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How to Experience Disney Without Splurging on a Park Ticket

You don't have to head to Orlando or Anaheim to get the Disney experience. Here are other locations when you can get the same Disney service and magic.

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Disney Magic cruise ship leaves Portland Port, Dorset, UKFinbarr Webster/Shutterstock

Hop aboard a Disney cruise

Want the Disney experience, but with fewer lines and more diverse experiences? According to Michelle Pena of New York City, (and frequent Disney vacationer), Disney Cruise Line is worth every penny. “You feel like VIP from the moment you step on board,” says Pena. The best part about hopping on a cruise as opposed to heading to the parks? “Everything is right on board, minus the hustle and bustle of the parks,” says Pena. That includes meet and greets with characters, a movie theater that shows Disney’s recent releases, and water slides worth of a water park, not to mention an excellent kids’ club where parents can drop little ones off to enjoy some grown-up time.

While most cruises leave from Port Canaveral, Florida, and sail the Caribbean, there are also sailings from New York City, Alaska, Barcelona, Spain, and more. Read on for all the secrets Disney Cruise Line employees won’t tell you.

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The Disney Springs an Entertainment and Shopping Complex Which is Part of Walt Disney World is Shown in Lake Buena Vista Florida Usa 14 June 2016 Some Media Reported That a Law Enforcement Official Said That Omar Mateen Made Surveilance Visits to the Complex a Total of 50 People Including the Suspect Mateen Were Killed and 53 Were Injured in a Shooting Attack at an Lgbt Club in Orlando Florida in the Early Hours of 12 June the Shooter was Killed in an Exchange of Fire with the Police After Taking Hostages at the Club United States Lake Buena VistaJoe Skipper/Shutterstock

Spend a day at Disney Springs

Formerly Downtown Disney, Orlando’s Disney Springs is a large outdoor shopping and dining venue with loads of free entertainment—that’s right, you don’t need a ticket to get in and experience the magic. That includes a faux active volcano, live musical performances, and holiday-themed entertainment, along with World of Disney, the largest Disney-themed shop in all of Orlando and the Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire virtual reality experience.

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Disney on iceLarry Marano/Shutterstock

Experience Disney without leaving your home town

Head to a showing of Disney Live or Disney on Ice to see your favorite characters, including Mickey and Minnie and many of the princesses without ever leaving town. Tickets are relatively affordable and unlike Disney parks, there’s little waiting around. The shows are short with one intermission, making it easy for even the littlest of Disney fans to sit through. Don’t miss these quotes from Disney princesses.

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Minnie Mouse Minnie Mouse is pictured at the Aulani Disney Resort, in Kapolei, Hawaii, before President Barack Obama holds a fundraising eventCharles Dharapak/Shutterstock

Disney with a side of aloha

Visit Disney’s Aulani on Oahu where you can hang out with your favorite Disney characters while enjoying the local Hawaiian culture. Activities range from luaus to fire pit storytelling to ukulele lessons to simply lounging by the pool or beach. Comparable in price to the cruises, Aulani is ideal for adults and families alike.

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Disney Vero Beach Resortvia Disney Vero Beach Resort

Explore another part of Florida

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort sits two hours south of Walt Disney World in Vero Beach making it perfect as an add on to your trip to Orlando or worthy of a trip on its own. The affordable beachfront property offers activities from observing a sea turtle nesting ground to kids and teen programs to camp fire sing-a-longs, and spa and golf for the grown-ups. Here are more ways to save money on a Disney vacation.

Julia K. Porter
Dr. Julia Porter has worked in Higher Education since 2008, following a career as a High School teacher in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a PhD in Global Leadership from Indiana Tech, an MA in English Literature from Brooklyn College, and a BS in English Education from Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI). She lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter, and rambunctious Australian Shepherd.