On a recent vacation, business manager Lauren O’Donnell’s boyfriend set the mood with a private boat ride. Fireworks lit up the sky, and he popped the question—at Disney World.
“I texted my friend to let him know I’m engaged,” says O’Donnell, who works at American Express Publishing, “and learned he went to Disney for his one-year anniversary last year.”
Grown-ups like to play at the Happiest Place on Earth, too, and romance has become big business for Disney. Over the past two decades, Disney World alone has hosted more than 45,000 weddings, and countless couples have vacationed at the company’s properties across the U.S.
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“I think that Disney has this intangible magic that envelops people, if they allow it to,” says Deb Wills, whose Disney news and travel-planning site AllEars.net has a devoted following of 145,000 weekly subscribers. “You can shut out the real world; you can suspend reality.”
But disappearing into that kind of theme-park love cocoon isn’t always easy. “Disney is Disney,” says Wills. “There are lots and lots of families.” So start by going where the children aren’t, such as a resort hotel during the daytime, when most guests are on the park rides. Or a cruise ship like the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic, on which couples’ spa treatment rooms pair a massage with champagne on a veranda with sea views.
Inside the theme parks, privacy is catch-as-catch-can on little-walked trails and quiet culs-de-sac (ahem, try wandering to the back of Paradise Pier at California Adventure).
For a more guaranteed dose of romance, book a table at Be Our Guest restaurant, opening November 2012 at the newly expanded Fantasyland. It’s the first Magic Kingdom restaurant ever to serve wine and beer with dinner, and the décor is also creating buzz: a domed dining room with views of falling “snow” that echo the ballroom scene from Beauty and the Beast.
We’ve rounded up more couple-friendly Disney activities, each different in mood and expense. If you aren’t swooning by the end, you may be better off at Six Flags.