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12 Destinations That Are Way Cooler (And Less Crowded) Than Disney

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Setting off on a Disney vacation often feels like the fulfillment of a long-cherished dream for many families. However, it can also transform into an expensive and crowded adventure, requiring substantial amounts of time spent waiting in lines. While some parents maintain the faith that the experience will ultimately justify the costs, there are moments when they pause to consider whether their financial resources could have been put to more prudent use.

With high expectations and frustrated kids and parents, a Disney vacation can quickly turn into a stressful experience. Luckily, plenty of alternative vacation spots offer as much fun and adventure with (typically) fewer people and lower expenses.

Here are 11 great alternatives to a Disney vacation that will save you money and still offer fun family memories:

1. Silverwood Theme Park

couple on a ride
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Located in the northern panhandle of Idaho, Silverwood Theme Park offers a variety of funs thrill rides and water attractions (in the summer months). With affordable ticket prices and shorter lines, it’s a great alternative to Disney’s long lines and high prices.

Plus, you can explore other fun nature-filled activities in the area, such as hiking and biking. If you happen to be there in the fall, you can also experience ScaryWood to celebrate Halloween.

2. Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO

Branson, Missouri Silver City
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Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, Silver Dollar City offers old-time fun with roller coasters, water rides, and live entertainment that please a crowd of all ages. With its charming 1880s theme, it’s a great alternative to the hustle and bustle of Disney. My mom recently returned from a trip here, and wondered why she wasted so much money on us as kids at Disney when we could have gone here!

3. Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park
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For nature lovers, Glacier National Park in Montana offers stunning views of snow-capped peaks, glaciers, and pristine lakes. With plenty of hiking trails and wildlife viewing opportunities, it’s a great alternative to crowded theme parks. Although, if you hit the visitor center or drive on the going to the sun road at popular hours, you’ll still encounter traffic. There are also great opportunities for additional fun outside the park, including boating, zip-lining, four-wheeling, and more.

4. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and Montana

happy family of four going for a hike in nature
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Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming (and part of Montana) is a must-see destination for anyone who loves the great outdoors. With its geysers, hot springs, and wildlife (TONS of bison), it offers a unique and unforgettable vacation experience for all ages.

5. Yosemite National Park, California

yosemite national park waterfall nature forest
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Another great option for nature lovers is Yosemite National Park in California. With its towering granite cliffs, waterfalls, and giant sequoias, it’s a stunning and peaceful alternative to the crowds of Disney. (Although it gets crowded in the summer, it doesn’t compare to Disney crowds when you can stay in open spaces).

6. Lake Powell, Arizona

Lake powell, AZ
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Lake Powell is a man-made reservoir that offers plenty of water-based activities, such as boating, paddle boarding, canoeing, fishing, and swimming. With its red rock formations and clear blue water, it’s a unique and picturesque alternative to the crowds of Disney.

7. Acadia National Park, Maine

family road trip
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Located on the rugged coast of Maine, Acadia National Park offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding forests. With its hiking trails, wildlife, and rocky coastline, it’s a peaceful and relaxing alternative to the crowds of Disney.

8. Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island, Michigan
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Mackinac Island is a small island located in Lake Huron, between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan- requiring a 20-ish minute ferry ride. With its charming Victorian architecture, horse-drawn carriages, and fudge shops, it’s a unique and quaint alternative to the crowds of Disney.

9. Newport, Rhode Island

Newport, Rhode Island lighthouse sunset beach ocean
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For history buffs and beach lovers, Newport, Rhode Island, offers a unique blend of both. With its historic mansions, beautiful beaches, and charming downtown area, it’s a great alternative to the busy theme parks.

10. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio, Texas River Walk
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For those looking for a mix of history, culture, and fun, San Antonio, Texas, offers a unique vacation experience. With its historic Alamo, River Walk, and amusement parks, it’s a great alternative to the crowds and high expenses of Disney. There’s something for everyone!

11. Rapid City, South Dakota

rapid city south dakota mount rushmore
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Rapid City is a gateway to some of the most spectacular natural wonders in the United States, including Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, and Custer State Park. With its unique blend of history, culture, and outdoor adventure, Rapid City offers a great alternative to Disney. Visitors can explore the region’s rich Native American heritage, go hiking or rock climbing, or simply enjoy the stunning scenery.

Plus, with its affordable lodging options, Rapid City is a great choice for families on a budget.

So many fun places to explore while getting a big dose of adventure and outdoors!

12. Busch Gardens

Busch garden
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If you want to stick to an amusement park style vacation, try Busch Gardens. These parks combine wildlife exhibits with amusement park attractions, providing a unique blend of animal encounters and entertainment. Plus, for a much better price.

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Best friends taking selfie at Giglio Island on adventure travel
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