You don’t need a fairy godmother to transport yourself to some of the most epic locales in all of the land … Take a trip to the actual places behind the classic tales we all know and still love! Trek through Pinocchio’s Tuscan village, romp around Madeline’s Paris, play hard in Peter Pan’s London, and experience the settings that make wonderment a necessary destination for every dreamer.
Remember when Belle from Beauty and the Beast twirls around a fountain with her books and a flock of sheep? Fans can recreate that moment in the French village of Colmar, in the Alsace. This village looks like it came straight from a fairy tale, with rows of buildings along the Rhine and cobblestoned streets. The whole family will enjoy the local Toy Museum or a boat trip along a canal. But don’t forget the Beast, whose castle was inspired by the 16th-century Château de Chambord, famous for its double helix staircase and gardens.
All you need is faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust to explore Peter Pan’s London. Make Kensington Gardens your first stop. It’s here that author J.M. Barrie found inspiration for his timeless tale of the boy who never grows up. Nearby Hyde Park is home to a Peter Pan statue, but kids may race past it to get inside the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground where the centerpiece is a huge pirate ship. A walk past Big Ben is also a must: Wendy, John, and Michael stop on the clock’s hands to get their bearings in Neverland.
Gather your troops in two straight lines (rain or shine!) to see Madeline’s Paris. During her outing, Madeline, her 11 friends, and Miss Clavel stroll past some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Opera House. Leave plenty of time for the Luxembourg Gardens, home to a carousel and puppet theater, as well as the Tuileries Garden, where kids can sail little boats. One thing you won’t find? A hospital with a ceiling crack shaped like a rabbit.
Here’s a reason to visit Tuscany that has nothing to do with food or wine: Pinocchio. While everyone knows the story of the wooden toy who wants to be a boy, few people know about the tale’s Italian roots. Author Carlo Lorenzini took the name of his mother’s village (Collodi) as his pen name. Collodi is home to the charming Pinocchio Park, which is filled with massive statues of all the main characters, such as the Fairy with Turquoise Hair, and the Cat and the Fox. The massive Dogfish Shark, which sprays water, is sure to be a hit.
Move over, Buckingham Palace. Cinderella’s Castle is one of the most recognizable royal abodes in the world. The design was inspired by a mix of fictional and real palaces, including the Alcázar of Segovia, an easy day trip from Madrid. The palace is surrounded by two rivers and has all the hallmarks of a fairy-tale castle: ramparts, towers, and a garden maze. Kids will love the knight’s armor on display as well as the ancient aqueducts in town.
Neuschwanstein Castle has made cameo appearances in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Great Escape, but it’s best known for inspiring Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland. King Ludwig II commissioned the castle as a tribute to the operas of Richard Wagner. It’s grand, over the top, and awe inspiring. Families will also love the local steam train museum (which organizes train rides) as well as the German Christmas Museum.