When brainstorming vacation ideas, Disneyland and Disney World are at the top of the list for some families. But the U.S. parks aren’t the only Disney parks offering endless pop culture fun. And when you’re done exploring the international parks, venture out in the country itself to expose little ones to some culture along with their highly anticipated Disney trip.
Tokyo Disney Resort
Opened in April of 1983, Tokyo Disneyland was the first international Disney theme park. The resort has since opened Tokyo DisneySea, which has a nautical exploration theme.
Tokyo Disneyland draws inspiration from California’s Disneyland and Florida’s Magic Kingdom, with seven lands including the World Bazaar (essentially Main Street U.S.A.), Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Westernland (similar to Frontierland), Critter Country and Toontown. While you can find well-known rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight and Star Tours, they have unique attractions as well, including Ride and Go Seek! based on Monster’s, Inc. and an enchanted Tiki Room featuring an animatronic Stitch.
Tokyo DisneySea’s lands, known as “ports of call”, include Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast and Mysterious Island. Ride gondolas through a city modeled after Venice or Tokyo’s version of Indiana Jones within a model of an ancient Aztec pyramid. Some popular attractions include the thrill ride Journey to the Center of the Earth, trackless Aquatopia and Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage, a ride similar to It’s a Small World complete with its own theme song.
Tokyo Disney Resort has three Disney-operated hotels—the art deco Disney Ambassador Hotel, the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel and Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta, an Old World style hotel located inside of DisneySea. The property is also home to Ikspiari, a Downtown Disney-esque shopping and dining complex.
In 1992, Disneyland Paris opened their Disneyland Park. Also modeled after the original park in California, France’s Disneyland Park opens into Main Street U.S.A. before branching off into Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland, a retro version of Tomorrowland modeled after European thinkers of the past like Leonardo da Vinci and H.G. Wells. The park features classic rides (some reworked like Phantom Manor, a play on the U.S.’s Haunted Mansion, and Space Mountain: Mission 2) but also has unique attractions like Alice’s Curious Labyrinth and La Taniere du Dragon, complete with a massive fire breathing Maleficent dragon.
The Paris resort has a second park as well, known as Walt Disney Studios Park. Its focus is on behind-the-scenes aspects of film production. The four lands, referred to as “studio lots”, are the Front Lot, Toon Studio, Production Courtyard and the Backlot. Most of the park’s rides are located within Toon Studio and feature Disney and Pixar characters from movies like Toy Story, Cars, Aladdin and Finding Nemo. The park is also home to exclusive shows like Animagique and CinéMagique, the interactive Art of Disney Animation exhibit and a tram tour that takes you behind the magic of the Disney movie studio as well as some special effects and stunt shows.
Disneyland Paris has seven Disney-run hotels on its property: the Disneyland Hotel, Hotel New York, Newport Bay Club, Sequoia Lodge, Hotel Cheyenne, Hotel Santa Fe and Davy Crockett Ranch. Their version of Downtown Disney is called the Disney Village and it has a ton of fun attractions of its own, including rides in a hot air balloon.
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort
More than 20 years after Tokyo’s Disney Resort opened, Hong Kong opened its first—and currently, its only—Disney theme park. After starting with Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Tomorrowland and Fantasyland in 2005, an expansion added Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point.
Grizzly Gulch, designed as an abandoned mountain mining town, features a mountain peak resembling that of California Adventure’s Grizzly Peak and combines aspects of Frontierland and Critter Country. Mystic Point is a completely new land, set in a rain forest filled with supernatural forces and events. Featured here is Mystic Manor, a trackless ride that tells the story of Lord Henry Mystic, his money Albert and his enchanted music box that brings life to the objects inside his house. Another unique aspect of this park is that Tarzan’s Treehouse is on a large island in the middle, surrounded by the Jungle Cruise, as opposed to California’s Tom Sawyer Island surrounded by the Rivers of America.
In addition to the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, the resort has a 1930s Hollywood-themed hotel with a piano-shaped pool.
Shanghai Disneyland Resort
Back in 2011, groundbreaking began at the future Shanghai Disneyland Resort, the first Disney park to come to mainland China. The first round of development will produce a Disneyland-style park, expected to open in spring 2016, along with two themed hotels. The largest-ever castle, the Enchanted Storybook Castle, will be erected at the park’s center as a place to host shows. While the Shanghai Disneyland Park will have themed lands like other Disney parks, they will try to combine Disney stories with attractions designed to appeal to their Chinese guests.
Two additional parks are expected to be built later on, creating a resort three times the size of Hong Kong’s.
Disney Cruises and Castaway Cay
If you want to avoid the crowds at the parks, themed Disney cruises can make wonderful vacation ideas. Four ships—the Disney Magic, the Disney Wonder, the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy—offer cruises to Alaska, Mexico, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
Choose one of the Bahamas cruises to stop at Castaway Cay, Disney’s own private shipwreck-themed island. With a private island comes private beaches, exclusively available to cruise line guests. You can snorkel, parasail or ride bikes in the sun. Although The Flying Dutchman ship from the Pirates of the Caribbean films used to be displayed here, it has since been removed. But if you snorkel, you can catch a glimpse of two submarines that used to be part of Disney World’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage. There are two family-oriented beaches and one, called Serenity Bay, that is only for adults.
So next time you turn to Disney for your family vacation, keep your options open—there are tons of Disney vacation ideas all over the world.