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