Seniors looking for a fun place to visit with great weather, dining and entertainment should look no further than Disney World. While it's considered "the most magical place on earth" with an eye toward children, the park offers plenty of options for all ages and can be a great destination for senior citizens.
Disney World Has Lots to Offer Seniors
Disney World, located in sunny Orlando, Florida, isn't usually thought of as a senior destination. It's actually a fantastic place to go with the grandchildren, or just as a senior adults only trip.
Low Cost of Travel
Unlike other resorts with different pricing structures, there is no Disney senior discount. However, Orlando is relatively cheap and easy to fly to compared to many other destination cities and hotel rates are reasonable, hovering in the average range of $123 per night. Park admission tickets are not inexpensive but the amount of amenities included with the ticket price, plus the cheap cost to get to and stay in Orlando make Disney World a good value for seniors looking to keep their travel budget from getting out of control. Disney's dining plan options can also make budgeting for meals ahead of time easy while still providing seniors with a large variety of food options.
Disney Senior Tickets
While Disney does not offer any senior discounts on their park tickets or hotel rates, they do offer specials from time to time that may be available through senior organizations such as AARP so it's wise to check with any you may belong to. They also occasionally list different specials on their website so it's a good idea to check the page often.
Anyone who's visited Disney World can tell you about the vast amount of walking required to get around the park. Thankfully for seniors with mobility issues, Disney World is very accessible. You can rent both manual and electric wheelchairs at the park but author and Disney expert Erin Foster says, "A better option is to rent from an off-site vendor" because Disney World ECVs and wheelchairs cannot leave the park and are rented on a first come, first served basis. For people with hearing impairments, handheld captioning devices are also available at the park. The rooms at the Disney World resort are also accessible and according to Disney travel specialist Loni Meins, "Disney goes above and beyond to make sure everyone gets to participate and enjoy the magic."
According to Guy Novik, CEO at Orlando Villa Holidays, "Seniors with limited mobility don't have to worry" because "there is handicapped parking facilities on-site, as well as shuttle buses which transport you to and from designated drop-off and pick-up areas within the park." The park also operates the Minnie Van, which is run by Lyft, to ferry passengers around the park and wheelchair accessible vehicles are available.
Lodging and Transportation Outside the Parks
In addition to staying at the Disney World resort, there are many lodging options available outside the park that may be more comfortable for seniors with special needs. Novik recommends seniors, ". . choose villas, hotels or resorts which offer shuttle services to the parks as part of their offering."
Navigating the Parks
When seniors actually vist the various areas of Disney World, there are special considerations that younger people are not likely to have. Disney expert Janine Pipe recommends seniors should consider renting an electric wheelchair as, "the parks are huge, and navigating them as a fit younger adult can be draining." An older person may become tired early on even if they have no mobility issues and an electric wheelchair can be very helpful. She also notes that it's common to have long wait times at rides and this can be harder on an older person's body and knees. She recommends seniors, "use a busy day guide and Crowd Tracker, such as Touring Plans, and work out when is the quietest time you are able to travel."
First Aid Locations
It's important to know ahead of time where first aid stations are in case of a medical issue. The first aid stations are staffed and have common OTC medications and first aid kits. They can also keep prescriptions refrigerated for you while you visit the park. The locations are:
- Animal Kingdom - at Discovery Island
- Disney Hollywood Studies - in Guest Relatons
- Magic Kingdom - By the Crystal Palace right off of Main Street
- EPCOT - In the Odyssey Center on the World Showcase side
Pipe also recommends that seniors on prescription medications bring them in their original packaging in a bag with copies of your prescriptions. She reports that, "You will go through a security bag check and although they are obviously extremely accommodating, they may want to clarify why you have pills with you."
If a senior happens to forget their prescriptions or needs a doctor to call one in, Foster reports that Turner Drug will deliver prescriptions, as well as OTC drugs, with same-day deliveries to the hotels in Walt Disney World, as well as many local hotels.
If you book a table service in advance, it's important to inform your reservation agent that you have special dietary requirements. Pipe notes that they are, "extremely accommodating when it comes to preparing special food, but they do need to know in advance." Seniors visiting the park would also be wise to eat lunch and dinner on the early side to avoid the crowded rush times. Foster also strongly recommends that seniors, "make an air-conditioned sit-down lunch reservation every day. You'll get a break from the heat and save money over making dinner your large restaurant meal." She also says that meal portions tend to be quite large and seniors on a budget would do well to share entrees. She also recommends seniors make use of the free filtered ice water available at any quick service restaurant.
Pipe recommends seniors use the park's Fast Pass system, "with all rides and attractions to minimise wait times as much as possible." The system allows you to skip the regular lines and choose selections for the day with a one-hour arrival window. Fast Pass is only available for certain rides and attractions.
It's important for seniors to take their time at the park, especially if they have medical or physical issues that can be exacerabated by the excessive walking and warmer weather. Luckily there are places to sit all over the park, with a choice of benches, seating at an ample supply of eateries and vendors with seating areas. Pipe advises seniors to regularly, "take five minutes to have a break" and for seniors who feel overly tired to not hesitate to return to their room to rest and return later to the parks when their energy has returned.
Disney World Attractions of Interest to Seniors
While most seniors will probably wish to avoid the bumpy rides that children love, there are many attractions to delight older adults. Of course if you're a senior who loves thrills, there's nothing stopping you from hopping on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror!
EPCOT provides entertainment for anyone who loves learning, regardless of age. Seniors can enjoy taking their time visiting Spaceship Earth, the Big Blue World or taking in a movie at the 180-degree IMAX theatre, all of which won't over tire older adults. The World Showcase Pavilion is apt to please anyone who wants to experience other cultures without the expense and time to travel internationally and seniors can enjoy tasting the cuisines of 11 other countries and watching their traditional entertainment at their leisure.
The Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom is probably the most widely known area of Disney World with iconic rides like Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. Many of the rides may not be suitable for older adults who won't enjoy the rush and motion, especially with physical impairments. For seniors who want to enjoy the Magic Kingdom without a lot of physical exertion or stomach-dropping rides, Pipe notes that, "There are sit down shows and attractions which are a godsend when you need a rest and hit of air conditioning." Her recommendations for seniors are the Hall of Presidents and the Enchanted Tiki Room both of which feature animatronic shows and can be a fun way to sit down and take a break when you're feeling over-extended.
In fact, Touring Plans collects data from park attendees and found that, "seniors rate the Hall of Presidents higher than any other age group" according to Foster. Foster also recommends backstage tours which, "are popular with seniors and many offer a historical perspective on Walt Disney and the development of the history of the parks."
The Animal Kingdom
If the natural world is your passion, seniors can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. The hike features some lovely scenery and live animals and won't require a lot of physical exertion to visit. There's also the Kilimanjaro Safaris which will take you up close to animals like hippos and lions although be advised the ride is a bit on the bumpy side. Another slow, albeit dark, ride seniors can enjoy is the Na'vi River Journey which features an easy boat ride featuring a bioluminescent rainforest. It's a great option if one is feeling tired and needs a break from walking and the heat while still enjoying the entertainment.
Disney Hollywood Studios
Another area that seniors can enjoy is the Disney Hollywood Studios. There's a luxurious theatre and multiple Broadway-quality shows like Beauty and the Beast and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Pipe has found that seniors also tend to enjoy the Muppet Vision 3D and Frozen Sing Along Celebration shows. Seniors can enjoy all of these shows at their leisure without doing a lot of walking and exposure to the heat.
Can Seniors Enjoy Rides at Disney World?
Ride speed and motion are a matter of preference and while some seniors will love getting onto the latest thrill ride, many others will prefer a ride with a gentler motion, especially if there are potential health concerns like heart conditions or physical limitations. Rides that may be problematic for seniors with health issues will have signs posted alerting you to the potential risks.
- Pipe notes that these warning signs should be heeded but it, "isn't to say that an 80 year can't enjoy Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - it just prepares those who may not be in full health."
- Loni reports that, "many of Disney World's rides can be a relaxing journey that kids of all ages, including seniors, can enjoy. Some favorites are Peter Pan's Flight, It's a Small World, and Pirates of the Caribbean" which are all located in the Magic Kingdom.
- Foster says Touring Plans surveys have found, "seniors rate the Mad Tea Party (which has lots of spinning) less favorably than other age groups." She recommends seniors vist the Touring Plans site which has data from their surveys on all of the rides with favorable and unfavorable ratings split up by age groups.
Festivals at Disney World
Loni recommends some annual festivals at Epcot in particular for seniors. Loni notes that, "A fun perk with both of these is that the different food booths are often included as a snack credit on the Disney dining plan." All of the festivals can be enjoyed on the guest's own time and seniors can relax without engaging in a lot of physical travel around the park, and the festival themes will appeal to older adults moreso than children.
- The Flower and Garden Festival starts in early March and runs through the beginning June. "During this festival there are amazing topiaries, a concert series called Garden Rocks, and unique food booths."
- Another popular draw for seniors is the International Food and Wine Festival which takes place from late August through the month of November. The festival has international cuisine and wines and an accompanying concert series known as Eat to the Beat.
In addition to Walt Disney World, staying at the resort allows you to visit nearby attractions easily.
- Seniors can take in one of many spectacular shows at Sea World Orlando and get up close and personal with some friendly sea creatures. The Sky Tower has spectacular views without the fast motion of a typical ride at Disney World.
- Another favorite that seniors may enjoy is the Bok Tower Gardens with its stunning architecture and grounds.
- Finally seniors who love science will enjoy exploring the famous Kennedy Space Center.
Disney World and Seniors Go Together
If you're a senior citizen thinking about an enriching and memorable vacation, don't let the idea of insane amusement park rides deter you from considering Disney. Loni agrees, noting that, "There is really just a ton of options for seniors. They have a golf course, miniature golf, a whole shopping district, resort hopping, Christmas festivities, night life...the possibilities are endless!" From fine dining, theatre, gentle park rides to stimulating exhibits, Disney World is a perfect dream vacation for seniors.