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Addressing Disney’s Culture Clash Between Adult Fans and Young Visitors

Mickey mouse with a young woman and two children skipping with balloons
Credit: Disney / Canva

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and may not reflect the views of Disney Dining as a whole.

They don’t call Disney World the most Magic Place on Earth for nothing. Walt created a place where magic is found around every corner. There’s one group, though, that is a bit… less than magical– childfree Disney Adults.

1940 walt disney company

Images Credit: Disney/Canva

The rise of “Disney Adults” has created a generation of guests who have forgotten that Disney World isn’t about Instagram, TikTok, or Snapchat. It’s not about “drinking around the world,” and it’s not about owning some silly title that ultimately means nothing.

To be a Disney Adult truly means nothing. No one cares. You’re entitled to nothing because you’re an adult who likes Disney World.

roy and walt disney holding newspaper

Credit: Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Put your pitchforks down; I’m a Disney Adult, too. I just haven’t forgotten the point of it.

Walt Disney created a place that adults and children can enjoy together.

We’ve all heard the story: While sitting on a park bench one afternoon watching his daughters on a merry-go-round, he realized that adults should be included, too. That is how the idea of Disneyland was born.

Disney Adults love to throw that story around to justify their perceived right to exclusive park access. That misses the point. The point is that Disney is for everyone. You’re not entitled to child-free spaces at Disney World.

Disney adults

Credit: Jill Bivins

I was lucky enough to grow up in Disney. My son and I have matching shirts that say “Born Disney, Raised Disney.” For us, it is absolutely true.

My first trip was when I was two, and I’ve gone at least bi-annually ever since, with very few exceptions. I’m 38 now, and as an adult, I’ve gone 2 or 3 times a year. I love Disney because it lets my inner child out to play, not my inner “influencer.”

Please don’t mistake what I’m saying here. I’m not the next “pretzel mom.” If you want to be child-free at the parks, you go right ahead. I get it. I love Disney World with my son. I also love Disney World without my son. I will never say you shouldn’t be there or that I should have special privileges because I have a child.

However, I also will not ever understand the desire to have Disney-sponsored child-free days at the parks, adult-only restaurants or hotels, or anything else that excludes an entire sector of humanity.

Disney has a system in place by which cast members make decisions and conduct themselves, called “the five keys.” One of the “five keys” is inclusion. We love to tout how inclusive Disney is. That’s wonderful.

However, some of the very people who celebrate Disney’s inclusivity are the same ones who regularly complain about wanting to exclude children. Inclusivity includes them, too. Children are people and have just as much right to take up space as anyone else. To ban children would be to ignore one of the founding pillars of the company you claim to love so much.

Disney adults

Credit: Jill Bivins

Related: Is “Poor Parenting” on the Rise at Disney Parks? Fans Weigh In

Restaurants are often the source of many-a-childfree person complaints. They claim children ruin the experience, and they want adult-only dining options. You already have them. They are called bars.

Children are welcome at most every restaurant at Walt Disney World, and they should be. Need I remind you that you’re at …Disney World? If children eating in the same restaurant as you bothers you that badly, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that maybe you should stop and think about that slowly: children. eating. at. Disney World. bothers. you.

Now consider this dismaying observation: they aren’t the problem. The real problem is you. You are the issue.

Are children sometimes loud? Yes. They are learning how to live in the adult world, and no one ever learns anything without making some mistakes. Deal with it. You are at a theme park. If you simply cannot show an overstimulated child some grace, I’ve got great news for you.

Sandals is an amazing destination that is 100% child-free. Go there. Bubble Wands are another constant source of annoyance for Disney Adults. Do bubbles annoy you? I’ve been to Sandals and can confirm: no bubbles. Let the children have their bubble wands at Disney and leave them in peace.

Pluto with a child at Garden Grill Restaurant

Credit: Disney

Related: Major Disney World Event Would Ban Kids From EPCOT

It’s not the parents’ fault either. Stop blaming them when a child acts like a child. I can guarantee you that with few exceptions, the parent of a misbehaving child is more stressed out about it than you are. All too often, people make snap judgments in situations like these and decide the parent must be lousy. I’d remind you what assumptions are like, but this is a PG website.

I took my son to Disney when he was a year and a half old. My child, who had always been so great in restaurants, suddenly chose our Disney trip (where we had the Deluxe Dining Plan and therefore a metric ton of table service reservations) to suddenly go from being a sweet, adorable angel to something that resembled a screaming two-headed demon in restaurants.

This was a problem. We’d already paid for our dining plan, which was not cheap. We weren’t willing to waste that money but neither were we willing to have a miserable time (and ruin the time of everyone around us) because our child suddenly decided eating wasn’t his thing.

Our solution was to eat in shifts. He got one chance to behave like a human. If he started screaming and/or crying one of us removed him while the other ate and then we swapped (and yes we tipped extra for the extra time we occupied the table).

This was the only reasonable and fair solution we could think of. For those that heard a few seconds of his screaming, sorry not sorry. He had to exhibit the behavior for us to correct it. Children learn by doing. He’s 8 now and is a champ in Disney restaurants. He had to make mistakes first, though, to learn how.

Disney Adults

Credit: Jill Bivins

Related: Should Disney Ban Young Children?

Disney Adults are a rare breed. We are extra and magical and practically leave a trail of pixie dust behind us wherever we go. We exude a childlike wonder that is unparalleled by any other fandom.

Remember though that before you were a Disney Adult, you were a child. You get to enjoy Disney Parks. Let my son enjoy them, too.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and may not reflect the views of Disney Dining as a whole.

Do you think children should be banned from select places at Disney? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. 

About Jill Bivins

Jill Bivins has been visiting Disney Parks since she was 2 years old and loves sharing her Disney adventures with the world. She likes to say Disney is in her blood and writing is in her bones — so any time she has the opportunity to combine these loves she is one happy camper! She has a deep abiding love for Epcot and as a die hard Star Wars fan has a serious love for Hollywood Studios as well. When she isn't exploring or writing about Disney Parks, Jill is homeschooling her 8 year old son, playing with her brand new baby son, or pretending to be a farmer on her family homestead (despite being unable to keep even a cactus alive). Find Jill on Instagram @minnieonmain.

3 comments

  1. Greetings,

    I totally agree that there should not be a segregation at Disney.

    It was Walt’s dream of a sanctuary where adults and Children can enjoy a truly special time together at a one of a kind place.

    I am a father of four and grandfather of twelve.

    We taught our children to be respectful of others.

    I certainly understand children’s behaviors both good and not so good.

    At Disney we expect a meltdown at some point.

    What I don’t understand is when children are allowed to run wild through restaurants and the parents totally ignore the situation.

    Parents ignoring their children’s behavior is not limited to restaurants.

    Then when the children get hurt, they are quick to blame others for not watching their children.

    We have experienced this first hand

    We have observed this lack of parenting all too often and not only at Disney.

    We understand children will be children but if you do not teach your children how to behave when they are young, you will have a mess to clean up when they are older.

    No one is perfect, just embrace the privilege of being a parent.

    Sooner or later the children will respond positively to your teaching. So remember, lead by example.

    Have a magical day

  2. I totally agree that there should never be an Event or time that children are excluded from Disney World or Disneyland!

  3. I will say there are times where a child being a child and a parent ignoring said behavior are a little much. We have asked for a more secluded table away from other families – if it is available. Nothing wrong with asking and if there is no room, they say no. I do not think children should be secluded but I do think parents should not ignore less than stellar behavior either.

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