Updated July 2015!
Wow, a Disney World vacation can be expensive. Between the tickets, a place to stay, transportation to Orlando, snacks, souvenirs, and the list goes on and on, you could buy a compact car for what you will spend on your next trip. With prices seeming to increase every year, some families struggle to make their Disney vacation dreams a reality. While a Disney Princess may have no trouble paying for her next vacation, a Cheapskate Princess searches for the best deals and the best ways to spend her vacation time.
If you ever Googled “Free Disney Stuff,” you just might be a Cheapskate Princess!
There are many free activities and “stuff” to be found at Walt Disney World, but often it takes lots of research to locate what you can do and get without paying anything. Good news…we have done your research. We have it all for you right here, all the FREE STUFF we could find for your next Disney World vacation. Now we did not include all the resort walking trails and free activities you can enjoy if you are staying at certain WDW resorts, because the list would have just been too long. For first time WDW visitors, or those people planning to stay at a Disney resort for the first time, this should be a must-read before you leave. Use this link:
Now let’s get started with those FREEbies at the Happiest Place on Earth!
FREE Before or During the Vacation
1. Phone App.– My Disney Experience is an iPhone app. that helps you plan your next vacation. Make dining and reservations, see maps and wait times, and even book your next vacation. (That could be financially dangerous for some of you!) For more detailed information, use this link.
Order Free Maps – You’ll need a Disney account online to do it, but go to Disney World Customized Maps and order FREE maps of the parks. Pick your family’s favorite park activities and attractions, and then have them delivered to your door.
This link no longer works since this article was published in 2013, but we kept in in case they should activate it again. The link now goes to #3 listed below.
3. Google Maps – Google maps have some really cool, almost-cartoon-like maps of the Disney parks and resorts. These are great for kid’s entertainment and adults that need a mental vacation. Use this link: FREE Disney Virtual Vacation…Check Out the Walt Disney World “Parks” Maps.
4. Free Disney Planning DVDs – To request a free planning DVD, use this link. Here’s what you get:
- A complete tour of the 4 Theme Parks, 2 Water Parks and over 20 Resort hotels at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida
- A tour of the Disneyland Resort in California, including 2 enchanting Theme Parks and 3 Resort hotels
- Affordable ways to play and stay during your Disney vacation
- Pocket-sized planning guides, planning tips, and information on special events
5. Enjoy Ice Cream – Take the Disney Vacation Club tour, and you will receive free ice cream at the end for your entire family in a private ice cream parlor. A running joke in my family is if we ever remodel the living room, we should definitely put in an ice cream parlor. Families that take the tour sometimes receive Disney gift cards and various Disney goodies depending on the current promotion.
FREE in the Parks
6. Drink Refills – Free refills are available at certain restaurants in the Disney parks:
- Epcot: Sunshine Seasons, Electric Umbrella
- Hollywood Studios: Backlot Express
- Animal Kingdom: Restaurantosaurus
7. Free Fastpass+ – This is well-known among the Disney regulars, but people planning first trips ask about this all the time. You pay extra for Fastpass privileges at Universal Studios and Six Flags theme parks. People may complain about high Disney prices, but at least Fastpass+ is still free.
8. Make a FASTPASS collage – So traditional paper FASTPASSES have gone the way of the dinosaurs when they created FastPass+, but I won’t remove this tip just yet. We hear rumors of paper Fastpasses being handed out for certain attractions occasionally. If you have any old paper passes hanging around in drawers or photo boxes, get a picture frame for $1 at Dollar Tree. Decorate a hand-made photo mat made of cardboard with those ancient FASTPASSES,
9. Transportation Trading Cards – Cast Members on the various forms of Disney transportation should have transportation trading cards available if you ask. Sometimes they are out of stock, so if you strike out with one Cast Member, just ask another.
10. Free Wifi – Enjoy free WIFI offered at all of the resorts and parks. Wifi is also free for DVC members (Disney Vacation Club) at all DVC resorts.
11. Package Deliveries – You can have any purchases you buy at the parks delivered to your resort for free. Now you don’t have to worry about buying those really large toys or heavy glass figures, but you still have to find a safe way to get them home. However, remember not to have purchases sent to your room if you are leaving the very next day.
12 . Souvenir Pick-Up – Theme park merchandise purchased during the day can be delivered to a designated location near the front entrance for convenient pick-up as you exit the park. To utilize this service, simply let the retail clerk know during your time of purchase.
13. Baby Care Centers at all Four Parks – Open during regular park hours, each full-service Baby Care facility is complimentary to use and includes the following:
- Private nursing room with rocking chairs
- Changing room with tables and a unisex bathroom
- Feeding area with highchairs
- Kitchen with microwave, oven and sink
- Main room with television, table, chairs and sofa
- This will cost money, but there is an on-site shop offering formula, baby food, juice, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, over-the-counter medications and clothing for purchase
14. Trading Pins –Disney Pin Trading is an interactive experience where guests can trade Disney pins with Cast Members and other guests. It’s fun for the whole family and creates fun “pin pals.” Start a new collection or exchange pins for the ones you’ve always wanted. While Disney trading pins are not free, actually trading them is. There are Trading Pin boards you can find around the resorts and gift shops, and Cast Members wear lanyards for trading. Guests can make up to two pin trades per Cast Member per day.
15. Trading Vinylmations – The name Vinylmation is a combination of the word Animation and Vinyl. The figures are all shaped like Mickey Mouse but have different themed markings, colors, and patterns. Since this was published in 2013, Disney has ceased trading of Vinylmations, but things change, so we’ll leave this info here incase they begin trading again. They are still for sale in the parks, although you see less and less of them in 2016.
16. Search for Hidden Mickeys – Disney’s Imagineers have a fun tradition of incorporating “hidden” Mickey Mouse head silhouettes into their designs and construction, and lots of people enjoy hunting for them. Entire books are dedicated to finding them. To search for the Hidden Mickeys all around the parks and even the resorts, look for the three circles that make up the Mickey logo. They are everywhere.
17. Keep a Map – There are time schedules and park maps found at the resort front desks and park front gates. These are great to put in scrap books later. The maps are colorful and kids love to look at them when they get home. These are also great to put in picture frames.
18. Free Stickers – There are Cast Members running all over who will hand you free stickers. No only are these great for t-shirt decorations, but stickers are also great mementos for scrap books. I spilled ice cream on my shirt once, and guess what I covered it up with? You guessed it…a free sticker.
19. Free Water – And I’m not talking about the water fountain water here, although obviously that is free. Visit any counter service restaurant or refreshment stand that serves drinks and ask for a cup of ice water. If they don’t give you water, they will give you a free cup of ice. We let the ice melt, which doesn’t take long on a hot Orlando summer day.
20. Kids Under 3 Eat Free – Children under the age of three eat for free at Disney’s buffets and family style table service restaurants. Do you even need another reason to schedule a vacation with toddlers?
21. Get a Button– Special occasion buttons are given to celebrate a Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, 1stVisit, and Just Married occasions. Special events like this can be celebrated six months before the actual date and six months after the date, so go ahead and celebrate with a button. Many people turn these into refrigerator magnets when they get home. Forget the ice cream on my shirt story from #18. Once I spilled Ketchup on my shirt, and I covered it up with a button. I also wore my birthday button to work one year.
22. PhotoPass – Cast Members take your Photopass photos for free, and you can also then view your PhotoPass photos online for free. For more detailed information, use this link.
23. Free Photographer – Any PhotoPass Cast Member will take photos of you with your own camera. All you have to do is ask.
24. “Ears to the World” Disney Show Translators – Attraction Translation Devices are wireless headphone units that Guests can wear during select attractions. Featuring performances by professional character actors, the devices provide non-English-speaking Guests translation for over 30 attractions and shows throughout the four Disney World theme parks. State-of-the-art technology synchronizes the translation with the attraction, providing a truly magical experience from start to finish.
Attraction Translation Devices are complimentary and available at Guest Relations in each of the four theme parks. A refundable $100 deposit is required. Please note that the device must be returned on the same day at the same location before park closing for the refund to be returned. View all attractions that utilize Attraction Translation Devices throughout the theme parks.
25. MagicBands and Cards – MagicBands and cards are all-in-one devices that can serve as your ticket, room key, payment method, identification, and lots more. For more information, use this link: Walt Disney World MagicBands: A Cheapskate Guide.
26. Parking – To save yourself a parking, you just need to be a Disney Resort hotel guest with a valid Key to the World Card or Resort Parking Permit. Annual and Premium Passholders, in addition to Disney Premier Passport holders, can also park at no additional charge. There are 2016 parking fees:
- Standard parking: car or motorcycle – $20 per day
- Shuttle, Limo, Camper, Trailer or RV – $22 per day
- Preferred parking: car or motorcycle – $35 per day
27. Trading Cards – The Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game gives you five collectible trading cards per day for each ticket that has been activated that day. If dad stays back at the resort, sorry, you can’t pick up his cards. You can get your cards each day at the Fire Station on Main Street and over in Liberty Square by the Christmas Shop.
28. Free Snack Samples – Visit the Main Street, U.S.A., Confectionery for an assortment of free candy samples. Cotton Candy is a pretty common sample handed out daily.
29. Boat Ride – There are boats that cross back and forth from the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge and Ft. Wilderness, the Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian Resorts. From the Magic Kingdom, you can take a boat ride to any of these locations or even hop on the monorail.
30. Hair Confetti – The Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street, U.S.A., will sprinkle confetti and “pixie dust” on your child’s hair for free. Castle Couture in Fantasyland also has “pixie dust.”
31. Resort Monorails – Ride the free monorail around to resort hop. A huge part of Disney “history,” kids and kids at heart all love riding the monorails. The middle of the day might possibly be a less busy time, as they can be quite congested first thing in the morning and at closing.
32. Get a Picture Made with Santa – During the Christmas holidays, Santa sets up shop on Main Street, U.S.A., so bring your camera or have your PhotoPass card ready.
33. Grab Some Cracker Jacks – At Casey’s Corner at the end of Main Street, U.S.A., arrive just before opening time. Cast Members do an opening pitch and sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” While they sing, they pass out free big bags of Cracker Jacks to the guests listening to the song.
34. Get a Drink – Club Cool in Epcot’s Future World, sponsored by Coca-Cola, offers weary Epcot (You know what EPCOT stands for, right? Every Person Comes Out Tired) walkers eight drinks from around the world (all of which are types of Coca-Cola brands). Taste as much of the beverage samples as you want for as long as you want.
35. Try the Beverly – We just mentioned Club Cool. The “Beverly” is so famous among Disney fans that it earned its own number on our list. The Beverly is a rite of Epcot passage.
36. Kids Crafts – See the Cast Member at any Kidcot Fun Stop to get a complimentary cardboard Duffy the Disney Bear for your child to decorate and personalize with the free supplies at each station. Cast Members will share insights about their native lands, such as how to say “hello,” and they will give your child a stamp of Duffy in each country.
Where to Find Kidcot Fun Stops
- Mexico Pavilion (near Animales Fantasticos)
- Norway Pavilion (at The Puffin’s Roost)
- China Pavilion (near the exit of Reflections of China)
- Germany Pavilion (at Volkunst)
- Italy Pavilion (outside, near La Bottega Italiana)
- American Adventure Pavilion (outside, near Heritage Manor Gifts)
- Japan Pavilion (in the Bijutsu-kan Gallery)
- Morocco Pavilion (at the Marketplace in the Medina)
- France Pavilion (at Souvenirs de France)
- United Kingdom Pavilion (at The Toy Soldier)
- Canada Pavilion (at the exit of O Canada!)
37. Go on a Secret Mission – Solve clues with Agent P to thwart some of Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s most daringly evil plots. Visit a recruitment center at Odyssey Bridge, Norway Pavilion, Italy Pavilion or near the International Gateway to receive your assignment. Here you will pick up an interactive handheld device that will guide you on your mission. Now scour for clues throughout the World Showcase and visit such destinations as:
- Mexico Pavilion
- Norway Pavilion
- China Pavilion
- Germany Pavilion
- Japan Pavilion
- France Pavilion
- United Kingdom Pavilion.
Each mission lasts anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, and because each pavilion hosts a different mission, you can go back again and again.
38. Christmas Holiday Gingerbread Creations – Celebrate the amazing work of the Disney Pastry Chefs at The Land Pavilion at Epcot. You’ll enjoy their tantalizing takes on popular icons from Disney Parks and Resorts around the world.
39. See Independence Hall, 1776 – Let freedom ring in the Christmas holiday season with this miniature replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, showing off the artistic talents of Disney Pastry Chefs.
40. Character Photo – You have to have a Disney Chase Visa Card, but if you do, enjoy a private character meet and greet at Epcot that also includes a FREE 5×7 photo.
41. E-mail a Video to Your friends – Once you ride Spaceship Earth, you are deposited at Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future. Here you can send an e-mail of yourself to your friends not lucky enough to be on vacation or to family members.
42. Take a Boat Ride – We’re almost at our list for Hollywood Studios, so this is a good place to discuss how both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are accessible by boat. Most routes run on 15- to 30-minute intervals. This means you can take a free boat ride to the following resorts for some resort hopping if you need a break mid-day or early evening:
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
- Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
43. Get Passports – During the Food & Wine Festival, passports are available. Each kiosk has a stamp, which makes for a fun activity, starting a collection or gathering for a scrap-book.
44. Get a Jedi Training Certificate – At the Jedi Training Academy, Junior Jedi Knights learn to use the Force in a 20-minute training academy as they prepare to meet the Dark Side. To sign up, potential Padawans should report to the queue outside the ABC Sound Studio at park opening. Twelve guests between the ages of 4 and 12 years of age will be selected for each show. Participating kids will get a certificate at the end of Jedi training
45. Ride to the Boardwalk – Take a free boat ride to Boardwalk Resort, which is especially beautiful in the evenings. Entertainment here is listed below.
46. Early Dining Certificate – Be the first person to arrive for breakfast at Hollywood and Vine, and you get a certificate for being the first family of the day.
47. Get a Disney Junior Dance Party Balloon – Put your hands in the air and follow the DJ as you groove to hot hits at this ultra-fun, high-energy dance party. Kids can cut loose with Characters from Disney Junior like Handy Manny, as well as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto and more. New characters fill the floor throughout the night. You never know when someone special like Jake and the Never Land Pirates or Bones & Sharkey might appear. This event is only offered during Evening Extra Magic Hours. Music videos play on the big screen above the stage.
A balloon artist adds to the fun by creating animals with a twist. Take one away as a party favor!
48. Take Home a Free Drawing – At the Animation Academy, with help from a Disney artist, you will enjoy a unique hands-on opportunity to draw your very own Disney character sketch. Unlike the Animation Academy at DisneyQuest, you can take your drawing home for free.
This was our toughest park to find any free activities or goodies, but the Wilderness Explorers Program has vacationers raving about how much fun they had, all for free.
49. Explore The Wilderness
Follow in the footsteps of Russell and his faithful dog, Dug, from the Disney•Pixar film Up! as you jaunt across jungles, furrow into forests and make way through the woods in a a series of fact-finding challenges. Think you know the wilderness? Well, now you can prove it. Dozens of self-guided activities await your arrival, with missions ranging from animal observation to learning all-too-important nature skills.
Collect over 30 badges and earn the right to echo the Wilderness Explorer call—“Caw! Caw! Roar!” Each challenge is totally different from the next, and with each one you complete, you can collect a new sticker badge to place in your official Wilderness Explorer field guide, including:
- Veterinary Badge – Help diagnose a sea turtle’s health issue
- Dinosaur Badge – Join in the exploration for dinosaur fossils
- Animal Find Badge – Check off each of the animals you see
- Music Badge – Learn how to play an African drum pattern
- Yeti Badge – Find Yeti artifacts and hear about the folklore
With so many activities at hand, completing them all may take you more than just a single visit.
Disney Springs/Downtown Disney
50. Splash Around – In the section with Goofy’s Candy Co., in full sight 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.
51. Play with Legos – 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.
52. Get Free Legos – Visit your local LEGO Store on the first Tuesday of every month and you can learn how to build a cool mini model, and take it home – for free! Quantities are limited and offer is good while supplies last only. A new model will be available every month and will be specially themed to that month – ask a Store Associate for details. These models are not for sale and cannot be purchased. One free per child. This event is open to children ages 6 to 14 only.
53. Free Chocolate! – Cast Members at Ghiradelli’s Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop hand out free chocolate samples throughout the day. While these 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!
54. Check out the Movie Props – Pop into Planet Hollywood and take a look at all of the movie props. (This may be changing as Planet Hollywood is re-imagined in 2016)
55. Goofy’s Glaciers Free Samples – This isn’t an all you care to drink buffet of samples like at Epcot’s Club Cool, but rather it is a small slushy sample to wet your whistle.
56. Wash your Hands – I know, I know, how much fun can hand washing be? Sugar and Salt Scrubs make your hands feel soft and smooth. 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. You can wash your hands with their 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.
57. Hydrate Your Skin – Basin also has an assortment of lotions samples you can try for free. Even for men that are not big shoppers, Basin smells wonderful and is a great store to look around in.
58. Ship It from Aaribas Brothers – If you purchase $50 worth of merchandise and prefer to have it shipped home, shipping from Aaribas Brothers is free. This would be a great idea since most of their store is cut glass, blown glass, glass figurines, and all sorts of breakable glass items.
More Disney Springs
59. Take a Boat Trip – Cruise from Port Orleans to Disney Springs and back along the Sassagoula River. Take a Disney water shuttle over to Port Orleans, Saratoga Springs, and Old Key West Resorts. Not only is the boat ride fun, but you can go look around the property. You might decide one of these locations is where you want to stay on your next vacation. 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. Most routes run on 15- to 30-minute intervals.
60. Enjoy Some Live Music – With restaurants like House of Blues, Paradiso 37, Raglan Road, there is no shortage of Disney Springs music floating over the crowds. Even the new bowling alley, called Splittsville Luxury Lanes, frequently has outdoor musicians.
61. Car Masters Weekend – Enjoy an event dedicated to all things automotive, including a dynamic car show, culminating in an exciting parade ceremony. Hit the road to the Disney Springs area each summer for an unforgettable automobile extravaganza! There’s a ton of fun to rev your engine to and a host of unforgettable activities. Dates for 2014 were June 14 – June 15. All entertainment and appearances are subject to change without notice, but possible activities may include:
- Disney Character Meet ‘n’ Greet – Snap some pictures and get to know a few of your favorite Disney Characters.
- Disney Springs Car Show – Lock your eyes on classic and exotic cars—pick your favorites and see which ones win awards.
- Auto Personality Appearances – Fill up your schedule with special appearances and autographs from automotive celebrities.
- Car Masters Merchandise – Take the event home with a purchase from a large selection of event merchandise.
- Exotic Driving Experience – Get up close to real-life supercars and learn how you can get behind the wheel at Walt Disney World Speedway.
62. Festival of the Masters (presented by Michaels) The downtown festival is held each fall, which in 2013 ran from Nov. 8 to Nov. 10. This is an art lovers paradise, a vibrant, open-air art festival featuring beautiful displays of work by award-winning artists.
This world-renowned show is a highly anticipated annual event for Disney guests, artists, collectors and art lovers alike, and there is fun for the entire family, including:
- One-of-a-kind and limited-edition painting, photography, sculpture, jewelry and more
- Hands-on activities for Guests of all ages and interests
- Live musical performances
- Unique shopping opportunities—from fine art to Disney collectibles
In 2014, this event was cancelled because of all the construction turning Downtown Disney into Disney Springs. There are no dates scheduled for 2015, but 2016 is just around the bend, so stay tuned for updates.
63. Festival of the Seasons – Enjoy Disney Springs holiday entertainment (November 15 – December 29 for 2013) plus holiday sights and sounds. Live Christmas entertainment includes carolers, Latin, jazz and pop performances of cherished holiday songs, costumed stilt walkers, street performers, and a lively holiday dance party with deejay.
64. Visit with Santa – During the Disney Springs Festival of the Seasons, you can visit with Santa and have your picture taken.
65. The St. Patrick’s Day Celebration – During two weekends of music and merriment in March, slip on your finest green duds and head to Disney Springs, ready to lock arms for some Irish dancing and live music.
66. See a Show– There is an outdoor stage across from The World of Disney store. You will find 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.
67. Live Entertainment – 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 Disney Springs area. Our family has watched Christmas Soldiers dance on stilts 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 perform live. Often there are street performers like jugglers, comedians, fire-eaters, and jazz ensembles in the evenings. Find a spot with a good view and enjoy the show.
68. Take Some Photos – WDW is certainly not lacking for places to take photos, but certain areas offer more opportunities than others to pose with Disney characters without standing in long lines. At Disney Springs, take photos with all the different Disney-themed signs and statues. Children and adults alike love these, and remember those Lego statues are really cool to be photographed with.
69. March in a Parade – Coming from the World of Disney, which houses the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, there is an occasional 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! (This may have changed as Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique moved to a new location in a stand alone building by Once Upon a Toy.)
70. Sit on a Hog – 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 interesting non-cheapskate fun, check out the prices!
71. Watch a Glass Demonstration – Once you enter 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 are 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.
72. Watch an Artist – 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.
73. Play Some Games – Once Upon a Toy has the largest assortment of toys and games in all of the Walt Disney World Resort. 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.
74. Window Shop – Disney Springs 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.
75. Park for Free – Unlike Universal Studios City Walk, you can park for free at Downtown Disney Springs. Parking has changed drastically with the addition of the two new aboveground parking garages. Traffic will be congested in this area for as they finish road renovations, but parking is now definitely easier and high-tech.
To save yourself some walking, you can take the free shuttle boat from the DisneyQuest and House of Blues area over to the area where Disney busses load/unload by Rainforest Cafe.
The Boardwalk at the Boardwalk Resort
76. Music & a Show – From the Boardwalk, walk over to the back gate of Epcot or over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios around closing time. Enjoy the music and perhaps catch a glimpse of IllumiNations or Fantasmic! The bridge that goes over to the Swan and Dolphin sometimes has good views.
77. Dance the Night Away – When the sun sets, the sounds and lights come to life at the Atlantic Dance Hall in the elegant surroundings of a stunning Art Deco ballroom. Stars twinkle from the celestial ceiling over the expansive dance floor. Between tunes, take a break on one of the balconies with a romantic view Crescent Lake, which stretches from the edge of the Dance Hall to the BoardWalk and beyond. Atlantic Dance Hall is for Guests who are 21 years of age and older.
78. Dance Some More – On Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday nights at the Atlantic Dance Hall, request your favorite music videos and dance along with Video VJs. Whether your favorites are Duran Duran or the Black Eyed Peas, shake it to the music and images of popular bands on the big screen above. On Thursday and Friday nights, get caught up in the musical crosshairs as dueling DJs trade fire across the dance floor.
79. Take a Boat Trip – Cruise the loop on a boat around Crescent Lake, which visits Epcot, Boardwalk, Yacht/Beach Club, Swan/Dolphin, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios without going into the parks.
80. Hear a Radio Show – ESPN has a live radio show on Disney’s Boardwalk at the ESPN Club. Sometimes you can catch a live interview with a celebrity athlete at one of these high-spirited sports-radio talk shows. This Disney link may provide more information.
Free at the Resorts
81. Go Visit – Disney has an “open resort policy” where you don’t have to be staying at the resort to go visit, which is also called “resort hopping.” This would be a great time to determine what section of the property you might like to make reservations for on your next trip or inquire at the front desk about rates and current discounts. Parking is also free while you visit the resorts.
82. Wishes Viewing – Watch the Magic Kingdom Wishes fireworks show from one of the many Disney resorts on the monorail circle. My favorite resort for this view is the Polynesian, with the fireworks directly across the Seven Seas Lagoon. Music is piped in, so while you might not be at the Magic Kingdom for Wishes, it’s the next best thing.
83. Night Time Water Parade – Visit the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Ft. Wilderness, or the Contemporary Resort to catch a glimpse of the nightly water show, The Electrical Water Pageant. This water-light parade was created in 1971 for the dedication of Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Scheduled to run just that one time only, popularity keeps it playing each night. Approximate show times are:
- Polynesian Resort, 9:00 p.m.
- Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, 9:15 p.m
- Wilderness Lodge, 9:30 p.m.
- Fort Wilderness Campground, 9:45 p.m.
- Contemporary Resort 10:00p.m.
84. Fireside Marshmallows – Camp fires at resorts offer free marshmallows and roasting sticks. Complimentary campfire activities can be found at 14 locations at Walt Disney World Resort. Locations include:
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s Boardwalk Inn
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
- The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
85. Campfire Stories and Songs – Stories, songs and more keep the kids entertained and provide a memorable way to cap off your day. Gather ’round the campfire for lively storytelling, spirited sing-alongs and tasty treats. S’mores kits and other refreshments are available for purchase at most locations, or for the cheaper route, you can bring your own. Blankets or something to sit on are welcome so that you can get comfy and cozy.
86. See a Movie – Come for the campfire, and then stay for a movie. Take in one of the many free “Movies Under the Stars” outdoor movies at WDW resorts following the campfires. Huge screens are blown up for nightly movies outside the resorts. This can depend on weather. At some resorts, you will need to bring a towel or blanket to sit on, and at others, they provide chairs. Call the resort desk for specific information. (This may have changed in the summer of 2016 following the tragic accident involving a older and an alligator. I would phone the front desk for locations and details.)
Movies and entertainment are subject to cancellation or change without notice. For movie schedules, please check with the Front Desk at your Walt Disney World Resort, or call 407- WDW-PLAY or 407- 939-7529.
87. Hear a Holiday Performance – During the Christmas holidays, choirs, from elementary and middle school through retirement ages, are frequent presences in the resort lobbies signing holiday tunes. Don’t rush off to the theme parks; stop and sing along to a few songs.
88. Playgrounds – Enjoy the playgrounds found at the resorts. There seems to be no need to list all the resorts individually that have playgrounds, because there are playgrounds at almost all of them. These are great for a free day or when the parks close early for holiday parties. Coronado Springs has an amazing kid’s playground next to the Aztec-themed pool.
89. Resort Tours – Several of the resorts, including Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Grand Floridian, and Yacht Club, offer FREE Tours that are open to any Disney resort guests. Some of the tours require a reservation, so call the resort for specific information in advance.
90. Free Snack Samples – Many resorts are now offering cupcakes and assorted sugary goodies in their gift shops, kept in refrigerated cases for freshness. One excellent gift shop that comes to mind is Bay View Gifts (BVG) at the Contemporary Resort. Check the top of the snack case for occasional free snack samples like cookies and fudge. Theme park souvenirs can be delivered right to this Resort hotel at no extra charge, letting you keep your hands free while enjoying the parks.
91. Free Bus Transportation – Most areas throughout Walt Disney World Resort, including theme parks, water parks, resort hotels and the Disney Springs area, are accessible by complimentary bus transportation. This is old news unless you are planning a first visit.
92. Character Greeting Call – When you check into your resort, ask a Cast Member to set up a “Welcome Call” from a Disney Character. Like Disney magic, Mickey or one of his Goofy friends will leave a message on your room phone.
93. Character Wake Up Call – Just like the greeting we mentioned above, schedule a wake up call to your resort room and a Disney character, usually Mickey, will call to wake you up.
94. Lobby Cartoons – Resort lobbies have TVs set up playing older Disney cartoons. If your kids are tired of walking while you resort hop and need a break, tell them to have a seat.
95. Pool Side Games – Lots of WDW resort activities include a fee, but many Disney resorts now offer games lead by Cast Members poolside for the kids. By the way, swimming at resorts where you are not a registered guest is not allowed (unless you are a DVC member, and this only applies to certain resorts.) Use this link to read more in regards to Resort Pool Hopping Rules.
96. Resort Monorails – Monorails are a huge part of Disney “history,” and you can ride around for free to resort hop. Kids and kids at heart all love riding the monorails. The middle of the day might possibly be a less busy time, as the monorail cars can be quite congested first thing in the morning and at closing.
97. Longer Monorail Rides – How often can you ride a monorail at home? For a longer monorail journey, ride over to EPCOT. This trips takes about 20 minutes round trip, not including time to wait for a monorail to arrive. You catch the Epcot monorail at the TTC (Ticket & Transportation Center.)
98. Boat Ride – There are boats that visit the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge and Ft. Wilderness, the Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian. You can get off the boat at the Magic Kingdom and wander along the lake outside the gates or hop on the monorail.
99. Online Check-In – As a free service to make your vacation less stressful, Disney allows you to start your check-in online beginning 60 days before your stay at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Then when you arrive, head to the Online Check-In Desk. Pick up your Welcome Folder and MagicBand/Key to the World card. Provide a valid photo I.D., complete your check-in, and you are on your way to fun.
100. Disney’s Magical Express – Enjoy complimentary transportation and luggage delivery to and from Orlando International Airport. Advance reservations are required. The Disney’s Magical Express bus stop is located just in front of all the resort lobbies.
101. Shampoos and Soaps – Shampoos and soaps at the resorts are lovely, created by a company called H2O just for Disney. We stopped bringing our own toiletries with us on vacation, and instead use the H2O soaps, conditioners, and shampoos. If you run out, run down the hall to Mouse Keeping and ask for extras. If you don’t mind paying a tip, call the front desk and ask for extras to be delivered to your room.
102. Freshen Up – For registered resort guests, there are towels available that can be used in the pool side showers located in the bathrooms. Take a swim on check-out day. Want to speed up the showering process at night after a long day at the parks? Send family to the showers near the pool. They are clean and smell lovely.
103. Hear a Story – Just outside the main lobby, Animal Kingdom Lodge has a campfire with a storyteller each night. If you miss the story, pull up a seat and enjoy the fire. You might want to stand further back in the summer.
104. See Unusual Animals – Outside the lobby, you can see exotic African animals walking around on the “Arusha savanna.” The best time to see the animals is generally regarded as dusk. Cast Members/Cultural Guides will answer questions about the kudu giraffe, zebra, ankole cattle, and other animals.
105. Experience Night Vision– Disney Cast Members will be on hand at the viewing locations for several hours with night vision glasses for watching the animals in their natural habitats, just this time in the dark.
106. Restaurant Tours at Animal Kingdom – The restaurants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offer free 30-minute tours focusing on the culinary selections and architecture. The three restaurants (Sanaa, Boma, and Jiko) offer dishes from African and India. These restaurants offer pre-dinner tours with samples of their unusual cuisine. For the Sanaa tour, meet at the Sanaa podium at 4pm. To tour Boma and Jiko, meet at the Jiko podium at 4pm.
Beach and Yacht Club
107. Holiday Decorations – During the Christmas holidays, you can see the “Holiday Village” in the resort lobby. Created by Cast Members, there’s a miniature train that makes its way through a quaint village over to a sugar rock mountain.
108. The Edible Carousel – Again during the Christmas holiday season, you can view a life-size, edible spinning Holiday Carousel. 2015 will mark 15 years the carousel has been created. Look for magical surprises and hidden Mickey’s hiding in the carousel’s décor.
The BoardWalk Resort
109. The Holiday Gazebo – Gaze up at this merry gazebo in the lobby at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort and examine a scene made entirely out of gingerbread and chocolate. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for Hidden Mickeys just waiting to be discovered.
110. Stitch’s Bakery Store Front – During Christmas, explore a Stitch-sized replica of the BoardWalk Bakery’s store front in the lobby. Keep a lookout for Lilo as Cast Members create gingerbread houses right in front of you.
Contemporary/ Bay Lake Tower Resorts
See Some Butterflies – Visit the Contemporary Resort Butterfly Garden, located on the left side of the resort as you walk out the back of the lobby towards the pool and Bay Lake. We won’t remove this in hopes they bring it back, but this garden has been gone since Dec. of 2015.
112. Gingerbread Holiday Decorations – During the Christmas holidays on the Grand Canyon Concourse, there is a a gigantic gingerbread holiday decoration with ornaments, candy canes and presents. For years, the theme was the Small World characters inspired by Mary Blair’s massive mural in the building. 2014 saw a “Frozen” themed gingerbread display. You will often find Disney Characters available here for photos, and if not, you can snap your own in front of a holiday background.
Ft. Wilderness Campground
113. Butterflies – Just outside the Outpost, visit the butterfly garden.
114. Sing Some Songs – Ft. Wilderness Campground offers a step up from the usual resort camp fires. There is a free sing along with Chip and Dale near the Meadow Trading Post. This occurs every evening at approximately 7:00 p.m. in the fall/winter and 8:00 p.m. during spring/summer. The program starts with a sing-a-long and marshmallow roast. Chip and Dale meet the guests and sign autographs. Then a Disney movie is shown on a large outdoor screen. There is some seating on bleachers and benches, or you can lay out a blanket. No reservations are necessary, so you just show up and enjoy the fun.
115. Explore the Ranch – At the Tri-Circle-D Ranch from to through the stables to see Cinderella’s Ponies and the horses of Main Street, U.S.A..You might get to see the blacksmith make horseshoes and put them to horses’ hooves. Look for the Dragon Calliope—the horse-drawn musical instrument that Walt Disney purchased for the Mickey Mouse Club Circus Parade at Disneyland Park in the 1950s. There are many differnt variety of breeds residing at Tri-Circle-D Ranch, including Appaloosas, Arabians, Belgians, Clydesdales, paint horses, Percherons, quarter horses, and Shetland ponies.
116. Do Some Dancing – Learn to Hula Dance at the Polynesian Hotel. You’ll learn a variety of native chants and dances from tropical locales.
Port Orleans Resort
117. Sing-along – Port Orleans-Riverside offers a seasonal “Campfire on de’ Bayou” with stories and sing-alongs around a fire at the Ol’ Man Island Fishin’ Hole. There are no characters at this Sing A Long, unlike at Ft. Wilderness Campground, and this event usually runs in the winter (Halloween t0 March) for just a few nights a week (possibly Sunday and Thursday) when the weather is permitting. The front desk will have a schedule. No reservations are necessary — just show up.
118. See the Fireworks – Watch the Wishes fireworks from the Grand Floridian boat dock. Narcoossees restaurant is nearby, and you can enjoy the fireworks synchronized to the music from their speakers.
119. Hear a Live Performance – There may be no better place in all of WDW to hear a live pianist and a Big Band performing Disney themed tunes, all for free. Little kids and adults alike will often dance along.
120. Take a Run/Walk – This pathway runs along Seven Seas Lagoon. Approximately one mile long each way, it connects the two Resorts, passes Disney’s Wedding Pavilion and offers a view of Magic Kingdom park.
121. Gingerbread House – There is a life-size gingerbread house built in the lobby during the holidays. 2016 is the 18th Anniversary of the gingerbread house, which is the most spectacular of all the Disney Christmas decorations.
122. Meet Mickey & Minnie – During the Christmas holidays, a HUGE Christmas tree is erected in the middle of the lobby. Mickey and Minnie, all decked out in Christmas attire, appear by the tree for photos. Lines are not that long, so bring your camera and ask a Cast Member to snap a shot of the whole family.
123. Wash Your Hands – At Basin White, a retail store found in the main lobby, you can wash your hands with free salt and sugar scrubs. They also have free samples of hand lotions. This store smells simply wonderful, and your hands will feel silky smooth after you finish your wash.
Activities at Wilderness Lodge
124. Rail Road Memorabilia – Walk from the main Lobby over to the Vacation Club Villas section to see the Walt Disney railroad memorabilia. If you enjoy Disney history, you probably know that Walt Disney was fascinated with steam trains. The Wilderness Lodge Villas host a mini-museum of art, photographs, replicas, and actual artifacts from Walt’s hobby and Disney World’s earliest years.
125. Play Some Games by the Fire – In a corner of the Villas building at Wilderness Lodge in the Carolwood Pacific Room, you can spend the afternoon playing chess, sitting by the fireplace, or learn more about Walt Disney’s favorite hobby. This is a lovely, relaxing area of the Lodge. Pull up a chair by the fireplace; be sure you notice the fireplace screen featuring ironwork trains.
126. Enjoy the Christmas Tree – When the holiday season rolls around, a massive Christmas tree is erected in the center of the lobby. PhotoPass photographers are available to snap your picture, or you can just take your own photo.
127. Check Out the Indian Artifacts – Artifacts from a variety of Native American tribes, including the Cheyenne, Crow, Sioux and Blackfoot, have been collected, re-created, and displayed throughout Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Authentic reproductions of headdresses, painted robes and drums, as well as work from artists noted for their reverence for nature, can be seen in the lobby’s secluded alcoves and throughout the Resort’s restaurants and sitting rooms.
128. Carved Totem Poles – There are two hand-carved totem poles, both 55-feet tall, with one topped with a raven and the other with an eagle. All the animals carved into these totems depict Native American myths and legends. By Wilderness Lodge Mercantile,there is a 10-foot totem pole with carvings of Donald Duck, Goofy, and Mickey Mouse.
129. See Mickey & Goofy at Christmas – Mickey and Goofy often make an appearance during the Christmas holidays at night. Photos are free. Again, PhotoPass photographers are available to snap your picture, or you can just take your own photo.
130. Free Help Planning a Vacation– Using a Disney Vacation Planner is free. Our Destinations in Florida agents charge nothing for their services, zero, zip, nada. They are a zero out-of-pocket expense to clients. From dinner reservations and purchasing tickets to determining resort discounts and free vacation quotes, Destinations in Florida can make your vacation a reality. And remember, they charge clients nothing.
There you go…130 items and activities at Walt Disney World for FREE. I like to think of this as a one stop reference to a ton of cheapskating information you could use on your next trip. Disney World is magical and fantastical, but it is expensive. We could all use a financial break every now and then.
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