Disney World sans kids.
February 21, 2012 6:26 AM   Subscribe

What tips, hints, recommendations, and tricks can the hive mind offer for two adults going to Disney World (FL) in March?

We are staying at Coronado Springs (on property, moderate price). My partner has never been to any Disney. What will make the trip amazing? We like to eat, like new things, and are (unfortunately) not made of money. Remember, no kids traveling with us. Just two grown-ups with park hopper passes.
posted by Classic Diner to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best advice I got was "Go to the left."
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:34 AM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Something you should be aware of that is new - by March they will be enforcing the return times on Fastpass tickets. When you get a Fastpass for a ride it gives you a one hour window for a return time, but it always used to be that they did not enforce the end time. In other words, if your pass says to come back between 3:30 and 4:30 you couldn't use it any earlier than 3:30, but they would let you use it any time after that so you could come back at 7pm and they would still let you on. Starting sometime in the next few weeks (I forget the exact date) they will start enforcing those times, so if you come back after the pass expires they won't let you on.

One cool thing you shouldn't miss - at the Magic Kingdom at night, I think a half hour before the fireworks show, they do a really cool show called "The Magic, The Memories" where they turn the castle into a digital canvas and do a whole show that uses guest pictures taken throughout the day. You can see a video of it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwnDPj40TRE It's really amazing to see live, I like it better than the fireworks. The part with the Buzz Lightyear "to infinity and beyond" is breathtaking.
posted by Lokheed at 6:40 AM on February 21, 2012

If you haven't made dining reservations, make them now. The dining reservation period begins 6 months prior to arrival, and it's almost impossible to get a reservation anywhere once you are there.

My favorite on property restaurants are Jiko, Citrico's, Narcoosee's and Yachtsman Steakhouse. If you make a reservation at Crystal Palace before the park opens (so like 8:05 reservation if the park opens at 9am), you'll have the chance to explore a basically empty Main Street. Very cool.

When you see the ropes go up for a parade, SIT DOWN. It'll be a half hour wait or so, but it's worth it for a front row seat. The best place to sit is near Adventureland, by the turkey leg cart.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:47 AM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Really good restaurants in Epcot. Best restaurant (IMHO) in Magic Kingdom is Liberty Tavern. If you've never been before, do even the "kid" stuff like It's a Small World. Cheesy but definite water cooler point.
posted by bmorrison at 6:49 AM on February 21, 2012

Get to the parks right when they open for smallest lines. Read www.disboards.com for advice down to the smallest detail from those in the know.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:55 AM on February 21, 2012

Cafe Tu Tu Tango is fun for dinner, it was recommended to me by someone online (in the fatwallet travel forum iirc) with the comment "everyone I've recommended this to has enjoyed it" and I can't really disagree.
posted by reptile at 7:27 AM on February 21, 2012

Do you have nieces and nephews that are the right age for this stuff? (4 - 8 seems to be the sweet spot.) Get some autographs from the characters to bring back as a souvenir, and they will love you forever.
posted by desjardins at 7:28 AM on February 21, 2012

Start making dinner reservations now. It might even be too late for some of the places in Epcot. Dinner at one of the Epcot restaraunts, fireworks, English pub for a few pints. But those restaurants are booked months out. Book now.

Also, get the hidden Mickeys book. It is a fun little quirky thing to do as you walk around the parks.
posted by Flood at 7:34 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are iPhone apps that give you an idea of current wait times at various attractions.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:36 AM on February 21, 2012

Born in/lived in Florida all my life, been to the parks hundreds of times. The most important thing, since you are staying at a hotel on-site, is to take the most advantage of the early entry into the park(s)/evening hours by going on the most popular rides during those times.

If you are there on a day when that's the Magic Kingdom, you'll want to do Space Mountain (which is sadly not nearly as intense as it used to be) first. That actually means heading right as soon as you can and cutting through the restaurant at the end of Main Street to take the shortcut into TomorrowLand. You can also do the Buzz Lightyear ride if you want while you are there. Then cut through the middle of the park to hit the Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland, Frontierland for Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain and Liberty Square for the Haunted Mansion. Do FantasyLand and all the rest later in the day when the little kids have tuckered out and gone home. Stay for the fireworks!

For Animal Kingdom early hours, you'd want to head to the Kilimanjaro Safari first (best attraction there and the one that fills up first) and then hit the Expedition Everest ride (the best ride in the parks now that Space Mountain has been tamed down, in my opinion). Animal Kingdom is also a slower-paced, more relaxing park to see after you've have your most active day. I recommend Magic Kingdom for your first day if you can do it. If you get evening hours, Expedition Everest is a lot of fun at night!

Epcot really doesn't have too many things that fill up fast other than the big Globe at the entrance (since everyone does this first--do it last in the evening) and the GM one where you test-drive the cars. The world showcase is where you run into trouble: all the worlds have only a couple attractions each, so you will end up waiting in long lines for food and rides, and you HAVE to make reservations ahead of time to eat at one of the nice restaurants! I lean to France's and Italy's restaurants for the most consistent quality.

If you get into Hollywood Studios early, do the Rockn' Roller Coaster and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror right away. If you don't hit both of those early in the morning, you're looking at ridiculously long lines, which means that even if you get a FastPass, you will probably have a time to come back that is coming back HOURS later. Which sucks, because there's not THAT much else to do in the park other than Star Tours to keep you busy. Use that time to hop to another park. If you are there when you have the late evening hours instead of early morning hours, you can just go straight to Star Tours with no wait at all. ProTip: They make a big deal of the "Fantasmic" show at Hollywood Studios at the end of the day, basically routing everyone into the stadium, which is at the far end of the park, and telling you to get there early to see it, because they sell a LOT of merchandise (most of it cheesy) to people waiting for the show to start. It is NOT worth it. Seriously, skip the show unless you have seen everything else in all the other parks, or you will feel like you have wasted an evening. Plus, the sea of people exiting the stadium afterward is just hellatious--throngs and throngs of people pouring down this long walkway for what seems like forever before you can get out of the crowd to even take a breath.

Any parade--yes, get there early if you want to see the parade. Be aware that you will also be in he worst crowds, again, right after a parade ends. Make sure you don't get separated in the oceans of people!

The "go to the left" rule is a good one for food and gift shop lines!
posted by misha at 7:38 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and the English pub in Epcot is great for lunch--get the fish and chips!
posted by misha at 7:39 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

misha has some good points, but I've also found that if if you don't get on line for Mission: Space at EPCOT and Toy Story Midway Mania at Hollywood Studios at the beginning of the day, you're screwed.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:45 AM on February 21, 2012

The Orlando / Disney Cirque du Soleil show, La Nouba, will cost you an arm and a kidney, but it is far and away my favorite. Just amazing.
posted by Mchelly at 8:29 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, most tourists do the parks in this order :
Monday - Magic Kingdom
Tuesday - Epcot
Wednesday - Hollywood Studios
Thursday - Animal Kingdom

To avoid the worst crowds, choose different days for each of these.
posted by Mchelly at 8:32 AM on February 21, 2012

Watch wishes from the polynesian beach. Go to the parks for opening. You will get most big rides done and be able to go back to the resort for the pool or to eat lunch.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:26 AM on February 21, 2012

Animal Kingdom has some decent food options too. Tusker House is a buffet that's almost worth the high price.
posted by troywestfield at 9:27 AM on February 21, 2012

EPCOT tips

We really enjoyed the Coral Reef Restaurant under the Seas exhibit. French style, delicious food, pretty expensive, but really good. You get to stare at the back side of the reef exhibit while you eat. Get your reservations now, they take them 180 days in advance. Try for an 8:30 dinner reservation - the park will be empty when you come out, and it's vewy womantical.

My favorite old-school ride in all of Disney World is the Maelstrom at the Norway pavilion. It's a log flume but it does some intriguing stuff, sort of like an ancient wooden roller coaster...have lunch in the Norway pavilion AFTERWARD if you like smorgasbord; best smoked cheeses and nova and gravlax I have ever tasted.

Spend thirty minutes in the pub by the fountain and watch the fountain show at least twice in person. The dancing waters and the music are only best appreciated if you are right there.

There will still be Spring Breakers in March, but they will be spring breakers who drive BMW's and pay with Platinum Amex.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:29 AM on February 21, 2012

roomthreeseventeen: misha has some good points, but I've also found that if if you don't get on line for Mission: Space at EPCOT and Toy Story Midway Mania at Hollywood Studios at the beginning of the day, you're screwed.

Absolutely right! I forgot about Mission Space (we don't do the Toy Story deal, but I imagine it's just as crowded).
posted by misha at 9:31 AM on February 21, 2012

Start making dinner reservations now. It might even be too late for some of the places in Epcot. Dinner at one of the Epcot restaraunts, fireworks, English pub for a few pints. But those restaurants are booked months out. Book now.

Having just made reservations for early March, yes, book now. There's still plenty of places, but they're going. Part of vacation is not having to worry about where you are going to eat. It makes a huge difference -- you'll be watching people trying hard to get into a restaurant, and you'll be in 10 minutes after you arrive.

In terms of food, the worst, IMHO, is at the Magic Kingdom, the best is at Epcot, and AK is better than Studios. The best food, though, is at the resorts. I like Artist's Pointe, Citricos, the Kona Cafe for breakfast and dinner, Kouzzina's, and the Beirgarten in Epcot, but there are plenty more good ones.

March they will be enforcing the return times on Fastpass tickets.

The word is March 7th is when things change. One rumor that, at least initially, the printed window on the ticket will move to two hours, rather than one, but after that, it won't be honored. Another rumor is the window will actually drop -- from five minutes before the time on the pass to 15 minutes after.

So, if you're going to be there immediately after March 7th, read the FastPasses carefully and abide by them.

In general, though, the cast members will be gracious if you just miss -- they know that getting around the parks can be a problem. I hit a restaurant res 15 minutes late (swamped by the Candlelight Processional letting out....) and they had no problem honoring the reservation. (If I'd *gone left*, I'd have been fine....)

Epcot really doesn't have too many things that fill up fast other than the big Globe at the entrance

Except Soarin'. At Epcot, if you want to ride Soarin', you want to go there first and get Fast Passes.

At Hollywood Studio, this applies doubly to Toy Story. Rock n' Roller is often under 40 in the day, Tower is almost always under 20, even when it says it isn't. The only ride at Studios that is either an hour+ wait, fastpass, or nothing is Toy Story.

When you see the ropes go up for a parade, SIT DOWN. It'll be a half hour wait or so, but it's worth it for a front row seat.

Here's where I disagree. My response to the ropes, esp. in the Magic Kingdom, is to get as far away as possible. The best place I ever saw the MK fireworks from was the beach at the Polynesian. The best way to see MK parades is to go on an Extra Magic Hour night and see the second one. The first one will be packed, and right after the fireworks, 90% of the people (and 99% of the strollers) are heading for the exit. The second one you can enjoy.

The fireworks at Epcot are much easier to deal with -- when they start playing the music around the lagoon, go to England or Germany, get a beer, and find a spot around the lake. Oh, okay, the beer is technically optional, you can go to France and get a Grand Marnier slushy from the little hut by the lagoon.

The afternoon parade at AK is enjoyable, and there are several spots you can enjoy it without being crushed, but the late parade at MK, which is followed by the (very cool) Castle show and then the (legendary) fireworks demands that you can cope with crowds. The real rub is the best place to see the castle projection show is close, from the hub, but the best place to see the fireworks is well away.
posted by eriko at 9:56 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding La Nouba.
If you can get into the Hoop De Doo Revue (uh, I think that's how it's spelled), do so. Even if it's really far off from the actual parks itself and is held at one of the hotel resorts.

I recommend staying in one of the Disney properties. Between the bus system and the early/late open hours, highly worth it. There's a cluster of hotels put together (Swan/Dolphin, Boardwalk, Yacht Club--the one we were in) that I thought was pretty conveniently located to a few parks. We walked to Epcot and weren't too far off from Hollywood Studios, so less bus time there. They also tie in together nicely and were fun to hang out at.

We actually did get reservations and pretty good ones upon showing up at the hotel and going "What the hell are you talking about with reservations?" but that was in September 2008, who knows if that's okay now.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:58 AM on February 21, 2012

I recommend getting dinner reservations at the California Grill atop the Contemporary Resort hotel. If you get reservations for around 8pm, you should be seated in time for the fireworks show to begin over the Magic Kingdom. They dim the lights in the restaurant, and you can see the entire show during dinner. Even if you finish dining early, they will let you hang around and you can watch the show from a small deck outside.

My wife and I really got a lot of good tips from the Unofficial Guide. They don't pull punches and will let you know if something isn't very good. Their time-saving tips for rides are very helpful.

Make sure you buy some rain ponchos. We found some at Target that were $0.99 each (in the camping/outdoors section of the store), and pre-packaged in a tiny, flat envelope. Florida can have some sudden afternoon downpours.
posted by Fleebnork at 11:01 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge last time we went (highly recommended, by the way) and really enjoyed eating at Boma. It's an African-themed buffet with some very exotic dishes, but since it is a buffet, you don't ruin your entire meal if you pick something that you end up not liking. There are enough "traditional" entrees that even the least adventurous eater will find something to be happy with, but (for us) it was a really unique part of the trip. I suppose if you are already familiar with African cuisine it won't be so interesting, but it was very much outside of our comfort zone.

+1 on the tiny ponchos. We got caught in a torrential downpour while waiting in a massive line at Harry Potter Land at Universal (worth it as a side trip if you are a Potter fan, BTW) and were much happier than the folks that were getting soaked all around us.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:09 AM on February 21, 2012

Forgot link to Boma
posted by Rock Steady at 11:09 AM on February 21, 2012

Stayed at Coronado Springs around the holidays last year - maybe it was a fluke, but the restaurant in the hotel was pretty terrible.
posted by CaptApollo at 11:50 AM on February 21, 2012

I debated whether or not to mention this one, since it's really pricey and your question indicated budget could be an issue, but if you have an extra day that you're looking to fill, the backstage tours are really fantastic (at least the 'Keys to the Kingdom one was - we did the half day version) - you get to go into the "secret" underground tunnels, see the parade floats and animatronics up close, and learn all sorts of arcane information.
posted by Mchelly at 12:04 PM on February 21, 2012

All the food available at the Coronado Springs resort is expensive and pretty bad. Eat elsewhere, bring breakfast food. However, the grounds are pleasant to walk around and there are hammocks you can rest in.
posted by QIbHom at 12:13 PM on February 21, 2012

Check out Touring Plans for crowd predictions so you can optimise your time (they have a phone app too) and Walt Disney World for Grown Ups for general being an adult at Disney stuff, including a lovely friendly forum.

Take advantage of the free transportation, extra magic hours and fast passes; keep in mind that you can only have one fast pass at a time though. Be aware of when the extra magic hours are and avoid that park until the extra hours are in operation. People tend to go to the EMH park of the day and stay, so they are generally busier.

Make advance dining reservations if there's somewhere you really want to eat. Given our experiences, next time I'll plan to have a light breakfast and a snack during the morning, then have dining reservations at one of the resorts around mid afternoon for a late lunch. That will get us out of the parks at the busiest time.

Plan to use the park hopper tickets, don't be afraid to change parks if things are a bit busier than you like. Animal Kingdom has the fewest big attractions; hit it early and plan to do something else for the evening such as Hollywood Studios; crowds there seem to decline in the evenings.

Check out the fun (and often free) things you can do at the other resorts; e.g. Animal Kingdom Lodge has night vision goggles to see the animals in the evenings and you can tour one of the restaurants (Jiko or Boma, can't remember which). Also, as a resort guest, there are certain tours available to you that aren't available to the general public. Oh, and if you've got spare time, you can always hop on a bus and visit a different resort. I love having a gawk!

Finally, here's a link to a transportation calculator to help you work out how long it will take to get around.

I could go on all day...me-mail me if you've got questions. Have fun!
posted by eloeth-starr at 11:42 PM on February 21, 2012

Use your Extra Magic Hours. They're the least busy times. Also, in general, lines are shorter during parades, fireworks, and mealtimes. Bring food on site (there are grocery stores that deliver to the hotel). You're not going to want to go for 3 restaurant meals a day. (I don't generally go to restaurants there, but can second votes for Boma and Tusker House, though you should only choose one of the two as they are similar. Boma is much nicer, but a huge pain if you have no car.)

Get as many Fastpasses as you can. Unless they have changed the rules, you can get a new one as soon as your old one is valid, or 60-120 minutes after you got the latest one, whichever is shorter. Lines are much shorter.

Magic Kingdom:
Busy rides are the rollercoasters. Get on those earlier rather than later. The train and peoplemovers are both surprisingly interesting views of the park. Liberty Square is a nice place to view parades. Don't miss the mosaics in the castle. You want to be sure to hit Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, Splash/Thunder/Space Mountains if you like rollercoasters. The Fantasyland rides are sweet; the 3d Philharmagic show is nice; the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin is fun; the Laugh Factory can be surprisingly charming, and is in any case a great place to sit down for a while. I hear that the Tiki Room has been put back to the original so now it can remain my favourite show without my also hating it.

Lines are for Mission: SPACE, Test Track and, especially, Soarin'. Ask to sit in the front row for Soarin'. The Land boat ride is nice; there is an inexpensive walking tour of the gardens that is also charming (sales for the tour are near the entrance to Soarin'). Don't miss Spaceship Earth. One of the Innoventions plazas has (had?) a roller coaster simulator that has short lines and is a lot of fun. The dated Ellen energy show is cute. There are a lot of "street" shows in World Showcase, and you should try to catch them.

Hollywood Studios:
The line is the worst for Toy Story Mania, far outstripping lines for Tower of Terror or Rockin' Rollercoaster. You'll know where Toy Story Mania is because it's where everyone goes first. Don't miss it -- try to go through the line once so you can see the exceptional design done in the waiting areas. The car show where they explain how they do some tricks in movies is interesting but very loud. There is a "how to draw characters" thing off in the Animation Courtyard. It runs twice an hour, and it's worth going to. They do a "lunch with an Imagineer" here. This is expensive and hard to get in, but entirely worth doing. I don't like this park as much as the others and have little to say.

Animal Kingdom:
The line is for Expedition Everest, secondarily for Kilimanjaro Safaris. Try to sit in the front (or back) for Everest. See both; do the walking tours of Pangani Forest and the Maharajah Jungle trek. Don't miss the bird show. The dino-themed rides aren't very good. The Nemo show isn't worth it, the Lion King show is. Kali River Rapids rarely has long lines, and you can usually ride it twice in a row. You might as well. This is where your ponchos come in handy. You will notice that, at the exit of the ride, they sell clothing -- down to underwear and socks -- and towels. This is for a reason. Bags are kept somewhere waterproof and, though I use water resistant bags, they never get more than damp. If you have a chance to do this ride when it's dark, you should take advantage of it. People who dislike rollercoasters can do this ride.

I can keep going. Feel free to memail or email me if you have any questions. I love Disney World.
posted by jeather at 8:31 AM on February 22, 2012

We stayed at Coronado Springs in March two years ago because at the time it was the only moderately-priced resort with king size beds (the newly remodeled Port Orleans also has them now). I disagree with the person who said that the food there is pretty bad. The main restaurant (Maya Grill) may not be as popular or as interesting as some others but we thought the food was excellent and we ate most our evening meals there because it was convenient and reservations either weren't needed or were easy to get.

We'd get an early start in the morning and then come back to our room around 3 or 4 PM to rest-up a little or spend some time in the pool. Then we'd eat before heading out again until the parks closed.

We had a meal service plan that included one table-service meal, one quick service meal and a snack each day. I thought it was very reasonably priced and I liked it because price never became a consideration when ordering from the menu. Even the most expensive entrees are included and so are beverages and a dessert. The only thing I had to pay for was a tip. BTW, the service was EXCELLENT at all the Disney restaurants we ate at.

We were there in early March and never waited more than 20 minutes for a ride because it was early in the week and we used Fast Passes to get into the busiest rides with no waiting. And while waiting for our entry we hit the other attractions with the shortest lines.

There is little or no waiting at many popular rides, like Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear, during the last half-hour or so before the park closes. Also, there are extended park hours for just those who are staying at Disney resorts. The times and parks change each day but you'll be able to get in early or stay late someplace every day so take advantage of that perk to beat the crowds.

I'd get your fill of the Magic Kingdom early in the week because it's the most popular park and its lines became considerably longer on Thursday when the weekend crowds began to arrive.

I highly recommend you see the evening "Electric" parade in the Magic Kingdom at least once. We like to get there early and get a good spot to sit on a curb. The evening fireworks and laser show at Epcot is also a must see, as many others have said.

The only thing I didn't like about Coronado Springs was the long walk from our room to the restaurants. We about as far away from them as we could get it and it seems like it was a 10 minute walk each way. If we were to stay there again I'd try to get a room that was closer but also not too far from the pool. You can get worn down by all the walking and standing you're going to do, even if you're young and in good shape.

One last thing, travel light but bring something to carry water, snacks, cameras or whatever. A small knapsack works well and so does a good fanny pack for hiking.
posted by 14580 at 6:22 AM on February 23, 2012

Response by poster: OK, we're back. The trip was fun. Go left still works. Artist's Point was an amazing dining experience. Make dining reservations now. They seem to fill up at the very popular places.

Late "Extra Magic Hours" are very nice. They are available only to those staying on a WDW property, and enforced by requiring flashing your room key/card.

Using the meal plan was trickier that I expected. Quick-service restaurants are not clearly indicated at the restaurant. And I think the waiter at the Bistro de Paris tried to double-dip on the tip.
posted by Classic Diner at 1:22 PM on March 23, 2012

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