I went to college in Tampa, and while I took many trips to Orlando during my years there, I never made it to Disney World. (I did enjoy one very drunken night at Downtown Disney, though that’s a topic for another post.)
There’s no specific reason for this—I just didn’t want to go. Perhaps if there had been even a chance of my cheap, vacation-averse parents taking my siblings and I to Disney as kids, I’d have had some long-simmering desire to wander around the Magic Kingdom. Indeed, although we were very much a Disney family in terms of entertainment, actually visiting a Disney park was never on the cards.
So, is Disney World worth it for adults? Well, I finally made it there earlier this year—I’m writing this post in 2023—so I can finally answer this question for you.
Why I Visited Disney for the First Time at 38
The topic of Disney World for adults became suddenly relevant to me when my in-laws traveled from Thailand to the US this past April. Among the items on their agenda was a trip to Disney for my 7-year old niece, who’d been unable to go to Tokyo Disneyland as planned in 2020 due to covid restrictions. In agreeing to accompany them on their trip around the country, I implicitly consented to participating in the Disney portion of it.
Wait, that sounds dramatic—a visit to Walt Disney World is not something to be suffered or endured! However, it’s also not cheap (more on that in a second); I’m not someone who probably would’ve visited Orlando again on my own accord. To put it another way, I visited Disney for the first time at nearly 40 almost exclusively because an opportunity—an inescapable one—presented itself.
5 Things I Realized Visiting Disney World
All parks are not created equal
We ended up doing the popular “four parks in four days” thing, and let’s just say that some parks are better than others. While I appreciate all the opportunities to drink in Epcot (and the superficial cosmopolitanism there), the only parks I really felt were worth the ~$100 it cost to enter them were Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, due to the quality of rides (which are the only reason I ever go to theme parks) there.
(Especially the Magic Kingdom)
While most children would agree that Disney is worth visiting simply to see fireworks over the castle at the Magic Kingdom, this was the park that left me the most cold. I suppose it could be that I’m just too old, or bitter that my parents never took me when I was young, but being at the Magic Kingdom didn’t make me feel like a kid again. It made me feel like elderly!
It’s better if a kid is with you
With this being said, the various “child-like” experiences I had at all the parks were much more enjoyable when placed in the context of my niece’s overjoyed expression. In particular, attending the Frozen show at Hollywood Studios felt like some kind of rock concert. Even if you aren’t a parent, being able to go to Disney in the company of a child in your family will make you appreciate it a lot more.
(Or if you’re into DILFs)
Irrespective of the question of enjoyment of Disney for adults, there sure are a lot of grown-ups there. In particular, I was struck by how many men in their 30s and 40s—and how many stupidly hot men in their 30s and 40s—were there. While I obviously kept my feelings to myself, given that most were with their children and/or wives, their sex appeal was a nice distraction from the unpleasantness that sometimes dominated my time at Disney.
Four days is really not enough
No matter how you ultimately end up feeling about Disney, the fact is that it’s an absolutely massive place. While you can technically set foot in all four parks in four days, it’s ultimately not enough time to cover everything. Disney, for its part, probably expect that every guest will come back in the future, probably multiple times. But if you’re only going once and have the time, I’d recommend staying a bit longer than we did.
Is Disney World Expensive?
Disney World is expensive—and not just the price of admission, whose current prices you can see here. At the time I’m writing this post, in September 2023, it costs $396 for four parks in four days, which is just under 100 USD per day. However, the cost of admission is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to visiting Walt Disney World. The food alone (which is mostly terrible) will cost you at least $20-30 per person, per day.
Then, there’s the question of accommodation and transportation. Even “cheap” resorts (we stayed at the All Star Music one) cost several hundred dollars per room, per night. You can of course stay off-site, but then you need to worry about renting a car and paying for parking, which combined costs a minimum of 100 USD per day. Realistically, unless you have an annual pass or live in Orlando, high costs don’t make Disney World worth visiting.
Other FAQ About Visiting Disney World
Why is Disney World worth visiting?
DisneyWorld is worth visiting for a number of reasons, although in most cases it’s because your kids want to go. If you’re an adult, you may find the trip worthwhile because of “grown-up” attractions as parts like Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios, or drinking and dining opportunities at Epcot. On the other hand, prohibitive costs and crowds may make some travelers feel like Disney isn’t worth visiting.
Why do people keep going back to Disney?
Some people keep going back to Disney World because they loved it the first time and want to experience it again; others come back every few years because of new attractions. Still others want their children to be able to enjoy Disney many times before they grow up and head out into the real world.
Is Disney really worth the hype?
While I’ll admit that I found many aspects of Disney World to be impressive, I’m not really sure it’s as spectacular as reputed. On the other hand, I’m privileged enough to have spent the past two decades traveling the world. For people who don’t have much vacation time or the ambition to explore outside of the United States, Disney can be an opportunity to have a wide range of experiences in a single geographical jurisdiction at a comparably manageable cost.
The Bottom Line
Is Disney World worth it for adults? Honestly, it depends upon what you’re expecting out of the experience. I personally found the sheer scale of the parks mind-blowing; the standard of service is remarkable, particularly in the post-pandemic era. On the other hand, I didn’t necessary “feel like a kid again,” and while many rides and attractions were memorable, I’m not sure I would seek them out again if I were paying with my own money. Need help planning your next trip (ideally, to somewhere besides Walt Disney World)? Consider hiring me as your Travel Coach!