15 Destinations to Visit Across the U.S. if you Love Disney Parks

in Theme Parks, Travel

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Love Disney but looking for some new vacation inspiration? Whether you’re looking to plan a trip closer to where you live or just want give a different park a try, there are plenty of attractions across the U.S. that Disney fans are sure to love!

Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott's Berry Farm
Credit: Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott’s Berry Farm, California’s first theme park is the perfect complement to any trip to the Disneyland Resort. As its name suggests, Knott’s Berry Farm began as a small family berry farm that ultimately expanded to include a theme park, waterpark, and a hotel (along with famous fried chicken, boysenberries, and an Old West Ghost Town). The 160-acre park offers impressive attractions and family fun without losing its small town vibes and unique history, making it a must-visit for any theme park fans.

Lake Compounce

Lake Compounce
Credit: Lake Compounce

Located in Bristol, Connecticut, Lake Compounce is the oldest continually operating theme park in North America. The park has been welcoming guests since 1846 (meaning it is currently in its 174th season!). One of the park’s most popular attractions, Boulder Dash, has continually been ranked one of the top wooden roller coasters in the world and the ride line-up features a host of other attractions you won’t find anywhere else in New England. Lake Compounce also offers unique camping opportunities right next to the park with sites to set up tents and RVs and their unique cabins or cub huts.

Cedar Point

Cedar Point
Credit: Cedar Point

Cedar Park is a must-visit on any thrill junkie’s bucket list! It may not have the level of detail and theming that Disney parks have, but if you’re a Disney fan who rides Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster and craves more of an adrenaline rush a visit to Cedar Point should be a part of your future travels. Open since 1870 in Sandusky, Ohio, Cedar Point is the second oldest continually operating theme park in North America (behind Lake Compounce). Today, Cedar Point is known as the “roller coaster capital of the world” with 18 world-renowned coasters including Steel Vengeance, the tallest, fastest and longest hybrid roller coaster in the world and the Top Thrill Dragster which reaches speeds of 120 mph.

Mall of America

Mall of America
Credit: Mall of America

The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota features a variety of shopping and dining experiences along with multiple entertainment complexes all under one roof. With over 500 stores, a host of world-class dining experiences, and attractions like the Nickelodeon Universe, Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium, the Crayola Experience, multiple escape rooms and Flyover America (similar to Disney’s Soarin’) it’s easy to see why the Mall of America is a hit with every member of the family! The Mall even hosts 11,000 weddings per year, and the temperature inside is always kept at a comfortable 70 degrees (so no need to worry about those cold Minnesota winters!).

The Walt Disney Family Museum

Walt Disney Family Musuem
Credit: Walt Disney Family Museum

Take a trip to San Francisco and you can spend the day at the Walt Disney Family Museum. Celebrating the life and legacy of Walt Disney, a visit to the museum is a dream for any Disney fan. Many of the exhibits share the story of Walt Disney through interactive galleries with audio interpretation that includes Walt’s own voice. The museum always features an impressive exhibit schedule covering everything from Walt’s childhood and arrival in California to the design and development of Disney theme parks and movies, meaning even if you’ve visited before it’s always worth a second look as there can be plenty new to see. Permanent items on display include the earliest known drawings of Mickey Mouse, the Griffith Park Bench, and the Lilly Belle train from Walt’s Carolwood Pacific Railroad.

National Parks

Yosemite National Park
Credit: Yosemite National Park

Getting away from Disney and theme parks, trips focused on visiting National Parks can make for the perfect family vacation. Whether you’re up for exploring the great outdoors or a National Historical Park, there is lots to learn and experience first hand with park rangers across the country. Most parks Junior Ranger programs (similar to the Wilderness Explorer program in Disney’s Animal Kingdom) so kids can complete activities to become a Junior Ranger while they explore the park. Whether you visit Yosemite National Park (per the recommendation of Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir via Epcot’s American Adventure) or you choose to explore a historic battleground, industrial town, or the home of a literary figure, there will be just as much to see and do as your Disney trip would typically have.

Museum of Pop Culture

Museum of Pop Culture
Credit: Museum of Pop Culture, photo by Brady Harvey

If you’re a fan of Disney, chances are you’re a fan of pop culture in general, and we have just the destination to add to your bucket list! The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, Washington shares insight into the arts, film, music, and more that make up popular culture over time. Go behind the scenes to learn about your favorite horror films, get the latest info on the music industry, take in some science fiction, and more. The exhibition schedule has featured works on everything from Fantasy Worlds like Harry Potter and the Princess Bride, to Sci-Fi, music exhibitions on Prince and Nirvana, and more.

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg
Credit: Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg is the largest living history museum in the world, offering a glimpse into life in the 18th century. The property includes 40 sites showcasing colonial trades, four historic taverns and two iconic art museums. The events calendar is packed with reenactments, workshops, lectures, and more and every visit to Colonial Williamsburg comes with plenty of opportunity to interact with interpreters and learn about various aspects of living and working in the 1700s. If your favorite land in the Magic Kingdom is Liberty Square, a stop at Colonial Williamsburg is a must-do on your next road trip!

Marceline, Missouri

Walt Disney Hometown Museum
Credit: Walt Disney Hometown Museum

Walt’s inspiration for Main Street U.S.A. Marceline, Missouri has a number of locations around town that pay homage to its Disney connection. The Walt Disney Hometown Museum is a must-visit for Disney fans passing through Marceline. Along with letters and artifacts from the Disney family that are housed at the museum, Marceline is full of nods to its most famous resident that every Disney fans are sure to appreciate. Don’t miss pieces like tracks from the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, a Midget Autopia Car, and photos of Walt and Roy during a visit to Marceline in the 1960s.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
Credit: Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

Much like the Walt Disney World Resort, Boston, Massachusetts offers something for every member of the family. Walk into history by touring the Freedom Trail and join the revolution at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. Sports fans can take a tour of Fenway Park, the oldest baseball stadium in the country, and the animal lovers in your family can get their “Animal Kingdom” fix in New England with a visit to the New England Aquarium or the Franklin Park Zoo. Love Hocus Pocus? Take a day trip up to Salem, just 16 miles north of Boston accessible via the Commuter Rail train or the Salem Ferry to see where this Halloween classic was filmed.

New York, New York

Frozen on Broadway
Credit: Broadway.com

Much like Boston, New York City has something for everyone! For the Disney fan in particular though, make sure your visit to the Big Apple includes a stop for a Broadway Show. See a classic Disney Broadway production like Frozen, The Lion King, or Aladdin, and don’t miss the Disney Store in Times Square. For more family fun in New York, explore the Central Park Zoo or the Museum of Natural History, and explore Little Italy to get a taste of “Epcot” right in the big city.

Washington D.C.

National Zoo
Credit: National Zoo

Washington D.C. is a staple on any East Coast road trip, with some of the best cultural institutions in the country. You can easily spend an entire week exploring the Smithsonian Museums alone, and with collections focused on everything from the Museum of the American Indian to the Air and Space Museum you’ll find something for every interest. While in Washington D.C., don’t miss a visit to the National Zoo. We love Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but there are a couple of animals noticeably missing from our favorite Florida “zoo,” that you can see in D.C. including pandas which are understandably difficult to come by outside of China.

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine
Credit: VisitStAugustine.com

Did you know the nation’s oldest city is located in Florida? Started as a Spanish settlement about 450 years ago, St. Augustine is home to maritime and trade history, a Spanish fort, pirate history, and more. Paranormal lovers will revel in taking one of the town’s nightly ghost tours, and history buffs of all ages are sure to love a tour through the Pirate Museum. Of course, St. Augustine is located on the coast and the city’s beaches can add a needed dose of relaxation to a busy family vacation (and it’s only about a two-hour drive from the Walt Disney World Resort).

Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge
Credit: Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge is a family entertainment brand that encompasses a number of waterpark resorts across the country. The resorts are known for their waterparks (particularly if you happen to visit one in a location that is not home to waterpark weather year-round as the attractions are indoors), but they are also known for their quality guest service and their range of activities for the whole family. Whether you’re looking for a quick family getaway or a more affordable alternative to a Disney vacation, a stay at Great Wolf Lodge may be just what you need.

Space Center Houston

Space Center Houston
Credit: Space Center Houston

Love Mission: SPACE in Epcot? Experience a fully immersive and authentic space experience at the Space Center in Houston, Texas. Explore authentic and replica spacecraft and check out a selection of rotating exhibits celebrating space travel, astronauts, and select missions. For the ultimate getaway for fans of space travel, look into Space Center Houston’s VIP experiences to visit locations like the Mission Control Center or dine with an astronaut.

Which new destinations have you added to your list now? Let us know in the comments where you’d like to go next!

in Theme Parks, Travel

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