Updated July 2015!
Opening on October 1, 1971, Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort was one of the original WDW resorts built at the same time as the Magic Kingdom. The Grand Opening ceremony was held on the beach, with celebrities in attendance like Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, and Fred MacMurray. The “Village” portion of the name was dropped during the 1980s, leaving the name as simply “Disney’s Polynesian Resort.” These deluxe accommodations are located on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon, occupying 39 acres and replicating a South Pacific paradise, adorned with beaches, tropical landscaping, tiki torches, and waterfalls. The Great Ceremonial House is the center of the resort as well as the lobby.
Have you ever wanted to visit the Polynesian for an hour or so just to see what other resort accommodations are available? Or as I tell my children, “let’s go see how the other half lives!” If you are on a tight budget, it sure would be nice to have something to do that won’t cost you a fortune. We scoured the Internet for activities that were totally FREE at the Polynesian to create this Freebie Guide, so grab a pencil and turn the page in your Disney planning notebook, because here we go…
1. Visit Other Resorts
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 where you want to stay on a future trip or inquire at the front desk about rates and current discounts. You can walk to the Grand Floridian or hop a monorail, which also goes to Bay Lake Resort and the Contemporary Resort. From the Contemporary, a boat will take you to Wilderness Lodge, but you cannot catch this transportation directly from the Polynesian.
2. Park for Free
Parking is also free while you visit the resorts.
3. View Wishes
You will be able to see 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. If you are lucky, a swing or hammock will be available.
4. Catch the Night Time Water Parade
You can catch a glimpse of the nightly water show, The Electrical Water Pageant. This water-light parade was created in 1971 just for the dedication of the Polynesian Resort. Scheduled to run 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.
5. Listen to 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. At the Polynesian, they were regularly located by the lobby door leading out to the swimming pools.
6. Roast a Marshmallow Fireside
Camp fires at resorts offer free marshmallows and roasting sticks. Complimentary campfire activities can be found at 14 locations at Walt Disney World Resort including the Polynesian.
7. Watch a Sunset
Frequent visitors will tell you that sunsets at the resorts are magical. Park yourself on the beach and listen to the sounds of boats horns, children splashing in the pool, wildlife, and “happiness” as my children often said. The lake is a beautiful place to stop and pretend you really are at a South Sea paradise.
8. 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.
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.
9. See a Torch Lighting Ceremony
At the Polynesian Resort, there is a short program featuring an authentic Polynesian dancer. He performs a traditional fire-knife dance and then lights the torches leading into the Great Ceremonial House. A Polynesian entertainer will perform chants and authentic drumming. This mini-show is presented each evening Tuesday through Saturday at 6 p.m. I would suggest calling the resort before you arrive to make double sure this event is still held.
10. Window Shop
There are several gift shops at the Polynesian, perfect for actual Disney Visa card shopping, but even better for some old-fashioned “window shopping.” Which of course is best because it’s free, but good luck on resisting the souvenirs, snacks, and clothing. You have several shopping options.
- Downstairs, BouTIKI sells souvenirs, more expensive men’s and women’s clothing, fine jewelry, picture frames, glassware, and other upper line merchandise.
- Upstairs, Trader Jacks sells lower priced gift and souvenir items which seem more targeted toward the younger or vacation budget conscious crowd, including t-shirts, swimming accessories, key chains, etc. Trader Jacks has a pin trading cart located outside in the lobby – you won’t miss this as you exit the monorail entering the building as you turn to the right.
- Next door upstairs, Samoa Snacks, sells alcohol, film, drinks and snacks.
11. Take Home a Polynesian Lei
In the lobby of the Polynesian Resort, Cast Members often hand out plastic tropical leis, or they are hanging on a display stand by the children’s Disney cartoon viewing area.
12. Mickey Hunt
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge has a special self-guided Hidden Mickey hunt available to everyone. Just stop at the front desk and ask for the paper describing the clues for the hunt, then spend an afternoon exploring the resort.
13. Watch Some Cartoons
Resort lobbies have TVs set up playing older Disney cartoons. If your kids are tired of walking while you resort hop – or tired in general- and need a break, tell them to have a seat. This is also nice child distraction while the adults check into the resort after a long drive or flight.
14. Learn the Hula
The Polynesian Resort offers free hula classes Monday through Saturday at 3:45 and on Saturday mornings from 10:00 until noon. The 3:45 classes are designed for younger children, but the Saturday morning class is for all ages. Classes are reportedly taught by Auntie Kaui, who is a hula dancer with over 50 years of experience. While there is some remodeling going on at the Polynesian, classes are usually held in the back of the lobby.
15. Take a Walk
There are walking paths from the Polynesian going in all directions, like over to the Ticket and Transportation Center. This is how my family usually gets to the Polynesian, by taking a monorail over to the TTC and walking from there. It’s not very far, and the paths are especially beautiful at night. When construction for the new Vacation Club building is complete, you will be able to once again walk beside Seven Seas Lagoon, which is stunning at sunset. This path also goes over to the Grand Floridian Resort.
16. Take a Jog
For more of an extended walk, a jogging path circles around the Polynesian longhouses and reaches the Shades of Green Resort and back. Passing Luau Cove, the route is 1.5 miles. For a map of the jogging path, stop by Guest Services.
17. Tiki Search
BouTIKI has wooden statues made in Bali that weigh up to 1,000 pounds each. There are many tikis around the hotel, so see who can find more, you or the kids.
18. Take a Seat
The lobby has lots of comfy chairs and couches just waiting for a tired walker. Take a seat, and watch the action as happy vacationers zip in and out of the building. The Polynesian is a busy place, and thus it’s a great place to people watch.
Our next two items aren’t found at the resort, but they can definitely add to your visit.
19. Treats on Christmas Day
On Christmas day in 2013, Deluxe and Moderate Resorts offered Snickerdoodle cookies and lemonade in the lobby. These were the same kind of cookies given out at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parties, and they were yummy.
20. Free Help Planning a Vacation
At Cheapskate Princess, we are all about finding discounts and cheap stuff. Many people don’t realize that using a Disney Vacation Planner is free. Erin, our Destinations in Florida agent, charges nothing for her services, zero, zip, nada. She is a zero out-of-pocket expense to her 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 she charges her clients nothing. And if you use her services, she often sends free gifts to clients like Disney Trading Pin sets and autograph books.
21. Cool maps!
How can you get cool map photos of the resorts like this for your scrapbooks, totally free?
Use this link to more map photos and instructions on where to find them. The maps are a great way to get excited about an upcoming trip or reminisce about your last vacation. And everybody loves free!
And there you have a ton of free things to do at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. With no discounts, the least expensive room at this resort will cost you $429.00 a night (2015 prices). Visiting the Disney resorts is free and a great way to spend an afternoon relaxing in-between days you spend at the parks. Just remember, one activity that seems inciting but is not allowed is pool hopping. For info. on the only people legally allowed to pool hop, use this link. A Cheapskate Princess knows how to find activities to do for free without breaking the rules.
For a great (pretty long and quite informative) article on the history of the Polynesian Resort, with old photos of the lobby and rooms, use this link to the DIS.
Did we forget anything?
Is any information outdated?
Sometimes activities pop up or are no longer available without notice. Leave us a comment so we can keep our information current. We’ll add and subtract free stuff as we find out about them. We love picking up tips from our readers, because it’s never too late to learn a few new tricks for your next vacation.
Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!
Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Erin, our Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida travel. She offers promotions like Disney Trading Pin sets, autograph books, and free Mickey Mouse ear hats for kids under age 17. We know our readers love free…