Five Disney-inspired Vacations that Don’t Include Theme Parks
Here’s Where to Find a Little Disney Magic with Not a Theme Park in Sight
If you’re a Disney traveler, then you probably spend a lot of time visiting Disney Parks around the globe. But sometimes you might want to break away from your regular routine, especially if you have a significant other who…well…isn’t quite as into Disney Parks vacations as you are.
So with that in mind, I put together this list of my top five recommended non-Disney-Parks vacation destinations where you can still find some Disney inspiration and magic, while scoring some points with those in your family who will appreciate something a little different. The important part here is that each of these destinations is a place that is actually worth a full-fledged vacation in its own right.
Top Five Disney-Inspired Vacation Destinations Away from Disney Theme Parks
As much as I love traveling to Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Disneyland Paris, I also love finding Disney-inspired travel away from the parks. Here are my top five Disney-inspired travel destinations that don’t include visiting a single Disney theme park.
Read on to see why each of these spectacular destinations has been included on my list.
1. Ko Olina, Hawaii
Hawaii is a bucket list travel destination for just about everyone. So it’s no surprise that Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa — in the upscale locale of Ko Olina on Oahu — tops my list as a number one choice.
At Disney Aulani, you will experience everything that you love about Disney’s welcoming guest service, in a relaxing Hawaiian paradise that has nothing to do with theme parks, rides or attractions. Make no mistake, this is a Disney luxury resort, but it is very laid back and it’s nothing like the hustle and bustle that you typically find at any Disney Parks resort hotel.
While the Aulani property itself is spectacular and chock full of fun things to see and do (onsite and within walking distance along the waterfront), be sure to allow yourself time to explore the island of Oahu — on land and water — beyond the front gates of Aulani. We easily spend two weeks at this resort, completely relaxed without ever getting bored.
2. Nice, France
On par with Hawaii in terms of allure, beauty and desirability, the South of France is another must-do for the inspired Disney traveler.
Looking for a European vacation with a little taste of Disney magic? The inviting jewel city of Nice, France is the perfect base from which you can spend a week or two exploring the South of France.
With the recent opening of the Riviera Resort at Walt Disney World, Walt Disney’s love for this part of Europe is becoming more well known. I lived in Nice, France and attended university in this beautiful town, so I am very familiar with the area.
When visiting Nice, the only place to stay is Hotel Le Negresco. Walt Disney stayed here while exploring the coast, so you can discover for yourself why he fell in love with this part of the world. The historic and luxurious Negresco property is located directly on the Mediterranean and embodies the history and allure of this magical destination.
While Nice itself is full of things to see and do, you’ll also enjoy exploring the region nearby, from St. Tropez to Cannes, Eze to Monaco, the Cote d’Azur makes an excellent vacation destination for a Disney-inspired vacation.
If you can’t bear the thought of visiting France and not seeing Disneyland Paris, you might want to make this trip part of a Disneyland Paris vacation. For that, I have a sample France travel itinerary that you might enjoy reviewing.
3. Coronado Island, California
If beautiful stretches of white sand beaches in Southern California are more your style, then make plans to spend a week at the historic Hotel del Coronado on spectacular Coronado Island in San Diego.
It only takes one look at this awesome property for any Disney traveler to understand why this one is on the list. The Hotel Del was the inspiration for the design and creation of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World in Florida. When Imagineers wanted to create a luxurious and majestic seaside resort in Florida, the Hotel Del — just a short distance from Anaheim — was the obvious choice.
Above and beyond its ties to Disney, the iconic Hotel Del has a tremendous history all of its own. From Marilyn Monroe, to the Wizard of Oz, you’ll discover and experience the intriguing allure of the Del when you book some time to stay here.
And yes, the Hotel Del is just a short hop from Disneyland Resort if you really can’t bear missing out.
4. Vero Beach, Florida
If the warmer waters of a Florida beach vacation are something that tempts your travel bug, then Disney’s Vero Beach Resort on the Treasure Coast is another must-do Disney-inspired vacation.
Similar to Disney Aulani, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is a Disney-owned-and-operated property where you will experience the very best of the Disney magic that you love, without any of the lines, lights or rushed days typically found in a Disney Parks vacation. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is a sprawling oceanfront property on a very quiet beach with warm waters and beautiful sunrises. The pace is slow here and you can find many ways to relax and enjoy a family beach vacation in the warm Florida sun. A morning walk on the beach anyone?
We visit Disney’s Vero Beach Resort every summer and it truly does feel like a summer home. Similar to the Hotel Del in Coronado, Vero Beach is less than two hours from Walt Disney World in Orlando, so if you really want to get your theme park fix, I have a Florida itinerary suggestion for that. But truly, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort stands tall as a worthy Disney-inspired vacation destination all on its own.
5. San Francisco, California
Like every other destination on this list, San Francisco stands alone as a very popular place for travelers. For fans of Disney, however, San Francisco also holds a very special jewel in the form of the Walt Disney Family Museum.
Disney travelers can travel to San Francisco and enjoy everything that this vibrant city — and surrounding area — has to offer. At the same time, you can get some excellent insights into Walt Disney himself with a visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum located here. This is a must-do for any fan of Disney. The museum itself was founded by Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller who wanted to tell the story of her famous father through exhibits and family heirlooms that you just cannot find anywhere else. It’s a wonderful place to visit for any Disney fan.
On top of that, the museum itself is located in the absolutely beautiful Presidio area of San Francisco. With breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge from inside the museum, the Walt Disney Family Museum makes a trip to San Francisco a very worthwhile undertaking for a Disney-inspired vacation with not a theme park in sight.
Planning a Disney Vacation?
Get the Latest Disney Travel News Delivered Weekly
Mike Belobradic, The Finer Side of Travel™
A Luxury Disney Travel Blog