You don't have to go to Walt Disney World
Fighting the crowds at Disneyland isn't the only way to experience princesses, parades and fireworks on your family vacation. When traveling with kids, go beyond the mouse with these creative summer vacation ideas that'll make you realize you don't have to go to Walt Disney World to have some family-friendly fun.
Book a family-friendly vacation in San Diego
This Southern California metropolis is known for family-friendly fun, especially when you're looking for a Disneyland resort-style experience without blowing your summer vacation budget. Both the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, formerly known as the Wild Animal Park, promise a full day of fun at each location. Then, hit up Sea World San Diego for sea-faring creatures and a summer-long fireworks show nightly. And, be sure to head over to nearby Legoland for a more amusement park-style experience — princesses included.
Take a baseball park road trip
Summer fireworks and baseball games go hand in hand, so take your family's love of both on the road with a vacation idea that is sure to be a blast. However, you'll first want to check with your favorite baseball parks, like Great American Ball Park, to ensure that they have summer fireworks in effect, as not all of your favorite fields may boast a sky-lighting show. While you're there, catch a behind-the-scenes tour of each baseball field before taking in the ball game to give your kiddos a new understanding of America's favorite pastime.
Before you hit the road, pack up these tips for road trips with kids >>
Find fun in Florida
Walt Disney World isn't the only family-friendly vacation destination in the sunny state of Florida — when traveling with kids other can't-miss theme parks offer a vacation full of fun. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay combines exotic animals and roller thrills into one theme park. Then, cool off at Adventure Island water park, where slides, a rambling river, waterfalls and more offer fun for the entire family. Or, snuggle up at the Universal Orlando Resort with close access to Universal Studios — with a daily movie character parade — and Universal's Islands of Adventure theme parks for movie-sized adventures.
Sail away on a family cruise
Cruise ships aren't reserved for your golden years; tons of big-named cruise lines offer families traveling with kids a vacation experience you can't find on shore. Norwegian Cruise Line boasts a Nickelodeon at Sea encounter, complete with slime and SpongeBob SquarePants. Or, come aboard Royal Caribbean for the DreamWorks experience and cruise alongside the characters from Madagascar and Shrek. However, those hankering for a little time with the famous mouse himself can still hop aboard the Disney Cruise Line, complete with character experiences, live shows and tons of Disney-themed fun without ever stepping foot in Disneyland.
Baby on board! Taking baby or toddler on a cruise? Check out tips for smooth sailing >>
Keep your family vacation all-inclusive
The Caribbean is well-known for its all-inclusive resorts, ranging in activities and amenities for everyone in your family when you know where to look. One comprehensive resort to consider when traveling with kids is the Harborside Resort at Atlantis which lays claim to kids' clubs, aquariums, water parks, a pirate museum and more. Or, check out the family-friendly Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort boasting a DJ academy, aquatic playground and tons of activities featuring Sesame Street characters.
While you don't have to go to Walt Disney World to have a family-friendly vacation, call ahead to your destination to let them know you're traveling with kids; the concierge may have invaluable tips or money-saving discounts that you won't find online. With a little creativity when planning the perfect family vacation, ideas that go beyond Disneyland will help you create your own happiest place on earth without having to drag your kids down Main Street!