Disneyland might be the Happiest Place on Earth, but mouse ears do not come cheap. Disneyland tickets range from $97 to $124 per person for a one-day park pass, and when you’re traveling with the whole family in tow, a vacation for three or four can add up quickly.
But don’t fear — GOBankingRates scouted a variety of alternative attractions for memorable, fun-filled family getaways. These suggestions span the globe and range from educational to unforgettable. This winter, consider one of these Disneyland alternatives that have affordable admission prices.
Tivoli Gardens — Copenhagen, Denmark
Founded in 1843, Tivoli Gardens is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world and a staple attraction of Europe. The rides are as nostalgic as they are futuristic, with virtual reality one of the new additions in 2017.
Efteling — Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands
The largest theme park in the Netherlands, Efteling offers attractions based on fairytales and legends. Rollercoasters, water rides, carnival games, carousels and the enchanted forest are must-see signature experiences.
PortAventura World — Tarragona, Spain
One of Europe’s most iconic theme parks, PortAventura World has six areas of rides, shows and culinary delights to match each themed zone.
Everland — Yongin, South Korea
South Korea’s largest theme park features five worlds of fun. Get your kicks on rides and attractions in places like European Adventure and Zootopia. And be sure to look out for Korea’s first wooden roller coaster, the giant pandas donated by the President of China and the Lost Valley, the largest ecological safari in the world.
Hobbiton — Matamata, New Zealand
Middle-earth itself, Hobbiton is the elaborately designed movie set for the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” trilogies. Peter Jackson designed the beautifully landscaped fantasy world, complete with Hobbit Holes, shops and restaurants. You can even toss back a frosty beverage at the iconic Green Dragon Inn.
The Smithsonian — Washington, D.C.
For a more educational attraction, the Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex. Comprised of 19 buildings dedicated to history and culture, science and nature and art and design, it offers something for everyone’s tastes and interests. And, it’s one of the world’s best museums you can visit for free.
Disney Springs — Orlando, Fla.
A themed retail, dining and entertainment venue, Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) is a place to snap some photos of your favorite characters without paying the hefty park fee. It’s also a place to take in Florida’s charming promenades and festivities on a nighttime stroll. Admission and parking are free.
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MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte) — Cancun, Mexico
One of the weirdest destinations in the world, the Cancun Underwater Museum contains around 500 submerged sculptures and the biggest artificial reef in the world. You can see the pieces by glass bottom boat, snorkeling on a jungle tour or by SCUBA diving. The museum is open-year round.
Carhenge — Alliance, Neb.
This quirky roadside attraction is one of the best free things to do in America. Open all day, every day, the cars are a replica of Stonehenge in England. Placed in deliberate stacking patterns, the sculpture is made of a combination of vintage vehicles and auto parts. Also on site is the Car Art Reserve, a museum featuring additional art crafted from car parts.
Mr. Marvel’s Wondertorium — Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
If you’re into weird places, Mr. Marvel’s Wondertorium is a mecca of bizarre curations. Part circus stunt show, part collection of oddities, the site features everything from mind-blowing performances by fire-eaters and contortionists to a museum full of shrunken heads and exotic animals.
Museum of Ice Cream — Various Cities
An Instagram phenomenon, Museum of Ice Cream is a temporary museum that rotates around the country. Currently in Miami, it’s a colorful dream world where you can swim in sprinkles and indulge in sweet treats just begging to be photographed. Museum of Ice Cream claims to “bring people together through art, design and innovation” and “provoke curiosity and imagination in both the physical and digital worlds.”
ThunderBird Park — Queensland, Australia
An epic treetop challenge course on the Gold Coast, ThunderBird Park has over 100 obstacles, including everything from Tarzan swings to zip lines and suspension bridges. If you want even more of an adrenaline rush, there are also horses to ride, laser tag, aboriginal shows and plenty of other unique activities.
Meow Wolf — Santa Fe, N.M.
This is one of the most interesting attractions you can visit. Meow Wolf is hard to classify, but that’s exactly what makes it so intriguing. Part immersive art installation, part interactive mystery, the site offers hours of fun in the form of wandering, crawling and exploring the House of Eternal Return. Full of elaborately crafted worlds and secret portals, the house invites you to piece together a theory about its non-linear story.
Chimelong Ocean Kingdom — Zhuhai, China
One of the largest aquariums in the world, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom has won numerous awards for being a top theme park. Home to endangered species such as the whale shark, beluga whale and polar bear, it’s the place to see exotic maritime creatures and performances in China. The aquarium also offers the rare opportunity to sleep over “Night at the Museum” style.
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Hattiesburg Zoo Sloth Experience — Hattiesburg, Miss.
Normal zoos are cool, but Hattiesburg Zoo has something extra special up its sleeve. With the behind-the-scenes sloth experience, you’ll have the opportunity to feed one of these cuddly, quirky creatures and learn about its care by assisting the zookeepers for the day.
Aqua Fun — Dubai, UAE
It’s generally go big or go home in Dubai, and Aqua Fun is no exception. The world’s largest inflatable waterpark has incredible views of the city skyline. Boasting 74 games and obstacles spread across different sections, Aqua Fun has become an icon of Jumeirah Beach.
Boot Hill Museum — Dodge City, Kan.
A place to relive the rough-and-tumble days of the Wild West, the Boot Hill Museum is a restored Old West town in Kansas, complete with storefronts, an ice cream parlor and cemetery. The interactive museum is also a backdrop to the exciting reenactments of gunslingers and the saloon’s nightly variety show.
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Aurora Ice Museum — Fairbanks, Alaska
The Aurora Ice Museum is one of the coolest attractions in Alaska — pun intended. And, it’s one of the weirdest museum attractions in the world.
Home to the world’s largest year-round ice environment, the museum was created and harvested from over 1,000 tons of ice and snow. Free parkas are available to tour the incredible ice sculptures, ice bar and Northern Lights room. Additional strange places not to miss are the ice outhouse and the Christmas tree room.
Utah Olympic Park — Park City, Utah
Price: Entry is free, but certain activities have additional fees.
Built for the 2002 Winter Games, Utah Olympic Park is a massive playground of outdoor attractions. The 400-acre venue is home to a museum and winter sports, including bobsled rides, zip lines, and Nordic ski jumps.
Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard — Waterbury, Vt.
The Ben & Jerry’s factory tour is a 30-minute guided excursion that will take you through the process of making ice cream and tasting the spoils. Outside the facility, the flavor graveyard pays tribute to retired ice creams, with kitschy headstones to admire and photograph.