FREE and Cheap Stuff to Do at Walt Disney World

LAST UPDATE: 5/7/14

Here’s a list of fun things you can do at Walt Disney World (and nearby) that don’t require park admission. All of them can be accomplished for about $12 per person or less — and many of them are FREE! This list of FREE stuff to do at Disney World is ideal if you’re arriving late in the day or leaving mid-day and don’t want to use up a whole day on your tickets.

Be sure to check the Walt Disney World Special Events page as well. It lists seasonal experiences you may want to consider. Some do not require park admission, and some are also FREE.

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Places to Visit

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Disney’s BoardWalk

Disney’s BoardWalk is built around a lake and is beautifully themed to be reminiscent of Cape May or Coney Island in the 1940s. It’s fun just walking around and enjoying the atmosphere! If you are staying on Disney property, you can use Disney transportation to get to the BoardWalk. If you drive to the BoardWalk, you can get a FREE 3-hour parking permit from the lot attendant. While some of the restaurants are open at lunchtime, the best time to visit the BoardWalk is after sunset. It’s beautifully lit up.

Some of the FREE and inexpensive things you can do at Disney’s BoardWalk:

Downtown Disney

If you like to shop (or window shop), you’ll enjoy this attractive shopping and restaurant zone, which also offers some great FREE entertainment. If you are staying on Disney property, you can use Disney transportation to get to Downtown Disney. If you are staying at a Downtown Disney hotel, you can take the bus or walk. Otherwise you’ll probably need to drive or take a taxi. Parking is FREE.

Some of the FREE and inexpensive things you can do at Downtown Disney:

Disney’s Resort Hotels

Every one of the Disney hotels is themed and some of them are literally breathtaking. All of the Moderate and Deluxe resorts, especially, have extraordinary theming and are well worth a visit. You can take Disney transportation from any of the four theme parks to any of the resort hotels. If you drive to one of the resorts, you can get a FREE 3-hour parking permit from the gate attendant.

Celebration

Just a ten-minute drive from Disney World you can travel back in time to find the town of Celebration, a planned community originally developed by the Walt Disney Company. This is a pedestrian-friendly, wonderful small town (think Mayberry!) You can have a great time exploring the old-fashioned downtown area called Market Street. Here are some ideas to take advantage of during your tour, that will cost you little or nothing, as well as a couple of splurges to consider.

The Disney Wilderness Preserve

About 20 miles south of Orlando, at the headwaters of the Everglades ecosystem, is The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve. Here you can observe native plants and animals by hiking a 2 1/2-mile trail.

The Preserve is open 9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily (including weekends) November through March. It is closed on most holidays and closed on weekends March through October. Admission is FREE, though donations are appreciated. Before visiting, please call the preserve at (407) 935-0002, as there may be limited access due to flooding or restoration activities.

Transportation Fun

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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. Cost to ride the Monorail: FREE.

Take a Boat Ride

This is enjoyable any time of day, but particularly beautiful and romantic at night.

Take an Evening Carriage Ride

You can take a 25-minute carriage ride at certain resorts for $45. The rides are offered nightly between 6:00 and 9:30 pm. Carriages can accommodate up to 4 adults, or 2 adults and 3 children (9 and under). Call (407) WDW-PLAY (939-7529) to reserve. Resorts offering the carriage rides:

See the Celebration section for information about carriage rides in the town of Celebration.

Take an Evening Wagon Ride

You can take a 45-minute wagon ride around Fort Wilderness Campground certain resorts for $8/adult, $5/child (ages 3-9). The rides are offered nightly at 7:00 and 9:30 pm and depart from in front of Pioneer Hall. No reservations taken — just show up and pay cash.

Food and Drink

Eat at an inexpensive but well-themed restaurant. At many of the Disney World resort hotels it’s possible to have a light meal or snack for about $10 per person (plus tax & tip at the sit-down locations) while soaking up the atmosphere. (Don’t forget, most of the bars and lounges also serve snacks.) Here are the dining locations where you get the most theming or entertainment for the lowest cost:

The 21-and-over crowd can have a drink at one of the wonderful themed bars and lounges in the Moderate and Deluxe resort hotels. Remember, you don’t have to drink alcoholic beverages to enjoy the atmosphere — order a coffee, mineral water, soda or virgin drink if you want!

Most of the bars and lounges also serve snacks or light meals, some of which are excellent quality for the money. For instance, the snacks at the Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge come out of the Artist Point kitchen, while Crews Cup at Yacht Club serves an inexpensive but substantial menu. The River Roost at Port Orleans Riverside has appetizers and steak sandwiches, not to mention an excellent sing-along pianist performing several nights a week.

Other Cheap and FREE Stuff to Do at Disney World

Go swimming! Virtually all Orlando-area hotels will have an outdoor pool. All of the Moderate and Deluxe Disney resort hotels include wonderful themed elements, water slides or other features. Some non-Disney hotels such as the Swan/Dolphin and Caribe Royale also have elaborate waterfall pools and slides. Cost: FREE to guests of the hotel.

Play miniature golf. There are two courses: Fantasia Gardens, near Disney’s Hollywood Studios; and Winter Summerland, near Blizzard Beach Water Park. Cost: $12.78 adults, $10.65 children (tax included), but there are discounts available.

Go fishing. This is strictly “catch and release.” There are two places to rent cane poles (worms also provided): Port Orleans Riverside (near Ol’ Man Island) or Ft. Wilderness (at the Bike Barn). Cost: about $4 per half-hour per pole, or $9 for a full day per pole. There is a family special of around $14 per half-hour for 4-6 poles.

Rent a boat! Most of Disney’s Moderate, Deluxe and DVC resorts have a marina where you can rent various types of watercraft. A kayak, canoe or pedal boat will set you back about $7 for a half-hour rental. A 12-foot sailboat that can be shared by two people will cost you $21.30 an hour.

Visit Tri-Circle D Ranch (home of the draft horses used to pull the trolleys down Main Street at the Magic Kingdom) at Ft. Wilderness. There are quite a few different horses to see and pony rides for very small children from 10 am to 5 pm for $5. There is FREE day parking at Ft. Wilderness and you can get from the day guest parking to the farm area by special buses that run only in the “Settlement.”

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, at about 7:00 pm in fall and winter and about 8:00 pm 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 about 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. No reservations necessary — just show up. Cost: FREE to all Disney resort guests.

Take a stroll. There are lovely walkways or nature trails around almost all of the resorts.

Rent a bike and explore the trails around one of the resorts. Every Disney resort hotel has some kind of trail, but the trails around Wilderness Lodge and Ft. Wilderness are especially nice.Cost: $9.59 an hour.

Rent an old-fashioned fringe-topped surrey at Disney’s BoardWalk. Bicycle around the pier and visit Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club resorts and the Swan and Dolphin. Also available for rent at Old Key West. Surreys can accomodate two to four people. Cost: $21.30-$23.43 per hour, depending on location.

Watch the Electrical Water Pageant. This floating parade is visible nightly, usually starting at 9:00, from Disney’s Magic Kingdom-area resort hotel docks and beaches. The pageant takes about an hour to move slowly around the lake, stopping at each resort in order: Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Ft. Wilderness and Contemporary. Cost: FREE.

Make the rounds of the Disney resorts and collect something! You can make your own scavenger hunt for little or nothing:

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. Cost: FREE to guests of the hotel.

Mini Trip Report from a Reader

MouseSavers.com reader Steve K has this to say about what he learned from this page:

I was sufficiently inspired by… “FREE and Cheap Stuff to Do at Walt Disney World” that I built that idea into my recent trip. Although my flight home was on Saturday morning, the last night of my Disney resort stay was Thursday. On Friday, rather than tour any theme parks, I enjoyed a transportation odyssey to all the Disney resorts I had yet to visit. Along the way, there was a lot of finely themed landscaping and architecture, as well as some special Disney treats like Tonga Toast, Zebra Domes, and the beignets at Port Orleans French Quarter. The odyssey ended at Downtown Disney (my first visit there)…. This was a great way to have a lot of Disney fun and save a chunk of money in the process. I’m very glad you posted that page on your site!