Where do you go to get away from it all (when you’re getting away from it all) at Walt Disney World? In particular, where do you go for a little respite from the crowds and chaos? Unless you visit during an especially slow time of year, it’s unlikely you’re truly going to get away from much of anything. People are everywhere. Hope is not lost, however, as the intrepid Disney adventurer is not without options.
Some have an inherent fear of slowing down, of taking a break in the middle of a busy, Touring-Planned afternoon. We don’t want to miss anything. While understandable, the concern is at best misguided, and at worst a recipe for a miserable day. Regardless of whether it’s your first time, or your thousandth, no matter how hale and hardy you may be, it’s a good idea to take some time every so often to recharge your batteries, and I’m not just talking about the ones for your gadgets. Your traveling party will thank you, and you will thank you. Of course, if you thank yourself loudly enough in public, it may just give you that extra personal space you’ve been looking for.
Please welcome Bob Whitten to the TouringPlans blog team. Bob lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with his wife and won us over with the sentence “There are, of course, those who oppose all things serial in nature, whether killers, commas, or cables,” which showed the proper use of the word “there,” an understanding of the Oxford comma, and, most importantly, a sense of humor.
What Makes for a Good Quiet Place
There are only a handful of criteria I consider when seeking out a temporary sanctuary. First, it obviously has to be at least a little quiet. If I can’t hear myself think, that means either I’m not thinking or the place is too loud. Either option is disturbing. Again, odds are you’re not going to find complete isolation, even on the slowest times of the year, so don’t fret if your favorite quiet spot is suddenly invaded by other peace-seekers. More than likely, they’re just as afraid of you as you are of them. Maybe that’s bears, but that’s fine, I hear they like the quiet too, except for our fine ursine friends at the Jamboree. Second, there should be seating. It’s good to sit down. You will be walking and walking, and when you’re not walking, you’ll be standing. Any chance you have to rest your feet you should take. Sometimes, it’s not enough to just get off your feet, say by dangling them from your seat in Soarin’; sometimes, it’s good to consciously rest them. Third, I prefer locations that offer some shelter from the Florida sun. It’s not easy resting and simultaneously overheating. That may be fine for some folks and I tip my cap to them, but I’m not a hot-weather person in the first place, despite having lived my whole life in the South.
One of the keys to finding some quiet is to search it out when others are not. Learn to operate slightly out of sync with the throngs, and you will find some otherwise crowded places relatively spartan by comparison.
Favorite Quiet Spots in Disney World
Sleepy Hollow is a name that practically screams peace and quiet, well, maybe not scream, so much as beckon with the scent of fried dough and cinnamon, which is even better. Nestled just outside the entrance to Liberty Square, Sleepy Hollow may not have places where you can actually indulge in nap time, but there are a few picnic tables under a relatively shaded patio where most likely the only thing that will bother you will be a seagull or two. We rarely encounter much of a crowd, but with only a handful of tables, even when the place is at full capacity there really aren’t very many people around.
Seating at Cheshire Cafe is limited, as it is at Sleepy Hollow, and that’s a good thing if you get there early enough to snag a table. Despite being situated near the Carousel and across from Cosmic Ray’s, it still feels relatively remote. This is especially true in the morning. This is an excellent spot to grab a coffee after your first round of attractions, while everyone else is still waiting to experience Peter Pan’s Flight.
We often visit Walt Disney World in the Fall, which means seasonal hours for several counter service locations in the park. The Golden Oak Outpost is often closed in the evenings during slower times of year. Once it shuts down for the day, the concourse near Golden Oak Outpost tends to be nothing more than a conveyance to and from Adventureland to Frontierland. There is a limited amount of seating along the concourse, so if you can snag a seat, you should have some quiet.
There is a spot down a little cul-de-sac on Main Street with a table or two that is almost always taken, but if you’re fortunate enough to arrive at a time of tabletop transition, you may find yourself quite alone, even on the busiest of days. As there is nothing to do or see, the only people you’ll encounter are people waiting for you to vacate so they too can enjoy a respite from the mass mania of Main Street. You can try avoiding eye contact, as they silently plead with you to surrender your sanctuary, but I can’t promise it won’t make for an awkward moment or two. I also can’t promise it won’t feel like it lasts much longer than that.
The combination of the time it takes to get to Tom Sawyer Island and the little there is to do once you arrive generally leaves this attraction looking downright desolate relative to the rest of the park. This makes it a good spot for quiet. It may be the only place in Walt Disney World where you actually can get away from it all. There aren’t too many places to sit down and relax, but spots can be found.
We’ve only been here at night, but at that time at least, the second floor of Columbia Harbour House rarely has very many people. As an added bonus, if you can snare a window seat overlooking the Fantasyland-Liberty Square concourse, you can enjoy a little people-watching along with your tasty chocolate cake or cobbler.
As a rule the Land Pavilion is pretty hopping, as anyone who’s ever waited in line for Soarin’ will tell you. But as you venture toward Sunshine Seasons you’ll find seating squirreled safely enough away from the tumult that affords you a decent place to gather yourself if you time it properly. We have eaten here at Christmas time and while I wouldn’t say we found peace and quiet, it was remote enough to afford us a small measure of seclusion. Try to grab one of the back tables along the edge. It’s rare to find this much seclusion in the parks, and you’ll do well to take advantage of it.
There is a somewhat hidden path from Test Track in Future World to the Mexico Pavilion in World Shawcase which runs along the exterior of the long closed Odyssey restaurant. Although it fails my shade criterion, there are a few seats and the location isn’t very crowded. This is also where you’ll find restrooms and the Baby Care Center. (Ed. – note that the Odyssey is current hosting guests viewing World Cup action. Things will calm back down after the finals.)
There is a small mostly hidden seating area outside the Japan Pavilion’s Katsura Grill. Because of the pagoda obscuring the view of World Showcase Lagoon, this place tends to be uncrowded. Due to the small number of tables here, you may find yourself standing during your quiet time. It’s peaceful, but not quite at the top of my list. Something about the way it is set up actually seems antithetical to resting there, but it can be done.
Victoria Gardens in front of the Canada Pavilion, and the waterfall-flanked walkway leading to O Canada! offer more tranquillity by way of flowers and trees and the always relaxing rush of water. This location fails two of my criteria, as there is no seating or escape from the sun, and I suppose if you throw in the roar of the waterfall, it fails all three. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to find relief. Sometimes, not just the crowds, but the parks themselves can be loud. There is always something vying for your attention and it is all good fun. Here, however, you will find none of that. Here, you’ll have a chance to get back to nature–as long as you stay behind the railing.
At the very back of the Morocco Pavilion, before the gift shop, there is a vast expanse of shady, quiet space. There’s nowhere to sit, but at least it’s cool and relatively quiet.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Flametree BBQ is almost always crammed with people, which is appropriate since cramming is my favorite pastime at Flametree—whether it be BBQ or chicken or ribs or pretty much anything they put in front of me. It may seem antithetical to peace and quiet, but it can be found. If you arrive early enough, there are a few highly coveted spots right next to the water with a great view of Expedition Everest. (Ed. – try to avoid sitting under the trees here – I have one word: “birds.”)
While it’s difficult to argue that any attraction is overlooked, the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and Maharaja Jungle Trek are definitely not as popular as they should be. This is a fun, relaxing part of Animal Kingdom that many people rush through in a quixotic attempt to tick off items on an imaginary checklist (or a very real Touring Plan) to quantify their visit to the park. You may notice the animals are spending their time chilling out. Granted, they probably don’t have FastPass+ reservations to Kali River Rapids, but perhaps we should take a cue from them nevertheless.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The seating in front of the ABC Commissary is a good place to sit and watch people; the best view is directly across from the back side of the soon-to-be-defunct American Idol Experience. There you will find stalwart cast members panhandling for volunteers to audition for the experience of singing in front of tens of people. Thanks to the Commissary building and a few well-placed umbrellas, the seating area is also fairly well-protected from that relentless pain in the neck otherwise known as the sun.
The Writer’s Stop used to be one of my two favorites places in all Walt Disney World for a little peace and quiet. With the removal of the front seating area, my feelings for it have diminished somewhat. If you can manage to get a seat, you can enjoy a nice cup of coffee and the iconic carrot cake cookie in relative peace. There is, however, a fine line between having a slight selection of seating that creates an intimate setting and so few that getting a seat takes on the qualities of a dark, dystopian piece of fiction. Sadly, if you want to sit and rest here these days, you’ll probably have to go Mad Max on someone. (Not that I endorse such behavior.)
The problem with any of these suggestions is that invariably, and in particular on the busiest days of the year, quiet spots will be hard to come by. The key is to take advantage of the quiet when it comes and, more importantly, not to rely on others or the perfect conditions to attain it. There are any number of tricks you can practice to get a little quiet, even if you can’t get a little privacy. You may not get large blocks of quiet, but if you pick your spots, it can help. I’m definitely one who cherishes his quiet time. I’d like to say I use that time to collect my thoughts, but there’s really not much external evidence for such braggadocio.
Sometimes, it’s worth it to linger in the parks after closing or during late night events, adding quiet times when you could be back in the peace of your own room. Quiet, however, comes in many forms. Sometimes, quiet is needed just to get a break from the craziness of the parks. But sometimes, quiet is a moment taken to reflect on the magic that permeates a magical place with loved ones. There have been a few times when my wife and I have shared a special moment on the bus back to our resort, or sitting in Pinocchio’s Village Haus late at night, amid the ruin of cups and trays. Those are probably the times I recall most fondly, not the number of times we’ve experienced Soarin’ or sailed with Captain Jack Sparrow. They are the shared quiet in chaos when we are acutely aware of the place and the moment.
There are many other quiet spots in Walt Disney World. What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments below.