[Updated June 2016]
From three stand-alone resorts, where the company’s legendary service and hospitality are at the forefront, to museums dedicated to all things Disney, here are six destinations where you can get your Disney fix.
1. Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa
Disney meets Hawaii at this 3-year-old resort located in Ko Olina on the island of Oahu. The oceanfront property offers rooms and suites and even villas that are spacious enough to accommodate Mickey himself -- and all of his friends. (Rates start at $429.) This being a Disney resort, you’ll naturally get to meet and greet your favorite characters at pool parties and during a special breakfast at the Makahiki restaurant (reservations required). Meals here are a la carte so you won’t find a Disney Dining Plan, but some special offers include complimentary breakfast.
Just because Aulani doesn’t have any theme park-style attractions, don’t think you’ll get bored. You can lounge on the beach: use complimentary boogie boards, life vests, sand toys, beach chairs, and umbrellas. Or rent a kayak ($20 for double, $15 for single per hour), a stand-up paddleboard ($30 per hour) or snorkeling gear ($20 for a full day; $15 for a half-day). The pool area features a body slide, lazy river, whirlpools, and a splash zone.
Also included in your stay is -- of course -- entertainment. An evening show called Starlit Hui presents hula performances with Hawaiian songs along with island sounds like ukuleles, followed by a character dance party. For those missing the atmosphere of Disney World’s resort hotels, where Disney movies are screened under the stars, check out the resort’s ‘Ohana Disney Movie Nights.
2. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort
Disney World isn’t the only place in Florida where you can stay at an official Disney hotel. Head a couple of hours southeast and check in at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. The seaside property is not as expansive as its Orlando counterparts, and has a more intimate feel. For your home-away-from-home options, there are studios and one- or two-bedroom villas, with rates starting at $198 per night.
Disney touches come in the form of character meals (breakfast with Goofy; a seasonally available character dinner at the on-site restaurant). Take a dip in the Mickey-shaped pool, and keep your eyes peeled for the Hidden Mickeys scattered throughout the resort. Souvenir hounds can browse the gift shop, where a number of Disney-branded items, including products exclusive to the resort, can be found.
A spa, fitness center, mini golf, and sports activities are some of the things that will keep you busy during your stay.
3. Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort
South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island has long been known as a popular beach retreat, but did you know the coastal destination is home to Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort? Designed to look like a 1940s hunting and fishing lodge, the resort faces the Atlantic and has studios and one- and two-bedroom villas, and a handful of grand villas (rates start at $115 a night).
Dining here is only quick service, with a couple of themed dining events taking place seasonally. Shuttles bring guests to the Beach House and its H-shaped pool. The lounge offers TV and games.
4. Walt Disney Family Museum
A stop at the Walt Disney Family Museum doesn't usually top the average traveler’s itinerary when visiting San Francisco, but for those with a soft spot for the company and Walt himself, it’s worth the $20 admission fee. (And hey, it’s way cheaper than a park ticket.)
Multiple galleries memorialize the cultural icon, from his early years growing up in the Midwest to his death in 1966. Mementoes on display include original character merchandise, the earliest known drawing of Mickey, an original multi-plane camera crane from the 1930s that revolutionized animation, and one of the first Disneyland models ever made. An online gallery provides a sneak peak of what’s on display.
5. Walt Disney Hometown Museum
Yes, there are two museums dedicated to the man who started it all. This outpost, located in Marceline, MO -- where Walt lived during his childhood -- is housed inside a restored Santa Fe train depot, and is filled with personal letters exchanged between Disney family members, exhibits centered around Walt's childhood and family life, and artifacts and other items belonging to the Disneys. Those who took a visit to Disneyland in its early days may recognize one of the museum's most famous items on display: a car from the park's Midget Autopia attraction, which was donated to the museum in 1966 by Walt and his brother Roy. Admission is $10.
6. The Dali Museum
Did you know that Walt Disney and Salvador Dali were good friends? Through June 12, The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida is presenting the "Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination" exhibit, which explores just how similar the two men were, along with their collaboration to create an animated short called "Destino." On display are paintings, story sketches, objects, archival film, photos, audio, and an impressive virtual reality experience that lets users take a unique look at a Dali painting when wearing special goggles. Tickets are $24.