(All pics in this post are my own)
When I was a Cast Member, I had unlimited free park access available to me at all times. That meant I could go to the parks during every day off if I wanted to. And most of the time, I did go to the parks on my days off- with friends and roommates.
However, on the rare days when everyone I knew was working or had other plans, I was always faced with the question of whether or not to brave going to a Disney park alone. There was no reason I couldn’t- I knew the drive, I could get in for free, and I could go on as many rides as I wanted without anyone telling me what to do, or dealing with anyone’s drama. Ideal, right?
Well…I always managed to find excuses for not going. I’d convince myself that I had too many chores, or that I should take advantage of the alone time and read, or relax and lay out by the pool. I always chickened out when it came time to go alone; I was embarrassed of guests staring at me, wondering why I was by myself. I was embarrassed of telling ride attendants that I was a single rider. I was embarrassed of eating lunch at a table all by myself, surrounded by happy families. It was ironic- for someone like me who loves to be alone, I couldn’t manage to go to Disney World alone.
To be fair, I couldn’t really think of any areas in the park to relax with a drink and read, away from the hustle and bustle of the daily guests. This was before the hub grass around the Magic Kingdom castle forecourt was built, and before Starbucks came into the parks. The only relaxing places I could think of were the benches outside the countries at Epcot, but I didn’t want to be so…out there…for everyone to see. I guess I was more self-conscious than I wanted to admit.
I did end up going to parks alone (for a few hours) twice during my Professional Internship program. Once was at Epcot, where I had an interview at the Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion. I was applying to stay on as an Education Coordinator at either Animal Kingdom or Epcot, and the woman I was interviewing with had her office in the Seas pavilion (how cool is that, right?).
I drove to the park, parked in guest parking, and rode the tram to the entrance with all the regular day guests. I could feel some stares as I boarded the tram all alone, but I didn’t let it bother me. It felt weird though- I had never entered a Disney World park alone before. I got there an hour and a half early, so I spent some time at the Sunshine Seasons restaurant at the Land pavilion, right next door to the Seas. I was too paranoid to go on a ride- imagine if the ride broke down and I was late for my interview! So, I just stayed at Sunshine Seasons and, in between going over my interview notes, I admired the ambience and really took my time to take in the details. I realized it wasn’t so bad, being on my own.
After the interview, I sat down on a bench and called my friend. We had a good talk as the flowers bloomed around me, park music played softly in the background, and the monorail zoomed overhead. I was too exhausted after the phone call to go on any attractions (the stress of job interviews takes a lot out of me), but I thoroughly enjoyed having some “me” time wandering through Future World and stopping to see sights that I normally wouldn’t see if I was with someone else, and we were rushing toward a ride.
My second time going to Disney alone was the day before my program ended. I went to Animal Kingdom one last time, while I still had free admission as a Cast Member, to take pictures of all the places I worked around the park, and pictures with my fellow Cast Members in their costumes. I no longer felt anxious being on my own- I really liked walking the animal trails and talking to my coworkers, and just taking in every single detail about the park I had worked in for six months. I even got in line to go on It’s Tough to be a Bug, fully intending to ride alone, but I bumped into another coworker of mine who had the day off as well. We ended up seeing the show together, and taking a fabulous picture with our bug-eyes.
I realized that a lot of Cast Members take advantage of their free admission and go to the parks alone on their days off, or decide to play in the parks before or after their shifts. I do regret not taking the chance to go alone more often, but I am so grateful for all the times I went with my roommates and coworkers.
But what about those who go to Disney alone, and who aren’t Cast Members?
I’ll tell you.
On our way back from a wedding near Tampa, years after my Disney internship ended, my husband and I decided to spend a night in Disney. We made reservations for Ohana at the Polynesian that night, and breakfast for California Grill at the Contemporary for the next morning (and yes, we were completely broke after those two meals). There was only one problem- at the time, I was a seasonal Passholder and was within the right dates to visit the parks, but my husband had no tickets. However, I couldn’t bear the thought of going to Disney and NOT visiting a park.
So I did what I wasn’t brave enough to do before- I went to Magic Kingdom by myself, leaving the husband at the hotel to relax. I made my way on the monorail across the Seven Seas Lagoon, staring wistfully at all the happy families and couples. I walked into the Magic Kingdom to see the Move It, Shake It parade pass by. I spent the first hour of my day constantly texting my husband, sending him pics and updating him on my plans for the day.
I decided to ride as many rides as I could; or rather, all the rides where I wouldn’t feel embarrassed riding by myself. I rode “it’s a small world,” Space Mountain, and a few other favorites. I got in line for Pirates of the Caribbean, but the ride broke down (or went 101, in Cast Member lingo), and got a Fast Pass to ride any ride in the park except Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I chose to go on Journey Under the Sea (the Little Mermaid ride- I still can’t remember the full name).
I did feel awkward the first few times the ride grouper asked me how many was in my party, and I said, “one.” I also felt awkward when I sat down at my own table in Pecos Bills, and the family nearby stole all the chairs at my table when they saw no one was joining me.
Aside from that, it was a beautiful day. I treated myself to some gratuitous selfies, and long strolls in the shops that I knew my husband would hate. I again took advantage of the slow pace and the chance to take in as many details as possible. I dug out my DSLR and staked out a good spot for the Festival of Fantasy Parade, and ended up with great photos. Finally, when the time came for our dinner reservation, I made my way to the boat dock and sailed back toward the Polynesian. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband about my day, and he didn’t seem that sad over missing out on the fun.
Would I go to Disney alone again? Yes and no. I wouldn’t take a whole vacation by myself, but I would definitely spend a few hours alone in a park if I couldn’t find anyone else to go with me. Now that my husband has his own seasonal pass, I usually always have a park buddy. However, there are days where everyone is just busy or burnt out on Disney, and you just have to go it alone.
Next time, I plan to bring a book, buy a dole whip, and lounge on the hub grass. Is there a better way to spend a solo day at the Magic Kingdom?
Has anyone else ever taken a solo trip? Let me know what you thought!
Hugs and Fishes,