I’m not trying to incite a riot. I love The Mouse. We crafted a Minnie Mouse costume for Halloween once. My daughters were Cinder-Beauty-Mermaids when they were young. Yes my kids have been to both Disneyland and Disney World. More than once. (I’m not THAT mean.) And we almost made it to Disneyland Paris last year. I simply don’t like the HYPE. And all the ‘stuff’ hawked from every corner.

Put Your Pitchforks Away

Visiting Niagara Falls Photo Credit: Carissa Rogers

Visiting Niagara Falls Photo Credit: Carissa Rogers

Disney Parks are a whole lotta “theme,” light on the thrill, with insane pricing to boot. For those reasons (and a few more) Disney is not at the top of my family vacation wish list.

But then I also refused to wear Guess Jeans in high school. I’m not an Apple fan. And I don’t buy everything Oprah pitches. (Can she just leave the best books ALONE already!?)

If it helps I really love Redvines, Haas Avocados, all things Android and Panasonic. In fact, I’ve decided Panasonic Video is my new boyfriend! So it’s not that I detest all brands.

No Need to Be Cool

When everyone MUST have that one thing to fit in and generally sees it as entrance into the cool club, that’s where I exit stage right. (cough – Apple Watch – cough) I just can’t buy into something because it somehow gives me status or proves that I’m amazing and … a little bit better than you are.

Photo Credit: Carissa Rogers

Photo Credit: Carissa Rogers

I understand people save for years to vacation at Disney. They want to see the amazingly imagineered landscapes and city-sized parks. Children love meeting their favorite characters IN REAL LIFE! And many people go back again and again. I’m fine with that.

But wow. There are so many genuinely magical experiences in the world and in some (many?) cases it costs much less to explore the real deal!

If I’m going to an amusement park I want BIG. HUGE. RIDES. And lots of them. I expect a few lines. But the 2 hour wait for every single large ride at Disney isn’t for me. And the price of food at Disney? Glad I packed the PB&J.

My favorite amusement parks have a family feel to them with multiple roller coaster thrill rides and lines that are bearable. Plus I like a park that is do-able in one day. Get in. Get out. Go explore something else!

Family Amusement Parks Worth Discovering

Carowinds in my backyard in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area is perfect for one day thrill-seekers. Hershey Park in Pennsylvania is amazing for families, clean with shade everywhere. And free chocolate in the factory tour! Who doesn’t love that?

Lagoon in Utah allows you to bring your lunch & cooler in with you. Knottsberry Farm in Orange County, California also is high on my list. Sadly I’ve never been to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio… but it’s in my future. My Panasonic A500 & I plan to meet the newest ride there, called Rougarou.

Watch as I attempt Fury325, newest Coaster inside Carowinds.
World’s Tallest Giga Coaster! POV Video.

Think Outside the Man-Made Attractions

After a day at the amusement park, we like to find some thrills that were not pre-designed into a fake mountain, like these:

Photo Credit: Karen Heffren/ Desert TravelingMom

Photo Credit: Karen Heffren/ Desert TravelingMom

1. Watching fireflies light up the night sky rather than fireworks.

Did you know that fireflies aren’t found west of the Mississippi? And all the smart people don’t know why. How crazy is that? Children all over the western part of the United States have never experienced the joy of catching fireflies.

I was one of those sad, deprived children. You better believe I made sure my kids learned first-hand just how slow the dang things fly, almost like they want to be caught! And that stuff now glowing on your hand? Phosphorescence. That’s science magic folks!

2. Getting sprayed by a waterfall instead of a water ride. 

If you have a waterfall anywhere nearby, see if it’s hikable for tweens or even younger kids. Now that is a magical experience.

3. Giving your kids a lesson in reality 

Photo Credit: Carissa Rogers Waimea Falls

Photo Credit: Carissa Rogers Waimea Falls

Maybe there’s an underground history lesson in the old part of the nearest city. I’m a sucker for science museums and nerdy past times like searching for road side UFO landings.

Modern Art Installments? Oh Yes. The weirder, the wackier the better!

Can’t Always Avoid Disney

I’m sure my kids will talk me back into the vortex of the Disney Parks machine. Goodness… there will be grandkids one day in my not too far off GoodNCrazy future {gulp}. Who better to introduce Disney to a toddler than her grandma, right?!

If left to my own family travel options once the amusement park itch has been scratched—can we please explore a rain forest or go on a swampy canoe ride just a stone’s throw from Magic Kingdom? Can we look into a REAL Volcano and then feast in a dingy dive recommended by a local, precisely because it is cheap, yummy and plentiful? Can we spend our year’s vacation savings learning to paddle board off the coast of an island with dolphins?

Explore the Magic Beyond Theme Parks

Golden Spike Monument in Northern Utah photo credit Carissa Rogers

Golden Spike Reenactment Circa 2006. Photo Credit: Carissa Rogers

There are ways to get more than the fake magic of a theme park even if your kids demand that you spend part of your vacation at a theme park.

  • If you visit Disney World, be sure to explore the greater Kissimmee area. When you spend a day at Hershey Park drive home via the German and Amish routes. One of my all-time favorite weekends was spent exploring the quaint town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—be sure to sign up for a night time ghost tour!
  • If you’re in Northern Utah and spend a day at Lagoon, you absolutely must drive around the northern part of the Great Salt Lake. Locate the Golden Spike Monument and spend an afternoon searching for the unexplainable Earth-Art called the Spiral Jetty. Weird? Yes. Unforgettable? You Bet! (That’s Utah-Speak for Absolutely.)
  • If you plan a trip to Carowinds, Tweet me @CarissaRogers! I’ll tell you all the best local places to eat. BBQ is king in the city named for the Queen. And if you’re still up for some local thrills I’ll meet you at the National Whitewater Rafting Center located about 20 minutes west of Charlotte, North Carolina.

If Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth (and I’m not saying it isn’t), where is the strangest? The most colorful? The scariest place on the Planet? I want to go there! Who’s with me?

why i'd rather go anywhere other than Disney

Photo Credit: Carissa Rogers