I’m not a mouse hater. Really, I’m not. I took my children to Disney World last year, and we had a wonderful time. Six months later, we visited two national parks in Utah, and I realized that a national park vacation is truly better than a trip to Disney World. Here’s why:
1. It’s Cheaper I might as well start with the most practical difference. A carload of people entering Zion National Park pays $25 for the week. If you’d like to buy a week-long pass at Disney World for 2 adults and 2 children under 10, you will need to shell out at least $1,116. Hotel prices are difficult to compare, but if you really want to vacation on a budget, you can camp at most national parks for less than $30 per night.
2. Natural Beauty We happened to be in Disney World during the Epcot Flower Show. The sculptures made of flowers were beautiful but contrived. There is very little natural beauty to be found in Disney World. Disney is so focused on engineering beauty and imagination that they created a word for it: imagineering. If you take your kids to a national park, you will not see any imagineering at work. Old Faithful and the other geysers at Yellowstone National Park are truly spectacular on their own. The Grand Canyon needs no illusions to make it look wider, deeper, or more colorful. The beauty found in the national parks needs no enhancement.
3. Less Commercial I don’t think it is possible to walk more than 20 feet in Disney World without encountering a store, kiosk, or person selling something in Disney World. Seeing so much to buy makes most people want more and appreciate less. Standing in the valley of Zion National Park, looking up at the mountains makes most people appreciate nature and feel more at ease in the world.
4. More Meaningful Family Time Your time in Disney World is spent running from attraction to attraction. Although you spend 24 hours a day together, much of that time is spent watching a show or sitting in a ride. Even if you are standing in line, conversations are easily avoided by watching one of the TVs mounted on the ceiling. In a national park, you can spend all day on a hiking trail, chatting, singing, and looking for wildlife without encountering many other people. You may find that your children may ask some pretty deep questions after a couple of miles on a trail.
5. Less Hectic Hardly anyone comes home from a national park saying they need a vacation from their vacation. Yet, that is a common refrain after a trip to the land of the Mouse. In Disney World, you are constantly on the move, getting on and off of buses and trams, rides and attractions. In a national park, you can hike as far as you like, but you can picnic in a meadow, sit on the bank of a river or lake, sit and stare at a sunset. There is plenty of down time– just what most people are looking for in a vacation.
A child who has been to Disney World but has never seen a geyser, glacier, or a cactus is missing out on some of our country’s greatest treasures. There are so many options for a national park vacation. You can travel to spectacular mountains, beautiful deserts, and gorgeous beaches. Find the park that is right for your family here. Enjoy the summer!
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