Top Disney Vacations for Non-Disney People Slideshow
Combining the thrill of traveling to a country like Costa Rica (pictured) or Egypt with the pure kiddie delight of Disney is a smart move for parents looking to avoid Florida. Adventures by Disney books guided tours in a slew of countries all over the world that offer family-friendly, and still adventurous, vacations. (No, your guides don’t dress up like Mickey.) You can spend 12 nights exploring China (and dining on authentic cuisine) or join the cowboy cookout on the Grand Canyon hike.
The quaint 1940s charm of the Atlantic City boardwalk is the inspiration behind this Florida resort that looks much less like Disney and much more like an East Coast boardwalk on steroids. Disney’s Boardwalk Inn has a red and white candy-striped décor and classic boardwalk attractions like fire breathers, salt-water taffy, and arcade games. It also boasts the only working brewpub at Disney World, the Big River Grille and Brewing Works. This hotel also has Disney character-less dining options like a Chef’s tasting wine dinner at the Flying Fish Café and delicious kid-friendly sweets at the Boardwalk Bakery.
This is the newest of Disney’s resorts and the Mouse memorabilia seems to be at a minimum. The Aulani Resort focuses on the natural, lush surrounds of Oahu, Hawaii, with locally-inspired cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Think island-caught fish with tamago and vegetables or tropical fruits for breakfast, steamed Manila clams for lunch, and Hamakua mushroom tarts and the day’s freshest catch for dinner. Tack on local excursions like surf lessons, horseback riding, or a hike nearby (with lunch provided).
It may be in Florida, but it’s two whole hours from Disney World. And they don't smack you in the face with all-things-Disney. Instead, they “hid” little Mickeys around the resort so kids and parents both get what they came for (though with a Mickey-shaped pool, “hidden” is somewhat relative). The Vero Beach Resort is a beachfront hotel with a full-service spa, mini golf course, and a sing-along campfire. Avoid the Shutters restaurant during Disney Character Dining times and opt for Sonya’s instead — steaks, seafood, and wine pairings go down easier than seven dancing dwarves.
Roughing it with young kids can be risky, considering their potential video game-less boredom in the wild. Taking them to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campgrounds offers all the experiences of camping (tents, sleeping bags, s’mores) with the added bonus of Disney-approved activities all around you. Mickey’s Backyard BBQ may sound fun, but be warned, it is a Character Dining experience. Instead, make your way to the Trail’s End restaurant for homestyle dishes like pan-fried catfish, chili, macaroni and cheese, and biscuits and gravy. Then, cool off at the Meadow Swimmin’ Hole.
As much as Walt Disney loved drawing that mouse, he also loved wildlife and was active in conservation projects. On that front, the grounds of Disney’s Animal Kingdom's Kidani Village villas are full of giraffes, zebras, impalas, flamingos, and antelope, among others, and within the resort you’ll find safari-inspired décor like thatched, woven ceilings, African artifacts, and hand-carved columns. Book a table at Jino, which offers a traditional South African feast featuring Durban shrimp curry and corn samosas.
Koi ponds, bamboo and rattan décor, and white-sand lake-beaches all serve to create the serene Polynesian paradise of Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Located in the Magic Kingdom area of Disney World, the resort is a far cry from “It’s A Small World.” With a Nanea Volcano pool (with 40-foot high “volcano” waterslide), parasailing, waterskiing, and a Polynesian fire-knife dance in the evenings, you may not venture into the park after all. The Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show features characters from Lilo and Stitch, but the resort also offers Asian-inspired dishes all day at the Kona Café. Not even Disney-phobes can resist pineapple macadamia nut pancakes.
Taking the kids to Paris or Tokyo is the perfect way to make sure they catch the travel bug. But if they’re more obsessed with Beauty and the Beast than baguettes, you’ll want to compromise — Disney for them and city-wandering for you. Disney Paris and Disney Tokyo Sea not only boast the usual Disney roster, but have side attractions that domestic parks might not. In Paris, book tickets for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. In Tokyo, skip the regular park and head to Tokyo Sea for a new cast of characters and lineup of shows.