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5 vacation spots for Disney fans that aren't Orlando or Anaheim

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Are you a Disney fan, but weary of the prices and endless lines at the theme parks? Or perhaps you have a large family and taking a trip to Orlando, Florida or Anaheim, California isn't in the budget. In this week's episode, host Nat Cardona is joined by NerdWallet's Sally French who has 5 U.S. destinations for Disney fans that aren't Disneyland or Disney World.

Read more on NerdWallet here!

About this program

Nat Cardona is host of PennyWise as well as Lee Enterprise's true-crime podcast Late Edition: Crime Beat Chronicles. Lee Enterprises produces many national, regional and sports podcasts. Learn more here.

Episode transcript

Note: The following transcript was created by Adobe Premiere and may contain misspellings and other inaccuracies as it was generated automatically:

Welcome to Pennywise, a Lee Enterprises podcast. I'm your host, Nat Cardona.

Calling all Disney fans! Orlando, Florida and Anaheim, California. Been there, done that, right? Are you looking for a new adventure to express your love for Disney? We have NerdWallet travel rewards expert Sally French with us today, ready to share five alternative Disney inspired destinations. All right, Sally, we've got a fun topic today, as you know.

I know pretty much anyone in the living world knows Disney fans are big fans. They're just all hyped up for all things Disney. The two destinations we have in the US are the one in Anaheim, Disneyland and then Disney World in Orlando and all the things that come with it. But you've recently written an article about five US destinations that Disney fans may not know of that are maybe some hot places for them to go.

So let's just jump right into it. I looked at this list and was pretty surprised by every single one. First one being New York City. 

Yes. You know, this is a major tourist destination for anyone, Disney fan or not. But there are some good reasons for Disney fans to skip the Disneyland and Disney World vacation in 2024 and maybe head to New York City instead. So, for starters, Disney's official stuff is the two musicals that it's got running Aladdin and Lion King. Lion King is an absolute classic, really stunning art.

And then Aladdin is just so much fun. The genie is hilarious. It's just great energy. So if you want to see a Broadway musical, those are two good ones to see. And not far from Broadway is the Times Square Disney Store. Unlike your usual mall Disney store, this one's two stories. It's got the usual Disney merch, but it's also got cool, unique, unique New York merchandise.

And then finally, my best free to visit option and doesn't require, you know, that $100 plus Broadway ticket or buying stuff at the Disney store. This one's free You can head to the New York Public Library. What's really cool is they have the actual original plush versions of Stuffed Winnie the Pooh and all his friends. So little stuff, Tigger, Piglet, all those guys.

So I think that's a pretty cool historical thing to see that Disney fans in the plaza.

Who do guess it's super awesome. Very, very cool. The next saw an even less of what I expected. Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. What's Disney related We're.

We're heading south to Hilton head get a little more warmth from New York and this is home to a really interesting Disney owned resort. It's called Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort. And it's part of the Disney Vacation Club. And this is a sort of timeshare like program. And to be honest, Nerdwallet does not recommend that most people join this unless you're the most ardent Disney fan who spends a lot of money as it is.

In fact, the baseline cost to join it now is more than $30,000. And then there are annual resort fees or sorry, sorry annual annual dues for DDC. But what's interesting is you don't necessarily need to be a DVC member to stay at this resort. You can pay cash rates when available. And another thing that people do is they rent DVC points from existing members who just aren't vacationing that year.

00:03:27:18 - 00:03:52:13
Speaker 2
And so I will pay you to use your points instead. And it's interesting, unlike the resorts that are, you know, super high energy, you have a ton going on. Hilton Head is more leisurely. This is good for the Disney fan who want some Disney touches, but also just wants to go fishing or hiking or swimming. And so this is a really great way to take a Disney vacation that's far more relaxing than your theme park vacation.

Actually, that's fascinating. I wish I could talk to somebody that's a part of that because I had no idea. That's nuts. Yeah, yeah.

And you know, it can definitely be worth it if you truly go to Disney every year and, you know, sometimes you can get DLC, look at, you know, a resort like the Animal Kingdom budget, Disney World, which is so beautiful and has actual animals out front. You can get rooms there for the equivalent of like 100 or $200 in your DVC points versus, you know, the cash rates.

There are can be easily over 400. So it can be a good deal. The problem is you have to commit to a Disney vacation every single year, which you might not necessarily want to do, or maybe just something like, you know, hopefully not another COVID pandemic happens and you can't travel that year and you're kind of out of luck.

Yeah, we don't want that at all. But the next place we have, we're heading down to Missouri. Yes.

This is Marceline, Missouri. I and this is Walt Disney's considered his hometown. Walt Disney was actually born near Chicago, but he spent most of his boyhood in Marceline. So so we consider this Walt Disney's hometown. And it's actually said to have shaped his vision for Main Street U.S.A., which is the iconic entrance to the park. And when you go to Marceline, you really feel that same thing.

It's a small town, feel really cute, small town. And then if you're a Disney fan, you have to go to the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. They have tons of memorabilia. They've got Walt's desk there from when he was a grade school kid. And you know, it is because he carved his name in the desk just like we all did when we were in first grade.

Walt Disney did the same thing. And you can see that desk there on some other cool stuff. You can see his boyhood home. A really great place to check out if you're a Disney fan.

And Sally, I see that you've maybe gone there before from this date.
I checked it out. I saw I saw his desk with my own eyes. And it's a fun spot. It's sort of a little hard to get to it. I would recommend flying into Kansas City Airport and then you definitely will need a rental car to get there. But if you're a Disney fan, it's absolutely worth it.

Yeah, Missouri is one of those cool little spots, various parts across the state. I'm from Chicago, and so Illinois is obviously the next state over and there's a lot of hidden gems there. And I just really didn't know that Walt Disney's Hometown Museum was one of them. So not to mention it totally is. So we're heading towards your neck of the woods, San Francisco.

That's correct. So there's the hometown museum in Marceline, Missouri, and then there's the Walt Disney Family Museum. And this is located in San Francisco. Walt Disney, whose family lives in the San Francisco Bay area. So this museum was actually founded by his daughter, who has since passed away. But now it's sort of overseen by his grandchildren. And this is a really cool place, especially if you love history of any type, whether it's Disney history or just, you know, World War Two era history, Depression era history is really compelling.

00:07:06:19 - 00:07:37:10
Speaker 2
And they have cool stuff in there. They have a multi plane camera, which is just one of three in the world that was used to film animated movies like Pinocchio and Bambi. And there's an amazing Disneyland model, and it's really fun to look at. You could spend hours and hours there. And besides the the Walt Disney Family Museum, there's other really interesting Disney touches on the other side of the Bay Bridge over in Emeryville, which is the city adjacent to Oakland, is Pixar's headquarters.

You can't walk through. But they do have, you know, some stuff that you can see out front. And of course, when in Oakland, you need to stop for ice cream at Fenton's Creamery, which you can see that exact version animated in the Pixar film app.

I didn't know that. And the other one little aside that you had mentioned, Disney at Berkeley, the library, that's very similar to the one in Monsters University I can contest. That's true. And I'm a good old friends. I went to Berkeley and we walked through it and I was like, my God, I'm 20 years old. Look at this.

This is just like the movie. It looks familiar, doesn't it? It's that's really last on on the list here. Looks like Oahu, Hawaii. Tell me more.

Now. This is another vacation club outpost, so much like we talked about with the Hilton head, where you have to be a DVC member to stay. Alani is the DVC resort. But again, you can rent points or you can book remaining rooms on cash. This is an interesting resort. It's removed from Waikiki Beach. Where is all the tourists hullabaloo?

This is an area called Colina, which is a little quieter, a little bit off the beaten path from Waikiki. And you can meet Disney characters here. The lines are so much shorter than meeting them in the parks. So if you want to meet Moana, you want to meet Mickey and Minnie, come do it here. And they've got giant pools and water slides, and then they've also got the Disney treats.

So Disney fans loved it. You can buy that there. You can buy a spare moose Ruby in the shape of a mickey Mouse. And then, of course, if you do love toilets, you might as well head to Oahu anyway, because they've got the Dole plantation there, which is definitely a must visit for any door fans.

Yeah, I've heard. It's very beautiful too, from the pictures that I've seen it Absolutely beautiful. Is it fair to say, since we're wrapping up this list here of these other Disney destinations, that you're a Disney fan yourself?

Ooh, I think you got me. How did you guess?

I don't know.

I've been to all of these places because I'm such a personal fan. In fact, I was just at Aulani last week doing some very important research. I had to buy a Mickey shaped spam musubi just to make sure that I knew what I was talking about when I came to talk to you.

Okay. And can you just tell me exactly what that is? I mean, I know you're saying the word spam, but I don't know what the next part is.

Yes. Is there spam? Musubi is is a great Hawaiian classic treat. And you can buy these everywhere. You can buy them in the little mini markets like little ABC stores. And it's basically just a piece of spam and some rice and it's wrapped in seaweed and it's really tasty and those sprinkles and seasonings on it. And you can also customize these things.

So if you want to get fancy, you could add some egg. You could add a little shrimp, you could add, you know, avocado. You can get fancy with a spam movie. But, you know, the fanciest for Disney fans is eating the rice in the spam in the shape of a Mickey Mouse head.

Yeah. So once in a lifetime event can't be said.

All right, Sally, anything else you need to add? Want to add about these Disney destinations?

You know, there's so many good destinations around the U.S. and I think, you know, so many of us Disney fans go to Disneyland and go to Disney World. And we think we've seen it to the max. We've seen every corner. But there are so many other places to go travel to and experience Disney without being at a theme park.

And save yourself some of those lines, too. Thank you so much, Sally. I appreciate it. 

Thank you.


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