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13 Alternatives to Disney World For a Family Theme Park Vacation

by Staff

This article looks at the 13 best alternatives to Disney World for a family theme park vacation. If you wish to skip our detailed analysis of the theme park industry and its success, you may skip ahead to 5 Alternatives to Disney World for a Family Theme Park Vacation.

Not long ago, businesses in the tourism industry found themselves crippled at the hands of COVID-19 owing to ever-changing testing policies, travel restrictions on certain demographics, and the impending threat of lock-downs. This proved to be a temporary phenomenon, as the global tourism industry recovered to 88% of pre-pandemic levels in 2023. UNWTO has predicted that the industry will surpass pre-pandemic levels during 2024. Given this, the resurgence of global tourism in the post COVID era is quite incredible. And within the tourism market, the growth in popularity of theme parks is second to no other.

What Makes Theme Parks So Attractive?

Unlike the safaris of Africa or the coast of a Mediterranean island which offer tranquility and seclusion, the proposition of theme parks poses a stark contrast. This is because theme parks offer vacationers an escape from reality by immersing themselves within a pop culture fantasy. The thrill of a 100-mph roller coaster is itself exciting, however, when supplemented with the thought of escaping from the jaws of Balerion, it provides an unparalleled euphoria.

Consequently, the global amusement and theme parks industry accumulated a turnover of USD 79.68 Billion in 2023, as per a recently published report by Research and Markets. The same report projects that this figure will cross USD 105 Billion by 2028. Currently, one of the largest players in the theme parks industry is The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS). In its Q1 2024 earnings report, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) revealed a total revenue of $23.55 billion, translating to an impressive $1.04 per share. This marks a modest uptick from Q1 2023, where the company recorded earnings of 99 cents per share with a revenue of $23.51 billion.

The Success of the Walt Disney Company

Despite being an overwhelming leader in the market, boasting 12 parks across five countries, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) is only one of many theme parks situated around the world. It is also worth mentioning that a trip to the Disney World comes at a cost which may be unattainable for many to expend. Whilst Disney does offer a once in a lifetime experience to travelers, holidaymakers on a budget or those looking to embark upon a fresh theme park experience may turn towards alternative theme parks for their family vacations.

Last October marked the 100th anniversary of the The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS). But what makes it so successful? While storytellers: animators, actors, writers, songwriters, directors, and producers, must not be ignored, its success must also be attributed to its visionary founder, Walt Disney, all the same. Walt Disney is the man who laid the foundation for the company’s evolution from a moderately successful animation studio to a global entertainment powerhouse.

The company’s strategic acquisitions, including Pixar, Marvel, and the 21st Century Fox media assets, positioned Disney as the largest media powerhouse globally, boasting a market cap of $238.9 billion. It’s constant push towards innovation in the world of animation and business itself, coupled with the creation of iconic characters like Mickey Mouse, allowed the company to thrive even during challenging times such as the Great Depression. Further, its expansion into diverse business units, such as theme parks, merchandising, and cruise ships, has further helped to solidify Disney’s position as a complete entertainment experience.

Specifically, it’s theme park business is successful due to its unparalleled dedication to creating immersive experiences that cater to all ages, coupled with iconic characters and timeless storytelling, fostering a sense of magic and wonder.

Since this list comprises of theme parks around the world, you may be interested in reviewing travel deals to help streamline your vacation. If so, you may find our list of Top 20 Most Valuable Travel Companies in the World. If you intend on exploring places outside of parks, our list of 25 Best Places to Travel in the World in 2024 has got you covered.

13 Alternatives to Disney World For a Family Theme Park Vacation

13 Alternatives to Disney World For a Family Theme Park Vacation

Copyright: blanscape / 123RF Stock Photo

Methodology

To compile the list of the best alternatives to Disney World for a family theme park vacation, we began by integrating diverse methodologies and drawing insights from esteemed sources, including accolades like Trip Advisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards and Fox News, as well as reputable online platforms such as The Travel Triangle, Getaway.co, and insightful discussions on various online forums. Using a consensus approach, we obtained a list of the most commonly recommended theme parks apart from those owned by the Walt Disney Company. This approach also allowed us to obtain an initial score for each park based on the number of times it was recommended across different sources.

Once this list was obtained, we used trip advisor ratings, the popularity of each park (gauged by the number of reviews), and our previous scores as 3 distinct metrics for our rankings. Since US based parks tend to have a higher number of reviews on trip advisor, we diminished the impact of this metric in comparison to the other metrics. Finally, we omitted destinations currently being impacted by hostile political conditions, thus making it unfavorable for tourists to visit them in the current climate.

By the way, Insider Monkey is an investing website that tracks the movements of corporate insiders and hedge funds. By using a similar consensus approach, we identify the best stock picks of more than 900 hedge funds investing in US stocks. The top 10 consensus stock picks of hedge funds outperformed the S&P 500 Index by more than 140 percentage points over the last 10 years (see the details here). Whether you are a beginner investor or a professional one looking for the best stocks to buy, you can benefit from the wisdom of hedge funds and corporate insiders.

Here are 13 Alternatives to Disney World for a Family Theme Park Vacation:

13. Phantasialand, Germany

Insider Monkey Rating: 8

Trip Advisor Rating: 4 (10,644 Reviews)

Our first pick for the best alternatives to Disney World for a family theme park vacation is Phantasialand. At first glance, Phantasialand’s dark, dystopian, and often creepy outlook may seem like a daunting and unwelcoming sight for a family vacation. However, as far as fantasy experiences go, there is perhaps no other park as creative as Phantasialand. Situated near Cologne in Germany, this park consists of 6 different zones, each of which represents a distinct civilization of the world from a point in history. In doing so, the park allows its visitors the chance to immerse themselves in an interactive journey across the sands of time. In addition, ticket prices in Phantasialand are modest in comparison to any of the Disney resorts, with ample accommodation for families in the vicinity of the park.

12. Silver Dollar City, USA

Insider Monkey Rating: 8.5

Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5 (12,216 Reviews)

Considered as one of America’s (if not the) best theme parks in the US barring Disney and Universal, Silver Dollar City is situated in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. While there are several other parks in our list which incorporate historical epochs, Silver Dollar City stands out since it imitates only one-time period. The theme of this park is set in the 1880s, and it has made great efforts to preserve this cultural identity. By incorporating wooden roller coasters and a range of other Ozark-centric elements into the rides, the park offers a unique blend of tradition and thrill. Moreover, apart from rides, Silver Dollar City hosts several thematic festivals around the year and also offers visitors chances to observe and take part in crafts such as glass blowing, pottery, and candle making.

11. Everland, South Korea

Insider Monkey Rating: 8.5

Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5 (1,830 Reviews)

A lack of reviews on trip advisor is generally worrisome. There is one exception to this rule. Everland, perhaps the most iconic theme park in the eastern hemisphere, offers a mix of scintillation and serenity. Across 5 different themes, the park is home to some of the fastest rides such as the T-Express. It also contains several attractions for nature lovers, as it allows viewers to travel on a Safari ride and capture a glimpse of some of the most exotic creatures in their natural habitat. For foreigners, a trip to Everland is also a chance to experience the vibrant culture of South Korea, including their rich cuisine. The park has a range of mouth-watering dining options, both traditional and international, and sees tourists from all over the world, especially during its seasonal festivals.

10. LEGOLAND, Denmark

Insider Monkey Rating: 9

Trip Advisor Rating: 4.0 (6,164 Reviews)

It is one of the several LEGOLANDs in the world. However, for people in the Lego community, this destination holds a special affection. Billund, Denmark is regarded as the birthplace of Legos, and quite appropriately it is home to the first ever Legoland in the world. Thus, this park offers a historical insight into the evolution of Legos and Legoland, which its counterparts cannot capture. Moreover, in comparison to other parks around the world, Legoland offers a very children centric experience, making it a very enjoyable experience for families with infants. There is a visible commitment towards creativity and innovation, which seeps through every single ride, performance, and sculpture you come across. Undeniably, it is a cheaper alternative to Disney World for a family theme park vacation.

9. Universal Studios, Japan

Insider Monkey Rating: 9

Trip Advisor Rating: 4.0 (10,967 Reviews)

Disney’s largest competitor in theme parks, Universal Studios, has a number of theme parks both within and outside the US. What makes Universal Studios Japan unique is its affiliation with Potter-heads. Even though it is one of several themed zones in the park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is arguably the prime attraction for most tourists. It offers an immersive experience to the muggles of our world, enabling them to maraud into the forbidden corridors of Hogwarts, entertain themselves with ingenious magical contraptions at Zonko’s, before enjoying a calming dose of butterbeer amongst the villagers of Hogsmeade. Apart from this magical journey, it also houses exciting rides and other thematic zones such as Hollywood Zone and the Jurassic Park, making it a cool alternative to Disney World for a family theme park vacation.

8. Gardaland, Italy

Insider Monkey Rating: 9.5

Trip Advisor Rating: 3.5 (22,794 Reviews)

Gardaland is situated in the outskirts of Castelnuovo del Garda in Italy. Despite its location, this park does not offer its visitors the chance to plunge into the Italian culture. Rather, the park takes you on a voyage to mythical realms such as the Fantasy Kingdom, or the Kung Fu Panda academy. Through its commitment towards storytelling and engagement, the park helps visitors tread the shoes of their favorite pop culture characters, even offering a unique experience to trek within the jungles of Jumanji. In this summer, the park is set to unveil a new mystery adventure ride, which has already captured the attention of avid theme park vacationers.

7. Dollywood, USA

Insider Monkey Rating: 9.5

Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5 (18,814 Reviews)

Next on our list of best alternatives to Disney World for a family theme park vacation is Dollywood, an all-time classic. Present in the smoky mountains, its majestic scenery is second only to its world-class entertainment. The park was created by Dolly Parton, one of the most revered country music icons. It is renowned for combining the rich heritage of the region’s culture with exhilarating rides and entertainment. Moreover, it is a testament to the hospitality of the Appalachian community. It was ranked 27 by Forbes on their Best Customer Service 2024 list, being one of only 2 theme parks on the list. Apart from depicting traditional Appalachian culture, it also offers insight into the life of Ms Parton, as parkgoers can access the Dolly Parton’s Chasing Rainbows Museum.

6. Alton Towers, UK

Insider Monkey Rating: 10

Trip Advisor Rating: 4.0 (21,903 Reviews)

Situated in the North of England, Alton Towers is one of the largest theme parks in the world by land. It was created amongst already established historical castles, which have not only been carefully preserved, but also incorporated into the dark, eerie vibe of this park. This perfectly combines with the rides as Alton Towers is home to some of the scariest roller coasters in the world, which is the reason that holidaymakers with a compulsive need for adventure regard this as the most satisfying theme park in the world. One of the most popular rides of the park, Nemesis, takes riders on an inverted roller coaster journey, and is just one of many similarly wicked forms of entertainment. It also contains large thematic gardens in case visitors feel the need to distance themselves from the aforementioned rides.

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Disclosure: none. 13 Alternatives to Disney World For a Family Theme Park Vacation is originally published on Insider Monkey.

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