Every once in a while a childfree couple find themselves in Orlando, Florida, ground zero for families with kids on vacation. Suddenly they're surrounded by what a friend calls junior humans. Not yet fully domesticated, the world is their zoo. Here the little darlings run, shriek, cry out, kick strangers and each other, cut through lines and weave through legs, spit up, raise a stink, cough and sneeze without covering their little rosebud mouths, and make a general nuisance of themselves. What's a pair of childfree adults to do? Behave as if you're in a hurricane: Seek higher ground. The following may offer refuge.
Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.
Wonder of wonders, there is a place in Disney World that doesn't have a children's menu. Victoria & Albert’s in Disney's top-of-the-line Grand Floridian Hotel restricts children under ten. It also insists that its adult guests act like grownups; men must wear a dinner jacket and women are expected to be suitably attired.
Yippee, an attraction that's kidfree: At the Walt Disney World Speedway, participants, who can choose from a Rookie, Kings, or Experience of a Lifetime program, must be at least 18 years old and hold a valid drivers license. You go behind the wheel of a NASCAR-type vehicle and get to do laps around the track at breakneck speeds that would otherwise cause your license to be revoked.
Who says the epitome of Orlando's creativity is Dumbo's costume and animatronic singers? A space for the visual and performing arts, the City Arts Factory comprises five art galleries, a classroom, an artists' studio, and an events and performance area.
No, they haven't (yet) passed an ordinance to keep the stroller set out, but you're still likely to see more adults with dogs than kids along Park Avenue in nearby Winter Park. The city is also known for its many museums: The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of Louis Tiffany glass. The Cornell Fine Arts Museum showcases art and objects from antiquity to the present. The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Garden displays works by the Czech-American sculptor. The Scenic Boat Tour is a nice way to start or end a day. It includes a one-hour narrated cruise through Winter Park’s lakes and canals with views of historic homes and mansions.
A combination wine bar and wine shop in Winter Park, this is one place to go where you can toast the absence the little darlings.
Sure, they'll let in kids here. But how many young'uns do you figure parents can drag away from Space Mountain and the "It's a Small World" ride to see butterflies and begonias?
I know I feel like jumping out of the plane and flying like a bird when I'm stuck on one of those Screaming Baby Express flights down to Florida. This is the place to live the fantasy. Instructors at the flight park can have visitors airborne on a tandem hang glider within minutes of their arrival. Towed to a height of 2,000 feet by a specially designed ultralight plane, they view the Orlandoscape as they gently glide back down to solid ground. No experience necessary.
Named for its Imperial Grand Bösendorfer piano, one of only two in the world, this bar is inside the Grand Bohemian Hotel in downtown Orlando. The venue hosts original works of art and has a nightly lineup of local musicians. Performances range from classical to blues, providing an elegant setting to quaff a martini or a glass of wine. Those who drink from sippy cups will not be served.
Ritz-Carlton hotels, once the quiet refuge of well-heeled couples eager to enjoy a peaceful getaway, have been invaded by families. And they're not all the little ladies and gentlemen the hotel brand tries so hard to cultivate. So I hesitate to recommend a stay in one. Nonetheless, if you're stuck in Orlando and desperate to escape the sound of pipey voices yelling "Ma!" for a couple of hours, arrange for a spa treatment here. Kids must be 12 to enter the fitness center, 14 to invade the treatment rooms, and 16 to annoy grownups in the locker rooms. Don't say you weren't warned.