Very soon, your kids will be going crazy for Sven, a loveable reindeer who’s one of the central characters in the latest Disney animation film, “Frozen.” Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” the movie is set to hit U.S. theaters on Wed., Nov. 27., and there’s a good chance there will be as much hype about the enchanting characters – including the ever-optimistic Anna and her rugged mountain man co-hero, Kristoff – as the Norway-inspired scenery showcased in the film.
A big-screen comedy adventure along the lines of recent Walt Disney Animation Studios releases like “Tangled” and “Brave,” “Frozen” is the story of an epic journey among friends through an eternal wintry landscape to the kingdom of Arendelle. Disney found inspiration for the spectacular landscapes in “Frozen” from the real life scenery of Norway with its jagged mountains, roaring waterfalls, ice blue fjords and fascinating indigenous Sami culture. So don’t be surprised if the kids are asking for more than just stuffed animals of the film’s characters for Christmas. A family vacation to Norway just might make their wish list, too – that is, if it isn’t already on your own.
Of course, Disney has a way of making kids’ wishes come true, so Adventures by Disney has naturally launched a film-inspired Norway itinerary for 2014 travels (late May to mid-September). It includes visits to the beautiful city of Bergen (said to have been the inspiration for Arendelle), safaris into fjord country, rafting excursions, visits to stave churches that inspired the movie’s architecture and even Norwegian folk dancing lessons. There’s a minimum age requirement of 5 for the seven-night trip, with most meals and all tours and accommodations included. You can find all the details, including a full itinerary, by clicking here.
And while a guided tour with Disney is a convenient, fun way to see the country, Norway is among the most family-friendly destinations in Europe, can easily be navigated without organized tours. You don’t have to wait until summertime to visit either; two words: Aurora Borealis! Visit Norway, the country’s official tourism Web site, has comprehensive listings for lodging, dining and activities geared specifically for family travel. To get you started, here are our tips for traveling as a gang in Norway, including the prettiest places to put on your list for seeing some of the scenery that inspired the film:
WHERE TO STAY
- Norway is an expensive country to visit, but you can find surprisingly good deals when booking cottages and holiday houses for the family, with options ranging from the basic to luxe. With more than 100 youth and family hostels spread across Norway, you can often find a better rate on a double room at one of these places than at a traditional hotel.
- A good way to get close to Norway’s nature while meeting the locals is with a farm stay, where you can mingle with a Norwegian family and their animals and even pitch in on tasks. You can also opt to spend the night in one of the country’s many cozy guest houses, such as Heimgårdsbrygga, with four affordable rooms in the lovely fishing village of Henningsvaer in the Lofoten Islands.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
- If you’re visiting in winter, don’t miss the chance to sleep in an igloo hotel like this one in the Arctic Circle, or take the kids sledding across a frozen fjord behind reindeer with the Sami guides from Lyngsfjord Adventure, near Tromsø.
- Winter is also the time to spot the Northern Lights, and the farther north you travel, the better your odds are of seeing them. Head out to hunt the lights with Arctic Guide Service in Tromsø, offering nightly Aurora Borealis bus tours in the winter.
- Built around 1180, Borgund Stave Church inspired much of the fantastical architecture seen in “Frozen.” But you’ll find stave churches throughout the country, including at the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo.
• Restaurants are expensive in Norway. And while grocery stores are pricier than in North America, you can stock up on the basics for fair enough prices at discount chains like REMA 1000 and Kiwi, found throughout the country.
• For a simple sweet treat in summer, visit a farm stand – any farm stand – to taste the most delicious strawberries on earth (they owe their taste to the longer daylight hours in these parts, locals say). Strawberry season peaks in late July.
• Don’t miss Brunost, Norway’s most famous cheese – a soft brown goat cheese that melts in your mouth and is often served atop waffles (another Norwegian favorite).
• Rent a car and set off on a Nordic road trip! All of the major car rental companies have desks at Oslo’s airport and in other major Norwegian cities and airports. Roads throughout the country are in excellent condition, but be prepared to pay hefty tolls (most rental cars are equipped with a transponder that bills you later).
• You can visit much of the country by rail, too, and the NSB, the national rail service, offers some appealing family discounts.
• Nor-way Bussekpress, a major busline, travels much of the country and lets four kids up to age 16 travel free of charge with a paying adult. Click here for more details.
FLIGHT TIP: SAS is Scandinavia’s main carrier. But Norwegian airlines often has bargain priced non-stop flights to Oslo from New York and Fort Lauderdale, especially if you have some flexibility with your dates.
Photos courtesy of Visit Norway.