6 Disney-themed vacation ideas beyond the theme parks

In Walt Disney Imagineering. The only way to tour Walt Disney Studios with the Adventures by Disney – guided group tours division.
(Dave Parfitt)

Disney parks transport families to the fantasy worlds, and immerse them in an idealized land of adventure, the past and the future.

But how about those who enjoy Disney, but are looking for something other than an amusement park vacation? What do you think of a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the parks with a tour of Walt Disney Imagineering? Or a chance to see props and costumes from the movies in the Walt Disney Archives?

There are plenty of alternative Disney-theme: family vacation options by means of the brand’s travel division, the Adventures of Disney, and guests do not have to set foot in a theme park for each of them.

The Creators of the Magic: Walt Disney Studios and Imagineering

Walt Disney is quoted as saying, “It all started with a mouse.” But one could argue that it really all started in the Studios and is designed by Walt Disney Imagineers.

A tour of the Walt Disney Studios in Southern California, takes groups behind the scenes at the studios and archives in Burbank, California. Guests learn the history of Disney animation and film, and find many of the artifacts, including scripts, props, costumes, and even an Oscar nomination. The Walt Disney Imagineering campus just down the road in Glendale is full of illustrations, models, sculptures, and technical wizardry in the Disney parks, resorts, and more.


Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa on O’ahu, is their first hotel from the mainland of the U.S. is not linked to a theme park.
(Dave Parfitt)

Hawaii: Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa on O’ahu, is their first hotel from the mainland of the U.S. is not linked to a theme park, and it is rooted in the Hawaiian culture. During the conceptualization, Imagineers consulted with cultural advisors to create an authentic Hawaiian experience. Yes, there are Disney characters around, but even Mickey Mouse and his friends are on vacation to enjoy Hawaii.

Alyssa-Lende Kane, Aulani Disney’s ambassador, explains how each location in the resort is inspired by, and gives a sense of Hawaiian culture.

For example, the ‘Ōlelo Room (pronounced oh-LEH-low) is a lounge that celebrates Hawaiian language. ‘Ōlelo is a Hawaiian for “word” or “talk,” so that you will not find a TV here, the space is meant for families to come together around the table, sharing a meal and to learn a little of the Hawaiian language. The room is filled with carved wooden objects labeled with their Hawaiian names. There are even words on the walls, chairs, and the ground — such as “puka hale” (window), “noho” (sit), “papahele” (floor). Everyone who works in the ‘Ōlelo Room to speak Hawaiian, too.

Of course, those who travel to this luxurious resort development expect an unspoiled beach, peaceful lagoon swimming and the beautiful landscapes associated with Hawaii. Aulani includes everything, and also features spacious, Hawaiian-inspired rooms, a full-service spa with outdoor hydrotherapy garden on the island are several restaurants with fine-dining to Disney character buffet options; an innovative high-tech kids ‘ club and a vast water playground in the vicinity of the “volcano”; and the only private saltwater snorkeling lagoon on O’ahu.

As part of the Alaska itinerary, Disney Cruise Line guests explore Musher’s Camp at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway.
(Matt Stroshane, courtesy Disney)

Alaska: America’s ‘Last Frontier’

Adventures by Disney takes families from Anchorage to Denali during an 8-day excursion. Along the way, you can learn about the culture of the Native Alaskan people, kayak, and bike along the coast, hop on board one of the dome of the car on the scenic Alaska Railroad, tasty with sled dog puppies, and more. In addition, Disney Cruise Line is sailing from Vancouver through Alaska’s inside passage calls on Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier and Endicott Arm.

Ashley Long, Cruise Director on the Disney Wonder described the experience as two vacations in one. “You get Disney animation, performances, stories, on-board,” Long described, “all while experiencing the natural beauty and adventurous spirit of Alaska.” From 2020 onwards, you can a Adventures by Disney package to an Alaskan Disney Cruise with special experiences, both on and off the ship.


AMERICAN and Canadian National Parks

Guided trips to the Grand Canyon, Arches, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, as well as Canada, Banff National Park, are fun ways to go outside while the same Disney magic. Their Arizona and Utah vacation embraces the spirit of the Old West, the taking of families to Grand Canyon National Park, Arches National Park, and along the Colorado River. Multiple available routes to visit Yellowstone National Park. In addition to Yellowstone, their Montana vacation you will find glamping under the stars, and the Wyoming vacation adds to the Tetons for the national park destinations. (Winter in Wyoming Escape shares a different perspective, a visit to two national parks under a blanket of snow.) Finally, families can experience Banff National Park from the ground, on the water and in the air during the Canadian Rockies adventure.

European Cruises by the River and the Sea

Families can take a cruise through the Mediterranean, Northern and Western Europe, the British Isles and the Norwegian Fjords, all with Disney Cruise Line.

Kristoff, Anna, and Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen” in the Sunnmøre Museum in Ålesund, Norway.
(Dave Parfitt)

In 2016, Adventures by Disney has entered into a partnership with AmaWaterways to sail through central Europe along the Danube River. Since that time the collaboration has been extended to offer Rhine, the Rhone and the Seine river cruise. These European cruises focus on the countries and cultures, but you will find a number of Disney touches along the way such as Anna, Elsa & Kristoff from Disney’s “Frozen” to appear on an open-air, living history museum in Norway, or the small town in the quiet village of Riquewihr, along the Rhine in France, which served as the inspiration for Belle’s hometown in Disney’s “beauty and the Beast.”

For other International Destinations with Adventures by Disney

Since 2005, Disney’s tourism arm, has offered guided tours to more than 30 destinations all over the world on six continents. This “bucket list” of vacation destinations in South Africa, Machu Picchu, the Italian ruins of Pompeii, Australia’s Outback, the Great Wall of China, and Japan, to name a few.


The famous chain bridge and the Buda Castle from the Danube River.
(Dave Parfitt)

Whether it’s a trip to Aulani in Hawaii, a Disney Cruise to Alaska, or cultural experiences in Japan, families can still expect the same great Disney magic on their next vacation — even without going to one of the parks.

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