Updated July 2015!
If you are looking for the top of the line Disney World Resort accommodations, then look no further than the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. When he was initially planning the resorts built in close proximity to the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney planned the Polynesian resort to directly reflect Adventureland, the Contemporary Resort to reflect Tomorrowland, and the Grand Floridian was designed to mirror the splendor of Main Street, U.S.A..
The resort’s outer lodge buildings — Sago Cay, Sugarloaf Key, Conch Key, Boca Chica and Big Pine Key—are named for islands in the Florida Keys. Inspired mainly by San Diego’s spectacular Hotel Del Coronado, the Grand Floridian seamlessly blends Victorian elegance with modern-day amenities. The resort contains 867 rooms among six buildings. The monorail stop is designed to resemble a Victorian train station, leading you into a five-story lobby high-lighted with incredible stained glass domes. Glistening chandeliers, an aviary, potted palm trees and a grand piano providing live music add to the lavish ambiance here. An open-cage elevator transports guests to the second floor shops and restaurants. This resort is oh so lavish.
Are there any activities can you do for free here? We have gathered together an entire list of over 30 activities and created a Cheapskate Princess Guide, so get ready for a trip back in time into old Victorian elegance, in search of freebies!
1. Wishes Viewing
You can watch the Magic Kingdom Wishes fireworks 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, but that beach view has been blocked somewhat by the addition of the DVC rooms out over the lagoon. But even at the Grand, music will be piped in. So while you might not be at the Magic Kingdom for Wishes, if you are perhaps dining at the Grand Floridian late in the evening, step outside to see what you can see.
Perhaps the best place for viewing is on the pier leading to the transportation boats. While there is really no good place to sit and rest your feet here, there are no trees in your way either. Cop a squat – enjoy the show!
2. Fireside Marshmallows
Camp fires at resorts offer free marshmallows and roasting sticks for resort guests. Complimentary campfire activities can be found at 14 locations at the Walt Disney World Resort, but the Grand has an especially beautiful view of the Seven Seas Lagoon.
3. Go 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 referred to as “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.
Hop a boat to the Magic Kingdom, and with one more boat transfer, you can be at the Polynesian, the Contemporary, and one boat from there is Wilderness Lodge.
4. Park for Free
Parking is also free while you visit the resorts, with the general understanding that this is for a maximum of three hours. The length of acceptable time varies with who you talk to, but you’ll be finished walking around the Grand in that amount of time anyway.
5. See an Outdoor 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 the WDW resorts following the campfires. Huge screens are blown up for nightly movies outside, although 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.
6. Plan a Wedding
It’s just a short walk over to the Wedding Pavilion, at most 10 minutes if you walk slowly enough to take in the sights. Look around and perhaps plan your dream wedding!
7. Take a Jog
There’s a walking/jogging trail that starts at the Beach Pool entrance and loops past the Polynesian Resort’s beach and back for about a mile.
8. 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. goes by each night at 9:15 p.m.. 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.
9. See the Ladies
On Mondays and Thursdays, enjoy the Grand’s “Showkeeing Parade”as the Grand Floridian Ladies twirl their way to work through the courtyard with their parasols. With up to fifty Mouse Keepers, this tradition began when the resort first opened back in 1988.
10. View the Vintage Cars
Under the porte-cochere, a vintage car and carriage greet you as you enter the resort from the ground floor. One runs under its own horsepower, and the other would run under external horse power, if there was a horse around.
11. Check out the Yacht
Named so aptly, “The Grand One,” this 1.5 million dollar boat launches from the Grand Floridian, and for you big spenders, you can rent it for $550 an hour for up to 18 of your closest friends. The yacht is popular for wedding receptions and is often used to watch Wishes Fireworks show over Cinderella Castle from the Seven Seas Lagoon. Wikipedia says that yacht was given to Disney for free from SeaRay because Walt Disney World has purchased so many other boats for use around the resorts from SeaRay. I’d love to know if that little bit of trivia is correct!
12. Ride the Monorail
How often do you get to ride a monorail where you live? The answer for me is a big huge never. Riding the monorail is free, and while it can be crowded at certain times of day, like when everyone is trying to escape the heat of mid-day or going to grab a bite to eat outside of the Magic Kingdom, this is a lovely way to see the sights of the Seven Seas Lagoon from up in the air in the air-conditioning. (Note: sometimes the monorail can get a bit hot, depending on the season and crowd levels.)
13. Take a Walk
The Grand Floridian Resort resides on 40 acres along the Seven Seas Lagoon. Walking here, as if your feet weren’t tired enough, is a visual feast for the eyes, including glimpses of beautiful landscaping, several fountains, white sandy beaches, a marina and a dock, water craft rentals, a beach pool with waterfalls and zero-depth entry, and a yacht for charter. When you walk around, you’ll feel like you are walking around a resort where your grandparents might have stayed back in the day.
There may be no better place in all of the resorts to window shop, or actually real shop if you have the inclination, than at the Grand Floridian. All their shops have their own unique personalities, and the merchandise they sell is all different from the others. They also sell merchandise at this resort that you will not see at all the resort gift shops; some items are definitely upper end with brand names and big process, but you will also find affordable items like food, key chains, pins, and soap.
14. Window Shop at Summer Lace
Located on the first floor of the resort, Summer Lace features women’s designer fashions. This shop is open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Grand Floridian robes and logo items
- some character apparel, a cut above the usual t-shirt
- flip-flops and Crocs
- gold and silver jewelry
This gift shop feels like you’ve stepped into a designer boutique. Some of the famous designer names you will find here? These will vary from season to season, of course.
- Betsey Johnson
- Steve Madden
- Dooney & Bourke
- Harveys – Seat Belt Bags
- Tommy Bahama
- Lilly Pullitzer
- Vera Bradley
15. Window Shop at Sandy Cove Gift and Sundry Shop
Located on the first floor, just off the lobby as you walk out of the main area, Sandy Cove sells an assortment of items that won’t break the bank. This shop is open from 8am-10pm.
- fine chocolates, candies, and gourmet foods
- Grand Floridian logo merchandise
- items for Disney Digital cameras
- CDs by musicians who perform at the Grand Floridian
- cold beverages
- basic pharmacy items such as sunscreen, aspirin, allergy and cold medicine
- baby diapers and formula, shampoo, etc.
16. Window Shop at M. Mouse Mercantile
This gift shop can be found on the second floor near the monorail station. They carry Disney souvenir items including children’s apparel, toys, books, pins, and watches. This shop is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
17. Window Shop at Commander Porter’s
For the well dressed man in your life, Commander Porter’s on the second floor sells men’s apparel and some Grand Floridian-branded merchandise. This is your go-to shop for men’s designer clothing, including items from Tommy Bahama and Ralph Lauren Polo.
Men’s fragrances, golf apparel, and gift items are also available here. This shop is open daily from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m.
18. View Your PhotoPass Photos
Next to M. Mouse Mercantile, you can view your Disney’s PhotoPass photos at a kiosk and place orders as well. This photo location is open daily 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.
19. Wash Your Hands
While this doesn’t normally sound like a particularly fun activity, at Basin White, a retail store found on the second floor of the main lobby, you can wash your hands with sweet-smelling salt and sugar scrubs.
They sell beauty and bath products, but Basin also sells free samples of hand lotions. Your hands will feel silky smooth after you finish your wash. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more detailed information on Basin products and locations, use this link. Downtown Disney’s Basin: For $5.99, I Can Smell Like Disney All Day!
20. Hear a Concert
Beginning mid-afternoon, you will hear live music as soon as you walk into the lobby. Starting around 3 p.m., a pianist starts playing and alternates with an equally talented orchestra until almost 10 p.m. There is no better place in all of WDW to hear live musicians performing mostly Disney themed tunes, all for free. The orchestra is called the “Grand Floridian Society Orchestra.”
21. Cut a Rug
Little kids and adults alike will often dance along to the tunes, so grab your dancing’ shoes and join in!
22. Admire the Architecture
The attention to detail at the Grand is simply a cut above nearly all the Disney resorts. Chandeliers and stained glass skylights are some of the most impressive large elements you will see, but don’t miss the intricate tile work as you walk into the lobby from the monorail platform. You will think you have left present day and traveled back in time.
23. Lobby Cartoons
While you look at the fine detailing of the hotel lobby, there is a television 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. This is also nice child distraction while the adults check in after a long drive or flight.
24. Spot a Bride?
There are a great many weddings that take place next door to the Grand Floridian, so if you are there at a lucky time, you can spot a bride walking through the lobby in her wedding attire. Or you will frequently see entire bridal parties arranged on the grand stair way leading up to the second floor. Their excitement leaks out onto you as they prepare to start the rest of their lives from “the Happiest Place on Earth.”
25. Locate Hidden Mickeys
There are hidden Mickeys everywhere you turn at the resorts and parks if you stop to look close enough. Some of the most often spotted Mickeys are on the back of the piano in the main lobby and on the weather vanes on top of the roof. Hidden Mickeys.org has a list for you, so you can get a jump on exactly where to turn your attention, which can allow you time for other activities. Use this link to their Grand Floridian page.
26. Bird House/Aviary
There is a bird house in the lobby, which is two stories tall and contains no live birds, and for the life of me, I can not seem to locate any more information on this decorative item that has been found in the lobby for years. If you know the back story, leave us a comment so we can add it in.
27. Gingerbread House
In what may be the most famous of any Christmas decoration on WDW property, there is a life-size gingerbread house built in the Grand lobby during the holidays. 2015 will be the 17th anniversary of the gingerbread house, which is 16 feet high and 17 feet wide, taking six men almost 10 days to create.
What sort of ingredients are used to make this fabulous once-a-year holiday creation?
1050 of honey
140 pints of egg whites
700 pounds of chocolate
800 pounds of flour
35 pounds of spices
28. See the Tree!
Decorated with a Victorian theme, you have got to see the bird cages, intertwined swans, and tons of amazing golden-colored ornaments adorning this humongous Christmas tree. Assembled in just one night while guests sleep, the tree is four stories tall (40 feet) and sparkles with 45,000 lights.
29. Meet Holiday Minnie & Mickey
Mickey and Minnie Mouse, dressed in their Christmas finest, arrive to take photos in front of the grand Christmas tree. Lines are not that long, so bring your camera and ask a Cast Member to snap a shot of the whole family. This would make a fabulous Christmas card photo.
30. Easter Eggs Lobby Display
2015 was the 4th annual Easter egg display in the spacious Grand Floridian lobby with springtime edible works of art. While the days can vary from year to year, dates generally run the first week of April through Easter.
The enormous hand-paint Easter eggs, ranging from 16 to 20 inches tall and weighing over 9 pounds, are usually tinted cocoa butter, and frequently, the eggs tell familiar Disney stories like “The Little Mermaid,” “Cinderella,” “Pocahontas,” “Lady and the Tramp,” and “Frozen,” all created with modeling chocolate, fondant, sculpted sugar and royal icing.
31. Have a Picnic
The lobby, unlike a Disney resort like Bay Lake Tower, has a lot of seating, plus various tables and chairs. What better place for your own snack or picnic than a table within feet of a concert pianist?
32. Simply Take a Seat
This is my favorite activity here at the Grand Floridian, because by the time I make it over to this resort, my feet are tired and I need a rest. Unlike some of the newer DVC resorts like Bay Lake Tower, there are plenty of lobby seats here to grab at almost any time. Listen to the sounds of happy people walking on their way through the lobby toward some other fun activity. Listen to the oh-so-tallented musicians as they serenade you with your favorite Disney tunes. It’s truly heaven.
So there you go, over 30 activities that should be totally FREE at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. If you ever said,”Be sure to build time during the trip schedule to go resort hopping, because that’s free,” then you just might be a Cheapskate Princess!
We have several more “Free at the Resorts” articles you might enjoy, if you enjoy spending time at the Disney Resorts without spending a fortune.
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Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you on a couch in the lobby, watching the little girls in princess dresses dance standing on their father’s shoes.
Disney’s Cheapskate Princess