Walt Disney World can be a very expensive place — between park tickets, hotels, parking costs, meals and snacks, it all adds up very quickly. That’s why it’s important to remember that there are several fantastic experiences at Walt Disney World Resort that don’t cost a thing!
These are things that can be scheduled in your vacation itinerary during an open afternoon, or maybe just kept in the back of your mind if you find yourself with some free time and not wanting to spend much money while at Disney. Maybe you’re traveling in the morning or evening and find yourself with a half day that’s not worth getting park admission for — this is the list for you!
Take a look at our suggestions for the best free activities at Walt Disney World and let us know below if there’s anything else you’d add to the list! Remember, while these basic experiences are free, as with most things while on vacation, there are plenty of opportunities to spend money. However if you’re willing to plan ahead or just go along for the experience, your wallet will go unharmed. Enjoy!
Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is one of Walt Disney World’s original resorts and is definitely one of the most expansive. With its authentic log cabin-style buildings, stepping into Fort Wilderness is like stepping back into pioneer times.
You can easily spend hours walking around the resort through its many walking paths and exploring all of the outposts, beaches on the shore of Bay Lake, and visiting Tri-Circle-D Ranch - a working horse stable where you can see the horses used in Magic Kingdom park entertainment and transportation.
While just visiting the resort and exploring is free, there are opportunities to rent bikes to ride, pontoon boats for Bay Lake, canoes and kayaks for the river, horseback rides, or to just pick up snacks or meals at the restaurants on the property. Or you can plan ahead, bring a picnic, and enjoy a free afternoon!
Even though they’re designed to be transportation to get guests from one resort to another resort or to the Magic Kingdom, the watercraft boats that travel on Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake are an attraction on their own!
Because there are so many possible routes to take — Grand Floridian to the Polynesian, Polynesian to Magic Kingdom, Magic Kingdom to Wilderness Lodge, Wilderness Lodge to Fort Wilderness to name just one possible route — it’s so easy to spend a morning on the water taking in all the scenery around you. In addition to the birds and other wildlife you’ll see, don’t forget to take a peek at some of the old Walt Disney World attractions like River Country and Discovery Island, both on Bay Lake!
This is easily my favorite activity on this list - the Monorail Resort Loop is like hitting the jackpot for a little to no cost day or afternoon. Because there three full resorts to explore and enjoy, it is very possible to spend several hours taking it all in.
The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the Polynesian Resort, and the Contemporary Resort are three of Walt Disney World’s flagship resorts and are all located on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop. This means that you can go between all three, as well as Magic Kingdom and the Ticket & Transportation Center extremely easily.
Each resort offers both indoor and outdoor spaces to check out — all with beaches and walking trails to enjoy. I usually divide my time evenly at each resort, taking in all the atmosphere (e.g. taking a nap on a lounge chair on the beach), and then I’ll hop right back onto the monorail to head to the next stop.
Obviously each resort has shops, restaurants, and bars if you care to spend money. Also, it’s Disney’s policy that only guests staying at that resort can utilize its pool and recreation facilities so keep that in mind. They’ve even been known to scan MagicBands to ensure that you are in fact staying there to get into the pool. However, that won't stop you from enjoying the atmosphere and the other great things each resort has to offer.
Including Downtown Disney, soon to be Disney Springs, on this list might seem like a trick since it has so many stores and opportunities to spend money. But truthfully, you can easily spend an afternoon or evening there without spending anything at all. With the all the live entertainment, window-shopping and free samples, Downtown Disney is a great place to go on the cheap.
Depending on the time you’re visiting, bands and solo acts are usually set up in the outside areas at Downtown Disney. With benches or seating set up nearby, it’s a great way to take a break and enjoy some free entertainment. In addition to music, there are a few in-store experiences that are worth checking out. Arribas Brothers for example offers a glass blowing demonstration and the Art of Disney store nearby usually has an artist in residence to watch or meet. When you’re hungry, don’t forget to head over to the Ghiaradelli Soda Fountain to get your chocolate square free sample — just don’t be disappointed that they’ve switched to a smaller size!
If you’re staying on Disney property, one of the coolest perks you should definitely take advantage of is their nighttime recreation offerings — a campfire with s’mores and a movie on the lawn or beach!
Almost every resort on property will offer a movie showing every night on a lawn at the resort or a beach if the resort has it. Right before they start the movie, Cast Members will supervise a campfire where guests can roast marshmallows and make s’mores for a small fee. However, you’re also allowed to bring your own food so why not bring a pack of hot dogs and roast them on the provided sticks, making a whole meal out of it? While it may seem goofy, it’s definitely been done before. Trust me. You’ll be the talk of the beach but you’ll also be full from your hot dog dinner so you can relax and watch a movie right after!
What do you think — could you spend an afternoon or morning at Walt Disney World for free? Would you add anything to our list? Let us know below!