If you ate french fries off your child’s child’s plate as a meal so you could afford a pricey Disney souvenir, you just might be a Cheapskate Princess! Are you looking for some fun without the big expense of more theme park tickets? Cheapskate Princesses have an absolute favorite shopping spot in Orlando that, if you do it right, doesn’t have to involve any money at all…Downtown Disney.
Here are 22 and 1/2 things to do at Downtown Disney for FREE, because a true Disney Princess loves FREE.
1) Park your car for free. Unlike the theme parks, you can park at Downtown Disney for free. Combine this with the fact that there is no admission to Downtown Disney, and it’s free city.
If you are staying on Disney property, the bus service to Downtown Disney is always complimentary.
2) Cast members at Ghiradelli’s Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop hand out free chocolate samples throughout the day. The samples are free; the hard part is not buying anything while you’re there. Be forewarned: the smell of the waffle cones combined with the aroma of chocolate is enough to entice you wallet out of your bag. Stay strong, Cheapskate Princess!
3. There is an outdoor stage across from The World of Disney store. There is a large amount of seating, more comfortable in winter because you are seated in direct sun light, which can be a great place to rest weary feet. This stage is used as a performance area for middle through high school and college bands playing everything from jazz to pop. You’ll see ballet dancers, dance teams, and hear choirs singing and dancing their way through every genre of music imaginable. Disney has very high standards for acceptance as guest performers, so sit back and enjoy the free show.
4. Speaking of free live shows, Disney has performers walking around showing off everything from acrobatics and magic to theater. Live mini-concerts pop up in various places throughout the Downtown Disney area. Our family has watched Christmas Soldiers on stilts dance above our heads, had our photos taken with mime-type performers, and listened to some of the best singers and guitar players we’ve ever heard live. Find a spot with a good view and enjoy the show.
5. In the section with Goofy’s Candy Co., in full site of the Rainforest Cafe, is a splashpad type fountain. If you don’t stop to let your kids get wet, you can always hang around and watch other people let their kids get soaked. This is fabulous for children on a hot day, and funny entertainment for adults on any day.
6) Head into the Lego Imagination Center over by the World of Disney Store for some free interactive Lego fun. Outside is a 3,000-square-foot play area filled with Legos. Inside and out are larger-than-life Lego models just waiting to be photographed.
7) Window shop! Downtown Disney is located on 120 acres along the southern shore of Buena Vista Lagoon, so you could spend half a day just trying to have a look in each of the shops. The World of Disney Store, the largest merchandise location, is 50,000 square feet and the largest character store at WDW. You’ll be lucky to get out of here in under an hour. Clothing for toddlers to adults, collectibles, toys, trading pins, watches and jewelry, arts and crafts, and food and candy provide an endless buffet of window shopping. But you’ll need to be strong to walk out without spending any money.
8) Take a seat on a bench and watch the vacationers walk by. You see all sorts of Disney clothing from vintage to just-purchased, and watching kids squeal with delight is always fun. Be on the lookout for shoppers carrying lots of bags and eating the most appetizing treats. Shopping temptation is everywhere.
9) Take your photo with all the different signs and statues throughout Downtown Disney. Children and adults alike love these, and remember those Lego statues are really cool to be photographed with.
10) Take a water shuttle over to Port Orleans Resort, Saratoga Springs Resort, and Old Key West Resorts. Not only is the boat ride fun, but you can go look around the resorts. You might decide one of these locations is where you want to stay on your next vacation, so stop by the check-in desk for some pricing info. This may be all the incentive you need to keep your wallet tucked away to save money for future trips.
11) Hunt around for Hidden Micky’s. There are entire books dedicated to looking for these hidden icons, and this can prove to be great entertainment for kids who might also be a little short of shopping cash.
12) If you walk by the Rainforest Cafe at the right time, there can be Cast Members with exotic birds giving short talks. The birds frequently talk too. If you miss the live animals, there’s always the animatronic variety outside the restaurant.
13) #8 says to find a bench, but I recommend you find one specifically after dinner and watch the sun go down. Orlando has some of the most amazing sunsets ever, and by this time you’ll need to rest your feet some more.
14) Coming from the World of Disney, which houses the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, there is a Princess Parade that walks past the stage over toward the store Once Upon a Toy. Join the crowd and let your inner Disney Princess free!
15) Stop by the Orlando Harley-Davidson Shop and have your photo taken on a hog, I mean, a Harley. There are riding videos to watch, and check out the custom gas tank wall and unique tail pipe sculpture. For some real cheapskate fun, check out the prices!
16) Man, my family loves a store called Arribas Brothers! It will take you some time to look over the vast selection of fine collectibles, glass, and crystal products from around the world, many of which can be personalized. There is a glass blower and a glass cutter on staff doing demonstrations throughout the day, and my family has literally stood around for half an hour just watching the guys show off their craft. There’s not a lot of places I know where you can still see glass blowing in action these days, except maybe at Crystal Arts on Main Street, U.S.A., in the Magic Kingdom, because they are also run by Arribas Brothers. These artisans are fantastic.
17) Right next door to Arribas Brothers, next to the free chocolate samples at Ghiradelli’s, is a store called Basin. My entire family will spend 20-30 minutes in Basin, just touching and smelling the soaps and trying the lotion samples. You can wash your hands with their sugar and salt scrubs for free, leaving your hands silky smooth. This is one of my favorite haunts at Downtown Disney. Cheapskate Princess Tip; the Lemongrass and Cranberry Seed soap smells amazing.
18) Basin also has an assortment of lotions samples you can try for free. Even for men that are not big shoppers, Basin is a great store to look around in.
19. Over in Downtown Disney’s West Side, in sight of DisneyQuest, the House of Blues frequently has musicians playing outdoors. Scope out a bench, and take in a free show.
20. As far as window shopping, one of my favorite spots is the Art of Disney. I could stand around forever looking at the Disney paintings and statues. Quite often there is an artist drawing in the store, and you can watch his or her work in action, being displayed up on a big screen.
21. Stop by either Goofy’s Candy Co. or Disney’s Candy Cauldron to see a Cast Member whipping up the best looking treats and snacks ever. These may be the two places I suggest you haul out a little cash, because compared to other prices, snacks at these two yummy spots are pretty reasonable. Pastries can be found at Goofy’s for $2.29 and cookies and cupcakes at the Cauldron and Goofy’s go for $3.99. If you just have to make a purchase today, these places are inexpensive as far as Disney food prices go.
22. Once Upon a Toy has the largest assortment of toys and games in all of the Walt Disney World Resort. You will find theme park play sets designed after your favorite icons, like Cinderella Castle from the Magic Kingdom theme park and Spaceship Earth from Epcot theme park, that offer lots of free fun. If you haven’t built a Mr. Potato Head in ages, this is your chance. There are also hands-on activities at interactive play stations adults and kids alike will enjoy.
22 and 1/2) For a long time, my favorite free activity was spending a little time watching the helium balloon, “Characters in Flight.” This tethered balloon ride that floats 400 up feet into the air. It was removed this summer, which is why this is 22.5. But now a brand new balloon is back, and while the rides are not all that expensive, it’s certainly free to watch activity on the dock. Downtown almost didn’t seem the same to me without the balloon floating above the happy multi-colored buildings, so I’m glad it’s back. Maybe I should update this to #23 status!
Here is a big Cheapskate Princess warning for you.
FREE doesn’t always wind up being free when you are at such an amazing Disney shopping and entertainment complex. Downtown Disney is like the Disney Store on speed; everything looks amazing, tempting, and you’ll suddenly want to buy things you never even knew you needed.
Here’s some “Keeping it free Tips” from a Cheapskate Princess.
- Don’t take your credit card, or perhaps leave it in the car for outright shopping emergencies.
- Arrive at Downtown Disney with a full tummy and maybe bring some snacks and bottled drinks from your hotel.
- Arrive with your willpower dialed up to FULL CHEAPSKATE POWER. You’ll need it to keep your day FREE.
Never been to Downtown Disney before? Here is the address for your GPS.
1780 E. Buena Vista Dr., Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Want to do some research before you arrive? Click here for the Downtown Disney website.
Did we miss anything else free? Leave us a comment, and let us know if you have found anything we missed.
Thanks for stopping by for a look at FREE activities in Downtown Disney, because there’s not a Cheapskate Princess out there that doesn’t appreciate free, especially when it comes to Disney World.
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