Depp doesn’t come with the admission ticket), Swiss Family Treehouse and The Magic Carpets of Alladin. If you’re exhausted by now, jump aboard the Jungle Cruise and give your feet a break. You will then be near Main Street and an easy exit for your midday break. However, before you go, stop in the Five and Dime on Main Street……they have the BEST pre-packaged chocolate chip cookies! And definitely don’t forget the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square.
Take a break at the hotel pool or beach and then return early evening around 6p because you must see the Disney SpectroMagic Parade – it’s beautiful. Only to be outdone by the WISHES fireworks, where you can see Tinkerbell fly from the castle. (HINT: Best place to see Tink is from Liberty Square, stand on the bridge connecting Frontierland to Liberty Square and she’ll fly right overhead)
3. EPCOT – This park is spread out the most so be prepared to walk and walk….and then walk some more. You’ll enter the park directly in front of the iconic globe called Spaceship Earth. Save that ride for when you are really tired because there is never a line and you can hop on quickly.
EPCOT has Future World and World Showcase. Despite the fact that the incredible fireworks show called Illuminations doesn’t start until 9pm, most of the attractions in this park close early (some as early as 7p) so plan accordingly.
In Future World, don’t miss Mission Space where you are shot into orbit. (HINT: For those with a queazy stomach, hop on line for the Green Team for a milder version of this ride). You should also check out Test Track, Soarin’ and The Seas with Nemo and Friends.
(HINT: The lines at Epcot can be long, as in most parks for the popular rides. As a singleton, it’s very easy to use your Fast Track to score a ticket that will move you to the head of the line at a pre-set time slot. You simply venture up to any attraction or ride and slide your park ticket into a special dispenser…..and like Mickey Magic, out pops your Fast Track pass for later that day.
By midday it’ll be time to take a break outside of the park and you can venture back at night for the World Showcase, my personal favorite. World Showcase even sets a romantic vibe when you’re alone. It’s a very pretty place to travel from country to country without leaving Orlando. Norway offers the Maelstrom, Mexico the Three Caballeros and by no means should you miss Impressions de France – it’s stunning!
Finally, cap off your night with a prime spot for Illuminations. You need to scope out a spot along the lake or you will miss all of the magic that happens on the water. And don’t sweat the crowds leaving when the fireworks are over. Disney’s transportation system moves so quickly, you’ll be back to dreamland and your pillow before you know it.
4. Disney Hollywood Studios (formerly the Disney MGM Studios) – This is my personal favorite because as a news reporter I was in and out of this park more times than Mickey can scream Minnie’s name before the public was ever admitted. The reporters got to test all the rides, again, and again, and again – it was soooooooo cool.
Truly this is the most fun park because it’s like a step back in time to the Golden Days of Hollywood, the best of 1950s TV, behind the scenes animation and fantastic rides all rolled into one. It’s also the most manageable, packing a lot of variety into a relatively small park. Not to be missed: The Great Movie Ride and The Studio Backlot Tour (HINT: Fast Track these because the lines by 10am are unbearable); the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and Star Tours for a trip into space with R2D2 and C3PO.
If it’s a hot day get into the Voyage of the Little Mermaid and sit up front. You’ll feel a cool ocean spritz and some days in Orlando you really need it. And for those who live on the edge, there is the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith (as much as they are my favorite band, I still couldn’t go on that ride) and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (for a heart-dropping free fall in a runaway elevator).
Top off your night with a seat at Fantasmic. This is more than just a fireworks show. It’s an extravaganza that takes place on water. (HINT: Best seats for viewing are dead center in the last row of the amphitheater. In this case sitting close may be too hot for comfort)
5. Animal Kingdom – I would skip altogether. I have never met anyone who said they got their money’s worth in this park. The best thing about it is the Rain Forest Cafe located outside its front entrance.
So, there you have it – my two cents on Disney World star attractions. Dare to dream and be a kid again!