Ready to max out on magic and go full-on fairytale? From a Wonderland garden and awesome lantern festival to castles fit for a royal, we’ve searched every corner of the world for destinations that channel your favorite tales in big ways. Scroll down for more on these amazing spots—plus can’t-miss book recommendations for your little readers!
RiSE Lantern Fest – Mojave, NV
Held in the Nevada dessert, this lantern festival is all kinds of magical and definitely brings to mind the infamous lantern scene from Tangled. Before you release your lantern, you can even inscribe it with a message, prayer, or resolution. (Psst! We think “at last I see the light” would work splendidly.)
Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve – Los Angeles County, CA
You can’t follow a yellow brick road to get there, but the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is still well worth a visit. It’s a great way to introduce little ones to an awesome national park, and if you visit during poppy season you’ll catch colorful blooms as far as the eye can see.
Boston Public Garden – Boston, MA
A visit to Boston is incomplete without a stop to say hi to Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings. Head to the corner of Beacon Street and Charles Street to find this lovely group that’s often decorated for the season.
Garden of the Gods – Colorado Springs, CO
Dinosaurs may not star in your average fairytale, but they’ve definitely cast a spell over our dino-loving kids. That’s why the towering rock formations at this public Colorado park are so perfect for fans of the prehistoric era. Add in some hiking, rock climbing, biking, and horseback riding and you’ve got yourself a happy ending.
New York City, NY
Tour all the spots that James visit when you come to NYC from Central Park to the Statue of Liberty, which Gloworm illuminates in Roald Dahl’s classic book.
If your childhood didn’t involve pouring over Ramona Quimby books, you need to change that. Not only did author Beverly Cleary work briefly as a librarian in Portland but you can take a walking tour of lots of the important sites in Portland when you visit.
It doesn’t get much more picturesque than this tiny Austrian village, which was only reachable by boat or narrow trails until the late 19th century. In fact, it’s so beautiful that a full-scale replica of the entire town was built in China. The original, however, is still one-of-a-kind.
Longleat Maze – Wiltshire, England
Don’t be late for a very important date with this wild escape in Wiltshire, England. There’s not only a safari involved—think lions, tigers, and monkeys—but also a hedge maze and stately manor that are sure to remind you of a certain wonder-filled land and its Queen of Hearts.
“There goes the baker with his tray, like always!” Remember that peaceful village that kicks off all of Belle’s adventures? The town of Colmar, France looks like just like it. And with all the hubbub about the upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast movie, we’ll bet this already-popular town is about to become a true hotspot.
Lohr Castle – Lohr am Main, Germany
This castle-turned-museum has all the trimmings of a fairytale abode, but it also features the “Talking Mirror” that may have belonged to a real-life wicked stepmother. A cool place to visit if you’re ever in Germany, but keep an eye out for poisoned apples.
Calanais Standing Rocks – Isle of Lewis, Scotland
Feeling Brave? The setting for the Disney-Pixar film may have been a fictionalized Scotland, but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit the real-life spots that inspired important moments in the story–like these standing stones that are equal parts impressive and mysterious.
If you wanna be where the people are, you gotta head over to the town Hans Christian Andersen once called home: Copenhagen. This mermaid statue sits on a rock in Copenhagen Harbor and is the perfect spot for little fans of The Little Mermaid. (And while you’re in Denmark, you might as well pay a visit to the Hans Christian Andersen Fairytale House.)
Beatrix Potter’s House – Wiltshire, England
If your kids can’t get enough of Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Tiggy Winkle, and Hunca Munca, they’ll be tickled by the real-life home of Beatrix Potter. The surrounding land hosts many of the animals you’ll find in her whimsical tales and there’s even a dedicated nature trail for Peter Rabbits-in-training.
Neuschwanstein Castle – Hohenschwangau, Germany
Hobbiton – Matamata, New Zealand
If Hobbiton looks familiar, it’s because it’s actually the same Shire from the LOTR film set. That means visiting this town would be like a giant dream-come-true for little Hobbits. (And in honor of Hobbits’ daily seven meals, we’d definitely be down to dine at The Green Dragon Inn!)
Dark Hedges – Ballymoney, Ireland
We happen to think these majestic beech trees (planted way back in the 18th century) have their own kind of magic on a road that looks ready-made for adventure. They also happen to come with some haunting stories about the Famous Grey Lady–and they’ve made a star appearance in a Game of Thrones episode, too.
Watch Before You Go: Into the Woods
Crooked Forest – Gryfino, Poland
Like any storybook tale worth its salt, the crooked forest in Poland comes with its own mystery—is it manmade or naturally formed? About 400 pine trees grow in strange angles while the trees surrounding them remain as straight as a pin. We can totally see Red Riding Hood veering off the path in a forest like this.
Big Ben – London, England
Glendalough Round Tower – County Wicklow, Ireland
Back in the day, the Glendalough Round Tower was the old school lighthouse for land travelers. Pilgrims considered these Irish towers more of a safe haven than a prison, but our storybook ruled brains can’t help but think of the miller’s daughter being locked in there to spin gold for the king.
Hohenzollern Castle – Bisingen, Germany
Sitting on top of a lush hill with generous views of nature, this castle actually belonged to real royalty until 1918 (when the German monarchy ended). Isolated castle, surrounded by a dense forest? Now we know how Snow White escaped the Huntsman.
Lost Gardens of Heligan – Pentewan, Cornwall
Taj Mahal – Agra, India
Ice Hotel – Jukkasjarvi, Sweden
If Elsa had the coronation at her ice palace, she definitely would’ve spiced it up to look like the ever changing Ice Hotel in Sweden. This glacier space is rebuilt each year (by different artists) for a cool retreat before it melts back into nature in April.
—Kate Loweth, Abigail Matsumoto & Christal Yuen
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