5 Disney-Inspired Family Vacations That Aren't at Disney
Travel in the footsteps of your favorite Disney movie characters.
Walt Disney World has long been a popular vacation destination, and rides like Frozen Ever After at Epcot and Toy Story Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, can make you feel like you’re a part of the movies. For your next vacation, however, why not plan to travel in the footsteps of your favorite Disney characters, like Queen Elsa from Frozen and Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Here are five ways to create your own movie-inspired family vacation.
We all want to build a snowman, and it’s easier than ever to plan a Frozen-inspired family vacation in Norway. There’s also never been a better time to book your airline tickets. Round-trip fares to Europe can be found for as low as $200. Adventures by Disney offers an eight-day cruise across Norway with stops in Bergen, the charming village that was the inspiration behind Arendelle, Flam, Geiranger and Oslo. You’ll be awestruck as you cruise through fjords, explore stave churches and hike to waterfalls.
Closer to home, visit one of four acre-sized Ice Castles built each winter in the U.S. Bring a sled to pull your children through the castles (it’s much easier than trying to push a stroller) and look out for photo opps with ice princesses. Want to stay the night in an ice castle? Try the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Norway or the Hotel de Glace in Canada. Both boast sub-zero experiences, so dress warmly and get ready to snuggle up in a Nordic sleeping bag.
The Little Mermaid
Want to be part of Ariel’s world? At Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida, you can. The state park’s world-famous mermaids have been performing The Little Mermaid twice-daily for decades in their underwater 400-person auditorium. A second show, Fish Tails, features the mermaids performing various feats, like changing costumes and ballet choreography, all while underwater (and with a mermaid tail).
A number of mermaid camps and classes across the country even make it possible for you or your child to “transform” into a mermaid. Weeki Wachee Springs offers a two-day Junior Mermaid Camp, giving children a “Mermaid Makeover” and a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a Weeki Wachee mermaid, as well as underwater ballet lessons. If you have just an hour, try the Outer Banks Mermaid School in coastal North Carolina.
The Princess and the Frog
It’s hard not to crave a savory bowl of jambalaya and a powdered-sugar beignet after watching The Princess and the Frog. Set in New Orleans, a city well-known for its flavorful cuisine, get ready to ride the St. Charles Streetcar, satisfy your sweet tooth with pralines (Aunt Sally’s Pralines is a must-go) and take a tour of Oak Alley Plantation. No need to kiss any frogs, though you and your kids can learn to cook with insects as part of the Bug Appetit program at the Insectarium.
Join a guided swamp tour to explore the Honey Island Cypress Swamp, one of Louisiana’s low-lying bayous. Teeming with Spanish moss, cypress trees, marshes and alligators, these dark swamps are heavily featured in the movie when Tiana and Prince Naveen are in frog form. Once back from the bayou, stop in Café du Monde for warm beignets and café au lait. Make sure gumbo is also on the menu. Try the seafood okra gumbo at Galatoire’s or the chicken andouille gumbo at Gumbo Shop.
Pirates of the Caribbean
For Pirates of the Caribbean fans, plan a trip to the Caribbean (of course) to explore filming locations of the movie series. Much of Dead Man’s Chest was shot on Dominica, which served as the fictitious Pelegosto island. Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and St. Vincent and the Grenadines also played leading roles in the film series, making perfect locations for beach landings and pirate duels.
Book a Southern Caribbean cruise departing from San Juan, Puerto Rico, like the 10-day Lesser Antilles Caribbean Cruise on board the Celebrity Summit, which makes port stops on many of the islands featured in the film series. Another idea is to book a stay near one filming location, like Gold Rock Beach at Lucayan National Park in the Bahamas, which has a role in two of the movies. Consider an all-inclusive resort, like Lighthouse Pointe, for beach barbeques, cave diving and national park explorations.
Moana fans may not be able to explore Motunui, the fictional Polynesian island from the film, but there are a variety of tropical islands that may feel like Motunui, complete with waterfalls, volcanoes, caves and sailboats. For a no passport needed getaway, consider a stay at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii for surfing, snorkeling at Rainbow Reef and exploring Oahu by canoe. Or, look to any one of many Moana-inspired vacation rentals across the Hawaiian Islands.
East coasters, consider St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Take a walk through the lush rainforest, hike the island’s signature volcanic spires, Gros Piton and Petit Piton, or explore the waterfalls and geothermal mineral baths at Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens. Book a stay at The Landings Resort & Spa, which is a great pick for families, offering a complimentary kids club and non-motorized water sports, as well as a full-time butler for those who book a suite at the resort.