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3 Disney Adventures Beyond the Theme Parks

Take an outside-the-box Disney-inspired vacation – without visiting the Happiest Place on Earth.

U.S. News & World Report

3 Disney Adventures Beyond the Theme Parks

Mickey and Minnie Mouse are seen walking through Sleeping Beauty Castle at the new Disneyland Park on September 1, 2005 in Hong Kong.

For a fairy tale Disney vacation, book a one-of-a-kind experience beyond iconic rides and character meet-and-greets at Disney World and Disneyland.(Getty Images)

Pirate ships, princesses, castles and character meet-and-greets with Mickey at a Disney theme park are a rite of passage for many American families. After all, Disney touts its high level of customer service, high-tech rides and elaborate parades and fireworks displays as top enticements for a satisfying family vacation. But did you know you can travel the globe with Disney – without stepping inside the parks? Read on to explore three types of magical Disney vacations beyond Disney World and Disneyland.

Set Sail With Disney

Launched in 1998, Disney Cruise Line's four ships are packed with beloved characters. Onboard, families can meet Mickey and his friends, pirates and princesses and even "Star Wars" characters. Evening entertainment includes live Disney shows such as "Beauty and the Beast," "Frozen, A Musical Spectacular," "Tangled: The Musical" and "Disney's Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular" performed in the Walt Disney Theatre.

What's more, these state-of-the-art cruise ships offer exciting itineraries tailored to a variety of age groups and interests. In addition to the Caribbean, families can also visit Europe, Canada or Alaska onboard a Disney ship. Designed specifically with families in mind, Disney Cruise Line has plenty of age-appropriate activities, along with separate clubs for kids ages 3 to12, tweens and teens. There's even an onboard spa dedicated for teens.

Adults have spaces of their own, including a quiet pool, cafe, spa, nightclubs and lounges. Need an adults-only night out? Grown-ups can head to sophisticated onboard dining venues, such as the Palo and Remy (on two Disney ships). By day, you can explore new destinations and ports of call; by night, you can enjoy fantastic restaurants and Disney-inspired shows and entertainment.

Plan a Disney-Themed Hawaiian Getaway

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa is Disney's first hotel outside the U.S. mainland that's not associated with a theme park. In creating Aulani, Disney consulted with Hawaiian cultural advisers, experts, artists, and spiritual leaders. And while you will find Disney characters, including Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Stitch and Moana, greeting guests at the resort, you will also find Menehune, the 'Ōlelo Room filled with woodcarved objects labeled with their Hawaiian names and the Ka Wa'a Lū'au that tells a cultural tale of Hawaiian history.

Beyond the Disney-inspired accommodations, guests of Aulani can enjoy a fantastic beach, a private lagoon and beautiful landscapes. As one would expect from the high-end, luxury resorts of this development on Oahu, Aulani features spacious, well-appointed rooms, a full-service spa, a teen-focused spa and multiple restaurants and lounges, Aunty's Beach House kids club and a seven-acre water play area with a pool, a lazy river, a slide and a snorkeling reef.

Book a Trip With Adventures by Disney

In 2005, Adventures by Disney launched guided group travel trips. Today, Adventures by Disney takes parties of up to 40 guests to more than 30 vacation destinations in more than 25 different countries on six continents. While Adventures by Disney vacations swap out costumed characters for authentic real-world luxury experiences, you can count on high-quality customer service and impeccable storytelling from start to finish. For example, Adventures by Disney Rhine River cruises explore the French villages that inspired "Beauty and the Beast." Meanwhile, guided trips to Norway take in the fjords, churches and culture behind Disney's "Frozen." And during a weekend in New York City, families experience a Broadway workshop and learn songs and dances from current Disney theater productions. Disney-trained Adventure Guides lead each trip passionately, providing VIP service and engaging families with interactive activities along the way.

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About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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