Top 5 Experiences at Walt Disney World That Don't Cost a Thing!
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!
Exploring Fort Wilderness
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!
Bay Lake & Seven Seas Lagoon Boat Rides
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!
Monorail Loop Resorts
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!
Campfires and Movies at Disney Resorts
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!
- Food & Wine Festival's Late Nights LIVE! now only available on Thursdays - The new event at Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival was originally scheduled to be held every Tuesday and Thursday during the Festival, but will now just take place on Thursdays.
- Last day for Maelstrom will be October 5 - The new Frozen attraction is expected to open in early 2016.
- Ticket discounts available for Cirque du Soleil La Nouba - Discounted tickets must be purchased by 9/22/14.
- Blog - A Walking Tour of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World - Construction Update
- VIDEO: Disney Park Bench - Crescent Lake Bridge - Crescent Lake - Take 5 Minutes to Relax at Crescent Lake Bridge - Crescent Lake
- 5 Tips for Taking Better Photos at Walt Disney World - It’s a given fact that when you go on a Disney vacation you are going to take a ton of photos throughout your trip. Use these tips to make those photos the best they can be.
- VIDEO: Disney Park Bench - New Fantasyland - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train - Take 5 Minutes to Relax at New Fantasyland - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- 4 Ways to Make Magic for Other Guests at Walt Disney World - While visiting a Disney theme park, the Cast Members on the clock are tasked with doing their best to ‘make magic’ for as many Guests as possible. But, if you’re anything like my family, seeing others enjoy their time at a Disney park is sometimes just as satisfying as enjoying the parks yourselves.
- Crane now in place behind Cinderella Castle - The crane is now in place behind Cinderella Castle to install the Castle Dream Lights for the holiday season. The anticipated date for the crane removal is September 21.
- VIDEO: Disney Park Bench - Splash Mountain Bridge - Splash Mountain - Take 5 Minutes to Relax at Splash Mountain Bridge - Splash Mountain
- Top 5 Hidden Gems at Disney's Animal Kingdom - Disney’s Animal Kingdom is crawling with hidden details and overlooked attractions that most people would just walk right past. But there is so much more if you are willing to take a few moments to stop and really look at your surroundings.
- Ride the Comix! closes at DisneyQuest - This attraction is now closed and will allow for an expansion of the FoodQuest seating area.
- VIDEO: Disney Park Bench - Japan Gallery - Spirited Beasts - Take 5 Minutes to Relax at Japan Gallery - Spirited Beasts
- VIDEO: Disney Park Bench - Club Cool - Fountain of Nations - Take 5 Minutes to Relax at Club Cool - Fountain of Nations
- Disney Legend Tony Baxter added to D23 Destination D lineup - Baxter will present a panel featuring an in-depth tour of an expansion for Disneyland that never materialized.
- VIDEO: Disney Park Bench - Epcot Entrance - Leave A Legacy - Take 5 Minutes to Relax at Epcot Entrance - Leave A Legacy
- Blog - Frustrated At Walt Disney World? "LET IT GO"
- Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Walt Disney World's Fort Wilderness Resort celebrates its 40th anniversary - The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue marks its 40th anniversary after more than 37,000 dinner show performances at Disney's Fort Wilderness campground.
- VIDEO: Disney Park Bench - Capt. Cook's - Capt. Cook's Seating Area - Take 5 Minutes to Relax at Capt. Cook's - Capt. Cook's Seating Area
- Night of Joy completely sold out at Magic Kingdom - This hard-ticket event features contemporary Christian artists in concert for two nights. This year's event is completely sold out.
- Harmony Barber Shop will close for a month for refurb - The Magic Kingdom shop will be closed from 2/2/15 - 3/30/15.
- Frozen Sing-Along added to FastPass+ choices at Hollywood Studios - This is a Tier 2 FastPass+ choice.
- Time change for internal boat service at Downtown Disney - The red route previously closed at 11:30pm. It will now run until 2:00am.
- VIDEO: 2014 Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Overview - Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is the yearly event that brings the spookiest holiday of them all to Magic Kingdom. This hard-ticket party allows guests to dress up in costumes, trick-or-treat throughout the park, and meet some characters in their costumes.
- Neil Patrick Harris, Isabella Rossellini and Blair Underwood added as Candlelight Processional narrators - There are still a few narrators left to be announced.
- VIDEO: Cruising Around Hawaii - Explore the Hawaiian islands of Maui, Hawai'i, and Kauai while sailing onboard Norwegians Cruise Line's Pride of America.
- VIDEO: Driving Around Oahu - Explore the island of Oahu by driving around to different unique locations. Ted's Bakery, Haleiwa, Matsumoto's Shave Ice, and many others make Oahu a great place to find local treasures.
- Blog - Back to School Disney Style: Great Merchandise Finds in the Parks
- Pricing structure changed for Valet Parking at Downtown Disney - Pricing is based on length of stay - time starts when you reach the valet podium and stops when you return to the podium to pick up your car.
- Blog - Top 5 Must Do's at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party
- Pangani Research Center closes for refurb - Pangani Research Center- Aviary and Hippo viewing area will be closed 9/2 - 11/14/2014.
- Blog - Villains Soiree - Wickedly Disappointing
- Blog - Dole Whips are back at the Polynesian Village Resort at the new and disappointing Pineapple Lanai
- Shortened monorail operating hours now in place - The monorail will have a different operating schedule than normal as an automation upgrade takes place.
- Blog - The Good and Bad of "Toy Story of TERROR!" on Blu-ray
- American Idol Experience is now closed at Disney's Hollywood Studios - This attraction closed August 30, 2014. No definitive plans have been announced for this space.
- VIDEO: Oogie Boogie's Freaky Funhouse Show at Villains Unleashed - Oogie Boogie's Freaky Funhouse Show at Villains Unleashed brings Vegas to Walt Disney World. Villains Unleashed took over Disney's Hollywood Studios on August 23, 2014 and part of the hard ticket event was Oogie Boogie's Freak Funhouse Show. Oogie Boogie hosts the show that features a sword-swallowing act, daredevil archery and a finale full of fire!
- Refurb closures planned for Walt Disney World water parks - Typhoon Lagoon will be closed 10/26/14-1/3/15 and Blizzard Beach will be closed 1/4/15-3/14/15.
- Top 5 Signature Dining Experiences at the Walt Disney World Resorts - 1,600 listeners and viewers of our DIS Unplugged web-cast voted on their favorite signature restaurants at the Walt Disney World resort hotels.
- Blog - The Top 5 Underutilized Spaces at Walt Disney World
- Starbucks will open at Hollywood Studios in February 2015 - The Trolley Car Cafe will be located along Hollywood Boulevard and be themed like a trolley car station. Disney baked goods and Starbucks La Boulange pastry items will be available. An exact location hasn't been announced.
- VIDEO - Frozen Fireworks Multi-Angle Full Show - “Frozen” Fireworks Spectacular – Everything wraps up at 9:45 p.m. when Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf come together at the Sorcerer’s Hat Icon Stage for a grand finale to the day’s festivities, kicking off an awe-inspiring fireworks display set to the glorious music of “Frozen!”
- VIDEO: Star-Lord & Gamora from 'Guardians of the Galaxy' at Villains Unleashed - Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, and Gamora made their first appearance ever at the Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Tape Vol. 1 Dance Party during the Villains Unleashed event at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
- Mikala Canoe Club Marina at Polynesian to be closed for refurb - The marina will be closed 9/15 - 9/19/2014. Sail boat/motorized boats and fishing excursions will not be available.
- Entrance 4 to Downtown Disney's parking lot now closed - Entrance 4 (between Cirque du Soleil and DisneyQuest) is now closed permanently. The only entrances are Entrance 2 (across from the Hess Station) and Entrance 5 (across from Typhoon Lagoon).
- VIDEO: Villains Unleashed Opening Ceremony - Villains Unleashed kicked off at Disney's Hollywood Studios with an opening ceremony hosted by Hades, Pain, Panic and Megara from Hercules. Once the stars of the night took the stage they introduced some of the 50 Disney Villains guests could meet at the special hard ticket event.
- VIDEO: Villains Unleashed Event Overview - Over 50 Disney villains took over Disney's Hollywood Studios for the Villains Unleashed Event.
- Times updated for events at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - The Party is a specially ticketed event at the Magic Kingdom that begins September 1.
- Villains' Sinister Soiree add-on available for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - This special add-on will give guests preferred viewing for Mickey's Boo to You Halloween Parade (8:15pm) and the Happy HalloWishes fireworks show. Lady Tremaine will host a dessert soiree at Cinderella's Royal Table Restaurant for you and some of her friends.
- 5 Elements from the Disney Parks that You'll Find on a Disney Cruise Ship - You have been to the Disney Parks, and you love them. You keep going back for that pixie-dust rush. You can’t imagine a vacation apart from Disney Parks, yet somehow the “old and familiar” is getting a bit old and familiar. This is where the Disney Cruise Line enters. It’s a Disney vacation of a different variety. The dissimilarities are a bit obvious. You’re on a ship in the ocean, visiting foreign places. This is nothing like being landlocked in a park, surrounded by coasters and kiosks. So what can you expect from the Disney Parks to carry over to your cruise?
- Blog - "Villains Unleashed" needs leashing up - Disney's overcrowded hard ticket event leaves guests in long lines most of the night
- Mickey's PhilharMagic refurb extended - The end date has been moved from September 19 to the 28th. The attraction will go down September 8.
- Enchanted Tiki Room going down for refurb in late September - The Magic Kingdom attraction will be closed from 9/27 - 10/3/2014.
- Two Epcot New Year's Eve dining events released - More New Year's Eve events are yet to be released.
- Blog - Beyond Aulani
- Updated operating schedule for monorails - The monorail will have a different operating schedule than normal as an automation upgrade takes place.
- Charging stations for electric vehicles added to Epcot parking lot - Disney has added four Level 2 ChargePoint charging stations to the Journey parking lot at Epcot. Electric vehicles will be charged $.35 per kw/h, with a minimum charge of $1.50.
- Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party tickets sold out on 10/31/14 - Tickets are still available for all other dates.
- New Move it! Shake it! Dance and Play it! Street Party to debut at Magic Kingdom this fall - Stitch and Phineas & Ferb will join the party and Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy will ride on top of giant gift boxes. The soundtrack will feature remixed classic party songs and guests will vote for one of three current hits to be played.
- VIDEO: What's New at Aulani - Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa has many new offerings. Quick service at Ulu Cafe, kids splash zone at Keiki Cove, two new pools, and much more.
- MagicBands can now be purchased without ticket media - The bands are now available for purchase across property.
- Changes to boat schedules at Downtown Disney - Schedules have been changing recently due to construction.
- Blog - The Good and Bad of the "Muppets Most Wanted" Blu-ray
- Confirmed: Maelstrom to be replaced by FROZEN attraction
- SeaWorld, Universal and Epcot honored by Amusement Today
- Apple Pay to work at Walt Disney World
- Luxury villa community to be built near Orlando theme parks
- Fifth resort to open at Universal Orlando in Summer 2016
- Magic Mountain's Colossus Catches Fire
- SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular returns on weekends in October
- New teen comedy coming to Disney Channel
- Allergy-friendly menus tested at Walt Disney World
- Frozen animated short to premiere Spring 2015