If you go to Walt Disney World (WDW), you can expect to spend a whole lot of money. Their hotels are expensive, their food is expensive, their souvenirs are expensive, their tickets to get into the parks are expensive; it’s all expensive (click here if you want to learn some ways to save money on your WDW vacation).
Thankfully, there are still plenty of things at WDW that are absolutely free. Granted, some of them require you to stay at their resort hotels, and others are only accessible if you’re inside one of their parks or have paid for something first, like a meal. But there are some things at WDW where you can drive up, park (for free) and participate, receive, watch, or what have you, for no cost. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Zero. Zed. Take a look:
- The Boardwalk Resort hotel offers free entertainment in the evenings. Musicians, magicians, jugglers, etc.; just walk up and down the boardwalk and wait to be entertained
- The patio for Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at the Polynesian Resort Hotel offers a ukulele player, on and off, throughout the evening
- The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra plays in the evenings at the Grand Floridian Resort Hotel, and there’s a live piano player in the lobby during the day
- Staged musical entertainment can also be found at Port Orleans French Quarter on a scheduled basis
- Disney Springs also offers free entertainment, either on their stage by World of Disney or tucked into various corners or spaces
- For most character meet & greets, you either have to be in the parks or have to have paid to attend a character meal. However, if you go to Fort Wilderness Campground, you can meet Chip & Dale at their Campfire Sing-A-Long, and it costs nothing. More info on WDW’s website.
Activities at Disney Springs
- The Lego store at Disney Springs has a huge pile of Legos for kids of all ages to play with. You have to leave your creation once you’re done with it, but it can still be a fun building activity for a while
- Disney Springs also has a free outdoor play area, complete with interactive fountains
- If you’re signed up for the Starbucks Rewards program, you’ll be eligible to receive a free treat on your birthday from the Starbucks location inside Disney Springs.
- If you’re signed up for the Sprinkles Perks reward program, you’ll be eligible to get a free cupcake for your birthday. This is valid for the Disney Springs location.
Activities At The Resorts
It’s rare to find a hotel where you have to pay just to visit, and Disney’s hotels are no exception. However, Disney’s hotels offer some free activities that could be beyond what regular hotels have to offer:
- Every resort hotel has its own daily activities, such as games, nighttime “movies under the stars,” etc. Some may only be available to hotel guests, and others may include a small fee, but there will be some that are only to anyone and don’t cost anything. Ask for a list from the hotel front desk
- Savannah views, which include live African animal sightings during the daytime, are available from the lobby of the Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort offers a free daily art class where you can learn how to draw a Disney character
- If you go late enough or on a slow night, Jellyrolls, a night club at the Boardwalk Resort Hotel, might not charge a cover fee (Your Mileage May Vary)
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge has a recreation of Old Faithful that spouts every hour
- You can see the Magic Kingdom fireworks for free from the beach at the Polynesian Resort Hotel and near the boat dock of the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
- The Electrical Water Pageant has been running in the Seven Seas Lagoon most evenings since 1971. You can see it from the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. Click here for more info and a schedule, and click here to see a video of the 1977-1995 version of the show.
- Some of the deluxe resort hotels sometimes offer tours of said hotels – ask the concierge if they’re available and, if so, ask about schedules.
During The Holiday Season
- WDW goes all out during the holiday season and each hotel has its own play on decorating. Make sure to see the Christmas trees at each resort, as well as the gingerbread houses at some of the deluxe resorts
- Disney Springs has its own decorations during the holidays. The Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail is a path with differently decorated Christmas trees that’s lots of fun to walk through – lots of great photo ops!
- Santa is on hand, at Santa’s Chalet, so you can tell him what you’d like for Christmas
- Parking at the Disney resort hotels is free if you plan to visit for an hour or two or three. It’s not intended for all-day parking as a way to avoid paying for parking at the parks, but if you’re just going to visit the resort for a little while, it’s usually fine (exceptions may be busy times of the year or sometimes resort hotels that have faster access to a park)
- Disney-provided transportation (bus, monorail, boat, Skyliner) is free. You are welcome to park at Disney Springs (which is also free) and take a bus or boat to the resort of your choice, and then “resort hop” from resort to resort using Disney’s transportation until you go back to your car at Disney Springs.
- By the way, ask Disney transportation workers if they have any collectible cards – if they do, they’re free and have info about, what else but, WDW transportation
- WiFi is free throughout the Disney resort. It also tends to be on the slower side and kind of spotty. But it’s free 😉
- You never know when you’ll find Disney cast members giving away stickers – be on the lookout!
I’m sure other things are free at WDW, even if you’re not inside a park or are staying at a WDW resort hotel. Help a sister out…what did I miss?
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary