USA & Canada: Walt Disney World | a Mickey, Minnie & Cinderella Romance
It's no coincidence that thousands of honeymooning couples seek out Walt Disney World each year. On the menu is a staggering selection of rollicking rides, jaw-dropping shows, festive parades, theme restaurants, resorts that range from budget to budget-busting, a bustling nightlife, and -- if you know where they are -– a few truly romantic spots. You can even split your honeymoon between the park and a high-seas cruise on Disney Cruise Line, which offers stops in The Bahamas and Castaway Cay, Disney's private island. (Cruise-only sailings drop anchor at St. Thomas and St. Maarten.)
Here is a mere handful of highlights that will entice you to leave icky adulthood at home and play, play, play! Each of the following parks can be reached via free shuttle bus.
Knot Note: Be sure to take advantage of FASTPASS, an option available at popular rides that allows you to get a "reservation" to come back later in the day and skip the long lines. Until then, you can enjoy other attractions to truly maximize your time.
- Magic Kingdom: Classic snuggle-worthy rides include the spooky Haunted Mansion (an 18th century-inspired mansion full of ghosts and classic horror house tricks) and raucous Pirates of the Caribbean, in which you'll get a taste of the swashbuckler's life at sea. Brand-new thrills such as the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter strap you into a seat in a dark room with an alien on the loose. Fairy tales are spun in Fantasyland, where you can hop aboard Cinderella's Golden Carousel (built in 1917) and gawk at the twinkling Main Street Electrical Parade.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom: This celebration of wildlife features the astounding 14-story Tree of Life, a Rainforest Cafe, the wet and wily Kali River Rapids white-water raft ride, more than 15 live animal displays, and the cute It's Tough to be a Bug 3-D movie.
- Disney-MGM Studios: Hold on to your stomach! Two of the most breathtaking rides are located here: the truly ominous Tower of Terror, a free-fall elevator ride that drops you 13 stories (you'll hear the screams throughout the park), and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, a wild ride choregraphed to a blaring soundtrack. Gather your wits -– and grab a bite –- in the front seat of a convertible as you watch black-and-white B movies and '50s cartoons at the cool and dark Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant.
- Epcot: Explore all corners of our world through food and exhibits at the 20 international pavilions of Epcot, including romantic restaurants such as Bistro de Paris (France), Coral Reef (The Living Seas), Marrakesh (Morocco), and San Angel Inn (Mexico). Don't miss the hysterical Honey, I Shrunk the Audience 3-D movie –- you'll be stunned by how real it all feels.
- Blizzard Beach: More than 10 slides beckon at this water park, where you can plunge down the grimacingly steep slide Summit Plummet at speeds of up to 60 mph, or stay dry and learn how to rock climb at Mt. Gushmore.
- Typhoon Lagoon: Here, you can snorkel, laze away on an easy raft ride, learn how to surf at the largest wave pool in America, or "speed slide" through caverns on the Humunga Kowabunga slide.
What to Eat
Once you're settled in your honeymoon suite of choice, there's a plethora of places to enjoy romantic dinners a deux. The Flying Fish Cafe pours out 10 different champagnes to toast the newlyweds, and serves succulent seafood and chops. California Grill dishes up market-inspired cuisine along with panoramic views of the Magic Kingdom (reserve a table during one of two seatings: during sunset or the nightly Fantasy in the Sky fireworks display over Cinderella Castle for extra drama). The Polynesian offers lava drinks, a traditional feast, and an authentic island luau, while Fort Wilderness serves up all-you-can-eat fixin's plus foot-stompin' entertainment.
Where to Party
Speaking of entertainment, it's gone grown-up. You'll have almost as many tempting options after the sun sets as you do during the day.
- Pleasure Island: Nightclubs are sprinkled throughout this adults-only nighttime entertainment hot-spot located in Downtown Disney, including a disco with a revolving-turntable dance floor (turn the beat around!), hard-driving riffs at the Rock 'n' Roll Beach club, and intimate jazz at the Pleasure Island Jazz Company. Bonus: A New Year's Eve celebration complete with fireworks and confetti every night.
- Downtown Disney: Sing the blues at the aptly named House of Blues, shake your booty to live Cuban music at Bongo's Cuban Cafe (owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan), see a movie on one of 24 screens, or settle in for mesmerizing acrobatic feats performed by Cirque du Soleil.
- Disney's BoardWalk Promenade: For old-fashioned fun reminiscent of Atlantic City's heyday, stroll this authentic boardwalk and drop in at Atlantic Dance Hall, a '40s-style dance club with a live swing band, dance classes, and 25 signature martinis; or Jellyroll's, where pianos duel for your delight.
Best Place to Kiss
To discover the true fairy tale honeymoon potential of Walt Disney World, take a private IllumiNations cruise for two on Breathless, the Yacht Club's vintage 1934 speedboat; a Grand Marnier flight at BoardWalk's BelleVue Room; a ride on the free Sassagoula River launch up to Port Orleans and dinner at Bonfamille's Cafe; cocktails in the Voodoo Garden behind the House of Blues Restaurant; and a surf-side view of the fireworks or Electric Water Pageant from the beach swings at Disney's Polynesian Resort.
Where to Stay
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge: This theme extravaganza features African-inspired rooms that overlook a true wildlife sanctuary, where more than 200 giraffes, zebra, gazelles, and other non-man-eating animals roam. Its restaurants celebrate African foods, cooking methods, wines, and decor.
- Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa: This old-fashioned seaside hotel offers Victorian-era elegance, afternoon tea, the award-winning Victoria and Albert's restaurant, a full-service spa (with a couples treatment room), and a white-sand beach, all conveniently located on the monorail route. Check into an ultra-romantic octagonal Turret honeymoon suite for concierge-level service and panoramic views.
- Disney's BoardWalk Resort: For a less formal, more fun seaside romp, opt for this hotel located on a '40s Atlantic City-inspired BoardWalk lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and entertainment. Bonuses: two nearby miniature golf courses and a 200-foot-long "Keister Coaster" water slide "roller coaster." Spring for a one-bedroom villa to enjoy all the amenities of home plus a roomy balcony, Jacuzzi tub, and prime location.
- Disney's Polynesian Resort: Visit the isles of the South Pacific (those located along the monorail, that is) with lush landscaping, a white-sand beach, and adrenalin-pumping luaus including hula, fire dances, and a feast. Bonus: Captain Cook's sundae bar. Be sure to request a room with a lagoon view.
- Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort: Modeled after the grand hotels of America's northwest frontier, this hotel has towering stone fireplaces, rustic log walls, and a mini National Park courtyard. To truly transport yourselves, book the elegant western-themed Yellowstone or ranch-style Yosemite suite for whirlpool tubs and spacious digs.
Moderately priced hotels include the romantic Disney's Port Orleans Resort (French Quarter flair with cobblestone streets and shady courtyards), Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney's Dixie Landings Resort (think Gone With the Wind plus six pools), and Disney's Coronado Springs Resort (southwestern style). There are also movie-, music-, and sports-themed value hotels.
The Disney "marketeers" have created a selection of land and sea honeymoon packages, which include accommodations, admission to the various parks (which includes all rides), and use of the on-site transportation. Where they differ is in the price, the level of accommodation, the number of meals included, and how many extras are thrown in. To book, call (800) 370-6009 or visit Disney Fairytale Honeymoons.
When to Go
- Best weather: March, April, November, December
- Best prices: January to mid-February, July through September, November to mid-December
Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney World's Grand Floridian Beach Resort and Spa