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WALT DISNEY WORLD FLORIDA HONEYMOON

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You don't need a fairy godmother to find romance at Walt Disney World Resort. This 30,500-acre playground is home to some of the world's most famous romances: Cinderella and Prince Charming, Lady and the Tramp, Beauty and the Beast — and the most famous Disney sweethearts, Mickey and Minnie Mouse!

It's hardly surprising, when you consider that Disney specializes in making dreams come true. What is surprising is that adult visitors to Walt Disney World Resort outnumber children. They are drawn by four theme parks, two water adventure parks, 32 resort hotels, two full-service spas, 99 holes of golf on six courses, beaches, water sports, nightclubs, golf, tennis courts, dinner shows, candlelight dining and sophisticated shopping.

Minnie and Mickey Mouse
Minnie and Mickey Mouse
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

How do you find the most romantic hotels, restaurants, attractions and intimate nooks and crannies in a resort that's the size of San Francisco? We've discovered several, having visited Walt Disney World close to a dozen times.

Romantic hotels and resorts

When it comes to romance, Disney's Grand Floridian Beach Resort wins hands-down. It even looks like a giant wedding cake. The Victorian-style, 901-room resort is a Great Gatsby-fantasy of gabled roofs and snow-white buildings capped with red turrets. Enormous bouquets of fresh flowers, potted palms, a ceiling of stained glass domes, and glittering chandeliers decorate its palatial pink and white lobby. An open-cage elevator brings confetti-sprinkled guests to honeymoon suites, many of them with Jacuzzis and king-sized beds. Our favorite rooms are the third, fourth- and fifth-floor turret rooms, overlooking the courtyard, pool, the Seven Seas Lagoon and Cinderella Castle.

Equally luxurious are Disney's Yacht Club & Beach Club Resorts, reminiscent of the grand, turn-of-the-century summer homes of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The resort's centerpiece is Stormalong Bay, with waterslides off a "shipwreck," and a sand-bottomed snorkeling lagoon, filled with freshwater fish. The wooden lawn swings on the beach are particularly romantic, especially at sunset.

Couple on a swing at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club
Couple on a swing at
Disney's Yacht & Beach Club
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Stephanie and Ray, a couple that we met at Walt Disney World, selected Disney's Polynesian Resort for their honeymoon. "It's in a great location, being on the monorail," explains Ray, "and we love the lush tropical foliage and waterfalls." Even if you don't stay there, stop by in the evening, when firelight from the torches illuminates the longhouses and flowers and transports you straight into the South Pacific.

Newlyweds on a budget can choose one of the moderately-priced resorts, such as the Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans and Dixie Landings or the value-priced All-Star Movies, Music and Sports Resorts.

Romantic dining

With more than 300 places to dine at Walt Disney World, the hard part is deciding where to eat. Our favorite romantic restaurant is Victoria & Albert's, in the Grand Floridian Beach Resort. Each table has a "maid" and a "butler," named Victoria and Albert, respectively. The menu changes nightly, and is served on Royal Doulton china. At the end of the meal, the couple receives a souvenir menu with their names on it, and the lady receives a long-stemmed rose.

At Bongo's Cuban Café, in Downtown Disney, we love the intimate alcoves in the Pineapple Bar. We sipped frosty mojitos (a traditional drink of mint, lime and rum) at a mosaic table, lit from within. After dinner, the Latin music enticed us up to dance.

For casual meals, we like Disney's Hollywood Studio's Prime Time Café, where you dine in a '50s-vintage kitchenette, while watching old sitcoms like I Love Lucy on TV. Also fun, is the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre, where you sit in chrome-gilded cars in a '50s drive-in, and watch monster flicks while lunching on "Tossed In Space" salad and "Revenge of the Killer Club Sandwiches." We also love sharing a decadent ice cream sundae, served in an enormous goblet, at Beaches & Cream, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resorts.

Romantic things to see and do

When it comes to sightseeing, the best advice we heard, came from newlyweds Kevin and Carol. "Don't try to do it all at once," says Kevin. "Take at least a week, so you have a day for each theme and water park." The couple's favorite attraction is the movie at the France pavilion in Epcot, which offers views of chateaux and vineyards from a hot air balloon.

Our vote for the most romantic attraction is SpectroMagic, the nighttime parade in the Magic Kingdom, featuring pixies and peacocks, a bejeweled coach and bubble-blowing fish, all aglow with 600,000 twinkling lights and synchronized to a tune that dances through your mind for hours afterward.

We also love to cuddle up in the darkened Haunted Mansion in Magic Kingdom Park as friendly ghosts swirl around us; reminisce about our favorite movies in Disney's Hollywood Studio's Great Movie Ride; and hold hands while strolling along the leafy Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Animal Kingdom.

There's so much more: enjoying massages in the "couples' room" at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, laughing together at high jinks in the Muppet Vision 3D movie, sharing the awe of wild animals on a Kilimanjaro Safari, riding an old-fashioned carriage through Disney's Port Orleans Resort's Riverside, and posing with Mickey and Minnie for a souvenir picture.

Some of our most-lasting memories are of activities outside the four theme parks, such as horseback-riding and canoeing at Fort Wilderness and lazily floating in tubes along Castaway Creek in Typhoon Lagoon, followed by snorkeling over its shark reef and sunbathing on the sandy beaches.

Romantic nightlife

During the evening, the theme parks become a fairyland of twinkling lights. We especially love to walk around World Showcase Lagoon, after IllumiNations, the mind-boggling evening fireworks and laser show. Trailing some distance behind the last of the crowds as they leave for the night, we feel as if we have the whole place to ourselves.

Our favorite spot for viewing the fireworks over Cinderella Castle is the California Grill, atop Disney's Contemporary Resort, overlooking the Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon. We toast each other with glasses of chilled chardonnay and watch the fireworks paint the sky behind the castle with dazzling pink, gold and green bursts of light - a magical panorama that we always cherish.

Fireworks over Cinderella Castle
Fireworks over Cinderella Castle
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

For entertainment, there are dinner shows, including a Hawaiian-style luau at Disney's Polynesian Resort; a toe-tapping, western hoedown, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Disney's Fort Wilderness; and an Oktoberfest dinner show, complete with yodelers and oom-pa-pa bands at the Biergarten in Epcot's Germany. Disney's BoardWalk features Atlantic Dance, an old-style dance hall, Jellyrolls, a dueling-pianos sing-along club, and the ESPN Club, with interactive sports videos. For theatrics, acrobatics, live music and breathtaking stunts, the Cirque du Soleil production, La Nouba, is hard to beat.

With more than 50 lounges in Walt Disney World hotels and three of the theme parks (no alcohol is served in Magic Kingdom), you won't run out of places for a drink. We like Victoria Falls at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. What to order? Try a Victoria Falls Mist, with tangerine, melon and banana liqueurs.

Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island

Nothing surpasses Downtown Disney for entertainment. We rode a virtual magic carpet in DisneyQuest, cuddled up for a romantic movie in the huge 24-screen AMC Theatre and listened to live music in House of Blues. Pleasure Island's seven nightclubs range from The Comedy Warehouse to the Rock 'n Roll Beach Club. Mannequins Dance Palace boasts a rotating dance floor and light shows. Our favorite is the '30s-era Adventurers' Club, filled with tribal masks and exotic souvenirs from Africa and the Far East. There are plenty of surprises here, from talking masks and moving bar stools to zany explorers who regale you with tales of their travels.

The best way to top off an evening of nightclub-hopping, dining and dancing is with a New Year's Eve Party — held nightly at Pleasure Island. As performers draw crowds to outdoor stages, a band invites dancers to fill the streets, and the island takes on the festive atmosphere of a giant street party. Everyone joins in the countdown to midnight. At the stroke of 12, the sky fills with colorful fireworks, smoke and strobe lights. Torrents of confetti fall from the sky, leaving you arm-in-arm and ankle-deep in rainbow confetti and streamers.

It's a fitting way to end a storybook honeymoon in a magical Vacation Kingdom — one where even dreams can come true.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Walt Disney World Honeymoons: http://disneyweddings.com

More things to see and do at Walt Disney World:

Disney Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World - What to See and Do

Disney Water Parks - Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids

Things to see and do at Disneyland, California:

Rides, Restaurants and Shopping at Disney California Adventure