5 U.S. Destinations for Disney Fans That Aren’t Anaheim or Orlando

The San Francisco Bay Area, South Carolina's Hilton Head, New York City and Missouri offer prime attractions for Disney devotees.
Sally French
By Sally French 
Edited by Dawnielle Robinson-Walker

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While Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California, are known for Disney theme parks, other U.S. cities also can offer fans a taste of Disney. Here are five standouts in other states.

1. New York City

A sign advertising "The Lion King" on 42nd Street in Times Square. (Getty Images)

In New York City, the Disney nods range from obvious to obscure. There are flashing signs on Broadway advertising stage versions of “Aladdin” and “The Lion King,” and both offer ticket lotteries for discounted tickets. Deal seekers can also turn to the TKTS Discount Booth (there’s one in Times Square and at Lincoln Center) for potential same-day discount tickets, or people unwilling to wait can also score tickets through the TodayTix app.

Not far from Broadway is the Times Square Disney Store, a two-story emporium filled with merchandise including housewares, shirts and stuffed animals.

Admirers of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends can head to The New York Public Library's Treasures at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street. There, the actual plush versions of Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Kanga and Eeyore that inspired A. A. Milne’s stories are on display (and it’s free to visit).

2. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Coligny Beach Park in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. (Getty Images)

Hilton Head Island in South Carolina offers a charming, family-friendly vacation destination with a clear Disney tie. That’s because it’s home to Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort, one of just a few Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resorts that isn't located near a Disney theme park (Walt Disney World is almost a five-hour drive away).

The most straightforward way to book a stay is by joining DVC, which is the Walt Disney Company’s version of a timeshare. But DVC membership is far from worth it for many people. Given that, you might consider renting DVC points. Disney also sometimes offers remaining rooms at cash prices.

Unlike the high-stimulation theme parks, Hilton Head can offer a more leisurely and nature-oriented Disney vacation, with fishing, hiking, swimming with dolphins and biking.

3. Marceline, Missouri

The Walt Disney Hometown Museum in Marceline, Missouri. (Photo by Sally French)

True Disney fans might consider Marceline, Missouri, even more magical than a Disney theme park. That is because Walt Disney spent his childhood in the small town said to have shaped the style of Main Street, U.S.A., the entrance to Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme parks.

Today, the primary tourist draw in Marceline is the Walt Disney Hometown Museum.

Here, you’ll find a vast collection of Disney memorabilia and artifacts including remnants of the original Midget Autopia, an early Disneyland attraction that was eventually removed to make way for “it’s a small world.”

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Beyond that, visitors can drive by Walt Disney's boyhood home (a private residence), wander through the farmland where Walt played and see a giant Coca-Cola mural that is said to have inspired the Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner at Disneyland, among other historic attractions.

4. San Francisco

The Walt Disney family museum in Presidio Park. (Getty Images)

The most obvious connection between Walt Disney and the San Francisco Bay Area is the Walt Disney Family Museum. Located in The Presidio, a large national park site with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the museum is a nonprofit organization founded by one of Walt Disney’s daughters.

Highlights include a multiplane camera (one of three left in the world, according to the Walt Disney Family Museum), which was used in animated movies such as “Pinocchio” and “Bambi.” There’s also a 14-foot diameter model of the Disneyland of Walt’s imagination.

You’ll find the headquarters of Lucasfilm in the Presidio. Lucasfilm, best known for creating the "Star Wars" franchises, was acquired by Disney in 2012. Most of the outdoor portion of the campus is free to wander and some fans make the pilgrimage to get a photo with the life-size bronze fountain of Yoda.

On the other side of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is the city of Emeryville, home to the Pixar headquarters. Though the general public usually can't walk through the Pixar campus, the iconic Pixar sign out front is still an attraction for some.

In Oakland, you might grab a refreshment at Fentons Creamery, the ice cream parlor that can be seen in animated form in the Pixar film "Up.” Also in the East Bay, the University of California, Berkeley campus bears a striking resemblance to the campus in “Monsters University.”

5. Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, in Oahu, Hawaii. (Getty Images)

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, is another Disney Vacation Club outpost (nonmembers can book rooms at cash rates). Many activities are also available if you aren't staying at the resort, such as the Disney character breakfast where icons like Mickey and Minnie stop by your table for photos.

About 30 minutes from Aulani is the Dole Plantation, offering a full itinerary of activities centered around pineapples, including a train tour and pineapple garden maze.

Visitors familiar with Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and its famous Dole Whip can enjoy the same pineapple soft-serve directly from the Dole Plantation.

You might also tour the island’s Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Reserve. According to the site’s owners, multiple Disney productions have been filmed there, including “George of the Jungle,” “Mighty Joe Young,” and the TV show "Lost," which originally aired on Disney-owned ABC.

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