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Planning a Disney World Vacation? Here are 18 FREE Things To Do – Outside of the Parks

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Disney Parks Tips Hip2Save

While most travelers know all about the FREE magic inside Disney Parks, most do not know about all the FREE magic at other resorts and/or Disney locations! Here is a great list of all the FREE things to do to celebrate the magic of Disney World without actually entering a Disney Park so you can save yourself some money!

1. Don’t Pay for Parking

If you are staying on a Disney property, you can use Disney transportation to get to any of the other resorts or to Disney Springs. If you drive your own car, you can get a free 3-hour parking permit from the lot attendant or get free parking at Disney Springs.

2. Free Entertainment

Often there are street performers (jugglers, comedians, fire-eaters, jazz ensembles, etc.) performing in the evenings at Disney’s Boardwalk resort.

3. Enjoy the Fountains

Check out the wonderful interactive fountains where children (and adults who have the guts) may enjoy playing and getting wet at Disney Springs.

4. Play with LEGOS

The Lego Imagination Center at Disney Springs has a FREE 3,000-square-foot outdoor play area filled with thousands of LEGO blocks, plus some absolutely amazing and huge Lego sculptures for you to admire!

Also, it normally participates in the Monthly Mini Model Build (usually the first Tuesday of the month starting at 5PM) where kids ages 6-14 can build and take home a FREE mini model! Just be sure to register.

5. Free Chocolate

Visit the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop located at Disney Springs and go into the chocolate shop side of the store and they will usually give you a FREE chocolate sample!

6. Enjoy the Music

There are multiple locations where individual musicians and bands perform in the evening, ranging from full-scale cover bands and dance bands to individual performers with just a guitar and microphone. You are usually guaranteed to find music at the small courtyard just next to the Boathouse, and the crossroads where the main walkway meets the walkway to the orange parking garage. Entertainment is typically scheduled from about 7 PM-11 PM (with breaks) most evenings during mid and high season and weekends during low season.

7. Drink Up

When staying on site and taking part in the Disney Dining Plan, you’ll score an awesome and FREE refillable souvenir mug that can be used at any Walt Disney World resort drink station. Use the mug for coffee, tea, soda or water and then bring it home to use every morning for your daily coffee.

8. Celebration Button

Be sure to get your free celebration button when you check in at a Disney resort or from guest services in the park and sometimes you’ll get a little extra “magic” from cast members in the park or at other resorts!

9. Say Cheese

If you’re looking for a fun photo opportunity, consider visiting the All Star resorts or Pop Century. These hotels feature enormous “pop culture” icons so you can usually snap some great pictures with your favorite super stars.

10. Take a Tour

Several of the Disney resorts including Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Grand Floridian, and Yacht Club offer FREE tours that are open to any Disney resort guest whether you are staying at that particular hotel or not. Some of the tours require a reservation so be sure to inquire in advance.

11. Sing Around the Campfire

Sing around the campfire and watch a FREE Disney movie.

The campfire program at Ft. Wilderness is open to all Walt Disney World resort guests. It is held every evening around 7PM in Fall and Winter and around 8PM in Spring and Summer near the Meadow Trading Post. The program starts with a sing-a-long and marshmallow roast.

You can bring your own food or buy it from the Chuckwagon, which sells S’more kits for about $9 (makes enough for 4 people) and also offers other food such as pizza and hot dogs. 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.

A similar outdoor campfire and movie program is offered at Beach Club Resort and at the Grand Floridian Resort. There is a campfire sing-along on the beach, followed by a Disney movie (no characters attend). Ask at the front desk for a schedule. S’more kits that make enough for about 4 people are also sold for about $9.

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 (no characters attend). It usually runs in the winter from Halloween through sometime in March, and only a couple of nights a week (most recently on Sunday and Thursday) – weather permitting. Ask at the front desk for a schedule. S’more kits that make enough for about 4 people are also sold for about $9.

12. Electrical Water Pageant & Fireworks

At night, you can wander along the Polynesian’s beach and watch the Electrical Water Pageant and the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. Walk through the tiki-torchlit gardens between the Great Ceremonial House and the beach. It’s all very romantic. Keep in mind that the beach is primarily intended for guests of the Polynesian; although there is nothing to prevent the general public from visiting.

Watch the Wishes Fireworks from the Grand Floridian boat dock. Narcoossee’s restaurant is nearby and receives the audio soundtrack from the Magic Kingdom, so you can enjoy the fireworks synchronized to the music. There’s a little bit of delay due to the distance, but it still works. Seeing the fireworks reflect off of the lake is beautiful.

From the Boardwalk, meander up to the back gate of Epcot, or over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios around closing time and enjoy the music and perhaps a glimpse of IllumiNations or Fantasmic! The bridge that goes over to the Swan and Dolphin sometimes has nice views at that time.

13. See the Geyser

At Wilderness Lodge, a geyser (kind of a mini version of Old Faithful) spouts on the hour from 7AM-10PM. The geyser is located at the back of the property past the pool.

14. Explore the Area

During the day, explore the woods from Wilderness Lodge to Ft. Wilderness – maps are available from the Lobby Concierge. You can also rent bicycles at the Concierge Desk.

15. See the Animals

At Animal Kingdom Lodge, you can walk out to the viewing areas and see the exotic African animals roaming free. Note that the animals come out around dusk — you won’t see any during the day. Please keep in mind that hotel guest rooms open right out onto the viewing areas so be sure to be respectful of the guests.

Some guests have also reported that a Disney cast member is often there for several hours at night with night vision glasses for a very fun viewing of the animals that can otherwise not be seen in the dark.

16. Kid’s Programs

Investigate special kids’ programs at your Disney resort hotel. The Deluxe resorts usually have kids’ recreation programs such as coloring, crafts, pool games, hidden Mickey searches, and storytelling at various times.

17. Ride the Monorail

Take the “inner” Monorail that circles the three Monorail resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian). This is a great way to orient yourself and get a look at the resorts and an overview of the Magic Kingdom. You can get off and explore each resort or just enjoy the ride and the view.

18. Use a Certified Disney Vacation Planner

The BEST thing that is FREE when considering a Disney Vacation is the use of a Certified Disney Vacation Planner! While any travel agent can book your trip for you, only certified Disney vacation planners are specifically trained through Disney to best suit your family’s needs. Not only that but most offer FREE price watching. That means that if you book your trip and later down the road a special comes out for your same stay, your package can be adjusted down to reflect the least expensive package price! Awesome!

A big thanks to Britani Stratton of TheMouseExperts.com for helping to put together this post. If you have more questions about a Disney vacation and/or would like to book a Disney trip, you can reach Britani on Facebook or contact her via email at bstratton@TheMouseExperts.com.

Join The Discussion

Comments 39

  1. nancy

    thank you for this post! EXTREMELY helpful!

    • Britani Stratton

      If you would like help planning your vacation, feel free to contact me!

  2. Rachel

    We live an hour from Orlando and are WDW passholders, but we spend a lot of time doing a lot of these activities mentioned instead of the parks. Disney Springs has evolved into a pretty swinging place at night. My son loves the magic shows on the boardwalk. But we love roaming the resorts. I love drinks on Poly beach, looking for the Hidden Mickeys at Wilderness Lodge, and taking a surry ride through port Orleans. I 💗 Disney so much. I never get tired of it. Great list!

  3. debby

    Thanks so much! At 50, I am FINALLY going to Disney for the first time in January 2017.

    • Susie

      Oh you’re going to have so much fun Debby! I’m so happy for you!

      • debby

        Thanks!!! I’m very excited!

        • Dawn

          If you want to have a little extra fun, buy disney pins, wear a landyard, exchange pins with cast members.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      How exciting! Hoping you have a wonderful time Debby! 😀 You’re welcome!

    • Ashley

      That’s so exciting Debby! I still feel the magic at 29 every time I go, and I can’t count how many times I’ve been. Make sure you get your first visit pin! Enjoy!

      • debby

        Oh, thanks, I didn’t know there was such a thing! If my body doesn’t fail me, hopefully I will be bringing home the marathon finishers medal also!

  4. Rose

    Thanks I was planning another vacation to disney this year.

  5. Erika

    I love this post! Will you be putting it on Pinterest? I would love to pin it to my Disney board. Thanks!

  6. guerita_bonita2002

    How about universal studios and sea world? I would love to see a post about those. We are going to stay at a sea world property and will be visiting sea world and the 3 universal parks. Any advice?

    • MrsFelix1004

      Check the heights for the rides because you don’t want to get there and the kids not be able to ride anything. We did Lego land with the water park and my six year old could ride everything and we went on a Monday and there was hardly any waits on the rides. The kids loved the water park and the lazy river where they could play with Legos and build stuff as they went around the river.

  7. Jenna

    As a former WDW Cast Member, I can agree 100% with this list! 🙂

  8. MrsFelix1004

    If you are doing a Disney cruise look up “fish extender” it is a group on face book where you swap little gifts with several families and it is amazing! We just got back and the kids thought it was so cool to get gifts randomly through out the cruise. Don’t forget most parks allow a soft sided cooler where you can bring food and drinks also. Disney water parks have free parking and you can always that a shuttle from there to the other parks too. When dining the kids meals really can feed an adult if you want to save money. We had such a blast and can’t wait to go again. Also if you are purchasing multi day tickets we liked doing the 4 day plus the water parks better than the park hopper because we never go to two parks in one day. The plus option let you do water parks and mini golf or the quest. It seemed to give you more for the money. I also could not believe people seriously lined up at 7 in the magic kingdom for the parades! Def buy the hand held fans with water misters before you get to the park because the Disney ones are $19.99!

  9. Steph

    Any tips for a Disney cruise??

    • MrsFelix1004

      Look up fish extender on face book. I talked about it earlier. Castaway key was amazing we didn’t do any excursions we just hung out on the beach and hen decided to do the paddle boat and it was fun. We also went to Nassau and did a horse and carriage ride and it was only $50 for 5 of us. We did not spend a lot on excursions because booking them through Disney was pricey but then again it they had a great selection. Sign the kids up for their clubs the oceaneer club for up to ten and they have the edge for preteens then the vibe for teens and they had a blast. The cruise is awesome because you could let your kids pretty much do whatever and they have a wave phone you can call them on to keep up with them. Also be sure everyone in your group downloads the cruise app before you go so you can use your actual phones on the ship to text each other. Don’t forget pirate night too we bought costumes on Amazon and had a blast. You can buy them on the ship but they are expensive. I would buy little goodies for your kids ahead of time and give them surprises so you don’t spend a ton at the gift shop. I also learned we could have booked some excursions through USAA for our cruise and it didn’t cost as much either. We just got back last week from our cruise and Disney world!

  10. Ashley

    If you are a Florida resident, always check the annual passholder options. The seasonal pass is cheaper than a 5 day park hopper pass. There are blackout days. The weekday pass, which still includes blackout days, is the same price as the 4 day Florida resident park hopper pass. You can save money if you were already planning on being there during off season! You may not really save money though, because you then justify going back more than once during the year.

  11. Rose

    Sea World has $89 ticket and eat all day not bad.

    • Tia

      Their food is terrible. It doesn’t even look appealing.

  12. Britani Stratton

    Hey guys!!! Im so glad you found the article I wrote helpful!! Please feel free to contact me! bstratton@themouseexperts.com

  13. Melissa

    Thanks! We’re going to Disney world in 9 days! Can’t wait!

  14. d.Miller

    I live here in Orlando and go to all the parks. Just to let you know Downtown Disney has been re-named Disney Springs they just opened a badly needed parking garage…. parking there use to be a mess. Take advantage of this free parking complex a lot of new places and restaurants just opened you could spend all day there. They also have a cool splash pad for the kids so bring towels and swim suits for the little ones.The best places for a reasonable lunch is Wolfgang Puck Express best pizza and salads hands down and the best sandwiches worth the long lines go to Earl of Sandwich yes they have a drink bar for free refills!

  15. Lisa

    If you’re looking for a non theme park day, the Orlando Science Center is about 30 mins from Disney and has a great range of hands on exhibits, live shows and activities, and movies for ages toddler to adult. Plus it’s air conditioned! $20 for adults and $14 for kids for the day, or a yearly family pass for $155 if you live nearby. Great option to get your brain back for a while! 🙂

    • Paula

      Thanks Lisa!

  16. JennJenn

    Here is an awesome certified Disney vacation planner! We have used her several times! On Facebook search for: Pixie and Pirate Destinations, LLC. Her name is Angel Waite!

  17. Melinda

    If you aren’t staying at the Disney resorts or even going to Disnesy, are these things still accessible? We’re planning on doing Disney Springs but a few other things might be fun!

  18. Kris10

    I need this for universal!

  19. Mamacitap54

    Hi Collins, Do you have any advice on Savings to Disney World? I was cuoted 7,000 for 7 days. A 2 year old (who is free) a 9 years, 11 year old mom and dad staying at Disney resort with meals and plane tickets. I think $1000 a day is a little too much, What’s your opinion is this too much?

  20. Dawn

    Lego land is close to Disney World, This was an awsome day trip. If you like Legos I highly recomend it. You do need a car to drive there.

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