Top 10 Ways to Enjoy the Disney Parks Solo

Disney World solo at Port Orleans Riverside resort

[by Amanda Bauner, Me and the Magic]  Some people may feel apprehensive about going to a Disney park solo for the first time. Others may jump right in and love it. I’ve been to Walt Disney World and Disneyland numerous times solo.

Here are my top 10 ways to enjoy the Disney parks solo.

#1 – Don’t Feel Self-Conscious

On my first solo trip to Walt Disney World in 2014, I thought people would see me by myself and would wonder why I was at a Disney park alone. Aren’t Disney parks supposed to be for families, especially kids? It turns out that everyone was so focused on their own plans, like rushing to their next FastPass (at that time) or comforting their cranky kid, that they could have cared less that I was by myself. Now when I go to Disney parks solo, I don’t worry about what others may think. I wait in line to have a PhotoPass photographer take my picture solo because I want to capture the memory of my visit for myself and share it with family, friends, and you!

#2 – Talk to Cast Members

If you’re traveling solo and are feeling a bit lonely, or just want some great conversation, talk with a Cast Member. When I’m going solo, I find that Cast Members take more time speaking with me. Most Cast Members enjoy sharing their wealth of Disney knowledge, discussing where they’re from (indicated on their nametags), or answering any questions you have.  It’s usually challenging to engage a Cast Member in conversation while waiting for an attraction because they’re doing their job to keep the line moving and safely loading people into the attraction, and I don’t want to interfere with that! The best places to speak with Cast Members tend to be in shops when they’re not busy, at the resorts when there’s not a line of people behind you at the front desk or bell services, and at restaurants and bars when it’s not super busy. If you’re lucky enough to have a solo bus (yes, it’s happened to me a few times), some bus drivers really love to chat, and they have some great stories!

#3 – Sit at the Bar or Counter

Most restaurants with table service in Disney parks and at resorts will have an option to sit at the bar or the counter. If you don’t have an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) and it’s a busy time of day, ask at the host stand if there’s room at the bar or counter. This has worked for me at Beaches and Cream at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, and it was great fun to watch all the food being cooked and the sundaes being made!  Sitting alone at the bar or counter is another great way to interact more with Cast Members – of course, you have to understand that they are doing their job, but if it’s slow, it’s a great time to talk with them, as well as other guests sitting around you who are open to chatting.

Amanda’s advice…

Sit at the bar in a lounge because you’ll typically be served faster by the bartender than the servers who come around to the tables. Plus, it’s usually easier to find one open seat at the bar than to find an open table. One of my favorite bars is Phin’s inside of the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort.  

#4 – Reserve a Special Activity

If you’re hesitant about going to the parks by yourself, reserve a special activity that you’ll do with a group of people. Disney Parks offer several guided group tours. I loved the Keys to the Kingdom tour at WDW’s Magic Kingdom, a 4-hour backstage tour. Our tour group had about 24 people and included lunch with assigned tables. Disney planned it well and assigned me to sit with 2 other solo travelers and the tour guide – bonus! Another great solo activity is to make a spa appointment. Disney has some terrific spas at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. I highly recommend the Mandara Spa at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel in Disneyland.

#5 – Put Your Phone Down

This tip is really for anyone, not just solo travelers. These days when I’m in the Disney parks, everyone is on their phones – in lines, while eating, and sometimes while walking! When I travel solo, my first instinct when I’m waiting in line is to grab my phone. I encourage you to put your phone down and really take in the park with all your senses. Did you know that the sense of smell is most closely linked to our memories? Take in the smells of a nearby food kiosk or of the dampness in Pirates of the Caribbean. Listen to the background music playing in each land. Watch other people in line or walking by. See if you can spot other people traveling solo – I almost always do these days in the parks.

#6 – Explore Outside the Parks

Even though I’m now a local to Walt Disney World, I know the feeling of wanting to cram everything in each park into the limited number of days on a Disney trip. I’ve done it many times, and I’m telling you – resist that urge! Disney has so many great resorts that are worth exploring. One of my favorite moments on an unexpectedly cool November trip to Walt Disney World was exploring Wilderness Lodge for the first time and finding a fireplace on a higher floor with a rocking chair – it was heavenly! Also, don’t forget to check out Disney Springs at Walt Disney World and Downtown Disney at Disneyland when you need a break from the parks.

#7 – Meet Characters

Do you enjoy meeting characters? I admit as an adult, I felt awkward about meeting characters at first. Once I started meeting them, I realized how much fun these interactions can be. Some characters, like the princesses and Mary Poppins, will carry on conversations with you. The characters who aren’t ‘face’ characters (like Mickey and Minnie) don’t often speak, but they are still a lot of fun to meet!

You can meet characters at a character meal, wait in line at designated meeting locations in the parks, or watch for characters wandering around the park. Characters in training seem to frequently be spotted around EPCOT’s International Gateway and the UK. I was exiting EPCOT that way and ran into Gepetto and Ariel on different days.

#8 – Skip a Park Opening

I know this tip sounds crazy! It pains me to write it because, as a Disney planner extraordinaire. I know that park opening is the best time of day to experience the most attractions since the lines are the shortest. If you are blessed to spend multiple days at a Disney park, I recommend skipping a park opening one day.  One morning, I went swimming at the Port Orleans Riverside leisure pool, and I had the entire pool to myself.

Amanda’s advice…

Often, it can be easy to make a last-minute ADR for one person. I’ve made same-morning breakfast ADRs several times when I woke up and felt like taking it slow that morning. The Grand Floridan Cafe is a favorite of mine for breakfast and often has morning availability. 

#9 – Be Spontaneous

Again, the planner in me wants to resist this, but some of my favorite memories have come from allowing myself to be spontaneous. On that same cold November trip, I was in the Magic Kingdom for the evening. Many people had left because it was so cold, but I stuck it out. I had a great view of the nighttime parade, the Main Street Electrical Parade, because hardly anyone was still in the Magic Kingdom.

Another way to be spontaneous is to try bus roulette at Walt Disney World. Take the first bus that comes from your resort. It may be to a park or to Disney Springs. (Full disclosure – I love my plans and haven’t yet been able to bring myself to jump on the first bus yet, but it’s a goal!)

#10 – Don’t Wait to Go Solo!

Perhaps the most important tip… don’t wait to go solo! Don’t wait for your friends and family to decide if they want to go with you. Set the date, plan the trip, and do it! Going solo costs more than splitting the cost of a hotel room with others, so consider that when setting your budget. If you can’t afford to go solo, then carve out some time during your next visit to a Disney park with friends or family. If they want to sleep in, tell them you’ll meet them later and go on your own for a few hours. This is a great way to see if you like going solo.

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Let me know how I can help you, or share your story with me here. — Amanda