Plan Your Next Vacation with National Geographic’s ‘100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime’ [REVIEW]

Mickey and Minnie Mouse await your visit.
Mickey and Minnie Mouse await your visit. (Photo by Bo shou on

For many, their relationship with Disney may not extend beyond the beloved films and television shows Walt and company have created over the years. Then there are others whose childhoods included trips to Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida. (I’m grateful to be among this group!) Still, if these vacations max out your Disney experiences, you have only scratched the tip of the iceberg of what the company now offers. Since Disneyland opened in 1955, Walt never stopped dreaming up new ways to entertain his guests. Now, in National Geographic’s 100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime, Marcy Carriker Smothers shows us all the magic we’ve been missing, and I promise you’re going to want in on the action!

National Geographic

You may not think that Disney is synonymous with adventure. But that’s where you’d be wrong. As former Imagineer Joe Rohde explains in the foreword to this book, adventure begets adventure. “The world is filled with adventurous lives that got their start from a Disney experience,” he writes. Ever since Disneyland was built, Disney Imagineers went on field trips to “absorb and bring back the essence of adventure, distilled into design, for others to enjoy.” So which Disney adventure will whet your appetite, fuel your dreams, and prompt you to set out on bigger adventures of your own? You only need to look into the five chapters presented here to find one that will spark your imagination and send it soaring.

In Chapter One, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite: Fun for All Ages,” we discover just how much thought Walt put into designing Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland. Designed to resemble an American town at the turn of the 20th century, every Disney resort has included a main street. Still, each of them is a bit different from each other.

But you know what’s really different? The Iron Main Experience at Hong Kong Disneyland! On this action-packed ride based on the Marvel superhero, guests don 3D StarkVision glasses before boarding the Expo Edition Iron Wing flight vehicle with Iron Man by your side as you soar over Hong Kong, above Victoria Harbour, and battle the evil forces of Hydra! That’s enough to get your blood pumping.

For those Disney lovers with a penchant for history, they can head for the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, which features galleries that take you from Walt’s childhood in Missouri to his death in 1966 and include the Disneyland of Walt’s imagination.

Market House at Disneyland
Visit Market House on Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. where you can find Disney-favourite sweet treats, such as divine cookies, as well as Starbucks signature beverages, delicious artisan breakfast sandwiches and a wide selection of baked goods. (Photo by David Garrison on

Chapter Two, “Adventure is a Wonderful Thing: Activities for the Tame and Daring,” encourages guests to stay late and enjoy one-of-a-kind nighttime spectaculars at each of its parks. Our favorites have always been Fantasmic! at Tom Sawyer Island in Disneyland and World of Color at California Adventure. But each park puts its own spin on the premise. For example, at Disneyland Paris, Disney Illuminations projects on Sleeping Beauty Castle accompanied by captivating music and Parisian pyrotechnics. Meanwhile, at Hong Kong Disneyland, The Castle of Magical Dreams is the canvas for this stirring spectacular with lots of special effects.

If golf is your idea of adventure, you may want to pack your bags and head to Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. There among the beauty of South Carolina’s coastal marshes you’ll find this resort themed as a 1940s hunting and fishing lodge. And while you can play at PGA sites like Sea Pines Resort’s Harbour Town Golf Links, you can also play tennis at one of the island’s more than 300 courts or bike along hundreds of miles of scenic bike trails. There is also a guided nature walk and boat rides to meet friendly dolphins in Broad Creek.

If you’re an animal lover or nature nerd who has always wanted to go on safari, head to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. There you can take a three-hour Wild Africa Trek through the Safi River Valley where you’ll walk along paths and over rope bridges in your quest to find crocodiles, rhinos, hippos and more. Or you may take the Kilimanjaro Safari in an open-air vehicle that takes you through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, which covers 110 acres and more than 30 animal species, including cheetahs, giraffes, lions and hyenas. And if you love elephants like we do, you won’t want to miss a visit with the park’s largest inhabitants!

Flo's V8 Cafe in Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure Park
Watch the neon lights come to life in Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure Park and don’t forget to grab a bite at Flo’s V8 Cafe. (Photo by David Garrison on

In Chapter Three, “A Whole New World: Vacations and Excursions Around the Globe,” learn how Adventures by Disney can take you abroad to some of the most fascinating places on our planet. Head to the Nile for an exclusive Egyptian getaway where you’ll visit the pyramids, see the Sphinx, and tour the Karnak temple complex. Or you can follow Walt’s footsteps on a river cruise aboard a vessel specifically designed to navigate European rivers such as the Seine and Rhine. This trip will take you to historical castles, to an alpine toboggan ride, and even the Black Forest, which inspired Beast’s caste in Beauty and the Beast.

Speaking of cruises, you can also book a stateroom aboard Disney Cruise Line and set sail for Disney’s very own Bahamian Island, Castaway Cay! The beaches aren’t crowded and there’s ample room for everyone to snorkel in the lagoon, hike a trail, swim to Pelican Plunge with its twisting waterslides, or float on a paddleboat, kayak, or aqua trike.

Want to stay Stateside and still get an out of this world experience, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park you can now visit Pandora from the movie Avatar! Here you’ll see the floating mountains that glow with bioluminescence, get fully immersed in Na’vi culture or take a cruise down the mysterious Kapsavan River. Want to look like you belong? Get your face painted blue to fully transform yourself!

Disneyland's Blue Bayou Restaurant
Eat inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Walt Disney’s Blue Bayou Restaurant which serves up delicious Cajun and Creole dishes. (Photo by David Garrison on

One of the best things about a trip with Disney is the food. In Chapter Four, “Be Our Guest: From Counter Service to White Tablecloth Dining,” the focus is on all the many ways Disney even makes mealtime magical. You can dine like royalty in Beast’s castle at Be Our Guest Restaurant or meet your favorite princess at Cinderella’s Royal Table at Walt Disney World Resort.

As Disney’s themed restaurants go, Blue Bayou at Disneyland is the first. Located in New Orleans Square in perpetual twilight inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, here you’ll hear frogs croaking and crickets chirping as you dine on Creole and Cajun specialties. Just be sure to make your reservation online through Disney Dining to secure your seat!

Finally, at Epcot, guests get the chance to sample food from around the world during the annual International Food and Wine Festival or visit the ever-changing marketplaces that can take you to places like Morocco, Brazil, and Australia.

Cinderella's Castle
There are few accommodations as luxurious as the suite in Cinderella’s Castle. (Photo by David Guerrero on

Finally, there’s Chapter Five, “When You Wish Upon a Star: Once-in-a-Lifetime Splurges,” which translates, you better have a hefty credit line. Still, as extravagant as these adventures are, you will have to admit, paging through this section, you’ll find yourself wondering how many lattes you’ll have to sacrifice to be able to afford them. Imagine visiting all six Disney Castles around the world or taking a VIP tour behind the scenes at Disneyland to see how Walt’s true impact on the park.

Still hungry? If you’re a true foodie, you’ll pass on the chocolate covered bananas and hamburger to nosh at one of the AAA Five Diamond Awarded restaurants that have also received accolades from Zagat, Forbes Travel Guide, and Wine Spectator. Visit the Royal Banquet Hall in Shanghai Disney Resort or visit the Storytellers Cafe in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa.

And if you want an indulgent, luxurious stay, you can always head to Four Seasons Orlando at Disney World or slumber in the Cinderella Castle Suite replete with a view of the Magic Kingdom. Then there’s the Walter E. Disney or Roy Ol Disney Suite aboard a Disney Cruise.

And this is just a sampling of what you’ll find inside 100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime. Whether you are the ultimate Disney enthusiast, have an insatiable wanderlust, or are just looking to broaden your horizons, readers will find plenty of fuel for their next dream vacation in this volume. Even if you are still waiting for the pandemic to be officially over, this book will stir your imagination and maybe even wish on a star. But you may want to hide it from the kids until you’re ready to book tickets. Otherwise, you may find yourself buying their embroidered mouse ears before you know it.

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About the author

Marcy Carriker Smothers is the author of the fan favorite Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food, a New York Times New & Noteworthy selection. A noted radio personality, she hosted several programs, including The Food Guy and Marcy Show with the Food Network’s Guy Fieri.

In celebration of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, she co-authored Delicious Disney: Walt Disney World. Her love of all things Disney—especially Disneyland—inspired her to write Walt’s Disneyland: A Walk in the Park with Walt Disney.

When not strolling on Main Street, U.S.A., Marcy can be found exploring food and planning her next adventure.

To learn more, visit or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

By Marcy Carriker Smothers
400 pp. National Geographic. $40.

Marcy Smothers
Marcy Carriker Smothers
TLC Book Tours Tour Host

Purchase 100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Half Price Books | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Powell’s | Target | Walmart.

100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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