In 1971, Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” was number one on the Billboard music charts, Patton won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture, and All in the Family received an Emmy nod for the Best Television Comedy. Young Baby Boomers played 45s on record players, rode scooters, and played Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. It was the year email was invented, the year Apollo 14 landed on the moon, and the year Amtrak and Southwest Airlines made their debuts.
But what we Baby Boomers remember most about 1971 is that it also was the year that Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom opened in Orlando, Florida.
Almost overnight, Disney became a favorite vacation destination for families and created lasting and magical memories. Today, one of the reasons we Boomers enjoy it so much as adults because it evokes a sentimental longing and wistful connection to our childhoods.
You don’t have to have kids or be a kid to enjoy all that Walt Disney World Resort has to offer. Since the launch of the Magic Kingdom, the resort has grown by leaps and bounds, adding Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, two water parks and dozens of hotels. From food to fantasy, grown-up fun is abundant at Walt Disney World!
For Baby Boomers, a visit to the Magic Kingdom is a trip down memory lane. If you’re feeling nostalgic, be sure to check out attractions and rides such as Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Swiss Family Treehouse, and Dumbo: The Flying Elephant. All of these have been Magic Kingdom mainstays since the 1970s and are still entertaining kids (and adults) today.
For a behind-the-scenes, in-depth look at what makes the Magic Kingdom tick, there are several walking tours (of varying lengths and fees) that review history, take you to secret locations, and share little-known facts, trivia and other exciting tidbits about the park.
Fireworks at Epcot are something special, and every night, the Epcot After Hours Wind Down follows the fireworks spectacular. Take your pick of four exclusive Epcot lounges, La Cava del Tequila in the Mexico Pavilion, the Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room in the United Kingdom Pavilion, the Spice Road Table in the Morocco Pavilion and the Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar in the Italy Pavilion. In addition to your Epcot admission, at $35 per person (tax and tip not included) you can indulge in taste-tempting snacks and adult libations created by award-winning Epcot chefs and sommeliers. At La Cava del Tequila, try the tequila flight paired with guacamole, chips, and queso.
It’s no secret that we love to eat. One of the best ways we have found to immerse ourselves in other cultures is to try local fare. At the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, an annual event that runs September through November, you can do just that. During this event, you can sample (for a nominal charge) a wide variety of culinary flavors, wine, beer, and cocktails from around the world. The event also includes “premium experiences” such as the “Dining through the Decades” dinner or the “Italian White Truffle & Wine Pairing” dinner, both of which will leave your palate happy and your pocketbook a little lighter. Inside-the-park festival dining experiences, as well as culinary and beverage programs require park admission fees.
Viewfinder Tip: Advance reservations for dining inside Walt Disney World Resort are strongly recommended, and can be made up to 180 days prior to your visit.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
For television and movie buffs, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the park to see. From Hollywood Boulevard to Pixar Place, the park puts you center-stage with attractions based on blockbuster movies and restaurants that offer a nostalgic look and taste of yesteryear. A throwback to a 1950s sitcom, the Prime Time Café (and Tune-In-Lounge next door) will make you feel like you just stepped into an episode of Ozzie and Harriet. Aunt Liz’s golden fried chicken is the cat’s meow, and paired with a Singapore Sling, it’s absolutely the bee’s knees. The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant looks like a retro drive-in movie theater, with all-American favorites such as the Famous All American Picnic Burger and Fried Pickles. They serve adult beverages here too, including the Long Island Lunar Tea and the Magical Star cocktail, a blend of X-Fusion Liqueur, coconut rum and pineapple juice.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
If you feel the need for speed and want to dip your toe in the adventure pool, Expedition Everest at the Animal Kingdom will scratch your itch for both. Hop on board the weather-beaten runaway train, hurl forward and backward over steep inclines, twist and turn through green forest and stone tunnels, all while a Yeti moans and growls. It’s scary-good grown-up fun.
Another ride, Kali River Rapids, is the perfect reprieve to central Florida’s hot and humid days, especially during the summer months. A 12-person raft glides through a 90-foot knoll, then darts down rapids, through waterfalls and geysers. It is pretty much a given that you’ll get wet, if not soaked. You can dry off on Kilimanjaro Safaris, an open-air vehicle tour where you’ll see (real!) exotic animals in their natural habitats on the Harambe Wildlife Reserve.
If you don’t want to venture in to one of the Walt Disney World theme parks, then the Downtown Disney area is a great alternative, chock full of dining, entertainment, and shopping. It is home to Le Theatre (where Cirque du Soleil performs) the House of Blues, and 30 fun-filled lanes of bowling at Spiltsville Luxury Lanes. There’s plenty to nosh on too, from the Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe to the Food Truck Park, situated between Bongos Cuban Cafe and Starbucks on the west side.
Whether it’s food, fantasy or adventure you are after, you can find it at Walt Disney World Resort. You’re never too old to enjoy the Happiest Place on Earth.
What is your favorite activity at Walt Disney World Resort?