“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.”
It makes sense, I get it. Most of the advertising and social media marketing I see in regards to Disney is focused on families and kids, and that’s just logical. Disney is Disney after all, and whether it’s Walt Disney World in Florida or Disneyland in California, the parks have been capturing the collective imaginations of the world’s youth for generations. Since I’m a kid at heart, I was excited for my recent trip to Disneyland and to finally – finally – see what the Disney experience is all about. I thought I’d literally be the odd man out; a solo traveler in his early 40s cruising through ”It’s a Small World,” can be considered a little strange by some. But almost immediately I realized that Disney isn’t the exclusive domain of any age group, whether it’s kids or adults and, in fact, by the end of my active 2-days I also came to the realization that visiting a Disney park isn’t just fun as an adult, but that I think we’re actually the intended audience. Full disclosure – Disneyland provided me with tickets to visit the parks, but all thoughts and opinions are of course my own.
Always meant for adults
When Walt Disney first conceived the idea of Disneyland, the intention was always to create a safe place where visitors of all ages could have an incredible experience. Not satisfied with making a kids park where adults were largely bored, the result is an entertainment experience that has stood the test of time since 1955. At the time, it was a concept well ahead of its day and almost every resulting theme park that has opened since Disney first cut that ribbon to Disneyland has copied the model. With only a few exceptions (I skipped the tea cups) most of the rides in Disneyland, even the original 1955 attractions, are just as much fun for adults as they are for kids. Since it was my first time visiting Disneyland, I wanted to do as much as I could from Splash Mountain and the Haunted Mansion to newer attractions like Indiana Jones Adventure. After two days of hopping between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, not one attraction was a “miss.” Everything I decided to try was fun, really fun, and not once did I feel out of place or odd for wanting to enjoy the rides. Far from it, I was one of thousands of adults in the parks out and about and reveling in the pure and unbridled joy that is Disneyland.
Within a few hours I had one of those travel revelations when I realized that Disneyland not only lives up to the promise, but it exceeds any expectations one might have with ease. It’s a sensation that I don’t think I’ve experienced before, one of pure and utter joy. I was as happy as I’ve been in a very long time, quickly letting the magic of Disney take over and falling into the illusion. Disney is fun as an adult because there’s no age limit to the enjoyment at the park. Everyone is welcome and, if you keep an open mind, everyone can enjoy that same suspension of disbelief, at least for a little while.
Logistics made easy
I know I had it easy traveling around both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure as a solo adult. With no kids in tow and on my own, I was able to do what I wanted, when I wanted and at the speed that best suited me. In just two half days of visiting I was able to enjoy every attraction on my list, a feat nearly impossible for larger families to be honest. The FASTPASS system helped, no doubt there, but the biggest advantage I had were the Single Rider Lines. Many of the attractions in both of the California parks feature these special lines, meant to allow those traveling or riding alone to skip the long “normal” lines and wait for their opportunity to go as a single rider. When the attractions have a seat or two that need to be filled but the groups in line are too large, they go to the single rider line to fill the gaps. Overall, using this system saved me hours of waiting collectively, although the experience did vary from ride to ride. As an example, the single rider line at Space Mountain is easy to miss, but since the normal line was 80 minutes I was keen to find it. When I found the entrance for single riders, I was shocked to find that I was the only one in line and I walked right into the attraction and into the next car. Instead of an 80-minute wait, I only had to stand in line for about 30 seconds or so. That’s amazing and was the only way I was able to try Space Mountain. The lines though depend on the popularity of the attraction and time of day. At the Matterhorn I waited for 20 minutes or so, which was the norm on average. But at the end of the two days, the single rider lines were usually more useful to me than FASTPASS access. You can enter these lines as couples or small groups, just be aware though that you won’t be seated with your companion. As long as you’re ok waiting for a few minutes for them to finish the experience, then this is a fantastic option for any adult visiting the parks.
Not to disparage kids in any way, but it only makes sense that every aspect of visiting Disneyland is easier as a solo adult. I spent as much time in the parks as I could, walking many miles throughout the course of the visit and pushing myself until I just couldn’t keep going. With kids, that’s really not possible. Frequent breaks from the park are usually necessary, especially if it’s a warm day. Eating is also a better experience, grabbing whatever you need on the go, or snagging a table for 1 at any of the restaurants on-site. Plus, adults can enjoy the libations offered in Disney California Adventure, including craft beers and fine California wines. Whether it’s a high-end experience or relaxing with a chilled glass of white wine, the eating experience as an adult in Disney isn’t only different from those traveling with their families, it can be a lot more fun.
Perfect antidote for modern life
Life as an adult in the 21st century is hard. Mortgages, jobs, responsibilities and our electronic-tethers otherwise known as phones all conspire to make even our vacations more stressful than they should be. When I travel, I can’t escape anything, but in Disneyland that all changed. For a brief two days, I was able to forget almost everything challenging in life and instead just have fun. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have the real Disney experience as a kid, but I threw myself into the moment and was richly rewarded as a result. I find myself obsessing a little over Disney right now, and that’s partly due to my own personality quirks, but also because I am desperate to recapture that magic. I’ve never had that much pure and innocent fun in my life. The honest and wholesome enjoyment that is Disneyland isn’t kitsch or corny; it’s fun at a base level. I’ve been to every corner of the planet and while I enjoy most trips, that level of fun is unheard of. It goes well beyond the attractions though, it’s about a feeling. For those two days I was able to be a kid again. I was able to have fun and to amuse myself without concern or fear. I think that’s what drives so many adults to visit in the first place, and most if not all are well rewarded as a result.
Disneyland and the related parks that have since emerged have always been places for kids and families, we know that. But they are also wonderful places for adults, traveling solo or as a couple, to get away from stress and anxiety and instead believe in the magic that is Disney. I’ve always been a big Disney fan, as I imagine most of us are, whether it’s watching the movies and shows as kids or appreciating the many other ways they’ve impacted our lives. To live in that universe, even for a short little while is a special experience the likes of which truly is unparalleled. Before my trip I was pretty sure that I would enjoy the experience, I just had no idea how much. I returned to a time in my life when things were all puppies and unicorns, and that’s where the Disney obsession for so many starts. We all want that, we all want to be free from stress and anxiety and visiting a Disney park is honestly one of the few ways I’ve found to accomplish that. So if you’re wondering if visiting as an adult on your own is worth it, wonder no more. The experience is so much more robust than you might think and I know that after your first visit, you’ll be just as eager to return as I am.