10 Cool Things You Can Do for Free at Disney World
Let’s be realistic. Any vacation that involves travel isn’t cheap. You must pay for gas or a plane/train ticket. You’ll need a place to stay for the night, too. And when you visit Walt Disney World, you’ll need theme park tickets. It can stretch your vacation budget thin. Don’t worry, though! MickeyBlog has several suggestions for you to do fun things at the best possible price. Here are 10 fun things that you can do for free at Disney World.
If you’re over the age of 35, I apologize for the Kinks earworm, but it does send the right message. According to Ray Davies, dancing is only natural, and it’s something fun that you can do for free at Walt Disney World. You’ll merely head over to Disney’s BoardWalk, the area behind the International Gateway at Epcot’s World Showcase. From there, take the bridge to the left and follow the path to the BoardWalk.
You’re looking for Atlantic Dance Hall, which is at the end of the BoardWalk. This nightclub plays the greatest hits of the 1980s through today, which means Come Dancing is feasibly a song that could play. More importantly, there’s no cover charge here unless Disney’s hosting a special event. You can dance the proverbial night away in an incredibly cool setting.
Go on Safari
No, I’m not talking about Kilimanjaro Safaris, although that’s amazing, too. I’m referencing one of the best hotel amenities anywhere in the world, and it’s at Walt Disney World. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is an extension of its companion theme park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Like the park, the resort is home to several species of animals. Just beyond the lobby of the hotel, you’ll discover several viewing areas where you can watch the animals frolic in their natural habitats. At night, the experience is particularly great, as a cast member with night vision goggles will point out the behavior of the nocturnal animals. This special animal viewing is terrific, and kids, in particular, adore it.
Listen to a Jazz Band
Those of you who aren’t jazz fans may be ready to tune me out. Please wait! It’s not what you think. When you enter the lobby of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, you should gaze up to the second floor across the room from you. Here, the Grand Floridian Jazz Society Band is often performing a few swinging tunes.
They’re a group of gifted artists, and their music has hidden appeal to Disney lovers. Many of the songs that they play are jazz takes on Disney classics like Grim Grinnin’ Ghosts and Let It Go. You can watch this video that our friends at ResortTV1 made during a recent visit.
See Street Performers
I’ve already pointed out that you can do something fun for free at the BoardWalk at night. What I didn’t mention is that there’s a second opportunity here. A group called the Epcot Boardwalk Street Performers is frequently working at the BoardWalk at night.
These multi-talented cast members are capable of everything from juggling to singing to balancing acts. Much of what they do is similar to performances that you’ll see at various pavilions at the World Showcase. The difference is that you don’t need paid admission for the BoardWalk. On days when you don’t have park tickets, you can watch some of the same acts free of charge.
Watch Fireworks from the Beach
Many Orlando residents will tell you that Disney’s nighttime fireworks displays are visible from many miles away. Their angry pets will confirm that they can hear these booming sounds, too. But the best views of Disney’s fireworks shows are at the Disney parks. Imagineers have spent countless hours ensuring that the luxury resorts feature jaw-dropping views of the exhibitions.
Disney fans know that the most serene place to watch Happily Ever After for free is on the beach path across the lake from Magic Kingdom. The walking path from Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is absolutely breathtaking at night, and nothing calms a person like the feeling of sand beneath the toes. You can talk a bus or monorail to one of these hotels and then walk to the beach area. From there, you can sit and watch the show at one of the most romantic places at Walt Disney World. It’s magical.
Take a Scenic Boat Ride
Most people think of monorails first when they visualize Disney transportation. I must confess that I do this, too. What I’ve learned over the years, however, is that the most serene form of Disney travel is the boat system. The cast members in charge of these boats drive the same path many times each work day and have learned ways to entertain guests. Some do Disney trivia, while others just chat as they sail. My favorites are the ones who sing Disney classics as they carry you to your destination.
You can combine the joy of music with some lovely Disney visuals when you board a boat to Disney Springs. Yes, you could do the same at Disney’s Contemporary Resort or Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, but I’m going to suggest a series of events that starts with a trip to Disney’s remarkable entertainment complex.
You can board the boat at Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside (or French Quarter) or Disney’s Old Key West Resort. You can even take a boat from Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, although it’s a bit less satisfying since you’re almost at Disney Springs already. During your boat trip, you’ll get an up-close look at the Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs and the golf course in the area. It’s a calming environment that will remind you of tranquil Sunday drives from your youth.
Watch a Cover Band at Disney Springs
Once you arrive at Disney Springs, you’ll have a wealth of entertainment options. That’s the point, after all. While most possibilities aren’t free, you can do a surprisingly large number of things without running up a tab on your Magic Band.
For example, the LEGO Store at Disney Springs has a building section complete with thousands of pieces. You can spend some time remembering why you fell in love with Legos in the first place. Plus, during certain events, kids who participate will receive a free Lego for their trouble! Yes, you can walk away with something for nothing when you shop here.
The best free thing to do at Disney Springs is to watch a live concert, though. You’ll find a concert stage right across from the Lego Store. And that’s not even your only option! Places like the food truck court, House of Blues, the courtyard by the BOATHOUSE, and several other spots feature musical performances. Generally, nighttime is when you’re most likely to see some of the shows, but the main stage has regular live acts throughout the week.
The Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop recently underwent some controversy. They ended their longstanding policy of free chocolate giveaways. Long story short, they recanted after only a matter of days. The public outcry was too extreme. A few hundred chocolate giveaways each day seemed like a better idea than absorbing a social media beating over the subject. Why did it happen? Ghirardelli chocolate is really, really good, and you can get a free piece each time you visit Disney Springs. So, you should totally do that!
Visit Tri-Circle D Ranch
Dude ranches are one of those vacation ideas that sound great in theory. In execution, they’re not for everyone, but an afternoon spent at one can be a lot of fun. Unbelievably, this option is available at Walt Disney World. The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Lodge is home to the Tri-Circle D Ranch.
This place is free to visit and easy to reach. You simply take a boat or bus from Magic Kingdom. Once you get to the ranch, you can look at the stables where Cinderella’s Ponies and the Main Street, U.S.A. horses live. It’s utterly surreal that this is something you can do at Disney. I highly recommend it.
Watch Movies Under the Stars
Out of all the free options listed here, my favorites are all at Disney resorts. I love watching the fireworks from the Polynesian, I’m obsessed with the animal visits at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and I love this final amenity as the perfect way to end the day. I’m speaking of Movies Under the Stars, a movie screening that takes place at Disney resorts multiple times each week.
The event is exactly what you’d think. The hotels all have giant projection screens that are as large as the ones at your local movie theater. During Movies Under the Stars, Disney exhibits classics from their film library. Some of them are old standards, but recent releases are also available. We’ve watched Disney films here the same week that they were released on home video.
The movies are terrific, of course, but what I love about the experience is the sense of community. Disney fans sit in the hotel courtyard and watch their favorite films together. Some of them bring blankets and pillows. The clever ones even pack a picnic. The Movies Under the Stars event is free to everyone. You don’t need to stay at the hotel to watch the film. You just need to love Disney, and that’s all of us, right?