As locals, we visit Disney World many times throughout the year and have been more times than I can count. And by this point, we can’t afford to pay hundreds of dollars for park tickets each time. So the past few times we’ve been going park free, and its actually been really great! While the parks are amazing and spectacular, they are not a necessity to have a magical vacation at the greatest place on Earth. Here are some of my favorite free things to do when I visit Walt Disney World with my family.
- Disney Springs Ahh the lovely Disney Springs. What is a trip to WDW without visiting this epic central hub with plenty of free things to do? Enter through the main gateway after arriving by free public transport or parking in the free self directed parking lot. First, cool off from that Florida heat and let the kids take a dip in the water fountain, which spritzes up streams of water for the kids to giggle at and run through. Then stroll along the walkway and check out the wide array of unique shops and restaurants along the way. If your budget allows, treat yourself and the kids to some goodies. From the marketplace to the west side, there is no shortage of tasty treats and authentic Disney goods. Stop for souvenirs at World of Disney (save 10% with your Disney Chased credit card) and some iconic snacks including Ghiradelli chocolate (ask for a free sample) and ice cream sundae, Goofy’s Candy Company, Italian gelato at Vivoli or french fries from Splitsville. After treating your belly, walk it off by continuing your journey over to the Lego Imagination Center. Let the kids play at the free lego display and take photographs with different unique Lego builds. Watch free live performances, pose for photographs, take a boat ride, hydrate your skin at Basin with a free lotion sample and listen to musicians as you continue your Disney Springs journey. End your day by seeing the beautiful twinkling neon lights at nighttime. Splurge Spot: The kids will love dining at the Rainforest Cafe or T-Rex Cafe. Afterwards stop for an after dinner refreshment at Starbucks and then take a spin in the drive on land float in the water Amphicar. Mami Time Out: Indulge in a famous Dockside Margaritas.
- Hotel Hop This is my favorite free thing to do at WDW. Each hotel is unique and amazing and gigantic all in its own. See my post here about our hotel hopping journeys in WDW. Splurge Spot: Dine at one of the many tasty hotel restaurants. Our favorite is Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Villas- Kidani Village, where you can watch the animals roam the preserve while you enjoy your lunch. Order their infamous Indian- style Bread Service. Save money by dining for lunch instead of dinner. Mami Time Out: Enjoy a different cocktail at each hotel you visit. Ask the bartender what their specialty is. Our favorite is the Lapu Lapu at Tambu Lounge at the Polynesian Resort, which is a tasty combination of Myers Dark rum and fruit juices served inside a fresh pineapple.
- Disney Boardwalk Disney Boardwalk is a lovely and iconic place and we never go a trip without visiting. Stroll along the quarter mile long classic boardwalk located in the Epcot resort area while taking photographs along the stunning views of the complacent lake and joyful bystanders. Watch free live performers on the weekends and take a free Boardwalk Ballyhoo tour Wed-Sun mornings at 9am. Check in early at the Belle Vue Lounge. Splurge Spot: Dine at the Flying Fish or ESPN Club then take the kids to the arcade, get a caricature drawing, or rent a boat. Mami Time Out: Dance the night with the adults at Atlantic Dance Hall 9pm-2am.
- Go Out of Town If you have the gas to spare, take a little road trip. Just 26 miles, take a 45 minutes scenic drive and visit the Disney Wilderness Preserve for free in the early morning before it starts warming up. With over 11,000 acres and 1,000 species of plants and animals, this huge gem is one of WDW’s best secrets. Afterwards, head over to Celebration, Disney’s own master planned community, for the afternoon. Spurlge Spot Grab a bite to eat at one of the towns diverse eateries. Then browse the fancy trinkets in the many different boutiques. Mami Time Out: Kick back with a carafe of Sangria at local favorite Columbia restaurant.
- Enjoy a day at the pool Disney tends to be a nonstop, action packed vacation. We must not forget to slow down, take a deep breath and relax. Spend the afternoon playing and laying out at your resorts pool. Most will have some poolside activities going on. When you get bored hotel hop and check out the other resorts pools. Splurge Spot: Grab a simple lunch at the quick service food area and then rent a bike and explore the resort on wheels. Mami Time Out: Spa treatment! No questions asked. Once in awhile a mom just needs to pamper herself.
- Get Sporty Shoot hoops or play tennis at select resorts. Play volleyball on the beach at the Caribbean Beach Resort. Visit Disney’s Wide World of Sports, if you’re staying on property you usually receive a free visit. Splurge Spot: Play one of two 18 hole mini golf adventures at Fantasia Gardens & Fairways ($14 per adult, $12 per child.) Mami Time Out: Throw back some brews while watching sporting events at the boardwalks ESPN Club.
*Please note that most on- site full service restaurants require dining reservations. If you forget you may get lucky if they have a table available, but better be safe than sorry and make a reservation.
*Don’t have grandparents, I mean a babysitter? Take advantage of Disney’s in room babysitting (starting at $18 p/h for one child) or drop them off at a children’s activity center. Our son enjoyed Lilo’s Playhouse, which is a flat fee of $55 for 4:30pm-12am (not too bad, actually, considering it includes 2 snacks and a full dinner.) He had a blast and the staff was very kind and hospitable.