Hang around the various Disney park fan forums long enough (though it won’t take long) and you’ll see a variant of the following question: “Is it okay if I, as a grown adult, do [something they think it just for kids] while I’m at Walt Disney World?” The question comes up a lot when it comes to meeting characters, or riding an attraction that appeals to very young children, like Dumbo.
Whenever this comes up, I think about some of the things Walt Disney said about his parks. Here’s one example on this Dream Builders sign I snapped a picture of the last time I was in the Magic Kingdom:
Another quote of Walt’s along this line of thinking: “You’re dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.”
But neither of those are my favorite Walt Disney quote. My favorite is something he said in a television interview, when he was asked how he got the idea to develop Disneyland. He answered, “Well, it came about when my daughters were very young and Saturday was always Daddy’s day with the two daughters. So we’d start out and try to go someplace, you know, different things. I’d take them to the merry-go-round and I took them different places and I’d sit while they rode the merry-go-round. Sit on a bench, you know, eating peanuts. I felt that there should be something built where the parents and the children could have fun together. So that’s how Disneyland started.”
Walt’s viewpoint on his park starts to come into sharp relief when you really think about these quotes. What he wanted to create was a clean, safe place where anyone and everyone could come and have fun. I don’t think that he was picturing his guests worrying about what they were and weren’t “allowed” to enjoy. How are you having a good time if you’re worrying? I also don’t think he intended for some of his guests to look at other guests and judge them based on what they were choosing to enjoy. That just doesn’t seem Disney-like to me at all, certainly not a thought the man who sat on that bench eating peanuts and dreaming about a place where everyone could enjoy the attractions together would have had.
So, with the exceptions of children who don’t meet the height requirement for certain rides and also certain play areas with upper age limits (limits which are there for safety, not for “appropriateness”), I say you should plan and enjoy your vacation at Walt Disney World as you see fit. If you are a 29 or 39 or 49 year old person and you really love meeting Mickey or soaring around in your own Dumbo, go straight to the line and wait your turn. And conversely, if you are a harried parent waiting in a long line for your child to meet a princess and you’re tempted to wish the adults in line ahead of you left such experiences for the kids, remember that all guests are equal in the parks and we’re all welcome at its attractions.